Linguistic, social, and cultural factors influencing literacy development and academic achievement of Puerto Rican students in elementary school

Aramina Vega Ferrer, Fordham University


Throughout the United States and in New York City specifically, public school students of Puerto Rican origin/descent have exhibited an historical and consistent problem in English language literacy development and high academic achievement. The purpose of this study was to examine the interaction of linguistic, cultural, and social factors on the literacy development and academic achievement of Puerto Rican elementary school students. Linguistics for Puerto Rican students is influenced by language proficiency in the first and second language, degree of bilingualism, and students' own language perceptions. Cultural and social factors are influenced by the socioeconomic level of parents, their literacy levels, patterns of language usage at home, and parents' attitudes towards education. Participants in the study were 22 fifth-grade Puerto Rican students enrolled in an elementary public school in the Bronx, New York during the 2008–2009 school year, and their parents who volunteered to participate in the study. Academic achievement for participating students was measured by quantitative data from standardized test scores in English and Spanish reading, and student writing samples in English and Spanish, in concert with qualitative data from a researcher-developed student questionnaire, and parent questionnaire/interview. Parent interviews were scheduled at the school, audiotaped, and transcribed for analysis. Findings indicated that at the speaking level, participating fifth-grade Puerto Rican students demonstrated various levels of bilingual proficiency, while few demonstrated written language proficiency in Spanish. The Puerto Rican families predominantly engaged in code-switching between L1 and L2 in the home reinforcing the degree of bilingualism in the chiidren. Students reported that they planned to speak both languages with their chiidren in the future and demonstrated a positive attitude toward bilingualism. Participating Puerto Rican students significantly outperformed all fourth grade students at the school and in the district in English reading. All 20 parents interviewed supported their children's education in the home through the use of computers, homework help, and school projects, along with exposure to age appropriate electronic media such as TV and radio. While half of the parents in the study were high school and college graduates, all parents articulated high academic and career expectations for their chiidren.

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Linguistics|Elementary education|Hispanic American studies

Recommended Citation

Ferrer, Aramina Vega, "Linguistic, social, and cultural factors influencing literacy development and academic achievement of Puerto Rican students in elementary school" (2009). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3361353.