This 5-month ethnographic comparative case study of two culturally and linguistically diverse U.S. elementary classrooms juxtaposes restrictive educational language policies with the theoretical principles of culturally sustaining pedagogy to explore a gap in our understanding of how teachers reflect educational language policies in the range of pedagogical approaches they take. Triangulating data sources from state and local policy documents, classroom observations, and teacher interviews, we identify three salient dimensions of state and local policies that manifested in these two upper-elementary classrooms: teachers' curricular and pedagogical choices; student-teacher participation structures; and teachers' views on language. Similarities and differences between the two classrooms highlight how policy exerts influence on these dimensions while also affording degrees of instructional freedom that varied by teacher, with implications for the learning opportunities for culturally and linguistically diverse students. Overall, however, a limited range of culturally sustaining practices was observed, highlighting the need to understand the spaces in language policy where teachers can mitigate some of the effects of restrictive regulatory approaches to learning.
State and Local Policy