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Jill Landes-Lee and Johanna Watzinger-Tharp recipients of ACTFl 2020 research PRIORITIES Grant

The 2020 awardees of the ACTFL Research Priorities grants have been announced. Each project either initiates a new research study, supports or expands a study underway, or explores an emerging research area that is connected to one or more Research Priority areas. The studies were selected from over 40 submissions after a thorough review by the Research and Assessment Committee. The selected studies will each receive a grant of $2000.

Research Topic: Secondary to Postsecondary Articulation of Dual Language Immersion: Tracking students’ college access and success

The success of dual language immersion (DLI) is directly tied to articulation of language and content study across educational levels, measured by students’ academic achievement and high proficiency levels in two languages. In addition to these goals, DLI scholars (e.g. de Jong 2012; Thomas & Collier, 2017) have increasingly focused on equity issues in DLI, including those related to college access for minority-language high school students. 


The project addresses DLI secondary to postsecondary articulation through the lens of college readiness among students in Utah’s high school DLI Bridge Program. Designed as a college pathway and implemented through a public school-higher education partnership, the Bridge Program offers students in Grades 10-12 the opportunity to graduate from high school with nine upper division world language college credits. 

To determine whether the Spanish Bridge Program delivers on its promise to enhance readiness for college, in particular among students from historically underrepresented communities, we will track Bridge Program graduates’ college entry, course-taking patterns, and persistence in remaining enrolled beyond their first semester of study.

project description

Educational research (e.g. Camara, 2013; Hanson, Bisht, & Greenberg Motamedi, 2017; King, 2011) has identified several key indicators of college readiness, for example high school GPA and advanced coursework, as strongly correlated with enrollment in freshman college coursework without the need for remediation and to persistence in completing a postsecondary degree. The proposed research project expands on a recently completed study, conducted in a large and diverse urban high school that measured college readiness among Spanish Bridge Program students and differences in college readiness according to race/ethnicity and to parent college completion. 


research questions

Specifically, we seek to answer the following research questions:

1. To what extent do non-White and lower SES students who graduated from the Bridge Program enroll in college, what are their course-taking patterns, and do they persist after their first semester and beyond their freshmen year?

2. To what extent do BP students representing non-White and lower SES communities sustain Spanish language study in college and to what extent do they perceive their Spanish language proficiency as an asset for succeeding in college and for fulfilling their career aspirations?

To answer research question one, we will gather data provided by the school district that houses the program and data available from the University of Utah, building on existing partnerships that have been established as part of building the Bridge Program. Research question two involves a survey and interviews with students who have graduated from the Bridge Program and who participated in the previous study.

project outcomes

The proposed research project will serve as a program evaluation tool and the basis for the Bridge Program curriculum and the support systems built around it. They will help the Bridge Program partnership (public school systems and Utah institutions of higher education) determine how the program might have to be modified to help students succeed in college. 

We plan to conduct this research during the upcoming academic year. Jill Landes-Lee, Ed.D., serves as the Director of Utah’s Bridge Program at the Second Language Teaching and Research Center (L2TReC) and was PI of the previous Bridge Program study. Johanna Watzinger-Tharp has published on Utah’s DLI program and collaborated with Landes-Lee on the previous study.



Jill Landes-Lee, Ed.D.

State Director, Bridge Program, L2TReC, University of Utah

Johanna Watzinger-Tharp, Ph.D.

Associate Professor,  Linguistics, Research Coordinator, L2TReC, University of Utah


Last Updated: 4/20/21