Linguistic Minority Students and Literacy Education in Rural and Small Town High Schools
Todd Ruecker

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of New Mexico

Primary Discipline

Literacy and/or English/Language Education
Though much attention to language diversity has concentrated on urban populations, many rural and small town communities across the country are rapidly diversifying. The percentage of minority students in rural schools rose from 16.4% in 2000 to 26.7% in 2013 and rural schools now serve more than 2.6 million minority students and over 300,000 students classified as ELL (Johnson et al., 2013). Despite the doubling of ELL students in rural and small town schools in recent years, these schools and their communities are still perceived as homogeneous and continue to be largely overlooked in the research, especially research focused on linguistic minority students. An analysis of university enrollment data in New Mexico, a state where a quarter of rural students are ELL and disproportionally Native American and Hispanic, shows that rural students are withdrawing from college at higher levels than their urban counterparts.This project aims to understand how linguistic minority students are being prepared for college-level literacy at rural high schools. Building on an analysis of enrollment data and two pilot site visits, the researcher will spend 12-16 weeks at four additional rural schools in order to develop a deep understanding regarding how linguistic minority students, including immigrant students, are served in these schools. He will interview students, teachers, and administrators while conducting classroom observations, collecting teaching and other materials, and keeping a daily journal of his experiences in the communities. In particular, he will focus on exploring the following questions: What does literacy instruction look like in English language arts (ELA) and English as a second language (ESL) classrooms in different rural and small town high schools and how is this instruction shaped by context? How are these classrooms preparing linguistic minority students for college literacy work? The findings will help teacher education and educational leadership programs better prepare future teachers and administrators to serve the literacy needs of increasingly diverse students in rural and small town schools. They will also help college writing program administrators better prepare their instructors to facilitate these students’ transitions to college literacy work.
About Todd Ruecker
Todd Ruecker is an assistant professor of English at the University of New Mexico. He has also taught English in the Czech Republic and Chile and completed doctoral studies on the U.S.-Mexico border. He recently served as the chair of the Second Language Writing (SLW) Standing Group at the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) and as chair of the SLW Interest Section at TESOL International and regularly gives presentations and workshops at CCCC, the American Association of Applied Linguistics (AAAL), TESOL International, and at other conferences. His work continually crosses disciplinary boundaries and focuses on researching the increasing linguistic and cultural diversity of secondary and postsecondary educational institutions and supporting student success through technologically-supported curricular innovation and by advocating for broader structural changes. He has published articles in a variety of journals including TESOL Quarterly, College Composition and Communication, Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, Critical Inquiry in Language Studies and Writing Program Administration. His book, Transiciones: Latina and Latino Students Writing in High School and College, was published by Utah State University Press in early 2015.

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