Electronic Theses and Dissertations



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Leadership & Policy Studies

Committee Chair

Eric Platt

Committee Member

Beth Stratton

Committee Member

Stephen A Zanskas

Committee Member

Verner D Mitchell


In 2011, the legislators from the State of Tennessee amended a state law known as the English and Legal Language Code Section 4-1-404. This state law was formally passed in 1984 as a symbolic gesture to accept various languages. Under this state law, languages besides Standard English were not allowed in public facilities such as public schools. This included print and formal teaching from being taught, printed, and recognized in public facilities such as public schools. Under the new state law, those that did not speak Standard English as their home language are now obligated to learn a new language known as Standard English. The new state law also created a gap between those that speak fluent Standard English to those that were not born into the Standard English community. West Tennessee has a vast array of languages besides Standard English, and all of them are affected by the new Tennessee law. Such languages involve African-American Vernacular English. The purpose of this study is to explore and discover the achievement gaps between those that speak African-American Vernacular English and Standard English. Using the theory of Critical Race Theory, I will present an analysis of how Tennessee’s new law is a form of systemic racism that has deprived many African-American AAVE speakers in West Tennessee of an equal education simply because of the language they speak. Using the approach of qualitative research, data was gathered from seven participants. From their experiences major themes were developed: 1) Pre-Knowledge of AAVE, 2) Social interactions at school, 3) Inside the ELA classroom, 4) Standardized tests, 5) Code-Switching. This study will use the experiences of these participants to create a research analysis as to how the prohibition of AAVE in public schools has caused a social and achievement gap between the two languages.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest.


Open Access