Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Psychology (Psy.D.)



First Advisor

Samuel O. Ortiz

Second Advisor

Marlene Sotelo-Dynega

Third Advisor

Dawn P. Flanagan


The purpose of this study was to determine whether there is a difference in the vocabulary knowledge of Spanish-speaking English Learners (ELs) when controlling for developmental language norms. This research was essential given the multitude of literature indicating the connection between vocabulary skills and later academic success and the substantial achievement gaps between ELs and English Speakers (ESs). Considering the different normative standards in the Ortiz PVAT and WMLS III English, where the former includes bilingual, exposure-based norms, and the latter does not, this study evaluated the vocabulary knowledge of 27 Spanish-speaking ELs between the ages of 5 and 11 years (Mage = 8.22). Participants resided in the Northeastern U.S. with English language exposure ranging from 25% to 91% across their lifespan. This study was conducted remotely due to restrictions on face-to-face interactions resulting from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic. Parents served as informants providing demographic and language background via a brief interview. The results proved to be beneficial in expanding research and theory. Specifically, the results supported the hypothesis and demonstrated that using tools that incorporate exposure-based norms (i.e., Ortiz PVAT) offers a more accurate measure of vocabulary knowledge, and those lacking these norms place ELs at great risk of being inappropriately labeled with an educational disability. This was observed through ELs performing within the average range in the Ortiz PVAT and oftentimes low average range in the WMLS III, statistically significant differences between score means (p <.001), and exceptionally large effect sizes when compared against subtests with non-exposure-based norms (i.e., WMLS III Test 1: Analogies, Test 3: Picture Vocabulary, and Basic English Oral Language Cluster).

Included in

Psychology Commons