Studies question Arizona’s policy on English learners
The Civil Rights Project at UCLA released nine new studies Thursday that examine the condition of English-learners in Arizona, a state where these students are segregated from other students for four hours each school day.
The project says that 21 senior scholars and advanced graduate students from four major research universities -- from Stanford and Arizona State universities, UCLA and the University of Arizona -- joined in an unprecedented collaboration to produce the reports.
The release of the papers comes at a time when Arizona has been in the national spotlight for several reasons, including its new immigration law that allows police to question anyone who appears to be in the country illegally. The U.S. Justice Department is suing Arizona over the law.
In addition, some of Arizona's education policies have come under scrutiny, including its challenge of an ethnic studies program, and an effort to remove teachers with heavy Hispanic accents from the classrooms of Hispanic English-learners. Language acquisition experts blasted the policy, and a research study in Israel concluded that students learn a second language better from a teacher who speaks in the same accent as they do.
About 10 percent of U.S. students are English-learners; in Arizona the number is about 15 percent.
In June 2009, the Supreme Court, ruling in Horne v. Flores, voted 5 to 4 in support of Arizona’s claim that it should not be required to provide more help for English-learners who are faring poorly in the state’s schools.
The Supreme Court sent the case back to Federal District Court, which needs to make key decisions about the application of the new Supreme Court ruling this fall. Concern about these issues and the deepening racial polarization in Arizona prompted the scholars to donate their time to study how Arizona’s English-learners are faring under the state’s current educational policies.
Here are highlights of the findings. You can read the papers here:
1) The approximately 15 percent of Arizona’s students who are EL are continuing to lag far behind their English-speaking peers with virtually no narrowing of achievement gaps under the state policy.
2) EL students are NOT gaining proficiency in English in one year as promised by the new four-hour English Language Development (ELD) block to which these students are assigned.
3) EL students are extremely segregated from their English-speaking peers in what amounts to “Mexican Rooms.”
4) Eighty-five percent of the 880 teachers surveyed from across the state of Arizona expressed concern about the educational damage of the extreme segregation these students are experiencing, and
5) The majority of these teachers did not believe most of these students were reaching grade-level standards expected of all Arizona students.
6) It is virtually impossible for secondary students who are consigned to the four-hour ELD block to take and pass the courses they need to graduate high school or go on to college. These studies raise grave concerns that secondary EL students are being set up to drop out of school, while elementary students are being stigmatized and marginalized in their schools.
Several of the studies offered recommendations for instructional models that could help these students gain access to the same curriculum as their English-speaking peers and meet with greater success in school. In addition to research-based sheltered English programs, these include bilingual and dual language programs, models that have been either outlawed or heavily discouraged in Arizona but continue to show stronger results than the program currently in operation there.
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| July 8, 2010; 2:51 PM ET
Categories: English language learners, Research | Tags: arizona and english language learners, arizona education policies, civil rights project at ucla, civil rights projects, new studies on arizona
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