Arizona Department Of Education Accuses Schools Of Not Teaching English To Migrant Students

Arizona Department Of Education Accuses Schools Of Not Teaching English To Migrant Students

By Corinne Murdock |

The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) warned schools that not teaching the English language to migrant students violates state law.

In a press release issued Monday, ADE Superintendent Tom Horne further warned that schools neglecting to teach the English language to migrant students, classified as English Language Learners (ELLs), were at risk of losing funding. A 50-50 dual language immersion model used in some schools, commonly referred to as “dual language” classes, prompted the ADE declaration.

The Arizona Legislative Council (ALC) clarified in a memo to State Sen. Sonny Borrelli (R-LD-30) that ELL students must learn class subjects in the English language. 

 “If the 50-50 dual language immersion model allows students to be taught subject matter in a language other than English as part of structured English immersion, the model likely violates Proposition 203,” wrote the ALC.

If not, schools stand to lose ELL funds. Any elected school officials or administrators responsible for the violation are also liable to a lawsuit, and could face removal from office and a bar from running again for five years. 

State law established by the voter-led Proposition 203, passed in 2000, requires ELL students to be taught English, be placed in English language classrooms, and be educated through a sheltered English immersion environment for at most a year. State law clarifies that no subject matter may be taught in any language other than English within the immersion environment. 

The 50-50 dual language immersion model, however, teaches students in languages other than English half the time during the immersion period. As ALC noted, this structure wouldn’t satisfy the statutory requirement for structured English immersion. 

“That definition prohibits any subject matter from being taught ‘in any language other than English,’ and the model clearly allows for some subject matter to be taught in a language other than English,” stated the ALC.

Horne said that during his first stint as superintendent 20 years ago, English proficiency increased from four percent to 29 percent within one year. According to Horne, Prop 203 wasn’t enforced throughout the first few years of its existence. 

“When I started my first term as state Superintendent of Schools in 2003, the initiative was unenforced, and bilingual education was a method of teaching in Arizona schools. As a result, a pathetic 4% of students became proficient in English in one year. At that rate, almost none would ever become proficient, and they would fail in the economy,” stated Horne. “We implemented structured English immersion, combined with intensive classes, on how to teach English immersion. The rate of proficiency in English within one year went up to 29%. At that rate within three or four years, almost everyone would become proficient in English.”

Horne claimed that “ideologically motivated” professors favoring bilingual education stood opposed to real-world data, and resisted his attempt to impose Prop 203 initially.

“When we taught these classes, a number of teachers arrived hostile, because of ideology,” said Horne. “But by the end, our structured English immersion teachers were getting standing ovations and very high evaluations.”

Horne clarified that this restriction on dual language only applies to students prior to their attaining proficiency in English. After that, students may engage in dual language programs.

“The data shows that structured English immersion is the best way to achieve this, and the law requires it,” said Horne.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to