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Back to June Ed Reporter

Education Reporter
NUMBER 293 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS JUNE 2010

Arizona Grades Teachers on Fluency
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In the midst of an intense debate about immigration, the Arizona State Board of Education notified school districts they will ramp up enforcement of state and federal laws regarding English fluency for teachers. The law applies primarily to classrooms with students who are still learning English themselves, and requires teachers to possess comprehensible pronunciation, correct grammar and good writing skills.

"As you expect science teachers to know science, and math teachers to know math, you expect a teacher who is teaching kids English to know English," said Tom Horne, state superintendent of public instruction.

Arizona hired hundreds of native Spanish-speaking teachers during the 1990s, with many recruited from Latin America. The hiring spree was part of a bilingual education thrust. In 2000, voters approved a measure stipulating Eng-lish-only instruction, and bilingual teachers switched from Spanish to English in the classroom. The imperative to teach in English was intensified in 2003 when No Child Left Behind legislation threatened to withhold federal funding if English teachers weren't thoroughly fluent.

At Creighton, a K-8 school where nearly half of the teachers are native Spanish speakers, state auditors reported numerous fluency problems to the district. Some teachers pronounce words such as violet as "biolet," think as "tink," and swallow the ending sounds of words as they sometimes do in Spanish. Even after completing classes to reduce accent and increase proficiency, some of the school's teachers were deemed unsuited to teaching English-language learners.

One out of eight of Arizona's 1.2 million public school students are classified as English language learners. Principals must determine whether to fire teachers deemed insufficiently fluent or reassign them to mainstream classes not designated for students still learning English. (Wall Street Journal, 4-30-10; Fox News, 5-22-10)


 
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