Arizona students who don’t speak English will spend four hours a day learning the language, state legislators have decided. Since Arizona voters limited bilingual education in 2000, most English Learners have been placed in regular classes with an hour a day of English instruction.
State officials hope the new approach will help students become proficient in the language within a year or two so they can master other subjects.
. . . About half of the 18,000 elementary students at Phoenix’s Cartwright School District are still learning English. Superintendent Mike Martinez worries the new model will segregate kids, push more training onto overburdened teachers and create scheduling and class-size problems. He supports it anyway.
Once his students get past the primary grades, their language development seems to stop and they fall behind. Martinez hopes the additional time and grammar study will stop the downward trend he sees in grades and test scores of English-learners across the state.
“Newcomer” classes can work well: Typically, immigrant students take phys ed, music, art and sometimes math with fluent English speakers while spending most of the day building English skills. However, I doubt it’s wise to make this the only way to teach English Learners statewide.