English first

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.

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  1. Will they be exempt from state and federally mandated tests, or will their schools be held accountable for their test results?

    What are the requirements for ESL students in Arizona as far as testing goes?

    Funny how the person with all the answers is not an educator but an economist.

  2. Catch Thirty Thr33 says:

    Mike – That’s probably because the economist actually knows more. Oh, sure, an educator knows HOW to teach, but as the far reaching majority of those with education degrees will go into teaching, what are they going to teach the students? How to teach?
    My mother, being a legal immigrant, was thrown into an English speaking environment without the aid of “bilingual education”, and did just fine in a “sink or swim” environment. She’s not very happy about there being any “bilingual education” programs – in ANY language.

  3. I’m not a big fan of bilingual education either. I’ve seen too many students appear at our school b/c their parents yanked them out of the mandatory bilingual programs at a nearby district, and after a year or two they speak little English.

    I just don’t think segregating them into 4 hours classes is going to accomplish that much. My school has tried this and the results have not been good. Besides slowing down their rates of English acquisition it turned the classes into gang breeding grounds. In addition, I understand a school district here in Texas was successfully sued for segregating its ESL learners.

    This new law, developed by this economist, will segregate them on a state-wide level, so I’m not sure I understand your arguement that an economist knows more about what’s best for these kids than educators.

  4. Ragnarok says:

    Mike’n’Taxes said:

    “I’m not sure I understand your arguement [sic] that an economist knows more about what’s best for these kids than educators.”

    Hard to do worse than “educators”, don’t you think?