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What’s in a Home-Language Survey--in Arizona?

By Mary Ann Zehr — May 28, 2009 1 min read
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Tom Horne, Arizona’s superintendent of public instruction, has mandated that Arizona schools simplify the home-language survey that parents fill out when enrolling a child in school from three questions to one. The move is expected to reduce the numbers of students who are identified as needing extra help to learn English, according to an Arizona Republic article published today. Some say that Horne is trying to save money that would be used to provide that extra help, but the state schools chief says that isn’t true. He contends the policy will reduce the numbers of students who are unnecessarily identified as English-language learners.

Typically in schools across the nation, if parents say they speak a language other than English at home, even if the child’s primary language is English, the school tests that child in English proficiency. If the child isn’t fluent, he or she is placed in programs to learn English.

Horne is saying that the form must have only one question: “What is the primary language of the student?” If the answer is “English,” the child will not be tested for proficiency in the language, and thus will not be eligible for extra help in the language.

The article does a good job in covering the pros and cons of the new policy. It mentions that a complaint has been filed in the office for civil rights of the U.S. Department of Education contending that the policy is discriminatory and asking for an investigation.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.