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U.S. and Arizona Settle English-Learner Dispute

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The U.S. departments of Justice and Education have reached an agreement with the Arizona education department over the state's rush to move students out of its program for English-language learners.

The federal government said the Aug. 31 settlement requires the state to offer special instruction for tens of thousands of students who were prematurely identified as fluent in English and moved out of the ell program, but state officials disputed that.

The federal government had alleged that the moves violated the students' civil rights.

"All students are entitled to equal opportunities, and this resolution will help to make sure Arizona students receive the education they deserve," said a statement from Russlynn Ali, the assistant secretary of the office for civil rights at the federal Education Department.

The settlement between Arizona and the federal government is the latest in the past two years that overturns changes to the program initiated by current Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne when he led the state education department. A separate federal complaint alleging the state inadequately screened students for their need for special language classes was settled last year.

Mr. Horne did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Two federal investigations completed in 2010 found that Arizona was violating the civil rights of some students who are not native English-speakers by denying them access to special language programs for English-learners.

The state denied that it had violated students' rights, but settled to conclude the matter, according to the Justice Department.

About 42,000 students are affected by the agreement. Those who failed their most recent state reading and writing assessments will be reviewed and offered extra instruction in English if needed.

Arizona could have lost millions of dollars in federal funding if it didn't change the system to address investigators' concerns.

The agreement requires the state to develop new ways to identify ell students and to determine their exit from the program.

Vol. 32, Issue 03, Page 4

Published in Print: September 12, 2012, as U.S. and Arizona Settle English-Learner Dispute
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