Equity & Diversity

Ariz. Ed. Officials Talk About Teacher Fluency Issue

By Mary Ann Zehr — September 13, 2010 1 min read
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An official from the Arizona Department of Education says that officials from that department aren’t trying to single out teachers whose first language isn’t English or to apply pressure for schools to remove them, reported The Arizona Republic in an article published on Saturday.

But then on Sunday, the newspaper published another article featuring foreign-born teachers who attended a workshop on how to reduce their accents. One of those teachers, a native of Colombia, is quoted as saying that state education officials who visited her classroom deemed that she didn’t speak English clearly enough. That article repeats what the Wall Street Journal had reported in the spring, that Arizona officials have told some school district officials to remove teachers from classrooms of English-language learners who have heavy accents in English or don’t speak grammatically.

I really get the impression, from talking with state officials myself and reading quotes from Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne in the press, that the state officials are being vague about their policy in some respects. They could, for instance, issue a written statement clarifying matters, particularly since they’ve taken so much heat over the issue. What exactly are they telling school districts?

Both Arizona Republic articles about teacher fluency in English, published this weekend, follow up on an article published by the Arizona Republic last week that reported the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education are investigating if the Arizona education agency is discriminating against teachers who aren’t native speakers of English.

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