English Learners

Arizona Alters Mandatory English-Only Immersion Program

By Corey Mitchell — September 28, 2015 1 min read
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Arizona’s education department will now allow schools districts to cut the time some English-language learners spend in a mandatory, four-hour block of English-language instruction.

State officials say the change will give students who have reached a certain level of proficiency a more well-rounded education, the Arizona Daily Star reports.

State law has required four hours of daily instruction in reading, writing, speaking, and grammar, the paper reports.

The amount of time that can be cut from the mandatory four-hour block depends on a student’s grade level and English proficiency. Previously, a full, uninterrupted hour had to be devoted to each of the four language areas.

The reduced block hours will not be an option for students in their first year of English-only immersion, the Daily Star reports.

The state has more than 80,000 English-language learners, the majority of which are Spanish speakers.

Mark Alvarez, director of the language acquisition department for the Tucson district told the newspaper that daily English instruction will become more flexible with teachers now “allowed to integrate reading, speaking and vocabulary into one block and writing and grammar into a second block.”

Arizona has a long and contentious history of educating students who are learning English. The amount of funding and the academic approach to ELL education have been the subject of court challenges and federal investigations for decades.

The state’s decision to allow flexibility comes just as a new report by the Regional Education Laboratory at WestEd raises questions about whether the state’s approach for ELL instruction works for all students.

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