Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Arizona Grades Teachers on Language

The Arizona State Board of Education has notified school districts they will enforce the law regarding English fluency for teachers. This law applies primarily to classrooms with students who are still learning English, and requires teachers to use comprehensible pronunciation, correct grammar and good writing skills. The superintendent of education said, "As you expect science teachers to know science, and math teachers to know math, you expect a teacher who is teaching kids English to know English.”

Arizona hired hundreds of native Spanish-speaking teachers during the 1990s. Many were recruited from Latin America as part of a bilingual education campaign. In 2000, Arizona voters approved a measure stipulating English-only instruction, and bilingual teachers switched from Spanish to English in the classroom. The requirement to teach in English was intensified in 2003 when the No Child Left Behind law threatened to withhold federal funding if English teachers weren’t thoroughly fluent.

In one Arizona elementary school, where nearly half the teachers are native Spanish speakers, state auditors reported numerous fluency problems. Some teachers are not able to pronounce words correctly and swallow the ending sounds of words as they sometimes do in Spanish. Even after completing classes to reduce their foreign accent and increase proficiency, some of the school’s teachers were deemed unsuited to teaching English-language learners. Arizona’s has more-than-a-million public school students, and one out of eight is classified as an English language learner. Principals must determine whether to fire the teachers who are insufficiently fluent in English or reassign them to mainstream classes not designated for students still learning English.

Most Americans believe it is absolutely essential that public school teachers be able to teach the English language to the students.

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