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Arizona's Tom Horne Blasts NCLB


The speech that Tom Horne, Arizona's Superintendent of Public Instruction, gave at the Heritage Foundation yesterday, in which he criticizes implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act for English-language learners, takes me back to the 1970s. I remember how in that decade, my high school teachers talked about various kinds of dysfunction in Russian society, such as how people at times had to stand in long lines to buy bread.

In his speech, Mr. Horne compares implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act with attempts by the government of the former Soviet Union to micromanage the Russian economy. An excerpt of Mr. Horne's speech says: "When a central bureaucracy attempts to manage a complex continent-wide system, extreme dysfunction results. My theme today is that this is true of No Child Left Behind, with a 1,000-page bill and an intrusive federal government." (You can listen to the speech as well.)

For several years, Arizona didn't use the test scores of English-language learners who had attended U.S. schools for less than three years in calculating adequate yearly progress under NCLB. The U.S. Department of Education has told Arizona that it must comply with the same regulation as other states: that the scores of such students be included after they've attended U.S. schools for one year.

Mr. Horne isn't happy about that.


Mr. Horne is one of the most politically powerful figures in Arizona and as such has the ability to influence policy that could greatly improve the achievement of English Language Learners in the state, a liberty he certainly would not have under a centralized communist regime. Instead, we see him to continue to advocate for an English-only pedagogy that research finds inferior to bilingual methods. A state with a very large and continually growing ELL population would certainly be better served by a leader who was genuinely interested in the learning of all-students rather than a leader who spends the bulk of his time trying to discredit the feds for not giving him an additional two years to hide the ways in which Arizona is failing its English Langugae Learners. If Mr. Horne hadn't so strongly advocated for English-only methods and allowed for ELL accomodations on state tests his current situation wouldn't be nearly as desperate.

I have lived in South America, Puerto Rico, Eastern Europe and Africa during my 25 years in the corporate world. If I had to identify the one key to a successful adaptation that has held true in all of my relocations, it would have to be the necessity for the new arrival to remember that he/she must adapt. If the new arrival insists that their culture is superior to that found in their host country,the opportunity for success is diminished. As difficult as it might be, the newcomer must immerse himself into the new culture, embrace their language and customs, and become as much as possible, a native. The saying "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" is applicable yet today. The border states of the United States have been inundated with large numbers of Spanish speaking immigrants; some have arrived through legal channels and many who have not. The illegal new residents have placed a horrific financial burden on the budgets of our border states and the new immigrants have paid little or nothing for the services they expect to be provided them. Arizona ranks 40th among the 50 states in their compensation of teachers yet we insist on spending monies to provide these non-English speaking families with accommodations in the classroom at the expense of those native American children with no language deficiency. When we slow instruction to accommodate the non-English speaking student, the native student suffers. In Arizona, we go so far as to require that our teachers receive 45 hours of training in the methods of instructing those students, all the while insisting that the politicians who mandate these rules are not concerned about the growing Hispanic voter block. Tom Horne is correct, although any comparison between the administration of No Child Left Behind and a dictatorial government might be a poor comparison. Arizona is attempting to do the best possible job providing services to these uninvited illegals and the proper evaluation of our native children is suffering as we lower our standards to meet the deficiencies of these illegals. NCLB is not wrong in their quest for a rise in standards; Arizona is wrong in providing services for illegals.

I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Morrissey! I, too, have lived in foreign countries-South America, Eastern Europe and currently the Middle East-and in none of those experiences was I ever "accommodated" by the native people. If someone knew English or there was a bilingual sign-Great; otherwise, I had to find someone to help me if I did not know! Was I given "free" lessons in Spanish, Polish, or Arabic to make it easier for me to communicate with the "natives"? Absolutely not! If I wanted to put forth the effort to learn by paying for lessons, there were plenty of people/organizations willing to take my money. If I didn't want to spend the money, I asked a lot of questions of people who were bilingual and I carried around a pocket notebook-a habit I still have here in the Middle East-and wrote down words and/or phrases I wanted to know as I asked for them.

I simply do not understand the demands of the current crop of legal and illegal immigrants to the USA who insist that they and/or their children be accommodated because "we/they don't know the language!" Certainly the ancestors of native-born Americans didn't have that expectation! Prior to my first overseas experience in Ecuador, I spent two months in intensive Spanish language training learning sentence construction, conjugation of verbs, counting, etc., etc! In spite of that training, it still took me a month and a half of actually living in Ecuador before I fully understood what people were saying to me in Spanish and it required an additional month and a half before I felt confident and comfortable in speaking about most any topic. Those skills would NEVER have come so quickly (3 months) if I had not been living within the country.

Rather than griping and seeking to get laws passed so they can "preserve their language and culture", ELLs need to get off their butts and take advantage of the opportunity to immerse themselves in the English language and learn it! If they truly want to improve their lot in life, in the USA or otherwise, they need to understand that their ONLY hope is to learn English so they can speak, read, and write it fluently! Whether people like it or not, ENGLISH-not Spanish, Portugese, Arabic, Polish, Russian, Tagalog, etc.-is the language of international business and is becoming more so everyday! As long as ELLs refuse to learn English as quickly as they can and insist that the USA educational system accommodate them, they will never realize their full potential and never truly become self-sufficient, contributing members of society in the USA. In addition, they will forever be relegated to jobs in service industries-janitorial services, fast food-and agriculture (fieldwork). If ELLs want to "preserve their language and culture", either do it within the walls of their homes or GO BACK HOME!!

It boggles the mind the Hispanic groups like Chicanos por La Causa and La Raza support bilingual education programs more than English-immersion initiatives when personal experiences and professional studies show that language-immersion programs are much more effective and learning occurs more rapidly! Are these organizations afraid to promote such initiatives because "educated fieldworkers" might rise up and take away their jobs? It certainly makes you wonder!

Bilingual education is not an "accomodation" for English language learners. It is a well documented superior form of education. In it's best form, the classroom consists of 50% majority language speakes, and 50% minority language speakers who become fully bilingual and biliterate. I have two native English speaking children being educated in dual language immersion and know from first hand experience that both native English and native Spanish speakers are surpassing their peers in traditional classrooms.

The underlying motivation for those who would banish bilingual programs is FEAR. Fear of change, fear of "them"...

One need only to visit Miami to see that a bilingual society can thrive economically and socially.

ELLs represent a potentially HUGE economic resource for Arizona, but instead are treated as a liability.

All Americans should be literate in more than one language, and research shows that the best time to learn is before age 12, preferably beginning before age 3.

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