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Arizona Sees Rise in Percentage of ELLs Testing Fluent in English

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In two years, Arizona has more than doubled the rate of English-language learners that it reclassifies as fluent in the language, according to an article published today in the Arizona Republic.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne put out a press release this week saying the jump in the reclassification rate is a result of the state's new program for ELLs. In the new program, English-language learners receive four hours of English skills a day. The press release said Arizona reclassified 28.6 percent* of the state's 143,225 ELLs as fluent in English this school year, up from 12 percent two years ago.

All school districts were required to implement the four-hour program this past school year, though some had begun the process the previous school year.

In Arizona, students must pass the state's English-language-proficiency test to be reclassified as fluent in the language.

The real test of whether students who are reclassified are indeed competent in the language will be if they fare well in mainstream classes over the long haul, some educators told the Arizona Republic.

*I updated this figure after clarifying a discrepancy in the press release.

1 Comment

The Superintendent's claim that the increase in reclassification rates over the past two years is due to the implementation of the four-hour SEI model is laughable. No doubt the reclassification rate have risen dramatically, but that fact has nothing to do with the model. Notice that the comparison is with what was happening two years ago, when the AZELLA test was first used. Horne would not want to compare it with last year because the second year that a test is used always provides better results, since teachers and students quickly learn to adapt to the new test items. And, of course, very few ELLs were actually receiving the four-hour "treatment" that year, which would blow the cover off his claim. Moreover, the cut scores were changed and kept secret last year, making it very difficult to determine how much they may have been lowered. I would also point out that there was no comparison provided between the rise in reclassification rates for students who had received four hours of English language development (ELD) and those who received less than four hours--or with those who were in bilingual education programs. I suspect Horne may be trying to provide political cover in case Thursday's expected Supreme Court decision regarding Flores is not to his liking.
--Sal Gabaldón
Tucson, AZ

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