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Arizona Lawmakers Consider ELL Bill

A bill is making its way through the Arizona legislature that would permit some schools to opt out of the state's required program for English-language learners, the Arizona Capitol Times reported this week. So far it's been approved by a House committee in the state legislature.

In 2007, state legislators approved a law that required schools to teach all ELLs in separate classes focused on English skills for four hours a day. Some schools would like to use alternative programs for ELLs that they believe are more effective.

Tom Horne, Arizona's Superintendent of Public Instruction, has argued consistently that the four-hour program is working because the rate that school districts are re-classifying English-learners as fluent in the language has increased since they've put it in place. It's interesting that the story in the Arizona Capitol Times quotes a state education official, John Stoller, who says he is open to working with school districts so they have more flexibility.

The story doesn't mention the fact that the effectiveness of the four-hour program mandated by the state is also being considered by a federal U.S. district court judge in the long-running court case, Horne v. Flores. In that case, parents from the Nogales Unified School District argue that programs for ELLs aren't adequately funded in Arizona. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. district court had not adequately considered "changed circumstances" regarding ELL programs in the state, and sent the case back to that court for re-examination.

I hope soon to take a closer look at the four-hour program for ELLs in the pages of EdWeek.

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