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Ariz. Shifts Less-Fluent Teachers From Classes With ELLs

Arizona's department of education is requiring some school districts to reassign teachers with heavy accents or ungrammatical English to classes where they won't be teaching English-language learners, according to a story published today in The Wall Street Journal.

The article notes that Arizona education officials are basing their enforcement of fluency standards on their interpretation of the No Child Left Behind Act. They say the federal law requires that English-language learners be instructed by teachers who are fluent in the language. According to my previous reporting, a requirement that teachers be "fluent in English" is included in 2005 nonregulatory guidance for the law.

This issue of whether teachers were fluent enough in English to teach students arose in Massachusetts back in 2003. Then, several school districts laid off or fired teachers who failed an English-proficiency test, which I wrote about for Education Week. Three teachers fought back with a lawsuit, and a state appeals court ruled in their favor.

The situation in Arizona appears to be different in that teachers deemed not to have adequate English are removed from classrooms with English-language learners and assigned to mainstream classes.

It's not clear to me from reading the Journal's article how exactly state officials are determining that teachers have insufficient English, such as with any kind of standardized testing.

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