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Tom Horne: Feds' Stance on ELL Issues is 'Ridiculous'

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne explained some of his thinking behind policies in Arizona for English-language learners in an interview yesterday with National Public Radio. The U.S. Justice and Education Departments determined last month that the state's home-language survey and criteria for exiting English-language learners out of special classes to learn the language are not in compliance with federal law. And the two government agencies have just opened an investigation into whether the state discriminates against teachers whose first language isn't English.

Horne said that the home-language survey, which the state simplified from three questions to one question, contains the one question that he thinks is crucial to determine if a child should be tested for limited proficiency in English: "What is the primary language of the student?"

Horne contended in the NPR interview, "The federal government wants us to go back to putting kids into an English-language-learner class because there's a grandmother in the house that speaks a different language."

He addressed the testing issue by saying that Arizona contracted with a company, Pearson, to create an English-language-proficiency test and to set the criteria for a passing score on the test. (The state considers any student who has passed the test as ready to exit special programs.) Horne said the testing company followed guidelines that had been provided by the federal government. He added, "Now they're criticizing us for something that was in their own guidelines."

Horne calls the federal officials' position on the various policies "ridiculous," according to the NPR transcript.

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