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What's at Stake in Horne v. Flores?

Patricia Gándara spells out in a Q&A posted by the University of California, Los Angeles, what she believes is at stake for English-language learners in Arizona in the federal court case, Horne v. Flores. She speculates that Arizona's four-hour program for teaching ELLs could become "the preferred instructional model for Arizona and other states as well if sanctioned by the federal court."

Keep in mind that Gándara, the co-director of the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA, is taking the side of parents and students of the Nogales Unified School District in the case. Those parents and students first filed a lawsuit back in 1992 saying ELLs weren't getting an adequate education in Arizona.

Gándara contends, based on studies conducted by the Civil Rights Project, that Arizona's requirement that ELLs spend four hours each day learning English is not working. She says that ELLs may be getting only about a half hour of content instruction each day, usually in math, besides their lessons in English. "The state should not be instituting a single program—without other options—that has no research evidence to support it and denies students access to mainstream peers and regular curriculum," she says in the Q&A.

Meanwhile, lawyers for Arizona's department of education have argued that the four-hour program is working, contains instruction in the content areas as well as English, and has boosted achievement for ELLs.

The case, known nationally as Horne v. Flores, went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in April 2009. The federal justices remanded it to the U.S. District Court in Tucson in June of last year to examine "changed circumstances" since the case was filed. In Arizona, the case is referred to as Miriam Flores v. State of Arizona.

I traveled to Tucson and wrote a story for EdWeek about the first day of the evidentiary hearing on Sept. 1. The hearing is now on break but will resume shortly before Thanksgiving.

I'll keep you posted.

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