by David Safier
Admittedly, this is a complex set of issues, but they deserve more coverage than I've seen in the Arizona media.
Arizona's ELL programs are undergoing scrutiny on two fronts.
First, Arizona is back in court on the decades old Flores v. State of Arizona case about the quality — or lack of quality — of the state's ELL education. Front and center is the 4-hour-a-day intensive English language program that Horne put in place, which has created lots of controversy since it was implemented.
Second, the U.S. Department of Education has declared the tests Arizona uses to determine who needs ELL instruction and, once students are in the program, when they are competent enough in English to leave, are inadequate and need to be replaced in 30 days.
I haven't attended the court hearings, and I haven't read about them in the local press. But a friend has been emailing updates, and according to her, John Stollar, the DOE's Deputy Supe in charge of ELL, has been hammered pretty hard about Arizona's 4 hour intensive ELL program and come up lacking in hard data or scientific evidence that the program is effective.
One of Horne's arguments in favor of the quality of the 4 hour program is its effectiveness in mainstreaming students. But the problem is, they're mainstreamed on the basis of their scores on tests the U.S. Dept. of Ed have deemed inadequate for the job.
Basically, the DOE says the tests used to determine when a student is ready to leave the ELL program do not comply with Office of Civil Rights policy because they don't give a valid measure of students' English proficiency. The same is true of the tests used to identify which students whose primary home language is not English should be placed in the ELL program. They aren't in compliance either.
The U.S. Dept of Ed has given Horne & Co. 30 days to fix the problem before the feds step in.