Amphi moves to aid non-English
Amphitheater Public Schools will
add summer school classes and continue training
teachers in ways to help non-English-speaking
students since a group of district students
scored below federal guidelines in one area of a
The Amphitheater district failed
to make "adequate yearly progress," according to
the federal government.
The government gauges adequate
yearly progress by evaluating test scores,
attendance, graduation rates and the number of
students who took Arizona's Instrument to
Measure Standards exam last spring.
The federal measure, one
component of the federal No Child Left Behind
Act, evaluates schools and districts in 144
separate categories, said Patrick Nelson, Amphi
district associate superintendent.
For example, it measures students
in grades three, five, eight and 10 in four
categories: racial/ethnic, poverty status and
English language learner status; and special
education status in reading and math scores on
AIMS, he said.
Tenth-graders in all those groups
are also measured by graduation rates, he said.
The Amphi district received the
label because its fifth-grade students who
didn't learn English as a first language did not
score high enough on the reading portion of the
AIMS test in 2003, under the federal formula,
Nelson said. That affected the entire district's
rating, he said.
"It's something we take very
seriously," Nelson said. "We're putting together
a much larger summer school than we have in the
past; certainly our English language learners
will be a part of that.
"We're certainly focusing
resources on supporting our English language
State Superintendent of Public
Instruction Tom Horne said Amphi is "a great
school district" and the federal mark - or label
- is not a good measurement of its success.
Horne urged people to look at the
state's label system because it is "more
comprehensive" than the federal label, and in
the state system one area of weakness doesn't
affect the entire label.
"The state labels are a fair and
accurate measure of how they're doing," Horne
said. "In the case of Amphi, the federal label
is not a fair one.
"I'm hoping that Congress will
reform No Child Left Behind. I'd like to see
them defer to the state system."
Four of the Amphi district's
schools received the highest state label -
"excelling" - in 2003 and none were
The district hired a trainer
about 2› years ago to show teachers how to help
students whose first language is not English,
said J. Andy Diaz, director of the language
acquisition department in the Amphi district.
School districts cannot pull
those English-learning students away from the
rest of the classroom as their sole method of
assisting them, under Proposition 203, Diaz
Voters approved Prop.
203 - also known as English only - in 2000, and
it replaces most bilingual education programs
with English immersion. The law says all
students must be taught in English, and those
lacking sufficient language skills must be
enrolled in immersion programs.
Teachers who formerly taught
English-as-a-second-language programs in the
Amphi district, where students were usually
pulled away from the traditional students before
the proposition was passed, still work in the
Amphi district, Diaz said. Now, though, they
help students in the English immersion program
and assist their teachers, Diaz said.
After-school and summer-school
programs also help students learn English, he
Cecile Cohen, an English
immersion teacher at Amphi's Keeling Elementary
School, says it's hard for students who are
learning English to perform well enough on the
AIMS test to satisfy the federal government's
requirements for making "adequate yearly
"It takes five to seven years to
learn a language," she said. "I think it's very
difficult for a child to be expected to learn a
language and perform on grade level in such a
"These kids come in here and work
Diana Boros, mother of two
students at Amphi's Canyon del Oro High School,
says she also believes the federal government's
guidelines are unfair.
"I think it indicates some of the
problems with No Child Left Behind," Boros said.
"Parents assess their children individually.
"When schools are lumped together
like this, it creates a situation where you have
highs and lows in assessment."
Children are "not a constant" and
their performance on tests is affected by their
physical and emotional well-being, she said.
"On the whole, Amphi is doing a
good job with their students. I think Amphi has
done a good job for my children.
"The quality of teachers they
have had have more than met my expectations."