Audit looks at language programs
April 24, 2008
Just how a
student learns to speak, read and write English in Arizona depends on the school
the child happens to attend, according to a report released Wednesday by the
Office of the Auditor General.
A sampling of 18 districts and charter schools showed only three were beginning
to put into place the state's new model language program this year. It requires
students to spend four hours a day learning grammar, reading and writing.
All schools are required to have the program in place next year. It is an effort
to create a more uniform and intensive approach to teaching English.
In 2007, the latest data available, half of all language learners in the sample
schools spent their entire day in a regular classroom, auditors reported. The
students received no special instruction in English. Most of the other students
received two to three hours a day. Auditors also reported that between 2006 and
2007, 63 percent of the sample language learners remained at the same English
proficiency level or regressed.
"The low rate of students learning English in the past is a scandal," schools
Superintendent Tom Horne said. "We are determined to change that."
But tracking student progress could be difficult. Schools are paid extra money
for each student learning English, but the state Department of Education is
struggling to track the exact number of English learners, now estimated at
138,449, or about 14 percent of the state's students, auditors reported.
Auditors recommended that the state improve the way it determines when students
enter and exit language programs and better verify information schools submit.
Horne agrees but said money for improvements is scarce.