Retesting ex-English-learner kids is wasteful
Arizona Republic
April 28, 2008


Joel Wakefield
Special for The Republic

Retesting ex-English-learner kids is wasteful

Arizona is facing a billion-dollar shortfall in the state budget. Consequently, lawmakers are diligently seeking ways to trim extra expenses. One provision within the newly adopted English-language-learner law that is wasting state funds is the reassessment of students for two years after they have tested out of the English-learner program.

Bcause of the Flores Consent Order, English-learner students were successfully monitored for two years. But the new law requires that students who have tested proficient must be reassessed to determine if they are proficient for two consecutive years. Checking the effectiveness of programs is important, but in this case it is wasting taxpayers' dollars and students' and teachers' instructional time.

In no other situation are students reassessed after passing a test. They are not reassessed after passing sections of the AIMS. Once a student passes a final exam, no one comes back with the same test to reassess. English-learner teachers across the state are doing a quality job of monitoring their exited students, so why the added requirement, costs and time?

Reassessment is also demeaning to the student. How do you explain to proficient students that they need to be retested? What if on that given day they don't pass? Are they re-entered into the program once again for another year? The law says "yes," with parental permission. This is an inequity written into Arizona law.

Reassessment is also costly. The test costs between $12 to $15 per student. This is approximately $270,000 annually and is expected to increase exponentially over the next two years because of other parts of the law.

There are also immeasurable costs. For example, there is the time teachers are away from students currently in the program. In some cases, this is considerable. There is also a cost to exited students when they are pulled from classes for up to two hours of testing, returning to catch up on missed work, notes or tests.

For years, Arizona teachers have successfully monitored students after being exited from the English-language learner program. Extra layers of bureaucracy and huge costs are not needed when our state faces a billion-dollar budget shortfall. One final note: I have contacted my representatives but have not received a response. I wonder, "Are they listening?"

Wakefield, an instructional specialist in the Peoria Unified School District, is a Arizona Education Policy Fellowship Program fellow.