Time to fund our efforts to teach English
March 17, 2008
Special for The Republic
What is the true
cost of educating English-language learners? That's the ultimate question. It
doesn't really matter that superintendents collectively say the true cost is
$304 million and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne says it's $40.6
million. The Legislature has to fund an immersion program for more than 130,000
students beginning next school year.
The Arizona Business and Education Coalition believes that the bickering has to
stop, now. The issues are the number and quality of new teachers that need to be
hired and how much additional classroom space these teachers will need to
educate English language learners four hours a day, five days a week. The
English Language Learner Task Force should study these issues and make funding
recommendations. They should engage the School Facilities Board to suggest
recommendations for the space issues and consider what Horne and the
superintendents have to say.
Many educators are joined by university researchers in questioning the ELL
model, which requires English-language learners be separated into four groups by
ability and moved to different classrooms daily with different teachers.
But experts have said that language is best acquired by learners immersed in the
culture and language alongside English-speaking peers and supported with rich,
meaningful instruction focused on experience.
The overarching goal for our educational system and our legislators must be to
enable these children to be successful contributors to their own economic
success, because we all will benefit. To do otherwise is shortsighted and buried
Research tells us that high-performing education systems worldwide assure that
resources and funding are targeted to those students who need them most. Those
systems, however, determine for themselves how to classify and teach students in
need. This crisis continues to be an embarrassment for our state.
Reach the author at 602-261-6700 or
firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her blog at education.azcentral.com.