Finding the right fit for English learners
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 10, 2005

Options are available for students, parents
Betty Reid

Arizona has roughly 175,000 students who are dubbed ELL children.

Many speak a language other than English and a large population attends Valley urban schools where education programs are designed to help them learn.

ELL students are identified when parents register them at schools. The first detection is usually derived from a question about the language the child speaks at home.

If parents identify a language other than English, then educators know which children should take a placement test.

Educators use the state-selected Harcourt's Stanford English Language Proficiency to test students and decide if a student qualifies and is eligible to be placed in a structured English-immersion program, mainstream classroom or bilingual education program, which requires a signed waiver from a parent. The SELP test measures writing, listening, speaking, writing convention and reading.

Parents also have a right to remove their children from ELL programs.

A majority of parents, however, favor the help offered by schools.

Armando Chavez, principal at Isaac School District's P.T. Coe Elementary School, said many parents, though they don't speak English either, are curious about why their children are not at grade level. At Coe, there are about 1,090 K-5 students and about 602 students are considered ELL students.

Isaac uses structured English immersion that allows children to be mainstreamed into regular classrooms and are given ELL lessons. Chavez also has coffee with parents so they can give him tips about which learning strategies seem to work with their children when it comes to learning English.

"Their Number 1 goal is to have their children learn English and to be transitioned into being a good student," Chavez said.

Some districts have their welcome centers that help ELL students settle into schools.

Reach the reporter at or (602) 444-8049.