The US has historically been considered the ‘melting pot’ because people from all over the world come here for the opportunities that education allows in our schools. Educators of English learners (ELs) face an enormous amount of pressure to make sure that these students develop proficiency and make satisfactory academic progress in English each year (Blazer, Christie, 2017).
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EL laws in Arizona are not extensive but have thus far, provided a solid base for ensuring EL students receive adequate instruction to attain English proficiency. The first break in EL laws came about from a 2000 Supreme Court decision, Flores v. State of Arizona, In which the court ruled in favor of the parents stating that EL students will receive instruction with English Language Development (ELD) techniques every day, EL students struggling academically will receive additional supports, and that an assessment will be used to determine placement in ELD programs. A later proposition, 203, passed by Arizona voters, stating that all instruction shall be completed in English as quickly and effectively as possible and should be done via Sheltered English Immersion. The last major EL law development was a House Bill, 2064, which established English Language Acquisition Services and created a funding source, established requirements for all first year ELs (4 hours of language instruction), and required a standards-based assessment to annually test the student’s level of English proficiency (History of EL Laws in Arizona, 2019).
Structured English Immersion (SEI) programs are types of English Language Development (ELD) techniques used to rapidly teach EL students. In this model, students receive all or most of the instruction in English to attain proficiency (Revised Structured English Immersion Models School Year 2019-2020, 2019). In Arizona, SEI is a requirement for all schools that must align all instruction to Arizona’s K-12 English Language Learner Proficiency Standards (AZELLA). These standards-based assessments are a targeted tool for students whose primary home language is something other than English (Revised Structured English Immersion Models School Year 2019-2020, 2019).
Dysart Unified School District (2019) defines the implementation of the SEI model is as follows; A Primary Home Language Other Than English (PHLOTE) form is filled out that indicates whether or not a student’s home language is not English. Then students are assessed with AZELLA. The student’s AZELLA composite score (pre-emergent, emergent, basic, intermediate, or proficient) determines their eligibility. Anything below proficient would qualify for EL services. Once a student is eligible, they are placed in an Individualized Language Learning Program (ILLP) that could be either an English Language Development (ELD) or an SEI program at their school. In both instances, content is received with a focus on learning English. After the student reaches a proficient score, they are exited from the ILLP program.
Whether English learners should be instructed exclusively in English or in their native language and English has been, without question, the single most controversial issue involving SEI (Goldenberg, 2008).The article supports this claim by stating that teaching students to read in their first language promotes higher levels of reading achievement in English.
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Another option schools can choose is a Bilingual Education (BE) model to instruct English Language Learners (ELLs). BE programs provide instruction in two languages; English and the student’s native language. Once students have obtained proficiency in English, instruction in the native language is discontinued and students transition into mainstream classes taught exclusively in English (Blazer, 2017). Pros of BE programs are that they produce more positive outcomes in the long term, outperformed students who were in SEI programs by the time they were in middle school, and they are effective at increasing proficiency. Pros of SEI programs is that participants have higher levels of second language proficiency and academic achievement. Students also do not impair their first language skills (Blazer, 2017).
The article by Blazer (2019), states that some experts have concluded that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ model of instruction for ELLs. There is some ambiguity in education; what works for one student may not work for another. I believe that there should be some sort of a blended model that can accommodate and highlight the students’ needs first and foremost.
- Blazer, Christie. (2017). Structured English Immersion Programs: Research & Best Practices. [Retrieved from] https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED587686.pdf
- English Language Learning. (2019). [Received from] https://www.dysart.org/Sites/default.aspx?pgid=101
- Goldenberg, Claude. (2008). Teaching English Language Learners What the Research Does—and Does Not—Say. [Retrieved from] http://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/periodicals/goldenberg.pdf
- History of EL Laws in Arizona. (2019). [Retrieved from] https://www.azed.gov/oelas/history/
- Peregoy, S. F., & Boyle, O. F. (2016). Reading, Writing, and Learning in ESL: A Resource Book for Teaching K-12 English Learners (7th Ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.
- Revised Structured English Immersion Models School Year 2019-2020. (2019). [Retrieved from] https://d2l.pima.edu/content/enforced/485626-12061.202010/resources/Revised%20Structured%20English%20Immersion%20Models_SY2019_2020_v2.pdf?_&d2lSessionVal=NLPYLdbsHWKrtdVxxRmmw7pXT&ou=485626
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