Arizona Department of Education Agrees to Serve ELLs

Recently, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division (DOJ) reached a settlement with the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) to begin properly identifying and exiting students from English learner services.

As I write in a new analysis for The 74 Million

The settlement is just the latest development in a story that dates back to (at least) 2010. That year, OCR and DOJ began an investigation into a complaint against ADE alleging that, starting in the 2006 school year “thousands of ELL students are being reclassified as “proficient” in English when test results indicate that they are not in fact proficient in English.” Specifically, the complaint stated that these errors were due to: 1) the state’s reliance on the Stanford English Language Proficiency (SELP) test and, later,  the Arizona English Language Learner Assessment (AZELLA) test as the only criteria used to reclassify ELL students and 2) faulty scoring procedures that resulted in students being identified as proficient even when they weren’t.
The OCR and DOJ’s investigation found the allegations to be true. And in 2012, the OCR, DOJ and ADE entered into a voluntary agreement to address the issues uncovered during the investigation. In the analysis, I track the most recent developments in the story and the implications of the most recent settlement for the state's English Language Learners.
In Arizona, many former ELLs continue to struggle academically once they are exited from language services. The 2010 OCR and DOJ investigation revealed that the state’s former-ELLs had lower achievement levels on Arizona’s standardized assessment than native English speakers and that many struggled to “meet state academic proficiency standards...in their first two years after exit without ELL services.” This finding flies in the face of the growing research base showing ELLs’ considerable academic potential: former-ELLs have similar graduation rates to non-ELs and in some cases, higher academic achievement than their non-EL peers.
Click here to read the entire analysis.--

This post is part of New America’s Dual Language Learners National Work Group. Click here for more information on this team's work. To subscribe to the biweekly newsletter, click here, enter your contact information, and select "Education Policy.""

Author:

Amaya Garcia is a senior researcher in the Education Policy program at New America where she provides research and analysis on policies related to dual language learners.