7.18.2007

Arizona's English-learners to study English all day

New learners must spend 4 hours a day on English (by Pat Kossan, The Arizona Republic
7.14.07)

Arizona's English-learners spend most of their school day with kids who already know the language.

That changes this fall.

All kids still learning English will have to spend at least four of their five or six class hours in new courses in English grammar, phonetics, conversation, reading and writing.

It's a big change in the way the state's K-12 schools will teach English to about 135,000 kids, whose primary language is most often Spanish, but also Navajo, Somali and dozens of others. Many of those kids now get about an hour of English a day.

"More time on task. That's a tried-and-true educational standard," said economist Alan Maguire, who headed a task force that created the state's new language-learning requirements. "If you want to learn how to play the piano, what do they tell you to do? They tell you to practice."
The new model is based on a law passed last summer.

Supporters say the state is finally providing a structured language-learning model that replaces a dizzying variety of instructional methods used with varying success.

But critics warn that it is an expensive plan that segregates English-learners for most of their school day and limits their lessons in core subjects, such as math, science and history. It also will cut back on their socializing with peers.

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