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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Soundbites: Feb. 23

Arizona’s English language learning programs harm students

When politicians want votes they go after the most vulnerable, and more often than not, that’s students. Citizens in Arizona, including UA students, are never taught to consider cultural geography. Worse yet, Arizona’s education continually fails to adhere to the best interests of the children it should serve. It ignores the voices of students and teachers, who could provide the most valuable insight on how to better education.

The next demonstration of Arizona’s list of government ignorance is within its public school system. In 2002, Arizona’s then Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Horne, implemented English Language Learner programs, meaning that students who do not demonstrate adequacy in the English language, based on federal guidelines, spend four hours a day learning English. Students are completely isolated and suffer from “”feelings of inferiority,”” according to a letter from ELL students at Catalina High School to Horne.

These programs, now known as Structured English Immersion, are meant to speed up the language acquisition process. But educators in all sectors of the United States continue to disagree with its methods.

One such professor, Laida Restrepo from ASU, said in the Tucson Sentinel, “”The state implements these laws for political reasons with very little scientific backing. It gets people elected and it gives the politician brownie points, but it is not rooted in science.””

Not rooted in data. Not based on actual testimonies. The same way Horne continues to claim success and improvement in these students’ preparedness to enter “”mainstream classrooms,”” as he calls them, but these four-hour block classes are only valid for one credit. This impedes graduation rates so severely that some will have to spend at least six years in high school. Horne’s capacity for practical judgment may be as tiny as his fine print.

We have to start addressing the issue of language-learning in a different manner. Isolating students to force the process of language acquisition is not the answer. Instead of constricting teachers from finding alternative ways to allow these students to still harness their culture while learning English, give them freedom. Let their voices be heard and allow them to structure programs according to what works for this community, keeping racist politics out of education.

— Elisa Meza is a junior studying English.


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