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Implementing Structured English Immersion in Arizona: Benefits, Challenges, and Opportunities


by Cecilia Rios-Aguilar, Manuel S. Gonzalez Canche & Luis C. Moll — 2012

Background/Context: Arizona’s most recent English Language Learner (ELL) legislation, starting in the school year 2008-2009, requires all such students be educated through a specific Structured English Immersion (SEI) model: the 4-hour English Language Development (ELD) block. The basic premise behind this particular model is that ELL students should be taught the English language quickly so they can then succeed academically.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: This study is the first attempt to look at a random sample of school districts across the state of Arizona under the 4-hour ELD block policy. The goal of the study is to better understand what are the positive aspects and the major challenges of implementing the 4-hour ELD block in Arizona. In particular this study aims to answer the following research questions: (1) How is the 4-hour ELD block being implemented? (2) What are the perceived benefits of the 4-hour ELD block for students and for schools? and (3) What are the district leaders’ concerns about implementing the 4-hour ELD block?

Population/Participants/Subjects: Of the 65 school districts randomly selected as potential participants, 26 agreed to participate in this study. The district response rate of the study was 40%, and the informants were the English Language Coordinators (ELC), who are the individuals most knowledgeable about how the 4-hour ELD block is implemented in their district. The sample of school districts that participated in our study is representative of the state of Arizona in terms of enrollment patterns.

Research Design: The researchers designed a phone survey for ELCs. Qualitative data analyses were used to examine the responses of the 26 ELCs. More specifically, a coding scheme was created to assist in the process of organizing and analyzing the data.

Findings/Results: Analyses reveal that the vast majority of ELCs think that, as a result of the program, there is an increased focus on English Language Learner (ELL) students' English language development. Regarding the challenges of the program, ELCs think that the implementation of the 4-hour ELD block has: a) neglected core areas of academic content that are critical for ELL students' academic success, b) contributed to ELL students' isolation, c) limited ELL students opportunities for on-time high school graduation, and d) assumed that English language learning can be accomplished within an unrealistic timeframe and under a set of unrealistic conditions.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Given the data collected, we recommend that school districts explore alternative models of ELD instruction. These alternative models of ELD instruction need to take into consideration the local context of school districts, their resources, and existing research. Furthermore, we recommend that ELL students are offered additional programs or types of support that can help them become English proficient, while acquiring the academic content needed for succeeding in school. It seems reasonable to state that a combination of programs and support can be more effective than one prescriptive instructional approach. Finally, we recommend that school districts monitor progress and effectiveness by looking at multiple indicators. In particular, we strongly suggest that school districts keep track of reclassification, re-entry, and opting-out rates.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 114 Number 9, 2012, p. 1-18
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16575, Date Accessed: 10/20/2014 9:00:27 AM

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About the Author
  • Cecilia Rios-Aguilar
    Claremont Graduate University
    E-mail Author
    CECILIA RIOS-AGUILAR is an Associate Professor of Education at the School of Educational Studies at Claremont Graduate University. Her research is multidisciplinary and uses a variety of conceptual frameworks—funds of knowledge and the forms of capital—and of statistical approaches—regression analysis, multilevel models, structural equation modeling, GIS, and social network analysis—to study the educational and occupational trajectories of under-represented minorities, including Latina/os, English learners, and immigrant and second-generation students. Dr. Rios-Aguilar’s applied research also includes the design and evaluation of different programs and policies targeted to under-represented students.
  • Manuel Gonzalez Canche
    University of Arizona
    E-mail Author
    MANUEL S. GONZALEZ CANCHE is a Ph. D. candidate in Higher Education at the University of Arizona. His research interest are college access and success of underrepresented and minority students. His focus is on quantitative analyses involving causation in the social sciences and policy/program evaluation. His most recent publications are related to policy impact of the structured English immersion in English Language Learners in the State of Arizona.
  • Luis Moll
    University of Arizona
    LUIS C. MOLL is Professor in the Language, Reading and Culture Program of the Department of Teaching, Learning and Sociocultural Studies, College of Education, The University of Arizona. His main research interest is the connection among culture, psychology and education, especially as it relates to the education of Latino children in the US. Among his honors, he was elected to membership in the National Academy of Education (1998), and named Fellow of the American Educational Research Association (2009). He delivered AERA’s Sixth Annual Brown Lecture in Education Research in Washington, DC, on October 22, 2009
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