Is Arizona’s Approach to Educating Its ELs Superior to Other Forms of Instruction?
by Mary Martinez-Wenzl, Karla Perez & Patricia Gándara - 2012
Background: In the Horne v Flores Supreme Court decision of June 25, 2009, the Court wrote that one basis for finding Arizona in compliance with federal law regarding the education of its English learners was that the state had adopted a “significantly more effective” than bilingual education instructional model for EL students --Structured English Immersion (SEI).
Purpose: This paper reviews the extant research on SEI, its definitions, origins, and its effectiveness, particularly in contrast to other instructional strategies. This paper asks, Does the research bear out the Court's conclusion? What is the evidence that Arizona’s program of SEI is really superior to other approaches, including bilingual or dual language education? How are Arizona’s EL students faring under this “significantly more effective” instructional program?
Research Design: Data on the relative effectiveness of SEI are drawn from a comprehensive review of the literature. Analysis of public documents, particularly records from the Arizona English Language Learners Task Force, which was charged with selecting a research-based instructional program for English learners. Drawing from a recent ethnographic study and student achievement data, we examine the impact of structured English immersion programs on English learners in Arizona thus far, beginning with achievement outcomes.
Conclusions/Recommendations: There is no research basis for the Court’s statement the SEI is “significantly more effective;” at best SEI is no better or no worse than other instructional strategies, particularly bilingual instruction, when they are both well implemented. However, SEI as implemented in Arizona carries serious negative consequences for EL students stemming from the excessive amount of time dedicated to a sole focus on English instruction, the de-emphasis on grade level academic curriculum, the discrete skills approach it employs, and the segregation of EL students from mainstream peers. Moreover, the paper argues that there are, in fact, strategies that can ameliorate these problems as well as provide an additive, rather than a subtractive, educational experience for English learner and mainstream students alike.
"Research on EL instruction indicates there is documented academic support for the view
that SEI is significantly more effective than bilingual education."
Horne v. Flores, 557 U.S. 1, 24, 2009
On June 25, 2009 the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision in Horne v. Flores, a case that had dragged on in Arizona for 17 years. In 1992, Miriam Flores, a 4th grade English learner in the Nogales school district, sued the district and the state for failing to provide her with an appropriate education. The Court found that although the state had ignored federal court orders to increase funding of programs for English learners to a level that bore a rational relationship to their needs, a change in circumstances over the years effectively resolved the issue. In sum, Arizona was given a pass. Although the state ranks 49th in the nation with respect to per pupil spending and its EL students fare among the worst in the nation on national tests, the Court found no fault with its educational policies. One basis for the Courts conclusion that Arizona was providing an appropriate education for EL students was that it had instituted an instructional approach Structured English Immersion (SEI)that was "significantly more effective" than bilingual education, which had been offered to some ELs prior to the year 2000. This paper asks, Does the research bear out the Court's conclusion? What is the evidence that Arizonas program of SEI is really superior to other approaches, including bilingual or dual language education? How are Arizonas EL students faring under this significantly more effective instructional program?
The present report begins with a summary of Arizona's recent policies to address the needs of its EL population, which is necessary to understand the context in which the Flores case was brought forth. Next, we review the research on structured English immersion to understand the extent to which empirical data support claims of the superiority of SEI. We then examine structured English immersion as it has been implemented in Arizona, with an emphasis on the most recent data on student achievement. Finally, we evaluate the contention that structured English immersion is significantly more effective in comparison to bilingual or dual language approaches, given what is known generally about language instruction and what is known specifically about the version of structured English immersion Arizona has adopted.
ELS IN ARIZONA AND THE ADOPTION OF THE FOUR-HOUR SEI MODEL
Over the years several policies have informed the ways in which schools and districts approach the instruction of ELs. The 1992 Flores v Arizona case relied on the language in the Equal Educational Opportunity Act (EEOA) that requires districts to take appropriate action to overcome language barriers that impede equal participation in instructional programs (20 U.S.C. 1703[f]). In 2000, a consent decree in the Flores case resulted in changes in state laws pertaining to EL identification, service, and assessment requirements. Arizona was ordered to adopt rules for English language instruction, compensatory instruction, and monitoring by the Arizona Department of Education after U.S. District Court Judge Alfredo Marquez ruled the state had provided funding levels for English learners that were arbitrary and capricious. Arizona was ordered to show that its funding bore a rational relationship to the instructional needs of EL students.
Prior to Arizona's passage of Proposition 203, also in 2000, Arizona school districts maintained the discretion to select the type of program to develop English proficiency and academic achievement for its English learners. With the passage of Proposition 203, the state mandated that all public school instruction be conducted in English, and required an intensive one-year English immersion program to teach English as quickly as possible. While Proposition 203 permits bilingual instruction under specific conditions,1 the state superintendent has interpreted it strictly as an SEI mandate (Mahoney et al., 2010). Today, Arizonas English-only instruction law is the most restrictive of the three states that have adopted restrictive language policies.2
In response to the District Court's requirement that Arizona show evidence that it was instituting a credible program of instruction for its English learners, the Arizona legislature passed HB 2064, which provided greater specificity on the parameters for the instruction of Arizona English Learners. This bill created an English Language Learner (ELL) Task Force that was then charged with developing a research-based program of English language development to instruct the state's EL students. The legislature also mandated that the program include a minimum of four hours per day of English language development and be the most cost-efficient models that meet all state and federal laws (Arizona Revised Statute 15-756.01). It did not specify that the model(s) had to be the most effective. The ELL Task Force consisted of three members appointed by the Superintendent of Public Instruction, two members appointed by the governor, two members appointed by the President of the Senate, and two members appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, each to serve four years. This group included one individual with extensive experience in language teaching and bilingual development, an expert on structured English immersion, four individuals with experience as educational administrators (though not necessarily directly related to English learners), two political advisors, and an education lobbyist.
The ELL Task Force began meeting twice monthly in September 2006, and early on ELL Task Force Chair Alan Maguire invited consultant Kevin Clark to assist the task force in determining how to implement the four-hour SEI requirement. Clark served as the lead consultant to the task force as they endeavored to develop an SEI model for statewide implementation, and within a year the task force decided to adopt the four-hour SEI model Clark had developed.
Reliable information about Clark is hard to come by. His business, Clark Consulting Group, Inc., based in Clovis, California maintains no website. One source indicates he has worked with more than 100 schools and districts in the design and implementation of English immersion programs, and taught in Arizona, California, and Mexico (Center for Equal Opportunity, 2000). However, little more is known about his educational and professional background or credentials and he has published no studies or evaluations of EL programs.
In his February 23, 2007 presentation to the ELL Task Force, Clark indicated he had no ideological agenda, and cited a history of working with school districts with bilingual education programs, heritage maintenance programs, and dual immersion programs (Arizona Department of Education, 2007). However, Clark was evidently not involved in any of those programs; he previously served on the Board of Academic Advisors for the Research in English Acquisition and Development (READ) Institute (READ Institute, 2010) a conservative think tank advocating for the superiority of English-only programs (Massachusetts English Plus Coalition, 2010).
On March 29, 2007, Clark presented the ELL Task Force with a handout outlining an SEI instructional program composed of five ELD components: phonology, morphology, syntax, lexicon, and semantics (Arizona Department of Education, 2007). Task force members posed a number of questions about the research evidence for structured English immersion programs, and in particular several key aspects of the specific model Clark presented. In response to task force member inquiries, Clark developed a 13-page document, "Research Summary and Bibliography for Structured English Immersion Program Models." Clark noted it was not a comprehensive review of the literature, but merely a search for supporting research (Arizona ELL Task Force. Minutes of 14 June 2007). This document acknowledges that research [on time on task] related to English learners and the learning of English is relatively thin, and therefore cites none (Arizona ELL Task Force, 2007). Given that the program commits most of the school day to extended time on task, and holds that this will result in rapid reclassification to English proficiency normally within one year, the lack of evidence is problematic. A subsequent review of this document by Krashen, Rolstad, and MacSwan (2007) noted it "neglects to reference significant research on the questions being raised, and frequently draws inappropriate conclusions from the research being presented (p. 1). In addition, Krashen and his colleagues observed that teacher qualifications, availability of reading materials and texts, funding, and methods for developing coherent programs were important factors to consider in implementation of any language program, yet they were omitted from Clarks research summary. In spite of these criticisms, Clark's review of the research served as the ELL Task Force's primary record that the model they adopted was in fact supported by scientific evidence.
The ELL Task Force worked with Clark to develop a highly prescriptive instructional program compliant with HB2064s requirements that districts and schools use Arizonas English language proficiency assessment (the AZELLA) as well as the English language proficiency standards and the English Language Arts academic standards.3 The instructional program Clark presented to the ELL Task Force identified four courses for ELs: Conversational English and Academic Vocabulary, English Reading, English Writing, and English Grammar, all of which are measured on the AZELLA. Each of the courses covers 20-40 percent of the English language proficiency standards, and there are recommended time allocations for each of the courses. Time allocations were not based on research evidence, but rather the frequency with which the discrete skills were present in the English language Proficiency Standards (Arizona ELL Task Force. Minutes of 26 April 2007). Students are placed into structured English immersion classrooms on the basis of their scores on the AZELLA, which classifies them as Pre-emergent, Emergent, Basic, or Intermediate. These scores are used for ability grouping and determining the time allocated to the learning of discrete English skills. It is notable that the cut off scores on the AZELLA have changed frequently over the last several years so that it is difficult to say with any certainty that students in a particular category one year would be assigned to the same category in another year. There has also been some concern expressed that the AZELLA may set a particularly low bar for proficiency.4 Tables 1 and 2 show the number of minutes allocated daily to each of the discrete English language areas, resulting in a tightly scheduled block that does not allow time for content instruction.
Table 1. Elementary ELD Time Allocations by AZELLA Composite
Source: Structured English Immersion Models of the Arizona English Language Learners Task Force
Table 2. Middle and High School ELD Courses by AZELLA Composite Score
Source: Structured English Immersion Models of the Arizona English Language Learners Task Force
Arizona has embraced a highly prescriptive version of structured English immersion that appears to lack sensitivity to age and grade level differences, but one that is purportedly supported by empirical research. But aside from the broad categories listed above, exactly what is structured English immersion, and where did it originate? In the following sections we review the history and definition of structured English immersion and empirical evidence of its effectiveness.
ORIGINS OF STRUCTURED ENGLISH IMMERSION
The term structured English immersion was first coined by Keith Baker and Adriana de Kanter, in a report whose recommendation was to teach ELs following what they characterized as the model of successful French immersion programs in Canada (Baker & de Kanter, 1983). Structured English immersion programs actively discourage the use of native language for instructional purposes, and only support the study of any language other than English once English has been mastered (Haver, 2002). Content area instruction may be incorporated into the structured English immersion classroom, but is secondary to the focus on discrete English language skills (August et al., 2010). Proponents of structured English immersion approaches suggest they help students gain the English language skills that are crucial for academic success and opportunities beyond high school (Clark, 2009, p. 46).
According to Clark (2009), structured English immersion programs share several key features. First and foremost, explicit teaching of the English language takes a large portion of the school day, with students grouped by their English language ability. The primary instructional focus in an SEI classroom is the English language: rules, forms, uses, and applications in real life situations. The use of students home languages is limited in SEI programs; students and teachers are expected to speak, read, and write in English. This is based on the theory that students will improve their English language skills when they are compelled to practice them. English language learning is treated much as learning any other foreign language in a formal setting, with a very strong emphasis on learning discrete grammatical skills, such as verb tenses. (Given Americans abysmal record in learning foreign languages, one has to wonder why this model would be preferred.) Finally, one of the most salient features of U.S. structured English immersion programs is a rigorous timeline for exiting the program, typically with a goal of one academic year.
It is important to note that structured English immersion as described above and as implemented in Arizona represents a narrow conception of the term, and one that has been extensively critiqued by many other researchers. Johnson and Swain (1997) argue that immersion programs are a category within bilingual education, and cite the labeling of English-only programs for Spanish-speaking minorities as an inappropriate over- extension of the term. Genesee et al (2006) note that structured English immersion programs actually consist of two major components: English language instruction and content area instruction, using special techniques. Mora (2010) notes that Arizona's definition of structured English immersion differs sharply from the term foreign and second language educators use and that there is no consensus definition for structured English immersion among experts. However, many of the structured English immersion programs now being advanced are promoted as an alternative to bilingual education for ELs of all levels, including students with no command of English whatsoever. Today, structured English immersion is closely aligned with the English-only movement, which seeks to advance monolingual English instruction and places English acquisition at the forefront of discussions around the education of EL students (Mora, 2009).
Within the SEI movement, Canada has been widely cited as the model for structured English immersion programs (Christensen and Stanat, 2007). But, an important distinction between the Canadian model and the U.S. model is that the target students for immersion programs in Canada are mainstream majority language speakers who seek to learn the second language with the objective of becoming fully bilingual and biliterate in French and English. In the U.S. SEI programs, the target students are generally children of immigrants and minority language speakers, and the primary goal is rapid English acquisitionnot bilingualism. With their diametrically opposed goals of bilingualism versus English monolingualism, and radically different populations served, suggesting that the U.S. programs are even remotely like the Canadian model is unwarranted and misleading.
WHAT IS KNOWN ABOUT THE EFFECTIVENESS OF STRUCTURED ENGLISH IMMERSION?
In 1992 the National Research Council Report on Assessing Evaluation Studies published a review of two major studies that sought to measure the effectiveness of English-only compared to bilingual instruction. The National longitudinal study of the evaluation of effectiveness of services for language-minority limited-English-proficient students (Burkheimer et al., 1989) described the range of services provided for ELs in the US and evaluated the effectiveness of different types of educational services for these students. The panel concluded that the programs intended to be evaluated were so ill-defined that no conclusions could be drawn about the effectiveness of program types. The second of these large studies, The longitudinal study of immersion strategy, early-exit and late-exit transitional bilingual education programs for language-minority children (Ramirez et al., 1991a, 1991b) evaluated three defined instruction methods for ELs: immersion, early-exit and late-exit transitional bilingual. However, the review panel found that that there were unintended differences between the treatment programs (e.g. more teachers in the Late-Exit program had masters degrees), unintended differences in implementation (e.g. early-exit strategies were at times undistinguishable from immersion strategies), and biases in treatment groups (e.g. late-exit students typically came from families with lower incomes than the other two groups)all of which made it impossible to declare any of the instruction methods superior. The limitations in design of both these national studies on effective instruction for ELs underscored the complexities in attempting to conclude that one method of instruction for ELs is superior to all others. It is worth noting that the panel did find that both studies suggested the importance of primary-language instruction to second-language achievement in language arts and mathematics (Feinberg and Meyer, 1992, p. 105).
Later, two major reviews of the research on educating ELs were published in 2006. The first review by the National Literacy Panel (NLP), convened by the U.S. Department of Educations Institute of Education Sciences, included a synthesis of close to 300 reports, documents, dissertations, and publications in its review, all of which concerned language minority children ages 3-18 (August et al., 2006). The second review by the Center for Research on Education, Diversity, and Excellence (CREDE) included approximately 200 articles and reports in its study (Genesee et al., 2006). Both of these major reviews of the research utilized meta-analyses. A meta-analysis is a statistical technique that allows researchers to combine data from many studies and calculate the average effect of an instructional procedure" (August et al., 2010). Goldenberg (2008) characterized these two reviews as representative of the most concerted efforts to date to identify the best knowledge available and set the stage for renewed efforts to find effective approaches to help ELs succeed in school. Both the NLP and CREDE syntheses found evidence to suggest reading instruction in ones home language facilitates higher levels of reading achievement in English, and that spelling and writing in ones first language relate in important ways to literacy development in English, so that tapping into these skills can place English learners at an advantage in comparison to their peers in English-only settings.
In sum, all the major longitudinal and analytical studies that have attempted to compare the effectiveness of (structured English) immersion versus bilingual education, and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education during conservative administrations, concluded that there was no evidence that SEI was superior to bilingual education, and that in fact there were certain advantages to primary language instruction, especially with respect to literacy development. It is unfortunate, however, that so much time and effort has been expended on this question as opposed to others of perhaps greater urgency. As Gándara and Gómez (2009) note, the obsession with the question of English-only versus bilingual education has obscured the more critical social and pedagogical issues that need to be studied.
There are two findings from these large and longitudinal studies that are of particular importance. These include the role of time on task and the process of language transfer. While it intuitively makes sense that the more time a student spends studying a language, the more he or she will learn, it turns out that the relationship between time on task and language learning is hardly linear. Up to a point and under certain conditions, time spent learning a language will affect outcomes, but students should be introduced to the new language at a pace that allows them to assimilate new learning and tie it to concepts that they know and understand (Crawford and Krashen, 2007). This notion is known as the comprehensible input hypothesis.
Another factor in the role of time in learning a language is the amount of target language the student knows or has been exposed to when she begins instruction. The evidence that more time in English does not necessarily result in more rapid acquisition of English has been demonstrated many times over in comparison studies of English only and bilingual instruction. The most recent, conducted by Robert Slavin and colleagues of Johns Hopkins University, tested the same Success for All curriculum delivered in Spanish to 67 EL kindergartners at six schools, and only in English to 63 EL kindergartners. At the end of this randomized five-year study, there was no significant difference between students in English reading scores between the two groups of students, demonstrating that the extra time in English instruction provided no significant achievement advantage (Slavin et al., 2010). Since the study did not examine any other areas of achievement, it is not known whether primary language instruction assisted students in learning other subject matter areas as would be suggested by the language transfer research. There is a substantial body of research on the transfer of skills and knowledge from one language to another and on cognitive load theory that help to explain the phenomenon that ELs who receive native language instruction do just as well or better than their peers in English only instruction, and often out-perform them academically (Genesse et al., 2006). As defined by August and her colleagues, transfer means that what a student learns about one thing or in one context contributes to learning about other things and in other contexts (August et al., 2010). This is what Krashen, Rolstad, and MacSwan term facilitation theory, whereby knowledge acquired in the first language facilitates a students academic growth in a second language (2007).
In addition to the NLP and CREDE reports, several other meta-analyses have found evidence that curricular and pedagogical activities, when conducted in childrens home languages, help to support subject matter learning as English is acquired. Slavin and Cheung (2005) reviewed 17 studies comparing structured English immersion to other methods and found that most studies favored Transitional Bilingual Education (TBE)5 over SEI. Specifically, bilingual approaches were associated with significant and positive effects on English reading outcomes. Rolstad, Mahoney, and Glass (2005) meta- analysis compared all-English, transitional bilingual, and developmental bilingual programs, and similarly found bilingual instruction was superior to English-only approaches; the authors conclude English-only laws such as those in California, Arizona, and Massachusetts cannot be justified because they unnecessarily restrict instructional approaches that are equally or more effective than English only. Francis, Lesaux, and August (2006) also noted small to moderate positive effects of bilingual education on reading outcomes in their meta-analysis of 15 studies of students in elementary and secondary schools, providing additional evidence for the importance of teaching ELs to read initially in the primary language. One study on preventing reading difficulties in young children conducted by a panel of the National Research Council (Snow, Burns & Griffin, 1998), concluded that to the extent possible, non-English speaking children should have opportunities to develop literacy skills in their home language as well as in English [to prevent reading difficulties] (p. 325).
Among the research in support of alternatives to bilingual education, Baker and de Kanters (1981) analysis of more than 300 programs for second language learners is often cited. The authors concluded that the evidence for the effectiveness of transitional bilingual education was weak. However, a later evaluation of the studies included in the Baker and de Kanter review found positive effects for bilingual programs when Canadian programs, a synthesis of research on bilingual programs in the Philippines, and a non-classroom program were excluded from the analyses (Willig, 1985). Canadian programs were excluded because of basic differences in program, goals, designs, and contexts, particularly in the enrichment and bilingual orientation, which contrasts sharply with programs that have rapid English acquisition as the primary goal. The Philippines study was omitted because it was a synthesis of research, and meta-analyses are only appropriate for primary studies. Finally, the non-classroom program, which was apparently a very successful bilingual program, was excluded because it was impossible to control for the effect of additional instructional time.
Rossell and Baker (1996) later followed up on the 1981 Baker and de Kanter study examining a sub-sample of studies judged as methodologically acceptable, and again concluded there was no evidence for the superiority of transitional bilingual education in comparison to English-only instruction. However, a subsequent meta-analysis of the studies within this sample that controlled for differences between the students assigned to the bilingual and English-only programs (an issue raised by the National Research Council in 1992) and had appropriate control groups found positive effects for the programs using native-language instruction (Greene, 1998). This same analysis found that only 11 of the 75 studies in the Rossell and Baker analysis actually met their own criteria for an acceptable study. Greene (1998, p. 1) concluded that, an unbiased reading of the scholarly research suggests that bilingual education helps children who are learning English.
We were unable to locate any evidence on the effectiveness of the specific four-hour model of SEI that Arizona adopted for implementation in 2008. Kevin Clark, in an article posted at the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) website contends that discrete skill instruction, such as he has recommended for the Arizona program, is effective based on anecdotal accounts of two elementary schools in California (Clark, 2009). With respect to discrete skills instruction the research he refers the reader to is on the teaching of particular linguistic skills, but most of this research does not find that teaching these skills in a decontextualized, discrete fashion is an effective methodology. Goldenberg and Coleman (2010), argue based on dozens of studies, that discrete skill instruction should be integrated into larger communicative or meaningful tasks and structures. That is, it is important to explicitly teach these parts of language, but it should be done in a way that allows students to use and observe the language in naturalistic academic and conversational contexts not simply as exercises that occur for a certain number of minutes a day, each in isolation.
WHAT WAS THE EVIDENCE CITED BY THE SUPREME COURT IN DOCUMENTING SEI EFFECTIVENESS?
The Supreme Courts opinion in Horne v. Flores that structured English immersion was significantly more effective than other instructional methods relies almost solely on a legal brief by petitioners American Unity Legal Defense Fund, English Language Political Action Committee, ProEnglish, and the Center for Equal Opportunity. The lead petitioner, American Unity Legal Defense Fund, describes itself on its website as advancing the cause of immigration reform because it notes the United States survival as a nation. . . . is jeopardized [by immigration]. It thus enters these courtroom battles on behalf of American citizens (www.americanunity.org). The organizations are transparently anti-immigrant advocacy groups with no real research capacity. This brief cited two studies to support the claim that English immersion programs were more successful than bilingual education. The first of these was a study commissioned by the New York City Board of Education more than twenty years ago to track two cohorts of EL students entering the New York City Public Schools in the fall of 1990 and 1991, comparing students in bilingual education with students in English as a Second Language (ESL). The 1990 cohort began in kindergarten or first grade, while the 1991 cohort matriculated in second, third, sixth or ninth grade. Students exited the programs as determined by performance on a standardized test in math and reading (Stanford Achievement Test-9). The study determined that students in ESL exited the program more rapidly than students in the bilingual education programs. The author, however, cautioned that one of the shortcomings of the study was the sole reliance on short-term outcomes and called for more research to investigate the long-term efficacy of programs. The Chancellor of the Board of Education of the City of New York, Ramon Cortines, echoed these concerns in his message stating, it would be premature to begin drawing conclusions from this data. This is a particularly important point given that a number of studies have shown that early differences in test scores between students in bilingual programs where they are learning in two languages compared to immersion students who are learning in only one, typically disappear or become insignificant once students reach upper elementary grades (Lindholm-Leary and Borsato, 2006; Jepsen, 2010). Moreover, the New York study did not randomly assign students to the program type (bilingual education or ESL). It is known from previous evaluation studies that the same types of students are not normally assigned to these program types (Ramirez, 1992; Ramirez et al., 1991a; Ramirez, 1991b). Thus, the study could not control for important factors such as socioeconomic status, a powerful predictor of performance as measured by standardized tests. Furthermore, the study did not control for students beginning language levels, which is important since students placed in bilingual education are often the least familiar with English (Ramirez et al., 1991; Jepsen, 2010). Finally, there was no clear definition of program type found in the methodology section of the study. Many reviews of the literature have dismissed the study because of these shortcomings.
The second study highlighted by American Unity Legal Defense Fund and cited by the Supreme Court was a report produced by the Lexington Institute, another conservative advocacy organization. The report, Immersion Not Submersion: Lessons from three California School Districts Switch from Bilingual Education to Structural Immersion (Torrance, 2006) evaluated program efficacy based on the California English Language Development Test (CELDT). The author claimed that the districts in the study (Los Angeles Unified, Long Beach Unified, and Grant Joint Union High School District) saw their CELDT scores soar in the top two proficiency categories after the implementation of Proposition 227 and the dismantling of bilingual education in California. While the methods are largely omitted from the report, Torrance (2006) asserted that the growth in CELDT scores from 2001-2005 in these districts could only be explained by Californias switch to immersion methods of instruction. None of these districts had the majority of their EL students in strong bilingual programs before the passage of Proposition 227 (Krashen, 2006) Moreover, it is well known that California was in the midst of a major set of reforms, including increased funding for smaller class sizes and comprehensive professional development that affected the test scores of all students across the state at the time (see Wentworth et al., 2010). Thus, the growth observed in the districts EL students could be a product of many factors. The overall weakness of this report is that it presents substantial claims without any transparent methodology or research design. This work provides little in the way of evidence and much in the way of political opinion. The Supreme Court dismissed more valid and rigorous research from the abundant body of literature on program efficacy and grounded the basis of their argument on these two limited and questionable sources.
This same amicus described a form of English immersion that differs sharply from the four-hour structured English immersion Arizona has implemented. The brief emphasized the importance of subject matter instruction being taught in tandem with English, stating The key to successful teaching in the second language seems to be to ensure that the second language and subject matter are taught simultaneously so that subject content never gets ahead of language (p. 8). Integration was also highlighted in the brief, which stated, the programs should be fully integrated into regular schools so that students are exposed to English speakers on the playground, in the cafeterias, the halls, assemblies, and other areas before, during, and after school. Arizonas four-hour immersion model ensures that contact with English speakers is minimized or eliminated for the majority of the school day, and in doing so differs sharply from the type of immersion described as more effective. Thus, not only was the research base cited weak, but the optimal English immersion program described in this same document was not at all like the structured English immersion program actually in place in Arizona.
HOW ARE ARIZONAS EL STUDENTS FARING UNDER THIS SIGNIFICANTLY MORE EFFECTIVE INSTRUCTIONAL PROGRAM?
In this section, we consider the impact of structured English immersion programs on English learners in Arizona thus far, beginning with achievement outcomes. We next examine data on the teacher training policies that have been implemented in tandem with structured English immersion. Finally, we assess the impact of the structured English immersion policy and programs and classroom environments, and discuss what is known about effective language learning environments.
About 8 percent of Arizona students were classified as English learners in 2009-10 (U.S. Department of Education, 2010), which represented about 8 percent of the total student population.6 Eighty-five percent of EL students are Spanish-speaking (Migration Policy Institute, 2010). On the 2007 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as The Nation's Report Card, Arizona ELs underperformed on every measure: 64 percent of fourth grade EL students scored below basic on the math portion of the test, and among eighth graders 76 percent of ELs scored below basic, which was more than double the state average for all students. Outcomes on reading assessments were worse still, with 84 and 80 percent of fourth and eighth graders respectively scoring below basic. Less that half of ELs (48 percent) graduated high school in four years in 2008 (Arizona Department of Education, 2010).
Table 3. Percent of Arizona Students Scoring Below Basic on the NAEP, 2007
As mentioned previously, Proposition 203 mandates structured English immersion instruction, and since 2007 the state of Arizona also prescribes a four-hour block of instruction during which teachers are expected to adhere to a standardized curriculum for EL students. Even with these changes in EL instruction, research in recent years has concluded that the achievement gap between ELs and English Only (EO) students continues to be of great concern in Arizona. Mahoney and her colleagues assessed the achievement gap post-2003 using results on Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) from 2002-2006 (Mahoney et al., 2010). In their comparison of English proficient (EP) and fluent English proficient (FEP)7 students in grades 3, 5, and 8, the authors determined that although the third grade EL students demonstrated large gains after the passage of 203, there was a decline in achievement for fifth and eighth grade ELs. These scores were somewhat problematic because the test had been changed pre and post 203, making it impossible to accurately equate pre and post scores. Nonetheless, this discrepancy between the lower and upper grades might also be explained by what is already known about the challenges of learning academic language. The focus on decoding and discrete elements of language may accelerate achievement scores in the early years when instruction is keyed to emergent reading skills; however, this focus does not facilitate learning for students in the upper grades, when the academic and language content are more complex, and the demands placed on students are greater (August et al., 2010).
Rumberger and Tran (2006) conducted an analysis of NAEP data across 50 states to assess the achievement gap between EL and EO students using the state level data from the 2005 NAEP. They found that the state and its policies towards ELs had a significant effect on the achievement gap. Results from their study showed that states with bilingual instruction (New Mexico and Texas) tended to have smaller achievement gaps than those states that had implemented English-only instruction (Arizona, California, and Massachusetts) and that ...states have more control over the size of the EL achievement gap than over their overall achievement level and that state policiessuch as whether to provide EL students with specialized instruction and, if so, what typecould help reduce the gap (Mahoney et al., 2010, p. 99)
Another analysis of NAEP data conducted by Losen (2010, see Figure 1), looked at the average math scores for EL students in those states that had adopted English-only policies and for ELs in the nation as a whole, as well as all other states except the English-only states (since those states combined accounted for about 40 percent of all EL students nationally). Losen found that English learners in the English only, or SEI states, on average performed worse than ELs across the nation, and that Arizona ELs performed significantly worse than the all states average and even the other English only states on the single national metric (NAEP) available for comparison. Such data clearly call into question the assertion that Arizonas program has been significantly more effective in educating these students.
Figure 1. Average scores for ELs on the NAEP math scale, Grade 4
A recent ethnographic study of four-hour SEI classrooms in Arizona illuminated aspects of the implementation of SEI in that may serve to further widen the achievement gap (Lillie et al., 2010). The study included classroom observations, interviews with teachers, and an overview of district documents relevant to the implementation of the four-hour block version of SEI in Arizona (e.g., teacher training materials and observation protocols). A total of 18 classrooms were observed across five districts in Arizona for an average of 14.5 hours in each classroom. A purposeful sampling method was used to be representative of the different types of schools in the state (e.g., large EL populations, small EL populations, and rural versus urban school settings). Researchers observed the implementation of the four-hour block, and, in the case of elementary schools and middle schools, observations were extended beyond the four-hour block. From the data collected the research team compiled findings about the actual impact of SEI and the four-hour block on students, teachers, and school environments. Researchers found that students were not exiting the programs in one year, as the law prescribes, except in the case of kindergarten. However, in her analysis of the Arizona English Language Learners Assessment (AZELLA), Florez (2010) questioned the validity of this assessment in identifying pre-proficient and proficient students. She found that, especially in the case of kindergarten, the assessment inflated reclassification rates. This inflation may explain why kindergarten students were the only group that reclassified in one year. It should also be noted that the Department of Justice ordered that Arizona no longer use the AZELLA due to its questionable reliability. At the secondary level, the study illustrated that few students could exit in one year and the schedule restrictions resulting from the four-hour instructional block made it impossible for most students to take the courses they needed to graduate on time.
Implementation and Teacher Training
Arizonas structured English immersion model is highly prescriptive in some respects, yet there is not sufficient specificity to ensure consistency in other key areas. A recent study examining the implementation of SEI from the perspective of principals found that, although administrators were aware of the legal requirements of the law, they interpreted and implemented it in accordance with what they viewed as the needs of their student populations. Many were confused by the ambiguity of the policy and varied in their interpretations of scheduling the four-hour block and training teachers (Grijalva, 2009). They described the SEI model as being in conflict with schedules, instruction, and staff development.
In response to Proposition 203, Arizona adopted a statewide requirement that all teachers complete 60 hours of training in SEI instructional methods. As part of their data collection Lillie et al. (2010) analyzed teacher training materials provided by ADE (see http://www.ade.state.az.us/oelas) outlining the proper implementation of SEI. They found that nothing spoke to one of the most critical areas of teacher training for EL students: academic language acquisition. While there is a great deal of variability among students depending on a host of factors, research suggests oral proficiency in a second language is normally acquired within three to five years (Hakuta et al., 2000). Best estimates of the time required to achieve proficiency in academic language are four to seven years, and researchers have proposed all of the elementary years as a realistic range for acquiring English (Hakuta et al., 2000). Academic language includes knowledge of specialized vocabulary, comprehension of complex written text, writing well-organized, cogent essays, presenting academic material, and succeeding on English language content-area assessments (Gándara and Hopkins, 2010).
Students do not naturally acquire academic language, but instead must be exposed to it in formal instruction. Thus, training teachers to explicitly teach academic language and competencies is also an essential aspect of an effective program (Wong-Fillmore and Snow, 2002; de Jong, 2008), but is absent from the Arizona districts' teacher training. Academic language is necessarily taught in concert with actual content knowledge so that students learn how to use language in academic context (Wong-Fillmore and Snow, 2002). To the extent that the Arizona fourhour program focuses almost exclusively on teaching English, rather than academic content, it is unlikely that these students can catch up to the instruction level of their peers who are English speaking. Possibly due to the lack of attention to key areas of language instruction in the teacher training, teachers at the primary level in the Lillie et al. (2010) study expressed a generalized sense of confusion about the model and its implementation. Moreover, teachers with foundational knowledge for teaching language8 and/or many years of experience as EL teachers often resorted to their own expertise, instead of the four-hour SEI model, to instruct ELs.
Gándara and Contreras (2009), in questioning the inordinate time and resources devoted to comparing English only and bilingual models, have noted, the problem of English learners' underachievement, like that of other Latino students, is more likely related to the quality of education that these students receive, regardless of the language of instruction. The bilingual versus English only debate has overshadowed the examination of other important factors that affect the achievement of EL students. Of much greater importance, and much less researched is teacher quality and teacher preparation. English learners are the least likely to have teachers qualified to instruct them (Gándara et al., 2006). Teacher and program quality are urgently in need of further policy attention and research.
Classroom and School Environment
As cited by the Supreme Court, under Title III (the English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement, and Academic Achievement Act), the State must ensure that ELs "attain English proficiency, develop high levels of academic attainment in English, and meet the same challenging state academic content and student academic achievement standards as all children are expected to meet" (Horne v. Flores, 2009). The four-hour SEI model, as proposed by the ELL Task Force, does not explicitly address the development of academic language and competencies, even when the implementation of the model in Arizona schools constitutes at least two-thirds of the school day for these students (August et al., 2010). While it appears to assume that academic content will be taught within the four-hour block since there is no mention of how students will catch-up to their peers, examination of district training materials and the observations conducted in Arizona classrooms do not support this assumption. We were unable to find any evidence of a detailed plan for catching students up after they had been denied access to core curriculum. This would appear to be a violation of the Flores Consent Order that EL curriculum incorporate academic standards (Lillie et al., 2010) and denies students meaningful opportunities to participate in the school program (Lau v. Nichols, 1974).
In a comprehensive survey of teachers in Arizona, teachers expressed deep concern over this issue of segregation (Rios et al., 2010). In the survey of 880 teachers, 85 percent of the teachers viewed segregation of EL students from the mainstream population as harmful to learning. At face value, ELs are separated from their English dominant peers for at least two-thirds of the school day in a four-hour block. In the Lillie et al. (2010) study of Arizona schools the authors noted that the physical isolation produced a social isolation that further marginalized EL students within schools. Moreover, they observed that this isolation also translated into missed learning opportunities for the general population and at times hostile learning environments. The study in classrooms in Arizona (Lillie et al., 2010) captured these effects in the language of teachers and students who recognized that there existed a divide between "those" students and "these" students in schools, or between the EL and non-EL populations. Many experts in the field agree that the separation of EL students from their non-EL peers results not just in a weaker curriculum for EL students, but also in an ineffective language-learning environment. Guadalupe Valdés (2005), Stanford professor and expert in second language acquisition, suggests that contact with English speaking peers is an essential component of English language development. Separating students by language ability reduces opportunities to interact with speakers of English in an authentic and meaningful way, delaying their acquisition of academic English (August et al., 2010).
MODEL ALTERNATIVES NEGLECTED IN THE ARIZONA CASE
In an optimal language learning setting, language should be meaningful and comprehensible to students (August et al., 2010), and language learning should happen in low anxiety environments where students do not feel embarrassed to use the new language (Krashen and Terrell, 1983). Optimal language learning settings also give students many opportunities to interact with speakers of the target language (Valdés, 2005; August, Goldenberg and Rueda, 2010). One of the great challenges for EL students is learning a language alongside academic content. In education it is known that culturally responsive methods raise students achievement and engagement (Ladson-Billings and Tate, 2006). Such methods include building on home and community knowledge and customs, incorporating reading material and cultural artifacts from students backgrounds into classroom lessons, and acknowledging and incorporating local language patterns and usage (Gonzalez, Moll & Amanti, 2005). This is especially critical in engaging English learners at the secondary level, who comprise between 20 and 30 percent of all English learners. In a comprehensive review of the literature on teaching literacy to secondary EL students, Meltzer and Hamann (2004) found that motivation and engagement were the most important factors in academic achievement for students in this age group and recommended that this be the key concern of educators at the secondary level.
One key limitation of monolingual language learning environments is that they limit opportunities for parents of ELs to become involved in their childrens education. In
English-only settings bilingualism is devalued, lessening the likelihood that bilingual teachers and staff will be present to communicate with the parents of ELs. Researchers stress that Latino parents and family are the most powerful protective force for many Latino students, that their involvement has the effect of raising their childrens academic achievement, and that there is a need to develop partnerships with schools to enhance parent involvement (Martinez et al., 2004; Marschall, 2006). Parents, regardless of their level of education or language ability, can be involved in their childrens educations by emphasizing the importance of education, by reading to and with their children at home in their first language, and by reinforcing what is learned at school. Schools lacking the linguistic and cultural resources to communicate with parents shortchange their students of a critically important asset.
As implemented in Arizona the four-hour SEI model appears to fall short of fostering an effective language-learning environment with academic rigor comparable to that of non-EL students. Further, it is not evident from the state and district materials on the four-hour SEI classroom that the challenges presented by a monolingual model in engaging parents are being adequately addressed. The research cited in the Supreme Court decision neglected other alternatives. The following section provides a glimpse of some of these alternatives.
Two recent publications (Saunders and Goldenberg, 2010; Goldenberg and Coleman, 2010) synthesized the latest research on teaching English language learners. In addition to noting that the research concludes that teaching reading in the primary language of the student is the preferred method (at least for Spanish speakers, for whom most of this research is undertaken) and that it is critical to build on the linguistic knowledge that students already possess, such as the use of cognates in instruction (e.g., árbol/arboreal; plato/plate), they offer 14 guidelines for the instruction of English to English learners. Included in those guidelines are references to the teaching of vocabulary, syntax, grammar, and conventions, but they also point out the critical importance of teaching language in context in conversation, and for communication, and conversational as well as academic language. Additionally, they recommend that students not be segregated into separate classrooms away from their English-speaking peers. Moreover, English Language Development (ELD) is seen as only one part of the specialized instruction that students need. Instruction in academic content, whether supported by Sheltered English methods or SDAIE (Specially Designed Academic Instruction in English) or other methods, needs to be part of the instructional program as well.
Research Based Sei
The High Court in the Horne v. Flores decision specifically stated that SEI instruction was significantly more effective than bilingual instruction and thus we have restricted most of our analyses to a discussion of these two instructional methods. This is not to say that there isnt an important literature on research-based SEI instruction. Perhaps the most important point to be made about this research is that effective SEI instruction does not depend solely on an extensive block of ELD that does not also incorporate academic content in all core areas and strategies for teaching it. Apart from the points that we have already made, that well-implemented SEI respects students first language and culture and incorporates these into instruction, many studies have found that use of the primary language to support English instruction is beneficial to student outcomes (Slavin & Cheung, 2005; August et al. 2006).
Widely used, and research-based SEI programs such as Quality Teaching for English
Learners (QTEL) (Walqui and Van Lier, 2010) and Sheltered Immersion, Observation Protocol (SIOP) (Echavarria et al., 2007), with its limitations, explicitly incorporate culturally responsive instructional methods along with strategic use of the first language as possible to support both English acquisition and academic content learning. They also incorporate specific sheltered and Specially Designed Academic Instruction in English (SDAIE) to simultaneously link ELD with core academic instruction. Unfortunately, in an environment that virtually eliminates bilingual instruction, bilingual teachers with the training and expertise in use of native language and culture begin to disappear, making it increasingly difficult to incorporate these best practices within sheltered or SEI classrooms (Arias, 2009).
Bilingual education is an umbrella term that incorporates many different models, but the one characteristic they have in common is that they incorporate the first language of the student to some degree. Morales and Aldana (2010) recognize the variation within the term bilingual education and summarize the differences in the following manner: they differ in their use of the target language, the length of time students stay in the program, the instructional pedagogy utilized, and their specific goals. The type of variations found in Morales and Aldana resulted in three categorizations of bilingual programs according to these variations (García and Baker, 2007). Transitional Bilingual Education (Early Exit) is defined as a program with the intended goal to assimilate Els into the general population while helping them to also keep up with content instruction. The home language in these programs is used initially anywhere from 50-90% of the time, increasing the use of English over time. The goals of this program type are to exit students as quickly as possible (1-3 years) as they reach a marker of English proficiency, usually measured by an English proficiency exam and sometimes by standardized tests of subject matter, such as English language arts.
Developmental Bilingual Education (Late Exit) programs, on the other hand, take an approach that emphasizes bilingualism and bilingual literacy and more gradually increase the use of English until reaching a 50/50 balance of language use between home language and English. In these programs students generally receive all subject matter instruction in the primary language initially, gradually shifting in upper elementary grades to English instruction with a primary language component to continue building their competence in the first language. Exit from the program does not normally occur until the end of elementary school and some programs continue through 12th grade.
Two-way Bilingual Education (Dual Language) sets out to produce bilingual and biliterate students with a unique feature of integrating the student body so that English speakers and English learners are represented in relatively equal numbers and are taught together in two languages. At least in theory, neither language is privileged and students come to have relatively equal competencies in both. This program type begins with a 90/10 or 80/20 ratio of home language, moving towards language parity or a 50/50 balance.
Unfortunately, all of the program types ultimately measure learning gains by means of English proficiency and academic achievement in English, notwithstanding the goal of developing second language skills. Similarly, all of the major evaluations of language programs have relied on academic achievement in English as the measure of effectiveness, thus eschewing the importance of academic skill gained in a second language. In this way, the contributions of bilingual programs to the intellectual and academic development of students are almost always underestimated.
DUAL LANGUAGE PROGRAMS AND THE GOAL OF INTEGRATION
Dual language programs foster integration by attracting more diverse student populations (e.g. Latino, White, Asian) with different levels of English competence (Morales and Aldana, 2010). Rumberger and Tran (2010), in their analysis of NAEP data for all 50 states and several large districts, concluded that integration is likely the most effective strategy for improving the achievement of English learners; they found that student composition (degree of segregation) of the schools explained most of the variability in student achievement. This is consistent with decades of research on the educational inequality (see, for example, Coleman et al., 1966). Dual language programs present one possible avenue towards creating more integrated school environments, better incorporating immigrants and the children of immigrants into the society, and at the same time building the nations language capacities.
In suggesting that SEI was significantly more effective than bilingual approaches, the Supreme Court drew a conclusion on thin evidence and disregarded several decades worth of research on this topic, which has largely found that students in high quality bilingual programs that stress development of biliteracy have superior outcomes in English reading. Research also finds, however, that there are additional benefits to being instructed in more than one language, above and beyond just proficiency in English. Proficiency in a second language carries specific cognitive advantages, including metalinguistic awareness, which has been associated with improved comprehension and cognitive flexibility, which is in turn associated with more creative or innovative ways of approaching learning (August et al., 2010; Bialystock, 2001). Newer research has also shown that bilingualism can even forestall the onset of dementia in older individuals (Bialystock et al., 2004). Family cohesion and better social adaptation are other outcomes that have been associated with students who maintain contact with parental language and culture. One study of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders found that Mexican American students who had maintained their native language competence and continued to speak Spanish to their parents showed a significant increase in family cohesion at mid-adolescence compared to Mexican American students who were more acculturated and spoke English to their parents (Baer and Schmitz, 2001). Suárez-Orozco & Suárez-Orozco (1995), in a study of native born and foreign born Mexican American and European American adolescents, concluded that the foreign born students who still maintained language and cultural links to family were more motivated to do well in school and exhibited fewer behavior problems. Similarly, Rumbaut (1995) in a study of the academic progress of approximately 2500 immigrants and children of immigrants in San Diego schools, found that maintenance of the home language was significantly related to more positive academic outcomes, and that Americanization processes, all other things being equal . . . .may be counterproductive for educational attainment (p. 52).
Clearly, however, the advantage of speaking more than one language, especially a language that is in wide use in the society, has economic as well as social advantages. Multilingual people are sought after in many public service as well as corporate jobs, and being bilingual can provide the edge to secure a job in a competitive labor market. Moreover, multilingualism affords the opportunity to interact in culturally and linguistically appropriate ways in the business world. Ironically, Berlitz International (2011) cites income of hundreds of millions of dollars teaching individuals to speak international languages to further their careers, while immigrant students in U.S. schools are encouraged to leave their home language behind.
On the surface, structured English immersion appears to serve the interests of ELs by endeavoring to provide them with a command of English as rapidly as possible so that they can have equal access to the mainstream curriculum. Rapid English proficiency is the goal. However, the research is consistent in finding that it takes students significantly longer than a year or two to become proficient in academic language. As a result, students who are in mainstream classes before they have developed the requisite language skills to fully participate are not in fact being afforded equal access to the curriculum. Nor are students being provided with an adequate education if they are denied grade level instruction in academic content while they learn English. Moreover, the research is now clear and overwhelming that trading off the instruction of academic content by focusing on instruction about English does not result in superior outcomes even for English acquisition.
In Arizona, the addition of the four-hour block of English instruction to the previously mandated SEI instruction adds a further compromising factor to existing practice. The four-hour ELD block prevents students from accessing academic content, is implemented unevenly and amid much confusion, and results in social and emotional costs wrought by institutionalized segregation, which in turn have been shown to negatively affect learning (Gándara & Orfield, 2010). In an SEI model where at least two-thirds of the school day is devoted to learning language, as in Arizona, there remains little room for content instruction. In an effort to teach English, this model neglects the academic growth of the student, as is evident in the achievement data cited earlier.
The High Court's decision in Flores underscores the importance of allowing some flexibility in each state's implementation of NCLB in accordance to what works best at the local level for its students. However, the "latitude of design" given to the state must also be in compliance with "appropriate action" as defined under the Equal Education Opportunity Act (EEOA). This can only be determined by collecting reliable, longitudinal data on ELs that will equip policy makers and educators to make more informed decisions about program effectiveness. It is not enough that students be proficient in English without also gaining academic proficiency, as required by NCLB, and established in Lau v Nichols (1974). Nor is it sufficient that students gain English proficiency at the expense of failing to complete high school.
In conclusion, we find that the answer to the question we posed at the outset of this paper, Is Arizonas approach to educating its ELs superior to other forms of instruction? Is a resounding No. A careful reading of the research shows that there is no evidence that SEI is a superior form of instruction for English learners. Neither is there any evidence from Arizonas schools, and in fact no research support at all, for the efficacy of the four-hour ELD model. In addition to the lack of evidence for its superiority, the model Arizona has chosen to adopt carries with it additional risks of segregation, isolation, and high school drop out. While the EEOA requires that whatever method is adopted be based on sound theory, we could find no evidence that Arizonas SEI model, as implemented, meets this criterion.
1. Districts and charter schools may also propose an alternate program, subject to review and approval by the Arizona EL Task Force. The law allows parents to seek waivers from a structured English immersion program, and in schools where 20 or more students have been granted waivers, children may be transferred to bilingual classrooms.
2. California and Massachusetts have also adopted English-only laws, albeit not as restrictive as Arizona's.
3. The AZELLA has since been found to be invalid for this purpose and the Department of Education has ordered the Task Force to identify a valid test to use (Fehr-Snyder 2011; Flores 2010).
4. These concerns have resulted in part from the tendency for some students to be returned to the SEI classroom after being reclassified as proficient when teachers find that they are not really ready to join mainstream classes without any support.
5. TBE instruction is initially in one's native language, gradually transitioning to English with no intention of developing full academic proficiency in the native language.
6. The 2009-10 EL enrollment was notably lower than in 2008-09 and 2007-08, when ELs composed 11.5 percent and 13.8 percent of the overall student population. From 2009 to 2010 the number of students designated as ELs declined by more than 41,000. This fact raises serious questions about the reliability of the data, the assessment, and/or educational practices.
7. English proficient students are native speakers of English, whereas Fluent English Proficient students are students whose native language is not English, but who have been classified as proficient English speakers. ELLs English as a Second Language (ESL) Bilingual Education (BLE) endorsement
8. ELLs English as a Second Language (ESL) Bilingual Education (BLE) endorsement
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