[lg policy] High Teacher Turnover In Arizona English Language Classrooms

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Wed Feb 7 10:31:46 EST 2018

 High Teacher Turnover In Arizona English Language Classrooms
By  Claire Caulfield <http://kjzz.org/staff/ 281>
Published: Tuesday, February 6, 2018 - 6:43am
Updated: Tuesday, February 6, 2018 - 9:11am

An analysis of Arizona’s English Language Learning program attributes high
teacher turnover to its language policy and low teacher pay.

If students in Arizona don’t pass the language proficiency exam, they are
enrolled in English Language Development classes. These are four-hour
prescriptive blocks focused solely on grammar, vocab, reading and writing
in separate classrooms with different teachers.

The aim of the program is to bring students up to proficiency in a year or
two so they can rejoin their peers in traditional classrooms. However, data
from the Arizona Department of Education
<https://www.azauditor.gov/sites/default/files/ELL_Highlights.pdf> shows in
2010, only 29 percent of ELL students progressed in their English

“And this means they’re in these separate classrooms longer,” said Amy
Heineke, associate professor of education at Loyola University Chicago. She
authored the study examining
<https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10993-016-9428-9> Arizona’s
English Language Learning program over the past five years. “So they’re
falling behind their peers in other subject matters or having to take extra

*RELATED: Arizona's ELL Classrooms Struggle With Teacher Shortages, Low
Graduation Rates <http://kjzz.org/node/469898>*

Arizona implemented this program in 2008, and it stems from a
ballot-initiative passed in 2000 that made it illegal for public schools to
teach in a language other than English. At the time other states had this
“Structured English Immersion” model as well.

However in 2017 California and Massachusetts repealed their English-only
laws and implemented bilingual learning – leaving Arizona as the last state
with this system.

Heineke said this model is part of the reason Arizona English Language
classrooms see such high teacher turnover rates.

“They’re much more complex settings to teach in and quite frankly teachers
just don’t want to teach in them,” she said. “And to fill that districts
bring in teachers from across the country with little to no preparation
particularly for English learners. Basically findings of the study is we
have the least prepared teachers working with some of the highest need

In her study, Heineke examined five years of ELL data and spoke with school
administrators at all levels.

“At the state level it almost goes unnoticed. When you talk to state
administrators, policy makers, etc. it’s not even on their radar,” she
said. “While at the local level when you talk to school administrators and
district administrators everything about this ELD model stem from the
ongoing teacher turnover rates and never really being able to build teacher
expertise is a real issue.”

Heineke said low teacher pay makes it harder for school districts to
recruit experienced or qualified English language teachers.

The Arizona Department of Education, the Arizona Office of English Language
Acquisition Services and the director of EL Accountability and Support did
not respond to multiple interview requests.


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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