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Arizona bill would give teachers more control over English language classes

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PHOENIX — An Arizona bill unanimously passed by both the state House and Senate would overhaul the state’s regulation of English-language learning classes.

“It’s really important that this gets to the governor’s desk, and we really hope that he signs it,” Rebecca Gau, executive director of Stand for Children Arizona, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Monday.

According to Gau, the current law requires students learning English to be separated from their peers everyday for four-hour blocks of language instruction.

She said the law also dictates exactly what happens within those blocks, leaving teachers unable to make changes according to students’ needs.

The new law would require only an average of two hours of English learning per day, meaning those hours can be stacked up — for example, Gau said, schools would be able to have a “boot camp” at the beginning of the year.

“This is a huge step for local control. It’s a huge step for our kiddos in the state who are struggling to learn English who have been trapped in programs year after year that need an exit strategy, and they need to learn English,” she said.

Gau said the new law would pave the way for dual language classes, which allow students to learn English from their peers and are “almost impossible” to have under current law.

“Older kids, starting at about maybe fourth grade, tend to learn more from social engagement and less academic engagement, so they really need an opportunity for dual language classrooms to get that rich linguistic opportunity,” she said.

Gau said the bill is especially important for high schoolers, whose ability to graduate is often impacted by the classes they have to miss in order to attend the English-language learning blocks.

“What’s great about passing this bill and the governor signing it is it also will give us the data and the information to use in the future to monitor and adjust what’s really effective, so we can … make sure that (students are) not isolated and falling behind on their academic subjects.”

Editor’s note: Gov. Doug Ducey signed SB 1014 into law on Feb. 14. 

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Peter Samore contributed to this report. 

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