Original URL: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/northphoenix/articles/0124langhorne24Z3.html

'Too much Spanish' report blasted
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 24, 2004 12:00 AM
Betty Reid

A team designed to help lift a south Phoenix school from an underperforming rank was accused of conspiring with Arizona's superintendent of public instruction in a veiled attempt to rid Spanish language from classrooms.

Carlos Avelar, a member of the Roosevelt School District School Board, made the blistering remarks at Tuesday's board study session after a report was given by Roosevelt's Brooks Academy and its work with the state's solutions team.

Brooks is one of two schools in Roosevelt issued the less-than-stellar label two consecutive times. The team visited Brooks on Jan. 12-14 and concluded that Brooks' school improvement plan needed accountability for "carrying out the plan" and found "inconsistencies in instruction for English acquisition."

Avelar took exception to the team's suggestion that Brooks instructors may be using too much Spanish in the classroom and added that the report amounted to a cultural attack.

"The team had a political agenda," said Avelar, who added that the department's solutions team members interviewed him. "This team was out bidding for Tom Horne."

State Superintendent Horne, however, responded that the solutions team was at Brooks Academy to help. He mentioned that during 2003 more than 100 students entered Phoenix Union High School District's South Mountain High School reading at third-grade level or below.

"If the help is not taken for what it is offered as, and the schools don't improve, we'll be looking at state intervention next October," Horne said. "And so, our going to their schools first, gives them the advantage to avoid school takeovers. One way or another, we're going to make sure that Roosevelt School District learns to teach students reading, writing and mathematics."

Horne added that he worked with Avelar in the Legislature and that they had good relations.

"It sounds like last night was not Carlos at his best," Horne said.

The status of English only in classrooms is somewhat unclear in the Roosevelt School District, where 12,000 students, a majority of whom are Hispanic, attend 20 schools. Many enroll at Roosevelt schools speaking Spanish only.

Although Proposition 203 changed bilingual education in 2000, Roosevelt has an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights.

The 2000 compact asked the district to comply with regulations, one of which is to provide an equal education to all Roosevelt students, which includes Limited Learning Proficiency students, gifted students and special-education students. It allowed the district to tax homeowners to bring the district into compliance.

Ben Miranda, a member of the Roosevelt board, suggested that the district craft a letter to Horne and seek his help in clarifying and offering guidance as to how Roosevelt will comply with the OCR compact and Proposition 203.

Katie McKenzie, principal at Brooks Academy, said that when the state's solutions team visited Brooks, the group focused on classrooms that had a high population of students who spoke Spanish.

She also noted that the team was "not a diverse group."

Ernest Montoya, special assistant in the teaching and learning division in the Roosevelt district, urged the south Phoenix community to resist efforts to stamp out the Spanish language.

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