The Arizona Republic
August 29, 2007


Author: Meghan E. Moravcik, The Arizona Republic Estimated printed pages: 2

Grouping students by level of English proficiency isn't a new concept.

But critics of the practice say taking English-learners away from their peers can inhibit their language skills because it cuts down the amount of English conversations that the students hear.

"The best research we have on this (indicates that) access to English through other children is a good" way for kids to learn the language, said Eugene Garcia, the vice president for education partnerships at Arizona State University and a member of a task force set up to figure out how to best implement the new law.

"I would think research literature in general would argue against this (law)," Garcia said.

A new law passed last summer required English-learners to spend at least four hours of their day in courses of English grammar, phonetics, conversation, reading and writing.

Districts can accomplish this in different ways, including grouping students by proficiency level, a model adopted by the Glendale Elementary School District.

The concept is not new, said Superintendent Sandra Johnson, who came to Glendale Elementary in February.

Before that, she spent more than five years in a school district in Tennessee that she said had a similar English-language program.

Garcia said the task force is expected to come up with a model that districts can follow to implement the law. The task force also will have the power to approve alternative proposals submitted by districts.

Meanwhile, Johnson said Glendale Elementary officials will analyze test scores to determine whether these new groups are helping English-learners master the language faster.

"We'll try to regroup and say, 'What do we need to do better?' " she said.

Reach the reporter at (602) 444-6943.
Edition: Final Chaser
Section: Glendale Republic West
Page: 5