School districts step up efforts to teach English
The Arizona Republic
Sept. 30, 2005

Betty Reid

English words are tricky.

Just ask Marco Perez at Roosevelt School District's Sunland School.

Pronouncing words like wind and win are difficult for him. They sound similar to his 12-year-old sixth-grade ears. advertisement

"My father says I need to speak both English and Spanish so I could talk with other people," Perez said. "He said, 'if I learned both, if the teacher asked me questions in English, I can answer them.' "

Perez is one of about 15,000 students in Roosevelt, Cartwright and Isaac school districts who started another year of learning English as a second language. Each year schools try new ways to teach this population of students.

Some educators blame students like Perez for low test scores on AIMS, or Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards, and TerraNova. Educators who work with the students say they don't have a choice but to fold them into their curriculum regardless of when, during the school year, students enroll.

The majority of the newly arrived students at the three school districts are Latinos and many of them speak only Spanish. They are required to take the AIMS test regardless of whether they comprehend the language or not, school officials have said.

All 20 campuses in the Cartwright School Districtadded language acquisition specialists this fall to train instructors how to effectively teach English to ELL students.

Isaac hired a director of English language development who is responsible for coming up with, implementing and evaluating curriculum and instructional services for ELL students.

While a number of Roosevelt campuses use language arts classes for English lessons, Sunland School has teamed up with Arizona State University students. ASU students spend an hour after school with ELL children.

The south Phoenix district expects to add more English-focused classes in October.

At Roosevelt's Sunland School, language arts instructor Olga Deleon-Klemrelies on Skills Tutor, an educational computer program to teach grammar, sentence structure and vocabulary. The program allows students to self-test at the end of each lesson.

Deleon-Klem said she reviews the AIMS scores with her ELL students at the beginning of the school year. She sits down with each child and explains how many points the student needs to improve on the AIMS test.

"They know the number of points they need to get into the next box, which could be meets the standards," Deleon-Klem said.

Perez said English lessons are daunting, but he is motivated to understand what people say about him in English.

"Not knowing (English) gets me angry," he said. "Because everybody could be talking stuff about me but I don't know."

Reach the reporter at or (602) 444-8049.