State Rep. Jill Norgaard is winning support and praise for her bill to remove the requirement for a four-hour block of daily structured English immersion for English Language Learners if they are enrolled in a dual-language program.
The Ahwatukee Republican’s measure, HB 2281, last week passed the House Education Committee unanimously.
English Language Learners are K-12 students who are not proficient in English, as scored by the Arizona English Language Learner Assessment.
“Studies have shown that dual-language programs can be a more effective way to educate English Language Learners without having to pull students from their core classes for a required four-hour block of daily immersion,” said Norgaard, adding:
“Affording schools the flexibility to determine how to best educate their English Language Learners will help prevent students from falling behind and will put the power back in the hands of the teachers and families.”
Norgaard told AFN she got the idea to examine the requirement during a visit with Principal Jaime Soto of Kyrene del Norte in Tempe.
“He brought up the English Language Learning schedule and the problems with scheduling around the four hour block,” she said.
She also met with Ana Gomez del Castillo, principal of Lagos Dual Language Academy in Ahwatukee, and Kyrene Superintendent Jan Vesely to refine her measure, gaining bipartisan support from both the House education and rules committees.
“The dual-language schools were super-excited,” she said, adding that Tucson Democratic Rep. Macario Saldate “personally thanked me, as the dual language program is very prevalent in his district.”
Asked about the impact of Norgaard’s measure if it becomes law, Vesely said removing the four-hour requirement “allows English learners to help native English speakers learn through a second language, while native English speakers help English learners acquire the curriculum through English.”
She noted that research shows “the potential long-term educational and career benefits that multilingual students accrue” and that “research has demonstrated that students learn concepts best in a language they understand.”
“It might seem counterintuitive to some, but native Spanish speakers actually have more success learning English when instructors continue to teach them Spanish as well,” Vesely said.
Dual-language programs allow students to learn from each other, “improving student motivation to learn and further amplifying and accelerating student progress,” she said.
“By giving English Language Learners access to grade appropriate, high-level academic content in their native language, they engage in critical thinking,” she added. “Dual-language programs are an extremely effective learning environment for English Language Learners who often outperform their peers who are in English-only classrooms.”