Priority Populations

The Education of English Language Learners in Arizona: A Legacy of Persisting Achievement Gaps in a Restrictive Language Policy Climate

This report reviews achievement gaps in both reading and math between ELL and non-ELL students in Arizona over the post-Proposition 203 period 2005-2009 and during the first year of implementation of the 4 hour ELD block, 2008-09. The study finds that Arizona has made little to no progress in closing the achievement gap between ELL and non-ELL students during this period. It also compares achievement gaps in reading and math over the same period between Arizona and Utah and Washington DC, two educational entities with vastly different spending policies. Here, the study argues that, notwithstanding changes in tests and proficiency thresholds in the states over this period of time, the relative position of Arizona vis-a-vis these comparison entities remains very similar, with Arizona continuing to lag behind both in percent of ELL students achieving proficiency in reading and math. The study concludes that Arizona is on the wrong path for closing achievement gaps for its ELL students and that this is due, at least in part, to its highly restrictive language instruction policies.