Thu, April 09

State mandates training for teachers<br><i>Teachers must increase credits in English immersion</i>

Teachers and administrators in Arizona must spend more time learning how to teach non-English-speaking students. But they don't have to learn any new languages.

The State Board of Education announced this week that it had adopted a proposal by State Superintendent Tom Horne to require that all current teachers receive 15 hours of training in Structured English Immersion by Aug. 31, 2006. In addition, teachers will be required to take 45 hours in SEI before recertification. Then every six years, teachers must pick up 180 hours of instruction in professional development, and 60 hours of that must be in SEI.

Horne said the proposal is consistent with the department's philosophy of not training teachers in bilingual education. In bilingual classrooms teachers can give instruction in English and another language, such as Spanish. But the state adopted a policy of using English immersion in classrooms instead of bilingual instruction. In an English immersion classroom, the student basically must figure out how to learn the subject matter while also learning English.

Kathleen Fleenor, superintendent of Clarkdale-Jerome School District, said the youngest students grasp English quickly, often learning to speak it within the first year and read it within the second year. Older students, however, have more difficulty learning a new language.

Fleenor, who has been trained in English immersion, said the instruction is not language specific because a teacher could have a non-English-speaking student who speaks Spanish or Japanese or another language. "You use a lot of visuals and body language," she said.

School districts in Phoenix and Tucson find it easier to meet mandates from the state than do districts in rural areas, according to Fleenor.

"I don't like education mandates coming from people who don't have degrees in education," Fleenor said. She compared it to state officials trying to tell doctors how to practice medicine.

But she also points out that since it is a state mandate, rural districts have no choice but to comply. Fleenor said that because of a grant given to Yavapai County School Superintendent Paul Street by the federal government, local teachers will not have to pay for their SEI training, nor will they have to travel to Flagstaff or Phoenix to attend classes.

Part of the grant money will be used by Street to send teachers to the Verde Valley to conduct the SEI training. Fleenor said the SEI training must be college certified hours and cannot be earned at workshops.

The board action will take effect 60 days after the State Attorney General approves the rule change.

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