When I began researching the various topics in the field of bilingual education, I was not quite sure what I was looking for.   Looking at several topics, both within the Americas and without, I stumbled across 'Racism and Bilingual Education.'  Intrigued, and caught somewhat off guard by the topic, my first response was, "What, are they kidding!?" but as I continued to examine the text more closely it soon became clear that maybe there may be some merit to this statement.

            I will not take a stand nor will I defend one point of view against another. I will present the facts through historical development, terminology usage, legal implications and its rationale as I have found them.  My research focused on the Arizona School Districts implementation of STRUCTURED ENGLISH IMMERSION within a model known as English Language Development (EDL).  I will look at the early development of this program, its founder; the question of whether this program is "significantly more effective," as the Arizona Supreme Court stated on June 25, 2009     (Policy In Practice: History and Implementation of Structured English Immersion In Arizona) when compared to other programs; and why this program is now being held as The Civil Rights Project.

Arizona schools enroll approximately 150,000 EL's, which is approximately one-in-ten public school students in that state.[1] (Is Arizona's Approach To Educating Its ELS Superior To Other Forms Of Instruction?)  Before the ruling, Arizona had several policies by which it attempted to educate its EL students.  However, in 1992, Miriam Flores brought a class action lawsuit against the State of Arizona, claiming that the state did not honor the mandates of the Equal Educational Opportunity Act where EL students were concerned.  The following ruling by Tucson Federal Judge Marquez brought about sweeping changes in the way in which EL students were identified in the Arizona school system and what services and assessments they would require.

 In 2000, Tucson Federal District Judge Marquez ruled in favor of the plaintiffs noting that inadequate funding resulted in ELL program deficiencies. These deficiencies included:  a) too many students; b) not enough classrooms for the students; c) a lack of qualified teachers, including teachers to teach ESL and bilingual teachers to teach content areas studies; d) not enough teachers' aides; e) inadequate tutoring programs; f) insufficient teaching materials for both ESL classes and content area courses. Additionally, the court ruled that the $150 appropriation per ELL student was based on a faulty and dated cost study. Consequently, the court ruled that the ELL program cost on which the state's minimum $150 appropriation was based was arbitrary and capricious (Hogan, 2008).  (Policy In Practice: History and Implementation of Structured English Immersion In Arizona)

With the passage of Proposition 203, "the state mandated that all public school instruction, this included charter schools, be conducted in English.  Also schools are required to implement an intensive one-year English immersion program to teach English as quickly as possible, whereby students are expected to leave the program within one year and enter mainstream classes the following year.  There is however, some flexibility within these guidelines; Proposition 203 permits bilingual instruction under specific conditions,[2]  the state superintendent has interpreted it strictly as an SEI mandate.[3]  Today, Arizona's English-only law is the most restrictive of the three states that have adopted restrictive language policies.[4] (Is Arizona's Approach To Educating Its ELS Superior To Other Forms Of Instruction?)

After the ruling in the case of Flores vs. the State of Arizona the state legislative body, having passed HB 2064 which was meant to clarify the earlier ruling, put together an English Language Learner Task Force to aid in developing a research-based English Language Program for EL students to become proficient in the English language.  The one crucial factor that was imposed on the task force was a mandatory " minimum of four hours per day of English Language Development," (Is Arizona's Approach To Educating Its ELS Superior To Other Forms Of Instruction?) and that the program must be cost-efficient while measuring up to all state and federal laws. These requirements sounded promising but in all their brainstorming - nowhere did the legislature state that the program also had to be effective in the educating of these students.

The Task Force pool was an impressive body of people from educators (not necessarily EL related) to political advisors and lobbyists.  The Structured English Immersion model that the Task Force eventually adopted left a lot of unanswered questions regarding its founder and consultant to the Task Force, Kevin Clark. Mr. Clark who is the owner of Clark Consulting Group, Inc., of which you cannot find any information on the internet, came with much controversy and lingering questions.  The Task Force could not find any trustworthy information on him either.  The only information they had from one source stated that he had worked with over 100 schools and was an educator in Arizona, California and Mexico; however, no one can verify his educational or professional background neither can they sign off on his credentials.  

During his presentation to the Task Force in 2007, Clark indicated that he was not coming with an ideological agenda and continued to list school district where he was previously employed, specifically working with bilingual education programs, heritage maintenance programs and dual immersion programs. What can be substantiated is he had served on the Board of Academic Advisors for the Research in English Acquisition and Development (READ) Institute,[5] which is a conservative think tank advocating for the superiority of English-only programs.[6] Although there were holes in Clarks credentials, Arizona hired him as lead consultant to the Task Force (Is Arizona's Approach To Educating Its ELS Superior To Other Forms Of Instruction?)

As a search for a program continued, Clark presented the Task Force with a program - STAR- with five English Language Development pieces:  phonology, morphology, syntax, lexicon, and semantics.  The Task Force reviewed the program, presented Clark with many questions - especially the validating his program with proven research.  Krashen, Rolstad and MacSwan state that Clark's responses to the Task Force questions were inadequate.  To be specific, they stated that the program:  "neglects to reference significant research on the questions being raised, and frequently draws inappropriate conclusions from the research being presented."[7]  Despite the concerns, omissions of sufficient materials including books with which to teach, qualified staff, adequate funding for such a program along with concerns on the implementation of this program, Arizona adopted this program for its EL learners as well.

What is Structured English Immersion and where did it began?  This idea began in 1983 by Keith Baker and Adriana de Kanter during the same time they were setting up French immersion groups in Canada.[8] True to what has been stated, Structured English Immersion programs do discourage one from using their native language.  However, research has proven that the way Arizona and others use this term is not the original intended meaning.  Structured English Immersion- carries a high wave of indifference and isolation when implemented in the manner in which the Arizona school system has chosen. Educators in foreign and bilingual immersion programs use this term (SEI) when referring to alternative programs for all bilingual students of all levels including the pre-emergent ones.  But Baker and de Kanter were addressing a Canadian program where "…the target students for immersion programs are mainstream majority language speakers who seek to learn the second language with the objective of becoming fully bilingual and literate in French and English." (Is Arizona's Approach To Educating Its ELS Superior To Other Forms Of Instruction?)  Understanding the above definition and looking at the expectations of the Arizona program the differences and expectations are enormous.  The EL programs in the United States serve students who "…are generally children of immigrants and minority language speakers and the primary goal is rapid English acquisition - not bilingualism."   Because of the glaring differences in the programs and the expectations and/or goals, it is unwise and misleading to compare these programs. 


I have attempted to the lay background information on Arizona's journey toward the education of its EL population and how the program was adopted, and why it is now considered A Civil Rights Project.

The article Modern "Racism and Its Psychosocial Effects on Society" states: One place where modern racism may appear is in the bilingual education and the English only debate.  Crawford summarizes the opposition of Official English by stating that opponents claim the English only movement justifies racist and nativist biases below a cover of American patriotism.  Secretary of education Bennett spoke in 1985, calling the Bilingual Education Act a failure and waste of money.  Bennett's office claimed his ideas were supported five-to-one by letters."  Baker goes on to say that. "Many bilingual situations, bilingualism exists along with racism and disadvantage."  "The negative attitudes of majority peoples tend to be based on the fear of a different group and a fear of the loss of economic power. (Baker, 1995)  http://www.bilingualeducatiomas.wordpress.com/category/modern-racism-and-its psychosocial...


Let's look at how the program is not designed to assist EL students in the process of learning English or completing their high school education:

  • Core content - math, science, history, social studies are not taught during the mandatory four hour English only periods
  • EL's are separated based on language proficiency and taught discrete skills of  English (the specific teaching/learning objectives).
  • EL's are expected to exit the program in one year being proficient in English and enter into a mainstream classroom with no opportunity to catch up on core content that was missed.
  • Research proves that the isolation of students within SEI creates "ESL Ghettos"; unsound learning environments where students fall further behind in their studies (Gifford & Valdes, 2006; Valeds, 2001; Valenzuela, 2005)
  • Students are also excluded from interaction with English speakers
  • Segregated lunches, recess and extracurricular activities
  • Opportunities to learn from more proficient English speakers are denied by these four hour designed blocks
  • Afterschool programs and summer school are always on the chopping blocks of cost-cutting within the district


According to the Equal Education Opportunity Act, paying close attention to (f) the        question could be raised as to whether there are some civil rights violations occurring here.

Part 2 - Unlawful Practices

§ 1703. Denial of equal educational opportunity prohibited

No State shall deny equal educational opportunity to an individual on account of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, by -

  • (a) the deliberate segregation by an educational agency of students on the basis of race, color, or national origin among or within schools;
  • (b) the failure of an educational agency which has formerly practiced such deliberate segregation to take affirmative steps, consistent with part 4 of this subchapter, to remove the vestiges of a dual school system;
  • (c) the assignment by an educational agency of a student to a school, other than the one closest to his or her place of residence within the school district in which he or she resides, if the assignment results in a greater degree of segregation of students on the basis of race, color, sex, or national origin among the schools of such agency than would result if such student were assigned to the school closest to his or her place of residence within the school district of such agency providing the appropriate grade level and type of education for such student;
  • (d) discrimination by an educational agency on the basis of race, color, or national origin in the employment, employment conditions, or assignment to schools of its faculty or staff, except to fulfill the purposes of subsection (f) below;
  • (e) the transfer by an educational agency, whether voluntary or otherwise, of a student from one school to another if the purpose and effect of such transfer is to increase segregation of students on the basis of race, color, or national origin among the schools of such agency; or
  • (f) the failure by an educational agency to take appropriate action to overcome language barriers that impede equal participation by its students in its instructional programs.

It would seem as though much of Arizona's Structured English Immersion program components are in direct opposition to the EEOA law, and it is this law that one measures whether the program breeds a culture of racism. Neil Brick states: "subtle forms of racism entail a subconscious attitude that the holder may be fully unaware of, or one that is known of but repressed, but yet influences their thoughts and behavior.  This attitude may become more conscious through education and self-exploration."  (Modern Racism and Its Psychosocial Effects on Society - including a discussion on bilingual education)  When the Task Force was structuring this program, were their subconscious minds at work? Did they stop and consider the fact that a great majority of these students would not have an equal opportunity to achieve their goal - a high school diploma.  Again, were their subconscious minds at work?  Consider the subtle forms of racism. The forms that reside at our subconscious level and manifest themselves in our attitude generally when we are not aware of it or when we know the environment, will tolerate the comment or jester toward another ethnic group. (i.e., dirty jokes, negative comments, sexist innuendoes.) These particular attitudes, whether conscious or unconscious, may become more noticeable through education or self-examination.

The legal ramification surrounding this and other programs like it can be enormous.  The EEOA says that education must be equal for all.  Has this program been designed to educate its participants; to allow them complete and unadulterated access to an education that is equal? Is this program designed to assist these students to one day be successful, contributing citizens in society?  The Supreme Court ruled that this program is 'of superior quality', but there is no research that supports their statement.  Conversely, all research clearly shows just the opposite. Research shows

  • The majority of EL students are none-existing in one year.
  • Students do not have the resources to make up content area courses if and when they do exit the program
  • Teachers are not qualified to teach EL students
  • Teachers do not feel supported or the workshops are not adequate
  • Little or no supplies
  • Arizona's students are scoring well below NATIONAL Average

The following excerpt gives a glimpse into the struggles teachers and students face:

         "In addition, while some schools saw an abundance of materials, others were lacking so severely that they could not even provide textbooks for the ELL students (see Appendix B). Even though most teachers had whiteboards, internet, and ELMO overhead projectors, there was a major disparity in regard to access to materials depending on the schools in which observations occurred. The elementary districts appeared to have many supplies and resources directed towards the focus of the SEI instruction. At this level, the biggest complaints there were the lack of summer school, teacher aides10, and after-school programs. This complaint was echoed in all of the high school districts, where graduation requirements force ELL students (who want to graduate in four years) to take summer school or after-school tutoring. When this was not provided as a result of a lack of funding, it had major implications for ELL students in these high schools.

 In spite of the fact that only through additional before/after or summer school opportunities could secondary ELL students earn enough credits to graduate with their peers in a typical four-year time frame, there was an overall absence of any summer school for ELLs, and after-school instruction (compensatory education) for ELLs. This is directly out of compliance with the Flores Consent Order (see S.B. R7-2-306). The lack of compensatory education instruction was due to cuts in funding to the ELL departments and schools. The absence of this additional necessary instruction virtually ensures that secondary ELL students will be unable to graduate with their peers, especially if they remain in the 4-hour block for longer than one year." (Is Arizona's Approach To Educating Its ELS Superior To Other Forms Of Instruction?)

 Reading about the struggles these families are facing, I reflect back on the Civil Rights Movement and the fight for equal education for African-Americans; the FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education Act for the disabled); and the struggle for women to get an education and the on-going struggle for equal pay.    Yes, the initial attempt to equalize the school system within the United State was a failure and by many standards still is.  Many of the issues facing this country today, where Structured English Immersion programs are concerned, are still very relevant in the urban community schools.  I teach in an urban school district, predominantly African-American, where some of the same concerns with inexperienced teachers, both in general education and EL instruction/education, is evident along where a grave lack of supplies is noted.  There is even a lack of funding for local field trips. I believe it would be fair to say that although 'on paper' academic administrators would like schools to be equal. However, the divide between the districts which 'have' and the districts which 'have not' is very apparent.  We need only to read the local newspaper or listen to the local news after the state achievements test results are given.  The disproportionate number of students of color falling below the line is staggering and once again, the question is formed:  How Can We Close the Achievement Gap?  

Is it political grandstanding?  This program which was instituted in 2007 seems like a good place to start.  If the program was based on research as the EEOA and courts  required it to be, it would take into consideration that it takes a bilingual students longer than one or two years to become proficient in English and longer for academic understanding.

The Task Force was charged with the duty of designing a program that was research-based.  However, after reading through the guidelines and flaws, one must come to their own conclusion as whether the Task Force fulfilled its duties and provide an equal education for EL students.  Research shows the following flaws in this school EL program:

• social stigmatization that is recognized by both the ELL student and "regular students, "as well as by their teachers because of overt labeling of students through their classroom assignments and visual marking of their classroom bulletin boards; and


• overt emphasis on teaching about language form (syntax, phonology) and discrete skills deprives students of opportunities to learn how to use English for meaningful

communication and opportunities to connect English to academic content that will enable them to transition to grade/age-appropriate instruction; as well as


• uneven amount and range content and academic materials available by school and grade level with some schools and age-groups; nevertheless, there is a persistent pattern of teachers using inappropriate materials and/or a lacking appropriate materials available by age/ability levels;


• concerns about the validity of the AZELLA being used or reclassification and transition

of students, given that many of those who are "exited" from the SEI 4-hour block fail to

achieve at age-grade appropriate levels; and


• evidence that many students are falling off pace with their "mainstream" peers in age grade appropriate academic achievement in lower grades and positing them to failing tomeet high school graduation and college entrance requirements. (Policy In Practice: History and Implementation of Structured English Immersion In Arizona)

        The original question was "Is this program cloaked in a cloud of racism."  Consider all of the evidence.  Consider what the Task Force was mandated to do and what the final product was. Consider what the people who are actually delivering the services (teachers and parents) are saying.  The Equal Educational Opportunity Act states: "No State shall deny equal educational opportunity to an individual…"


  Lillie, Karen E.; Markos, Amy; Estrella, Alexadria; Nguyen, Tracy; Trifiro, Anthony; Arias,Beatriz M; Wiley, Terrence;Arizona State University (2010) Policy in Practice:  The Implementation of Structured English Immersion In Arizona http://civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/research/k-12-education/language-minority-students/policy-in-practice-the-implementation-of-structured-english-immersion-in-arizona/lillie-policy-practice-sei-2010.pdf

Wenzl-Martinez, Mary; Perez, Karla; and Gandara, Patricia; University of California, Los Angeles(2010) Is Arizona's Approach To Educating Its ELS Superior To Other Forms Of Instruction? The Civil Rights Project

  Brick, Neal (2008) MODERN RACISM AND ITS PSYCHOSOCIAL EFFECTS ON SOCIETY- including a discussion about bilingual education http://bilingualeducationmass.wordpress.com/category/modern-racism-and-its-psychosocia l 


 1. With the evidence presented in these papers, will parents begin the challenge the Arizona school district for its apparent violation of the EEOA?

 2. Will this wave of English-only instruction continue to grow?  If so, what can be done about it?

 3.  Will teaching programs begin to structure their curriculum around the English-only wave to satisfy the status quo?















[1] U.S. Department of Education, Common Core of Data 2007-08: Arizona Data Profile.  http:/;nces.ed.gov/programs/stateprofiles/sresult.asp?mode=full&displaycat=1&s1-04 Arizona State Profile (accessed May 13, 2010).

[2] Districts and charter schools may also propose an alternate program, subject to review and approval by the Arizona EL Task Force.  The law allows parents to seek waivers from a structured English immersion program and in schools where 20 or more students have been granted waivers; children may be transferred to bilingual classrooms.

[3] Mahoney, Kate, Jeff Mae Swan, Tom Haladayna, and David Garcia, 2010."Castanedas third prong: Evaluating the achievement  of Arizona's EL's under restrictive language policy." In Forbidden Language, ed. Patricia Gandara and Megan Hopkins, 50-64. New York: Teachers College Press

[4][4] California and Massachusetts have also adopted English-only laws, albeit not as restrictive as Arizona's. 66 Arizona Revised Statute  15-756-01.

[5] The Institute for Research in English Acquisition and Development. List of Board of Academic Advisors. http://www.users.interport.net/r/e/readinst/clark.html (accessed May 13, 2010).

[6] Mass English Plus Coalition. Anti-Bilingual Education Who's Who. http://www.massenglishplus.org/(accessed (accessed 13, 2010).

[7] Krashen,S.,K. Rolstad, and J. MacSwan. Review of "Research Summary and Bibliography for Structured English Immersion Programs" of the Arizona English Language Learners Task Force (p.1).

[8] Baker,K., and de Kanter,A.(eds.). 1983. Bilingual education: A reappraisal of federal policy. Lexington Books.