On Thursday, April 2, 2015, a bill passed by both the Arizona House and Senate seems like a victory for educators new to Arizona, even education. Given that Arizona recruits and employs many teachers from outside its borders, especially from the Midwest, this bill could have longer-reaching effects on our students – and on the teachers teaching them. Specifically, HB2577 “allows the State Board of Education to grant up to 3 years (currently 1 year) a basic or standard teaching certificate to a teacher who hasn’t met the SEI training requirement”. At the time of this writing, it was headed to Governor Ducey for his signature.

Many Arizona educators, particularly those who have been involved in English Language education in our state from the 1990’s, have memories of Miriam Flores suing the state of Arizona for not addressing the needs of her minor Spanish-speaking daughter (Flores v Arizona). SEI training was created to answer the requirements of the resulting Flores Consent Decree, which stated that teachers must use special instructional strategies to assist English Learners as they learn English (see my former post “Why SEI? The Real Reasons Teachers Must Take SEI Training in AZ” to understand the history of Structured English Immersion in Arizona). By taking advantage of the delay in their SEI training, teachers will most likely not have been trained with the tools needed to meet the needs of English Learners that exist in high numbers in many Arizona schools. The potential effects are staggering.

From my experience, teachers who have not been trained in Structured English Immersion methods will feel unsuccessful with their English Learner students. Teaching language through the content of a grade level or a subject area is not “just good teaching,” as has been erroneously stated by many a teacher. As a teacher coach and mentor for eight years in school districts, and now for an additional nine years as a consultant, I can say with confidence that using the strategies conveyed in SEI training is a must if both teachers and their students are to succeed. And, while we border Mexico, teachers in this state are charged with the education of children from 90+ language groups – not just Spanish.

If a teacher feels unsuccessful, I have noted from my extensive teacher coaching experience that he or she will either:

  1. Seek SEI training to learn the strategies necessary to teach not only their content, but English as well, thus reducing their job stress; or
  2. Do their best to make their English Learners feel comfortable as they teach using strategies suitable for the mainstream, and hoping that they will ‘get’ some of their content; or
  3. Come to the conclusion that, after trying every mainstream technique they know to reach their English Learners, they are not effective as teachers, and ultimately leave the field.

Perhaps you have heard of the Three Strikes Rule in education. Research has shown that students who have three underprepared or ineffective teachers will fall so far behind in their education, and have so many gaps in their concept development, that they will never be able to catch up and enter post-secondary institutions. In fact, it is far more likely that they will drop out of school because they cannot pass tests required for graduation. Our teacher shortage is such that this could happen – three underprepared teachers in an English Learner’s educational career.

My advice to teachers and administrators? Get the SEI training as soon as possible. There are many approved providers that can help you accomplish this. If you are the type of learner that enjoys interaction, we offer our SEI classes regularly in both the Phoenix area and Tucson. We also offer open entry, open exit SEI online classes so that you can go at your own pace. However you decide to take your SEI training, once finished, you will feel prepared and confident that you have the necessary tools to help your English Learners succeed!