SEI Training in Arizona – A Long History

As a long-certified English Learner teacher and SEI training instructor in the State of Arizona, I’ve been asked by innumerable colleagues over the years why they had to take Structured English Immersion courses in order to attain, or renew, their teacher certification.  After all, teachers aren’t required to take courses in Special Education, or to pursue their reading endorsement, and they’ll teach many Special Education students or students who struggle with reading over the years.  So, why SEI training in AZ?

The answer is as simple as it is complicated.  Simply put, we are required to take them by law.  The more complicated answer has us looking at two major events: Proposition 203 and Flores v. Arizona.  These two laws have forever impacted the lives of students and their teachers with respect to the delivery of educational services to English Language Learners.

While most long-time citizens of Arizona are very familiar with Proposition 203 (the ‘English for the Children’ movement), it was pre-dated by the lawsuit known as Flores v. Arizona.  Specifically, in 1992 Miriam Flores filed this suit on behalf of her daughter in the federal district court, citing that schools were not adequately funded to provide equity of access to programs that would help ELLs become proficient in English was its major issue.  The suit also cited that adequate processes for identifying and monitoring students who were labeled as language learners needed to be put into place.  Finally, the suit alleged that teachers were not adequately trained to educate English language learners.

In the year August 2000, the Flores Consent Decree was signed with respect to the original suit arising Nogales, and in 2001, the District court extended the order to apply to the entire state.  It would add stricter monitoring guidelines and assessment procedures for current and former ELLs, and mandated compensatory education for ELLs who were not making progress.  However, it left to the legislature and state board of education the task of working out the issues of funding and teacher training.  Regarding funding, a cost study was ordered to discover the true costs of educating English Learners.  Several districts participated.  Its results were so disparate that another was ordered.  While some increase was seen in ELL funding as a result, the issue was still being worked out in the legislature, as was the issue of teacher training.

In November of 2000, Proposition 203 was passed.  This superceded the 1968 Bilingual Education Act’s provisions in Arizona, enacted as a result of the Lau case, which gave districts flexibility in the types of programs it could administer to meet the needs of a linguistically diverse population.  Students in our state would now be required to be taught in English for all subjects, unless the student’s parents signed a waiver for which s/he qualified.  The three types of waivers are for:

  • Type 1:  Students who demonstrate ‘good’ English language skills.
  • Type 2:  Students who attained the age of 10, and for whom a language program
    in the native language would be in the best interest of the child.
  • Type 3:  Students who have special individual needs.

Note that while parental waivers may be requested, the district Superintendent has final authority on whether they will be granted.  The overwhelming majority of English Learners in Arizona are not on waivers and are taught in a Structured English Immersion program.

At issue, once again, was the requirement in Proposition 203 that teachers receive training in educational techniques that would help students learn English.  Coupled with the Flores Consent Decree’s provision that teachers need training in these strategies, the Structured English Immersion Endorsement was proposed by the Arizona lawmakers.

After much deliberation by members of the Arizona Legislature, the Arizona State Board of Education, the Arizona Department of Education, and other interested parties, it was decided in 2004 that a provisional SEI endorsement (15 hours) would be required of all certified individuals by August 31, 2006, and a full SEI endorsement (requiring an additional 45 hours, for total of 60 hours) would be required by 2009.

In late 2007, however, the State Board law language changed to say that in order to get a reciprocal provisional teaching certificate (if coming from another state) or to get recertified in the state of Arizona, one must have taken either the 15-hour Provisional SEI Training if certified prior to August 31, 2006 or one the two 45 hour courses, the 45-hour Augmented Provisional course or the Completion 45-hour course (if certified after 8-31-06).  Every teacher would then have 3 years from the date of their Provisional SEI Endorsement to complete their Full SEI Endorsement to demonstrate adequate sei training and have it added to their certificate.

This changed as of 6-22-15 when the State Board of Education passed a measure that decreases the number of courses required by teachers from two to one – a single 45 hour course would suffice for the Full SEI Endorsement. The course can be take either online or in-person.

Hopefully you have a better understanding of why you’re required to take SEI courses.  In addition to staff development, we offer Structured English Immersion courses throughout the year which are reasonably priced and expertly facilitated, as well as SEI online.  Please don’t hesitate to contact us with additional questions you may have about SEI training in AZ!

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