School districts in Arizona are under orders from the state's Department of Education to remove from classrooms teachers who speak English with a very heavy accent or whose speech is ungrammatical.
Officials say they want students who don’t know much English to have teachers who can best model how to speak the language, but, according to The Wall Street Journal, some principals and administrators are concerned that the standards for removal are arbitrary.
The recent move by the department comes during the political firestorm over a new law in Arizona which requires police to question anyone who appears to be in the country illegally. It is the most restrictive immigration law in the country.
Arizona's education department has sent people into schools to audit teachers on comprehensible pronunciation, correct grammar and good writing. Teachers who fail may try to improve, but if they don’t, school districts can fire or reassign them.
The Journal’s report says that critics of the new teachers policy believe the education department was encouraged by the new law, and that targeting teachers with heavy accents is just part of the anti-immigration movement in Arizona.
School officials say that is nonsense, and that kids should have teachers who they understand.
About 150,000 of Arizona’s 1.2 million public school students are classified as English Language Learners, the Journal said.
Nobody can argue that kids don’t deserve teachers whom they can easily understand, and teachers who use proper grammar. I’ve been in classrooms where I couldn’t understand a teacher, and in classrooms where a teacher’s grammar made me wince.
The issue here is how to determine which teachers really should be in the classroom and which ones shouldn’t be. Speech that one child can’t understand could be completely comprehensible to most of the students.
How does one fairly draw the line on grammatical mistakes? Hardly anyone speaks English perfectly according to the rules of grammar. Quick: Give me an example of the pluperfect and the future subjunctive. Is it enough to toss out a teacher because he or she routinely misuses the verb "to be?"
Uncovering exactly how Arizona goes about this will be most interesting.