OCR Case Number 08-10-4038: The Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education (OCR) and the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) initiated an investigation of the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) in response to a class action discrimination complaint. The complaint alleged that ADE discriminated against teachers of the English Language Learner (ELL) program on the basis of national origin. The complainant specifically alleged that ADE enforced a policy, procedure, or practice that results in the removal of teachers from ELL classes based on a determination that their spoken English is accented or ungrammatical. The complainant further alleged that the policy may also have unlawfully discriminated against the ELL students who previously had been taught by the teachers who had been removed by the policy. ADE’s on-site monitoring processes included on-site visits to Arizona local educational agencies (LEAs) to monitor their ELL teachers’ English fluency (including grammar and accent) using subjective evaluations. Based only on brief classroom on-site visits, ADE required LEAs to create and implement corrective action plans to resolve ADE’s concerns about teachers’ accents for spoken English, even when LEAs did not have concerns about the teachers’ English fluency and had already assessed the teachers’ English fluency using objective measures. ADE defended its actions based on the fluency requirement in Title III of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, 20 U.S.C. § 6801 et seq. (NCLB Title III). Following clarification provided to ADE from the U.S. Department of Education’s Offices of General Counsel and Elementary and Secondary Education, DOJ and OCR received correspondence from ADE confirming its commitment to change its current on-site teacher English fluency monitoring practices. ADE will now focus its inquiry on whether LEAs have certified that their teachers are fluent in English, and it will not monitor teachers’ accents to determine their fluency. ADE submitted a revised ELL monitoring guide that confirms to OCR and DOJ that ADE has made this change.
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