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Title VI: Identifying ELL Students: Arizona Department of Education (AZ) OCR Complaint No. 08-09-4026

OCR Case Number 08-09-4026: The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR), initiated a complaint investigation, subsequently joined by the U.s. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division (DOJ), into the Arizona Department of Education’s (ADE’s) compliance with its legal obligation to identify its English Language Learner (ELL) students.  OCR and DOJ investigated complaints filed against ADE, alleging that, due to ADE’s mandated change to the Home Language Survey (HLS) from a three-question to a one-question survey (“What is the primary language of the student?”), students who are ELLs and eligible to receive English language acquisition services were not being identified and, consequently, not being served.  With the cooperation of ADE and Arizona school districts, OCR and DOJ conducted an extensive investigation of ADE’s policies and practices concerning the identification of ELL students.  We found that ADE had violated both Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (and its implementing regulation) and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act (EEOA) by failing to timely identify and serve ELL students.  We determined that ADE’s one-question HLS, even when supplemented by the teacher referral process, does not comply with Title VI or the EEOA because these identification procedures do not adequately identify and serve ELL students who need English language development services and, moreover, unnecessarily delay their identification and services.  Without admitting non-compliance with Federal civil rights laws, on March 25, 2011, ADE voluntarily agreed to resolve this matter through a Resolution Agreement, which, when fully implemented, will resolve the compliance concerns.  Under the agreement, ADE has revoked its one-question HLS and its accompanying teacher referral process and reinstated its three-question HLS and prior practice of giving teachers more flexibility in referring students to be evaluated for English proficiency.  ADE has agreed that an answer other than English to any of the three questions on the HLS will trigger timely assessment of the student’s English language proficiency.  To ensure that potential ELLs who are now registering for the 2011-2012 school year are identified, ADE has sent a directive to each of its local educational agencies informing them of the reinstated three-question HLS, and explaining how to identify potential ELL students among those students whose parents already completed the one-question HLS.  ADE will also train the local education agencies regarding these changes and monitor them over the next school year to ensure that they are appropriately administering the three-question HLS.  As a result of the settlement agreement, newly enrolled students in Arizona schools who are ELLs will be timely identified, and students who were improperly identified as non-ELL students will be identified and offered ELL services to which they are entitled under Federal civil rights laws. Read the Resolution Letter | Read the Resolution Agreement

Last Modified: 01/15/2020