U.S. Departments of Education and Justice Reach Voluntary Settlement with Arizona Department of Education to Meet the Needs of English Language Learner Students

Archived Information

U.S. Departments of Education and Justice Reach Voluntary Settlement with Arizona Department of Education to Meet the Needs of English Language Learner Students

May 3, 2016

The U.S. Departments of Education's Office for Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division entered into a voluntary settlement agreement late yesterday with the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) under the Equal Educational Opportunities Act and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The agreement requires ADE to raise its English proficiency criteria to properly identify English language learner (ELL) students in grades three through 12 and to properly determine when those students no longer need language services. The agreement also requires ADE to ensure that Arizona public schools offer language support services to thousands of students who were prematurely moved out of language services or incorrectly identified as initially fluent English proficient from the 2012-2013 school year to the present.

The agreement follows a separate settlement agreement with the United States on April 22, 2016, that requires ADE to raise its proficiency criteria for identifying ELL students in kindergarten and to offer language services to ELL students incorrectly identified as English proficient in kindergarten. That agreement also requires ADE to ensure that ELL students who opt out of ELL services have their English language proficiency assessed every year until they are proficient in English.

"Today's agreement recommits the State of Arizona to fully serve all Arizona ELL students so they will receive the services they need to be college and career ready," said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights. "We are thrilled for the thousands of students every year who will benefit from this critically important agreement."

"We commend Arizona's Superintendent of Public Instruction and ADE for voluntarily agreeing to take these important steps to ensure that ELL students are timely identified and receive language services critical to their academic success," said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.

These agreements arise out of the departments' monitoring of a 2012 settlement agreement with ADE that aimed to resolve the departments' findings that ADE had under-identified and prematurely removed from ELL status and ELL services tens of thousands of ELL students between 2006 and 2012. As contemplated in that 2012 settlement agreement, the departments and ADE resolved issues that arose during monitoring with the agreements announced today.

The Equal Educational Opportunities Act requires state and local education agencies to take appropriate action to overcome language barriers that impede students' equal participation in instructional programs, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bans discrimination on the basis of race and national origin by schools that receive federal funds. Enforcement of Title VI is also a top priority of the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights. Additional information about the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights is available on its website at www.ed.gov/ocr/. Enforcing these laws is also a top priority of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt.

Attached are the settlement agreement documents with Arizona Department of Education regarding students grades 3-12 and with Arizona Department of Education regarding kindergarten students.