The need for speed: A critical discourse analysis of the reclassification of English language learners in Arizona

Alisa G. Leckie, Suzanne E. Kaplan, Eliane Rubinstein-Ávila

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Several states, including Arizona, have enacted English-only legislation, within the past decade, impacting the schooling of students who are identified as English language learner (ELLS). As a result, ELLS in Arizona are assigned to a prescriptive program-apart from their fluent English-speaking peers-for 4 h a day, during a time "not normally to exceed 1 year." The ultimate goal is to reclassify ELLs to fluent English proficient (FEP) status, exit them from the program and integrate students into "mainstream" classrooms, where no additional support services are offered. Since language policies are dictating the instructional policy decisions regarding assessment and reclassification of ELLS, the authors argue that it is necessary to critically examine how English-only policies-especially the discourse of policy making-contribute to the shift in the definition of reclassification, its process and ultimately, the consequences for students. Thus, the paper unpacks the shifts in reclassification policy and process; our critical discourse analysis of the legislators' meetings, based on the work of van Leeuwen (Discourse Commun 1(1):91-112, 2007), show that although Arizona's ELL Task Force set out to develop an educational policy to prepare ELLS linguistically and academically within one school year, the timeframe (or time limit) took precedence to the academic preparedness of newly reclassified students-a population that is academically vulnerable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-176
Number of pages18
JournalLanguage Policy
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2013


  • Educational policy
  • English language learners
  • English-only
  • Language policy
  • Reclassification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language


Dive into the research topics of 'The need for speed: A critical discourse analysis of the reclassification of English language learners in Arizona'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this