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Flaws in California's English-language programs place students in jeopardy, threaten state's economic future, study finds

May 27, 2010 | 10:14 am

Nearly 60% of English language learners in California’s high schools have failed to become proficient in the language despite more than six years of a U.S. education, according to a study released Thursday.

In a survey of 40 school districts, the study found that the majority of long-term English-language learners are U.S. natives who prefer English and are orally bilingual.

But they develop major deficits in reading and writing, fail to achieve the academic English needed for educational success and disproportionately drop out of high school, according to the study by Californians Together, a statewide coalition of 22 parent, professional and civil-rights organization who support English-learners.

The flaws in California’s English-language programs have placed hundreds of thousands of children in academic jeopardy, dashing their dreams for college and imperiling the state’s economic future. The off-spring of immigrants make up 55% of Los Angeles County's child population.

"The situation is alarming and urgent," said Laurie Olsen, the study’s author. "These kids are a large part of our future. But if we don’t have programs that powerfully bring them into English, we’re going to end up increasingly with a state of kids who are undereducated."

More than 200 educators convened Thursday in Alhambra to discuss the report, which was funded by the California Community Foundation. California schools educate 1.6 million English-learners, a quarter of all students; they make up the largest concentration of English-learners in the nation.

But most schools are failing to adequately monitor their progress, train teachers or develop appropriate curriculum, the report said. Many students are not given any special language services, as required by law, and are forced to “sink or swim” in mainstream classes, which widespread research has found produce the worst outcomes, Olsen said.

California schools educate 1.6 million English learners, a quarter of all students; they comprise the largest concentration of English learners in the nation.

-- Teresa Watanabe