CA schools drop ball with ESL students


The recent bluster surrounding Arizona’s controversial ruling on immigrant documentation has created yet another divide for opposing activists to shout across. But amid all the clamor, a problem closer to Los Angeles has been swept under the rug.

A study published last week by Californians Together, a civil rights coalition in support of English-learners, highlighted the significant gaps in public high schools across California, proving that our educational systems for English as Second Language students are severely lacking.

The study found that almost 60 percent of ESL students in California high schools have not achieved written proficiency in the language, even after six years of a U.S. education.

Though most of the polled students were bilingual citizens who preferred to speak English, the study showed that the disparity between speaking and reading comprehension was severe enough to jeopardize graduation in a majority of the cases.

This is not a minor problem. A quarter of all public school attendees in California are English-learners — at 1.6 million strong, the largest bloc of English-learners in the nation. It’s clear that the current modus operandi is not working; California schools can no longer take a cavalier attitude when it comes to catering to this demographic.

The study also found that most schools in the system don’t take the necessary steps required by state law to provide for English-learning students, which include training teachers and keeping an eye on students’ progress throughout their schooling.

This is no longer an issue that can be written off as inconsequential; a substantial portion of the students currently in California public schools are forced to drop out each year because their education system is not serving them adequately. In a city like Los Angeles, where — according to the Los Angeles Times — 55 percent of all students are children of immigrants, there needs to be a safety net written into the legislation.

A group of teachers have already taken the mantle of improving the tenuous situation; last Thursday, more than 200 educators convened in Alhambra, Calif., to address the situation.

But this is only the first step in what needs to be drastic and sweeping reform. Changes need to be made in the infrastructure of schools, including implementing more programs for ESL students and creating more effective teacher training programs to adequately prepare educators for the challenges ahead. But, most of all, these changes need to be enforced — not prescribed and then forgotten.

Lucy Mueller is a senior majoring in cinema-television production.

  • NM

    Another example of why the amnesty granted illegal aliens during the Reagan administration was a failure. It seems nobody wanted to recognize that this amnesty would cause millions more people to come here in hopes they would eventually get their amnesty as well. All the while the costs continue to mount. Hope is a great companion but a poor planner folks.

  • Christopher Ganiere

    Do the teachers/schools have a perverse incentive in keeping ESL students in the ESL program? The program should work the teachers out of a job as the students become proficient in English.