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Calif. educators look to better English learning

Roberto Bautista was lost when he entered kindergarten speaking only Spanish, the Associated Press reports.

“I said, ‘What are they saying?’ I just pretend I understand,” said the 9-year-old Los Angeles fifth grader. “My best friend knew how to speak English. He helped me.”

Roberto’s experience is typical for Spanish-speakers entering California schools. They usually get assigned to a program where the teacher must speak English almost exclusively even though kids don’t understand. Roberto has since moved on to a special bilingual program that teaches him in both Spanish and English, but the vast majority of pupils stay in an English-only program, often falling behind in academics as they learn the language then struggle to catch up. Many don’t. California has the largest Hispanic student population in the nation but ranks at the bottom for Hispanic reading and math achievement. Only 11 percent of the state’s 1.6 million English learners—the vast majority of them Spanish speakers—reached proficiency levels in English in the last school year. About a third drop out of school…

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