There may be no more damning statistic about California schools than the one in a new report: among California high school students who are English learners, more than half have been in state schools for six years or more without being proficient in English. (Proficiency is something akin to be able to read this post, understand it, and explain it to others).
Who are these folks? They are not immigrants but U.S.-born students who are better in English than their native language, at least orally. But they are so poor in writing and reading comprehension that they have little hope of making significant academic progress. They are high school dropouts in the making.
The report, from a group called Californians Together, which describes itself as a champion for English learners, paints a bleak picture of a school system that does not track students' progress in learning English. In fact, the state has no commonly accepted standard for classifying English language learners or deciding how long it should take to become proficient.
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The fact that this basic work hasn't been done -- in a state that's future is tied up in the ability to turn immigrants from all over the world into engaged, productive members of society -- is a scandal. The state government and school districts should treat this an emergency and have clear statewide standards and tracking tools in place by the beginning of the school year in the fall.