At some California elementary schools, English Learners learn English well and go on to middle school prepared to succeed. At others, they never develop the reading skills they need to tackle middle and high school work. I’ve got a column in the San Francisco Chronicle drawing on my Lexington Institute paper and a new EdSource study.
In a mainstream class at Typical Elementary, third-graders Maria and Jose listen to the teacher explain Thanksgiving, draw a turkey, study vocabulary words, look at a Mayflower picture, sing a Thanksgiving song, and act out Indians feasting with Pilgrims. An aide may help in English or Spanish; they’ll spend 30 minutes a day studying English with other “English learners.”
Maria will be proficient in English by fifth grade and go on to earn a high school diploma. Jose will remain an English learner into middle school, where he’ll drift away from the mainstream. He’ll take low-level high school classes, give up and drop out. While Maria is in community college planning a nursing career, Jose will be working on his uncle’s mow-and-blow crew.
About half of students from immigrant families aren’t making it academically.