Calif. educators look to better English learning

December 24, 2011 - 12:00 PM

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Roberto Bautista was lost when he entered kindergarten speaking only Spanish and was placed in a program where the teacher only spoke English.

The Los Angeles fifth-grader's experience is typical of Spanish-speaking children in California. Many fall behind in academics as they learn English then struggle to catch up. They often don't.

California has the nation's largest Hispanic student population, but ranks at the bottom for Hispanic reading and math achievement. Only 11 percent of the state's 1.6 million English learners — mostly Spanish speakers — reached English proficiency last year.

Experts say a statewide overhaul of English learning programs is needed. They're looking to the Los Angeles Unified School District, which is revamping its English learner program after criticism from the U.S. Department of Education, for possible solutions.