English Learners Struggle to Succeed

Thousands of California students are at risk of falling behind as they strive to gain competency of the English language.

The Luque siblings all started school as English-language learners.
Photo by Jeremy Raff, KQED

What will it take for California to succeed with the nearly 1.5 million students in public schools who are learning English as a second language? It’s a question the state labors to answer as thousands of these students get stuck on the way to becoming proficient in English.

This three-part radio series explores what it’s like to learn English in California’s public schools by focusing on one San Jose, California family with three children at different stages in the process of English acquisition. The kids’ stories shed light on the enormous challenges and frustrations that many English learners encounter as they strive to make it through—and succeed in—California’s schools.

Julia McEvoy is Senior News Editor at KQED Radio.

Fellow Zaidee Stavely also contributed to this series.

The three-part series first aired on “KQED News,” KQED Radio, during June 9-11, 2015.

Story Links

Part 1: In California schools, thousands of English language learners getting stuck

Hundreds of thousands of California school children struggle to learn English—and to pass language proficiency tests. Is California failing to adequately educate English learners?

Part 2: Avoiding the dead end of never learning English

Over 339,00 California kids in middle and high school have been learning English for more than six years. Yet they still haven’t acquired the English skills to fully participate in class or pass the required proficiency tests. The consequences are dire.

Part 3: Rich language lessons early on are vital for kids learning English

Meet Angel Luque, a fifth-grader. He is at the age where the right teaching could make a huge difference. By law, students learning English have to get the same educational opportunities as everyone else, but experts argue that this is not happening for thousands of kids.

Charla Bear has worked as a multimedia reporter and anchor at KQED Public Radio, one of the largest NPR affiliates in the country. She has also taught cultural diversity and reporting courses at San Francisco State University. Her reporting has been recognized by RTNDA/Unity, the Native American Journalists Association, and the Regional Edward R. Murrow Awards. She holds a master’s in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.