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Hispanic Impact on the California School System

Updated on March 18, 2012

Blunt Truth about California K-12 Education

There are a lot of hot topics in California. But the impact of the Hispanic population growth is overwhelming many of the state's foundations in a variety of ways. Some Latinos will joke that Mexico is taking back was once theirs. Many speak only Spanish at home and feel absolutely no need to learn English because Spanish is everywhere but, thankfully, NOT in schools nor government. Unlike other immigrants that come here, Hispanics as a whole, tend to cling and promote their cultures much more than others. Numbers will always prevail and with nearly 45% of the state Hispanic, and with many school districts around 80% Hispanic, issues are bound to arise when immigrant kids start American schools.

Then, there is the Federal mandate called, No Child Left Behind, which has become the universal mantra that most teachers object to for a variety of reasons because it is English based, as it should be. Teachers are forced to be accountable that all children learn and pass with test scores using standardized methods.

Besides the economic crisis the state is now in, there are many kids who come from Hispanic homes with problems, not having adequate English skills for the grade they are in, have parents who speak no English yet expect material sent to them to be in Spanish.

Many Hispanics are low income causing economic issues for the state but for the schools, the worse thing is not knowing English. Many kindergartners start with either with none or very basics. If out of a class of 20, you have 10 or less in this category, the single teacher is already taxed just over this communication problem. It is very time consuming and frustrating learning a language. Yet, teachers in the primary grades from K-3, face this everyday. What this does is make the teacher focus more on the Hispanic child who must learn English while the others kids master the skills they are suppose to. It is expected that even at the K level, the child knows and understands some English. At home, many Latino families exacerbate the problem for not speaking English, but Spanish. This does nothing to reinforce any English skills or knowledge the child learned. When homework comes home, it is in English, and the parents who do not know English are of no help to the child. They are on their own, or a friend who does, or a older sibling who does. When asked why English is not spoken at home many responses are "because the husband will not permit it" or "It is our heritage". Maybe so, but like anyone in a different country, one must learn the language of the host country. It will help you and your child as they go through the American school system that is a must.

Yet, California is making it less of a requirement by allowing nearly everything to be bilingual. That is the downside. Those kids starting out in English schools where Spanish is not their world are lost not learning it. Others in the same class without the problem are hindered or held back because the teacher has others to focus on. Eventually, those kids who are weak in English will have poorer test scores in the English STAR exams and thus bring down the school's overall rating and simply create additional work for teachers. This cycle is a common dilemma in California schools.

What is happening in many school districts is flight. As school districts become more saturated with Latino children, school scores drop for a variety of reasons but knowing English is a major one. The teacher has too many students and leaves those who are English fluent on their own or with little challenge in academics, while they focus on those struggling with English. Many parents want their kids to be college ready and so they drive their kids to a better scoring school academically. These schools just happen to be more white than not. Some of them are 60% white, 40% Latino, or even, 50/50%. These schools do not have language problems that divert attention away from academics, so their scores are much higher and teachers challenge their students with harder academics. They don't have to "dumb" down or let good students slide for lack of attention. This is what occurs when much of a school's students have problems with English.

Look, there is nothing more cool than having a 5-6 yr. old who is fluent in both languages. It makes me envious. There is nothing more astonishing to see this kid switch back and forth in 100% fluency between the languages like a switch. It amazes me. How did this happen? The parents insisted English be spoken at least 50% of the time at home.

Hey, Roberto Galivan, I'm speaking about you!


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    • perrya profile image

      perrya 5 years ago

      Thanks FGual, the sequence you describe is accurate. Spanish in Florida is probably different than in CA. It is because of the large numbers that these issues are developing.

    • FGual profile image

      FGual 5 years ago from USA

      Did the Hispanic immigrant experience as a chubby kid, can relate well. South Florida has many Hispanic immigrants, but most are not Mexican like CA. Parents speaking their native language could apply to all immigrants. How do Arab and Oriental parents compare? Usually the children learn English in school and on TV, then parents will learn from them, and TV, and their workplace. Granny will probably speak her native tongue forever. Hispanic and Latino are meaningless umbrella titles, and government-mandated bilingual signage created the problem you describe. None of that when I arrived, all had to learn English and we did. As usual, PCness only hurts those it intends to help.

    • perrya profile image

      perrya 5 years ago

      Semantics and meanings. There is confusion just by the labels hispanic, latino, mexican, spanish. Of course, different areas of California will have either less or more problems with the language problems from K-3. The issue is fairly much resolved by 4th grade, by then, they know English better. Yes, it is an issue that is not helped when English is not spoken at home because the parents don't know it. Statistics do show that if a school has a poor STAR test score, many times, it is because the primary school is mostly Hispanic origin. I think it originates from having to learn English and parents reinforce Spanish rather English at home. Many times, older kids will teach their parents English because they use it most of the time. I actually know some that cannot speak Spanish.

    • ananceleste profile image

      Anan Celeste 5 years ago from California

      I live in LA County, CA. I am a little confused about your sources. Even though I am not mexican, I am latina and so are my three children. We speak 3 languages ( fluently), I have a degree in Natural Sciences with a concentration in emergency nursing medicine.

      I mentor teens ( from all races),and in all the years I have been doing so, I have not met yet, one, that does not speak English. I had to go through the same thing backwards. My mother only spoke English, and she was raising her children in Puerto Rico.

      I can attest to the fact that she never bothered to learn Spanish, why would she. My siblings and I had to make it work, and we did just fine. Then I moved here in California and the "locals" assume that I was an illegal immigrant that can't read or write. I love the look on their faces when they hear me speak.

      It is very dangerous to label a child solely on the grounds of a stereotype. They already have to deal with snobs and racists. The pressures of being labeled by the very people that are supposed to help them, destroys their self esteem.

      Don't you think they sense the disdain from those "educators" so invested in using them as an example in immigration politics. They are caught in the middle of an issue too big for them to comprehend. I was a teacher for children with special needs, and now I mentor teenagers. I could never conceive measuring one of my pupils with that bar.It's my privilege to be part of their lives and my goal to make sure that they know how valuable they are to the future of this country.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Hi Perrya. As a Hispanic, I see the good and bad of this situation. Many of us have been in this country for over a century. As you mentioned, My grandfather had a huge tract of land before California became a state. We contribute to the countries government taxes, help vote in legislature (have many representatives , including some of our family, in the senate, etc.) and are educators. I also know that we have a country that has a great influx of immigrants (Did you know that one of the largest comes from Canada?). I hope that we can find a peaceful solution to balance out the problems our country is experiencing in our economy. I just don't think that we can blame everything on one sect of the nation's people -- even if they are immigrants. Just curious, where did you get your stats? Thanks for sharing from your thoughts and the challenge you present.