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DAVIS LAMENTS READING RESULTS; PARENT INVOLVEMENT TOUTED AT CONFERENCE.

Byline: P.H. Ferguson Associated Press

California fourth-graders' dismal showing in a national survey of reading skills proved that major reforms are needed in the state's schools, Gov. Gray Davis said Friday.

Just 20 percent of the state's fourth-graders could read proficiently - close to last in the nation, according to a National Assessment of Education Progress poll released Thursday. Only Hawaii, District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands had lower scores in the survey of 39 states, plus Washington, D.C., and the Virgin Islands.

``I am tired of this kind of news, and I expect most parents are, as well,'' Davis said at a White House-sponsored conference on Latino parents and education held in Los Angeles. ``We can do better - and I will not rest until we do. This is my top, second and third priorities.''

Davis was at the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, a conference for parents and teachers to focus on ways to increase Latino parents' involvement in their children's education.

Many first-generation Latinos come from a culture where education was left to teachers, said Sonia Hernandez, a deputy state schools superintendent. The conference explored ways to help them support their children's efforts and take an active part in their local school, she said.

Davis urged parents to help their children with homework and keep in regular touch with teachers.

``It is important that a parent, who is a child's first teacher, communicate that it is important to do well in school,'' Davis said.

The governor also called on the group to back his education reform package - a request that was met with loud applause.

Davis, who vowed during his election campaign to make education his top priority, has been trying to gain support for his four-bill, $444 million school-improvement package now working its way through the Legislature.

Davis has been pushing lawmakers to approve the package by the end of the month so the bills could take effect by this summer.

Woodrow Wilson High School students who had volunteered as guides at the conference said they hoped the bills passed because their campus needed improvements.

``You get out of your education what you put into it,'' said Reggie Alberin, 17. ``But we could sure use some new computers.''

A classmate, Jacqueline Alarcon, 17, complained that some of the high school's textbooks were outdated, and many library books were old.

State Sen. Hilda Solis, D-El Monte, a former educator, said the governor's appearance will help build momentum for his education package as it is debated in the Legislature.

``There has been a lot of rhetoric in the past,'' she said. ``But to me, this is a whole new day.''
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 6, 1999
Words:447
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