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Struggling English language learner might be at advantage.

Robert Garcia, 10, is a persistent student who likes school, but he struggles with the English language. Having grown up in a home where Spanish is the dominant language, the fifth grader at California's Keyes Elementary struggles with comprehending math problems and reading books at his grade level.

In this small K-5 school, about half of the 552 students are English language learners.

"He's a very good student," says Dina Rodriguez, his classroom teacher. "He doesn't get into trouble. He likes to come to school, and he likes to learn. But reading and math don't come as easy to him as it does to a lot of the students here."

As of late February, Robert was reading on a 3.9 level, or third-grade, ninth-month level, compared to where he should be-on a 5.6 level.

The school's reading program, Open Court Reading, includes having students mad all morning and part of the afternoon. The students read together mad they read silently on their own. In Rodriguez' class, they choose a book on their reading level and then take a test on computers, using Accelerated Reader software. They also use a program called Read Naturally, which is designed to increase fluency, she says.

And Rodriguez has students read books on tape so as they read the words they are "also healing the words, which reinforces learning. "When Robert takes quizzes on those, he does much better," Rodriguez says.

Robert will take the California Achievement Test this month, like most students in the district. But Rodriguez is not concerned about his language handicap. "I think it's harder now for kids that do have a second language because they are not only learning math and science, but they are also learning another language," she says. "But it gets easier mid easier as the years go by."

Rodriguez adds that English language learners can almost be at an advantage. For example, when her students work on vocabulary, they will look for the Latin root. Part of the word will mean something to them in their language, which can help them figure it out in English, she says.

In math, teacher Michael Enos says Robert's weakness is reading the problems. "That hurts him a little bit," Enos says. "It may take him longer to do it, but he can do the problems."

In working with fractions or other abstract math problems, "we draw them out" or use paper blocks to visually understand them, Enos says.

Robert is at a grade level 2, which means he's slightly below grade level. Enos hopes to get him up to a 2+ by the end of the school year, meaning he could do the work with some help.

"Each day," Rodriguez says, "they are learning new things."

Robert Garcia

Fifth grader, Keyes Union (Calif.) Elementary School District

Favorite food: Pizza

Favorite subject: Physical Education

Least favorite subject: None

Favorite pastime: Riding his bicycle
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Title Annotation:Inside the law: analyzing, debating and explaining No Child Left Behind
Author:Pascopella, Angela
Publication:District Administration
Date:Apr 1, 2004
Words:485
Previous Article:States jump ship.
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