98. We had a young Hispanic man to register at one of the local high schools this week: 17 years old, dropped out of school in 3rd grade. (This is our worst case scenario so far) What do we do with such a student? How do we help him? He doesn't have to enroll in school because he is over 16, but if he chooses to enroll, we have to accept him even though it is clear that his sole objective is to learn enough English to get a job. In that same high school there are several 17 yr. old girls who dropped out of school in 6th grade. None of these know a word of English. It is becoming quite a problem and one that, as you know, is not being met by our current educational system (at least here in NC that's true).  We have always had students entering high school that we knew would never learn enough English to succeed academically before their time "ran out".  Since 1994, I have advocated a vocational track for these students in order that they learn English and also a trade of their choosing: carpentry, brick masonry, secretarial skills, nursing assistant, etc.

When I learned about a new diploma that would allow this, I was delighted that our students would finally have a chance. Of course, our administrators were quick to inform me that this particular diploma was for EC students. Certainly I do not want our students to be labeled EC (or anything that they are not), but we are not meeting the needs of many of our LEP students.

Here the community college is doing all it can to help us, but they cannot take a student who is under 18 unless he has been enrolled in school and has permission to transfer into their program.

Carmen, you know how much I care about these students, but sometimes I feel so helpless. I will always be their advocate, but I am not getting very far.

The people who need to know about these concerns are out of my boundaries. I have emailed Jerry and Jane at DPI (Department of Public Instruction) about my concerns and I will write some letters to congressmen/women. BUT I need help now.

Teachers are coming to me asking me all kinds of questions that I can't answer.

Any suggestions that you might offer will be very much appreciated.


Here in California a student may attend high school up to age 22. At the same time, anyone 18-years-old or older may enroll in a community college to complete a college education, even without a high school diploma.

What we try to do is to prepare these students to pass the GE exam, equivalent to a high school diploma. Or, since the student could, in theory, attend high school for a couple of years, we begin the process of continuing their education.

Please, do remember that older students "know" many things as a result of "living" many experiences. They may not have academic knowledge, but do have practical knowledge. Thus, you may wish to inform these students of their alternatives:

  1. They could attend high school and graduate in a couple of years (something they prefer to do here in California to establish a "paper trail" for purposes of immigration later on;) or
  2. They could attempt the GE exam and receive the equivalent of a high school diploma.

In any case, the school MUST provide these students with appropriate instruction to meet their needs and graduate. Remember that extensive research on "late school entries," that is, older children who enter school at an advanced age, shows that older students learn FASTER and BETTER than younger ones, simply because they have had more exposure to "life" and to experiences that make understanding of concepts faster.

Schools should take advantage of the "fast-learning" qualities of these students. If these students know how to read and write in Spanish (and usually you learn that before 3rd and 6th grades) schools MUST take advantage of this fact and TEACH these students in Spanish the general knowledge they lack -- math, history, geography, health, whatever.

Knowing that 2 X 2 = 4 in English or Spanish makes NO DIFFERENCE to understanding the concept of multiplication. I would HELP these students LEARN content area concepts through the language they can learn these concepts fastest and best: Spanish. Then, they can be enrolled in an intensive ESL class, where what they know and learn in Spanish is taught in English, providing maximum "transfer of learning" from one language to the other.

High school content area testing for graduation can --and should-- be done in Spanish: Students can demonstrate in Spanish they KNOW and UNDERSTAND key content area concepts. Then, an additional "listening, speaking, reading and writing" English test could establish their level of English proficiency. AND, remember: Many English-ONLY high school students, unfortunately, DO graduate from High School with MINIMUM reading and writing skills. Should these older limited English proficiency students reach these MINIMUM English skills, they should graduate, too.

Of course, they MUST be channeled into community colleges after reaching minimum competency in English to continue their education. Or they could be channeled into Adult School, which here in California offers many alternative vocational courses.

And, while I favor, like you, vocational courses, ALL students MUST be provided educational programs that allow them to succeed academically to the MAXIMUM of their potential. And NOT knowing English is NOT a sound basis for channeling students into vocational education ONLY.

Maybe the community college and the high school can team up to provide these students sufficient knowledge of English and a solid --but limited-- academic background that, upon their 18th birthday, facilitate transfer and continuation of their education at the junior college level.

But, please, NEVER feel helpless!!!!! We are ALL with you and YOU must teach us how to never give up when it comes to the education of ALL students!!!!! And YES, you are getting very far -- you are the FIRST person to DEAL with these problems!!!!!!

We are ALL with you in your efforts: I am, Jane and Jerry are, your governor is, and your state representative and state senator are ALL within your boundary and within their responsibility!!!!! Hope my ideas help you, AND keep in touch, or have the teachers write to me, as needed. You are doing the same fantastic job you have always done for ALL your students!!!!!!


For more in-depth information, classroom demonstrations, and "coaching" of new and/or experienced teachers, Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK offers:

1. Cognitive - Academic Language and Vocabulary Development
2. Cross Cultural Diversity - Multicultural Strategies
3. Effective Instruction for English Learners (L.E.P. students) Parts 1, 2, 3, 4
4. Promoting Academic Success in Language Minority Students
5. Cognitive - Academic Language and Vocabulary Development
6. Oral Language / Literacy Skills / Higher Order Thinking Skills
7. 50/50 Dual Language Programs: design, planning and implementation
8. The Structure of English / The Structure of Spanish
9. Transition: Introduction to English Reading

Web Site Programs for Teachers: Numbers 1, 5, 7, 8, and 9.
Web Site Programs for
Paraprofessionals: Number 3.
Web Site Programs for
New Teachers:
Enhanced Cultural Sensitivity - The Challenge of Students Diversity
Identifying / Responding to Students' Language Needs
Phonemic Awareness: Teaching English phonics to L.E.P. students
Relationship Between Reading, Writing and Spelling
Improving Reading Performance -- Building Oral Language Skills)

Write and e-mail any additional questions you may have, and Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK will establish with you, your school or district a Technical Assistance Service Contract. Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK will answer all your questions promptly and to your satisfaction.


For information and credentials please click on the link below or contact directly:


Educational Consultant, Program Evaluator

National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, Certification (12/2006)

3113 Malcolm Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90034-3406

Phone and Fax: (310) 474-5605

E-mail:  csssadek@gte.net