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THE GRADUATES’ VIEWPOINTS : Sizing Up the Schools

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As told to STEPHANIE CHAVEZ / Times Education Writer

ROOSEVELT HIGH SCHOOL

Hector Javier Preciado and Lucy Godoy were honors students at Roosevelt High School on the Eastside. They took advanced placement courses in math and science but struggled with advanced English.

Preciado, 17, will attend UC Santa Cruz. Godoy, 18, is bound for UC Irvine.

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HECTOR JAVIER PRECIADO: My language has played a major role in my education.

It wasn’t until the third grade that I started reading English. Most of the students at my school spoke English and I felt isolated from them because of the language barrier.

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To me, speaking my native tongue incorrectly takes away part of my pride as a Mexican American. It is part of my roots, part of my history, part of my culture to learn the Spanish language correctly. It is important to know the language of your parents.

I think it’s a shame that some students are disadvantaged both in English and Spanish. Bilingual education doesn’t hurt students. It makes a student more complete. I value that Spanish that was taught to me early in my education.

But that same education didn’t help me to succeed in English, especially in tests like the SAT. I got a 550 in math and 450 in English.

There’s definitely a problem (in language instruction) that hasn’t been solved. Everybody else is advancing except Latinos. Students are allowed to graduate from an American high school where English is spoken, but they cannot speak and write it. That is wasted student time, wasted teacher time and wasted L.A. Unified School District time.

The only English class that really challenged me was this year when I had AP (Advanced Placement) English.

In prior years I’ve had such easy classes. I could just sit through the class, write an essay every now and then and get an A. But in AP English you’re forced to analyze poems, analyze essays, read stories. I had a difficult time with it at first, but I learned more this past semester than I have in four years of English.

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It makes you think twice about what you know. It makes you question your intelligence. If you can’t pass this high school course, how are you gonna do in college?

I think the English curriculum definitely has to improve for us.

Math here at Roosevelt is very advanced and is exceptionally good, but the quality of material being taught in English classes needs to be better.

You know, I see students writing essays--and this is in my AP class--and they’re still using commas and periods incorrectly. I feel these problems need to be corrected early in our education so later we won’t be embarrassed.

It’s not good enough for us to just get by.

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LUCY GODOY: What happened to Hector also in a way has happened to me.

I was bilingual when I started school and I was put in English-only classes. At home my father spoke to me in English, my mother only Spanish.

But when I speak Spanish, people don’t know that I’ve been speaking English all my life and they think I am not a U.S. citizen. It is important to me to have a good Spanish accent. My family is from Mexico and I want people to know what ethnicity I am. When you speak Spanish you feel your culture. You know who you are.

Bilingual education is important. But not enough is being invested in it. The problem with it right now is that it stops in the middle. You don’t teach students everything they need to know about English. And they lose their own language.

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In my English classes I aced everything because the material doesn’t challenge your intelligence. It just moves you along.

I’ve gotten a lot of A’s. Then suddenly, boom, I take this AP English class and it really scares me. It really frightens me that this is what college might be like and I’m not doing so well in it. It shouldn’t be this way.

In my other math classes, like calculus, I know that I am prepared. I am at an advantage in mathematics. You know they say mathematics is a universal language.

It’s the English part, the history classes, the social studies that I’m afraid of. I don’t know how well I’ll do in those. We can’t make it just on math.

I think that it’s just too easy here in California to graduate and get a diploma not knowing the skills that you need to make it out in the real world.

I also think it is important to have more Latino teachers. Students need to see teachers from their own culture, their own raza , who are succeeding.

One of my teachers, Mr. Quezada, he’s played a very big role in my life. He’s the one who said I had the potential to go to college. He told me I couldn’t waste my intelligence. He told me, “Don’t get married, go to college.”

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Because of his encouragement, I’m going to be an engineer.

Views from graduates at Palisades and Locke high schools, B3.

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