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LAUSD does a disservice to English-learning adults

To the editor: My heart fell reading Tamar Jacoby's article about newly arrived immigrants who struggle to learn English. Of course immigrants need to be proficient in English to achieve the American dream. But proficiency for adults takes years of everyday study with qualified teachers. ("Beyond survival English," Opinion, Jan. 5)

For more than 100 years, the Los Angeles Unified School District had an extremely respected and efficient Adult Education Program. Hundreds of thousands of students from more than 100 different countries studied English as a second language (which I taught in the district), participated in vocational training programs and worked toward obtaining their high school diplomas. Classes were held day and night to meet these students' needs.

In 2012, then-Supt. John Deasy canceled that marvelous program. I still don't understand why. Now, a small portion of the adult education program is running, but on a very restricted scale.

Yes, our immigrants need to be given easy access to American English classes if we are to all succeed in our society. LAUSD has a lot to answer for.

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Planaria Price, Los Angeles

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To the editor: By failing to put the issue into proper historical perspective, Jacoby creates unrealistic expectations about what public schools can do.

In 1905, New York City was inundated with far more non-English speaking immigrants than now live in Los Angeles. As Irving Howe wrote in "World of Our Fathers," the New York system did "rather well in helping immigrant children who wanted help, fairly well in helping those who needed help, and quite badly in helping those who resisted help."

Instead of persisting in the fiction that all newcomers to these shores have the same motivation to become proficient in English, it's important to remember the lessons from the past.

Walt Gardner, Los Angeles

The writer is the author of Education Week's Reality Check blog.

Follow the Opinion section on Twitter @latimesopinion and Facebook

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