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Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy speaks during a press conference at South Region High School #2 in Los Angeles, California February 6, 2012.
School superintendents from across California are gathering at USC, looking for ways to handle challenges ranging from a staggering dropout rate to a demand for more English as a second language instruction.
About one in three students in California, from pre-Kindergarten through the 12th grade, are English language learners. About 85 percent of them are native Spanish speakers.
L.A. Unified Superintendent John Deasy spoke to a group of about 200 members of the California Association of Latino School Administrators. According to the superintendent, the state's situation is a signal for the rest of the country and that "L.A. is America, only sooner."
The group met to share plans and research on effective ways of moving students through faster, more comprehensive English program, and to address the high school dropout epidemic in the Latino community.
San Francisco Unified Superintendent Carlos Garcia drove members to their feet.
"Look at our dropout rate," said Garcia. "African-American and Latino students, over 50 percent of us, drop out of school. If 50 percent of white kids were dropping out of schools, we'd fix this problem today."
Statewide studies point to a significant gap between Latino and African-American students and their peers.
Among Latino students, just over 65 percent make it to graduation.