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In the history course I taught this summer at a local community college, a student I will call Carmen struggled all semester. She had emigrated from the Dominican Republic when she was twelve, and did not attend school in the United States for very long before she dropped out at age fifteen. Carmen worked at a low-paying job, married, had children, and now, at age forty, wanted to get a college degree to earn more money. She had the mechanics of reading in English mastered and so could read the words of the textbook, but the meanings of the words remained elusive to her all semester. She was unable to write a basic sentence without countless grammatical errors, and I generally could not tell what her essays were actually about. She often misunderstood the assignments and completed them incorrectly. The result: Carmen failed the course.

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