Look Who's Teaching Well HL: Gold-Star Ideas from Latin American Schools Series: FIRST OF A THREE PART SERIES PART 1: TODAY Ways to Keep Rural Children in School PART 2: April 22 Urban Renewal through Day Care; High-Tech Teacher Training PART 3: April 29 Embracing Minority and Immigrant Students

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Chatting in the staff lunchroom at San Diego High School, a group of teachers are in agreement: The challenges facing schools in America's poorer southern neighbors are moving north.

As they munch on homemade sandwiches and cafeteria pizza, one English teacher says, "Let's face it. The border's not at the US-Mexico line anymore. It's moved up to I-8," the interstate that cuts through San Diego.

Education in the United States may appear to be far ahead of Latin America - until one looks at inner cities and other areas with a high proportion of minorities. In these places, poverty, underemployment, and violence - which often strangle education in Latin America - are limiting minority children's success in school, as a recent report by the Milton S. Eisenhower Foundation in Washington points out. And, as in Latin America, a growing number of US schools are also confronting the cultural and communication issues that come with fast-growing immigrant populations. Two decades ago, San Diego's public schools were 60 percent white. Today that percentage has dropped to 20 percent. Latinos make up the largest group at 33 percent. "These are the children who will form our future, so our challenge now is to make equality of opportunity work for the 21st century," says Ron Ottinger, president of the San Diego Board of Education. That's why education is Topic No. 1 at the Summit of the Americas April 18 and 19. Hispanics constitute America's fastest-growing student group. Recognizing this, President Clinton recently called for more than $600 million in federal spending on math, reading, and English programs for Hispanic students. His plan is based on studies showing Hispanics are 2. …