Cheating Our Children
April 01, 2005, 05:00 AM
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As a teacher, the question I am most often asked is: "Why doesn't my child learn anything in school?"

"Your child doesn't learn," I tell parents, "because education is no longer the primary objective of California public schools. Academic excellence is subordinate to English language development, multiculturalism, ethnic awareness and the celebration of diversity."

Not many people like that brutally frank answer. But it's drawn from observations made from nearly twenty years of experience at the Lodi Unified School District.

The latest "crisis" in California education—we have them weekly—is the sorry high school graduation rate.

According to a new study released by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University the California graduation rate is 71 percent for all students; not the 87 percent figure originally released. [Confronting the Graduation Rate Crisis in California]

Graduation percentages are significantly lower for Hispanics (60 percent) and for Blacks (57 percent) than for any other demographic.

Given that the study was co-sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, readers will not be surprised to learn that the report's conclusion includes forming "…New coalitions to advocate for improvements at the district and state level, and implementing proven interventions designed to reduce California's dropout rates."

Translation: more bureaucratic interference and mumbo-jumbo that will further reduce the likelihood that your kid will learn anything.

But the Civil Rights Project misses the Big—excuse me, make that the HUGE—Picture.

Here it is:

  • Despite the billions of dollars spent, the millions of man-hours expended and the tireless, heroic efforts of dedicated teachers statewide to get Hispanic students on track to graduate, it's not happening.

Instead:

  • Black Americans and Caucasians who need extra academic help might not get it because their teachers are, by law, focused on non-English speakers.

To fully understand the futility and frustration of trying to get non-English speakers up to grade level while simultaneously tending to the multiple needs of other students, I spoke to three veteran primary school teachers in the San Joaquin Valley.

They all agreed that if you don't capture the students early—first grade is best—then the task of educating them grows progressively harder with every passing year.

If students don't have a good foundation by the third grade, they are essentially beyond reach.

Thus, the non-English speaker who starts school in the third grade or later is all but hopeless.

Nevertheless, no stone is left unturned in the effort to help the ELs—as we in the trade call English Learners—even at the expense of other students.

One teacher I spoke to said that because of her state and federally mandated responsibilities to ELs, her teaching job today has no similarity to what it was when she started in the early 1980s.

"I have to spend 30 minutes daily for EL lesson plans. That may not sound like much but it's more than 10 hours a month taken away from time I could be helping other students.

"Then there's my bulletin board that has to be devoted to multicultural themes and diversity awareness…more wasted time. But God forbid that some administrator comes in unannounced and my bulletin board isn't up to snuff. I'd be called on the carpet, that's for sure.

"Naturally, we have regular nerve-racking reviews by government agencies to ensure that EL lessons are being properly taught, that my classroom reflects multicultural sensitivity and that the reams of paperwork I am forced to maintain are in order.

"An on-going evaluation of EL students' development means more record keeping. The students are regularly 'pulled out' of class for testing to evaluate his progress. Since few of them speak English at home, progress is often slow. This means I have to back track and start all over again.

"About ten years ago when we learned that we had to become certified in cross-cultural instruction or risk losing our jobs, we had to take English Language Development classes and two years of a second language…on our own time, of course.

"And I often ask myself what for? Many parents have minimal involvement. The families frequently move from one district to another and never set down roots. The other kids—Americans and legal immigrants— need help too but there just isn't the time. If I slight them, no one would really notice. But if I ignore the ELs, my job will be at stake. "

After more than twenty years of studying illegal immigration, I'm still aghast at the federal government's commitment to keeping the borders open even though it means destroying the school system.

Here, according to the Harvard Civil Rights Project, is what happened in local school districts nationwide during the ten-year period from 1991 to 2001:

"First, LEP (Limited English Proficiency) students comprise one of the fastest growing subgroups in the country. The LEP student enrollment in U.S. schools increased by 95% from 1991 to 2001 while the total school enrollment grew by only 12%."

"Five geographically diverse states experienced 40-80% increases in their LEP populations between 1991 and 2001."

"Moreover, some states such as Georgia experienced LEP population increases of more than 650% during the same time period."

Bottom line: your tax dollars have been spent to build more schools for more illegal aliens or the children of illegal aliens.

And those students kept your kid from getting the education he deserves.

As one parent told me: "I don't like my kid getting cheated."

What would advance our immigration reform cause would be if school district superintendents spoke out—as in: "Close the borders. We're cheating the children."

Superintendents have a powerful voice. Go to your local school board meeting and ask yours why he stands by and allows illegal immigration to deprive American children of a decent education. Ask the American Association of School Administrators.

It's their pedagogic—and patriotic—duty.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.