August 17, 2007

Editorial:

Hispanic students continue to fail

The results from the California Standards Tests were announced this week and to no one’s surprise was the continued achievement gap between Hispanics and blacks, and the White and Asian students. 62% of the White and 66% of the Asian student populations are testing at proficient or better in English/Language Arts. For Hispanics and blacks they are FAILING at a 70% or better clip. Only 29% of Hispanic students are achieving success. In math it is pretty much the same story.

The point is that this not new news. This achievement gap has been a consistent over the years and still the educational community has failed to find the answer to this persistent problem. Overall, testing scores have leveled off showing no growth over the past couple of years. This doesn’t bode well for the future of the Hispanic student.

Over the past ten years or so the focus of education has been taken over by the business community and has followed the business template of education. You see this today in almost every school, in particular the K-6 grades; each and every class grade looks exactly alike. In fact, teams of reviewers, usually a mix of parents and school staff, go through each classroom several times a year to verify the sameness of each classroom. Individuality and years of teacher experience are devalued. This is the old Henry Ford business model for building cars.

Clearly this form teaching has run its course and the time has come to re-examine how we reach the Hispanic and black student.

This past week on C-Span they televised a U.S. Business Competitiveness forum of sorts from Aspen, Colorado, with representatives from the top 100 corporations. The forum was outdoors, everyone was dressed very casually, the forum panel was a who’s who from the top corporate world, and a couple of top Washington finance directors. The audience was an older audience and almost all white. It was a question and answer format.

A portion of this forum dealt with education. One audience member asked the panel where their children went to school, and all answered that their children went to or would be going to a private school. The follow up question was and we are paraphrasing here, how can you extol the virtues of public education yet you don’t believe in the system enough to send your own children to a public school. One of the respondents, Stephen Friedman, Chairman, Stone Point Capital, responded that the expectations was the problem. Minority parents’ expectations were not high enough no matter where you sent the student.

Our first reaction was, who was this SOB and what does he know about expectations of Hispanic parents? Has he ever talked with any of these parents as we have and seen the hopes and desires? Has he ever gone to a LULAC scholarship luncheon and talked to the parents of the sacrifices they make and how hard they push their children to achieve? We felt a sense of anger at this seemingly flippant comment.

But as we reflected on these words, expectations are low, we then thought about the school renovations that have been going on in the Sweetwater School District, in particular how the first things that were built, were gymnasiums which were approved by the parents of the school and the school board. Sports and community programs outweighed education. Gymnasiums that do very little to prepare students for college. We had to agree with Mr. Friedman that it could be that our expectations are too low.

Another sobering thought was that the achievement gap persisted across the board no matter the economic level of the minority community which states that the achievement gap is not limited to low-income neighborhoods but also reaches into the middle class schools as well.

There are many issues and problems in dealing with the education of minority students and there is no one answer to these problems. It will be a continuing evolution of educational theories and direction. And it will take a collective understanding by the communities that they can no longer accept failure and this will have to start at home.

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