February 24, 2006

Editorial:

Take the Politics out of Education

Eight years ago, the State of California found itself in a polarizing battle over the education of non-English Speaking students, in the form of Prop. 227, the English Immersion Proposal sponsored by Ron Unz. (R). Prop. 227 passed which meant that English learners had to be “overwhelmingly” taught in English and then be transferred to an English-only classroom after a year. There was one caveat, parents could go to the school and request that their child be placed in a bilingual program.

Eight years after Prop 227 passed, the first all encompassing five year study, conducted by the Independent Research Institutes of WestEd and the American Institutes for Research on the impact of Prop. 227, was released. The Study concluded that it doesn’t make much difference whether you use bilingual education or English immersion in trying to teach these children. English-language learners, regardless of how they were taught, have improved on State test scores in the last several years. More importantly, the gap between English learners and fluent English speakers remains almost as large as it was before Proposition 227 went into effect!

Prop. 227 is just another example of what is wrong with the education of our children. Education has been taken out of the hands of professional Educators and has become the domain of politicians who have little if any, knowledge of EDUCATIONAL THEORY OR PRACTICES. Politicos in the majority have no BA’s, MA’s or PhD’s in the field of Education. They make decisions based on the political winds of the time, such as the xenophobic Prop. 227.

With education being guided by politicians, we have had hoisted upon us the ineffective “No Child Left Behind”, which has proven to be ineffective, under funded, and disruptive! Some States are opting out of the program all together. In California some school districts are suing to get out from under the unfair characterizations of their School Districts and of the financial burdens placed upon them. As usual, the Federal Government as well as State elected politicians, has the compunction to propose new programs and theories, of which they have little or no knowledge, and fail to provide the funding to pay for them. The outcome in California is that the education program looks like a Picasso painting, looks pretty but just doesn’t make sense.

At the State level, you have two Offices of Education; the one appointed by the Governor. The State Electorate, meanwhile, has the authority to elect the Superintended of Education for the state, one that has the powers to determine for all the State School Districts the policies under which the State Educational System will operate under. The Governor’s appointed Superintendent of Education actually functions as a political tool for the Governor to impose his vision of how California’s children should be educated! Evidently, the Governor has some special insight or training that makes him the superior voice on how to educate our children!

The Bottom line is that Educational theory, on determining what is the best manner by which to educate our children, has been short circuited by the Governor and it has been a total failure. Despite the years of discussion and the recognition of these failures, the Governor and his appointed Board of Education, has failed to come up with a sound educational policy on how to teach our children. It is time that we remove the impediments to education and place education back in the hands of the professionals: Our Teachers!

Hispanic children are in dire need of learning the English language, along with all the other knowledge that they have to acquire to reach their full potential and become full participants in the American dream.

The Independent Study went on to conclude that it is not the Language of instruction but rather the Quality of Instruction that matters most. The Researchers went on to make several suggestions on improving the education of Hispanic children. It is evident that the time has come to take Education out of the hands of Politicians, who on a whole know very little about education, and give it back to Educators who have a better understanding of what it takes to educate our students.

It is time that we remove the impediments to education and place education back in the hands of the professionals: Our Teachers!

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