July 11, 2003


Davis Fails the Education Test

Education! Education! Education! This was Governor Gray Davis’ mantra when he first took over the governorship. The standard, if you will, that education would be the yard stick by which his governorship would be gauged. Now five years later, and into his second term, Governor Davis has failed this test.

This week the California Board of Education postponed, by two years, the requirement that students pass the state high school exit exam before graduating. The main reason for postponement – too many students would fail the exam. More succulently, the exit exam and the standards are focused on minority students and they are failing. According to state statistics, just 28 percent of black students and 30 percent of Latino students have passed the test, while the success rate for white and Asian students are 65 and 70 percent, respectively.

The California educational system and the national educational system have historically failed to educate minority children. But now, with the growth of these minority communities, in particular the Hispanic communities, the importance of education for this ignored core of students has taken on utmost importance. With the growing political clout of the minority communities, politicians have had to sit up and take notice, needing votes, and have begun to at least give this issue lip service. The business community recognizing that the future workforce will be comprised of Hispanics and Blacks has begun to push for a better-educated minority population, hence we end up with programs such as the ‘Blueprint for Success’.

The results of all this attention, nationally, has led to the infamous “No Child Left Behind” imitative. Unfortunately while the idea may hold promise, the President has failed to provide the financial means by which this program would have any hope of succeeding. And recently Bush has supported a bill that would overhaul and diminish the successful Head Start program, which serves over 1 million poor children.

In California the state standards and the exit exam, is primarily focused on educating and gauging minority children, a community that they have historically under-funded and under-served. Schools in our communities are run down, books are hard to come by, computers are non-existent, and teachers are usually fresh out of college. The neighborhoods that spawn these students are crime ridden, drugs are common, unemployment is high, single family homes with the parent working long hours or two jobs is a common occurrence, and these are just a few of the problems. These are not issues that state standards or exit exams will alleviate or address, and this is why Davis has failed the test in education.

While Davis and the state legislatures talk about education for minority children they have done little to address many of the root problems. They have instead focused on the end result – the exit exam. At the same time they have created a system that punishes those schools and teachers that fail to deliver on the state standards, putting undue pressure on the schools and the teachers to, instead of educating, teach to the test.

In the meantime those students that are coming up through this flawed educational system today will be punished for the failures of the state, and will be branded as such unable to past an exit exam. And, without a high school diploma doomed to a life of struggle with little opportunity to succeed.

The educational issue is too big and too board to be left in the hands of politicians whose sole focus is on the next election and is willing to change course depending on his next contribution or what the latest poll has to say. Education needs to be in the hands of Educators who have the experience and knowledge to deal with education. Politicians and society need to deal with the root problems that are impacting on our children’s ability to learn.

Until the inequities of educating minority students are addressed there will never be equal opportunity in education.

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