Last week in our September 24 issue La Prensa San Diego published a story on the Ball Foundation and the changing face of education in the Chula Vista Elementary School District. In our opinion, the Ball Foundation is a program that is in need of change, in particular in the education of low income, English language learners (ELL) and in the way teachers are teaching the program.
For Mexican American parents, education is a top priority and of grave concern, as has been reported in La Prensa. Hispanic children are not getting educated. This is not a situation that is particular to Chula Vista but throughout the Nation. It has been well documented that Hispanic children are at the bottom of the education ladder. In this regard, change is a necessity and urgent for the Mexican American/Hispanic community and their children.
One of the problems we see with the Ball Foundation and all the changes that we reviewed, we see little if any evidence of any change for the Mexican/American student who is required to learn the English language. This is peculiar in that the Ball Foundation was created to improve or resolve this inadequacy in the education of our children. Where are the programs and support that are directed at this learning community? Where are the extra bilingual teachers and intervention programs, where is the transition support, where are the teacher aides? These programs and others are not self-evident.
While we have not noted any direct change in the education of ELL students we have noted a heavy emphasis on the change in the way teachers teach. This is reflected in the teacher coaches, consultants, educational seminars, and the popular walk-through of every classroom.
This leads to the second problem with the Ball program, which is how much money is being diverted from the schools to implement this program? The money trail gets very confusing for the average observer in this regard. The district tells us that the schools do not spend any of their money on the Ball programs, but the evidence indicates that each of the 22 schools are, directly or indirectly, diverting huge sums of their dollars towards this program. We ask ourselves where the money comes from to pay for the district personnel who is promoting and implementing this program. Where does the money come from to pay for the consultants, the coaches, the seminars, the substitutes, the materials, and the expense of traveling to Michigan (the home of the Ball program)?
As reported, the Ball program gave $15,000 to each of the first two cohorts of schools which each school was able to spend at their discretion. The second two cohorts of schools (11 schools) did not receive direct cash incentives to participate in the program. Where did the money come from to pay for this program and if there were no cash incentives for the second two cohorts then why sign up and pay for the program? Is this the best use of limited dollars to educate ELL students?
The teachers’ union sees this move by the district more as a union busting effort than an effort to educate ELL students, the Ball Foundation heavily promotes a pay by merit system as one example. Teachers are also asking the question, where is the research and evidence of success that supports the Ball program. And there is also rumblings of discontent with the Ball program, requiring teacher conformity with no dissent, which in part may explain the transfer of the five teachers at Castle Park, and what some are saying is top down decision making.
The Ball Foundation itself states that it takes the whole community to be a part of the change, it is time that the Chula Vista Elementary School District has an open discussion and include the whole community over the Ball Foundation and the impact on ELL students and the schools, on a district wide basis. This should be openly and thorough, not piecemeal. Our community demands answers to these concerns.