My students speak the language of their fathers and their fathers don’t all speak English. California is a tough place to live and go to school if you don’t speak English.
We have a long and inglorious history in this state of lining up groups of people in our collective sights, and then stripping them of their fundamental rights through public elections (Remember Prop 8?). So in 1998 Californians passed a state proposition that effectively banned bilingual education.
Imagine that. While the rest of the world continues to require two and three languages for children, our state made bilingual education all but illegal. I wondered: is that really what Californian’s want for their children? And if that is what Californians really want for their kids, why is a foreign language still a requirement for the vaunted University of California system?
And just in case any schools had ideas about ignoring the law (like, of course, we did at El Milagro), along comes NCLB to squeeze every existing bilingual program that might still be operating in the state.
Because in California, the state board of education determined that children must take the state assessments in English. No exceptions.
So like all of their native US-born, monolingual, English-Only counterparts, our English learners have to demonstrate mastery of such things as reading comprehension, word analysis, mathematical operations, number sense, algebra and writing conventions. They have to demonstrate that they know and can do what any child at their grade level should be able to do according to grade level standards. And they have to do it in a foreign language called English.
And of course the results matter. Their school could fail to achieve the AYP goals for English language learners if they don’t get enough right answers on their test. Their school could become a “Program Improvement School.” There could be sanctions. There could be consequences for their teachers and their principals.
But that’s not all.
Schools with a high percentage of students struggling to learn English typically end up with a lower Academic Performance Index…
Results are published in the local media and the API of each school is compared and contrasted…
Real estate companies utilize sites like greatschools.net to market properties and neighborhoods with the highest scores…
Prospective new families then move to areas where they perceive there are the best schools…
…While communities with disproportionately large numbers of English language learners continue to experience declining enrollment, de facto racial and ethnic segregation, and high mobility.
It’s a tough cycle to reverse. So schools, out of necessity, abandon their bilingual programs and opt for full English immersion and the bigoted doctrine of “English-Only” wins.
But isn’t there a better way? If you really want to assess what a child has learned , do so in the language with which they have the greatest degree of literacy– like the 14 other states (including Texas and New York) already do.
If you are still unconvinced, please take the simple quiz below. There are only three questions and if you are an educator or a parent or a concerned citizen—you have the answers! Just imagine that your school’s reputation, your future, the entire social/cultural/economic fabric of your community depends on your score. No pressure. Relax and do your best—even if the quiz is in a foreign language:
Question Number 1:
Если ваша профессиональная репутация, ваша школа рейтинга, и будущее ваших учеников были все зависит от детей, каким образом осуществляется на стандартизированных испытаний, которые приведены в иностранном языке, вы должны:
А. выступаем за то, чтобы дети предоставили оценки на их родном языке ,
B. энтузиазмом участвовать в вашей государства осуществлять в учебных злоупотреблений;
C. вид, что исход отметив делать с языком, или
D. привести ненасильственного протеста
Question Number 2:
كاليفورنيا يطالب بأن تتخذ جميع الأطفال أنصبتها المقررة باللغة الانكليزية للأسباب التالية :
أ. انها حقا جيدة للأطفال
ب. لأنها أكثر موثوقية وسيلة لتحديد ما تعلمه الأطفال
C. لأنها ستوفر معلومات قيمة والمعلمين حول ما يعرف الطلاب
د. وسوف نتأكد من الطلاب لا يملكون غير عادلة رئيس جامعة كاليفورنيا تبدأ اللغة الأجنبية
Question Number 3
Λαμβάνοντας αυτό το παιχνίδι δεν είναι ένα έγκυρο κριτήριο της τη νοημοσύνη μου, διότι:
Α. Δεν μιλούν καμία από αυτές τις γλώσσες
Β. Είναι απλά μια προσομοίωση
C. Είμαι πραγματικά πολύ έξυπνη και μόλις πήρε suckered σε αυτό το κουίζ
D. Αν όλοι μιλούσαν αγγλικά δεν θα είναι απαραίτητα αυτό το κουίζ
So how did you do? Are you in Program Improvement? You can check your answer and the translation here on Sunday, January 4.
75% of the children at my school qualify for free or reduced lunch. We serve a community of the working poor. We are on the border to Mexico. We consider ourselves to be the most innovative school in America: a bold, independent, autonomous charter school that refuses all efforts from external agencies to defines us. We have created our own brand. We have never missed a single NCLB-AYP goal and have gained over 240 points on California’s Academic Performance Index… PRECISELY because we refuse to try and raise our test scores. We are in the business of raising children.
We have shouted from the rooftops that you can not improve public schools by 1) calling them names (i.e. “Program Improvement”), 2) ignoring schools that excel even in the face of daunting economic challenges, 3) stripping critical thinking, problem solving, creative writing, the arts, joy, or dancing from the curriculum to make room for the short-sighted, publisher-driven, “fundamentalist” agenda that is myopically constructed on the pillars of math and reading.
And you cannot improve public schools if you try to do so in isolation from the complex social problems that inevitably creep onto our campuses and into our daily work: unemployment, health care, social services, recreation, mental health, lead paint, and drugs and gang violence and childhood obesity and poor nutrition and crime and homelessness. And while it has been an effective strategy for federal and state legislators to accuse educators of MAKING EXCUSES when we point these circumstances out… it doesn’t absolve them from their moral and legal responsibility to create public policy that serves American children as zealously as their policies that favor…say… wealthy adults. And we should hold them accountable for that. And identify those politicians and lawmakers who fail to make Adequate Yearly Progress in this endeavor, place them on improvement plans, call them names like “Program Improvement Governmental Agency”, and ultimately replace them with individuals who are committed to the welfare of American children and who refuse to allow a single one to be left hungry or homeless or isolated or lacking in health care. Or behind.