Should Graduates of American Public High Schools Be Required to Show Proficiency in English for Graduation?
This really bugs me. Women return to their home countries with babies born in the United States, only to have the children return years later to demand rights and services. And this by design of the parents.
"I need a diploma," said Iris, a chestnut-haired girl who was born in Los Angeles and grew up in the Mexican state of Jalisco. "I want it. I deserve it. I've been going to school and studying. I want to have a profession."
Iris said all of this in Spanish. She returned to California in 2004 after the grandmother she'd been living with in Mexico died. Now she lives with her Spanish-speaking mother in an apartment near Richmond High in the West Contra Costa Unified School District.
Before the exit test, schools all over the nation pushed students out using the practice of social promotion:
State Superintendent Jack O'Connell, who wrote the exit exam law in 1999 while a state senator, calls it "immoral" to award diplomas to students who can't pass the test.
"I was heartbroken by stories of high school graduates who could not read or write or understand basic computing," he told the state Board of Education recently. "Too many of those students were poor, Latino or African American, or students with disabilities."
Before the exit exam requirement, he said, "some schools pushed each and every student to succeed, while others, wallowing in the status quo of low standards, handed out diplomas to any student who simply put in seat time."
The United States has millions of functionally-illiterate adults that fell the cracks because no one was held accountable for their success.
Joining O'Connell in applauding the exit exam's influence is a number of employers, lawmakers and state education officials who like having a consistent, minimum academic standard for all graduating seniors. Many say the standards, which measure skills taught between grades 6 and 10, should be even tougher.
"The need for the (exit exam) is simple," said Jim Lanich, president of California Business for Education Excellence, which includes some of the state's largest employers, from IBM to SBC. "Too many students graduate from high school unprepared for the challenges that lie ahead."
One wonders why Iris' mother doesn't speak English. Could it be that she lives and works in parts of Los Angeles where Spanish English is not required because millions of illegal immigrants from Latin America have re-created their home countries.
Los Angeles is a city in the United States and English is the official language of the United States. Iris and others like her will not be served by pandering to the demands of immigrant groups that flout the law and social mores.
Thousands of English-speaking students spend time preparing to take college entrance exams, or high-school exit exams because of skill weakness. To allow students such as Iris a pass would be discriminatory. It is unconscionable to expect a system to lower rather than raise standards to accommodate a students with low skills.
Living in Los Angles immersed in Latin culture and among Spanish speakers, Iris may never learn to speak English well enough to contribute outside the Spanish-speaking community. Unfortunately there are groups that would not consider that to be a liability as they intend to create El Norte in California.