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Saturday, May 13, 2006

Immigrants Suing California Schools: "An Extraordinary Sense of Entitlement"


Liliana Valenzuela, a senior at Richmond High School in Richmond, California, maintains a 3.84 GPA and hopes to pursue a career as a registered nurse after she graduates in June 2006. The kicker to this story is that although she maintains a high GPA, she is unable to pass the California High School Exit Exam, a test used to determine who will be awarded a high school diploma.

This test is not particularly difficult as test takers must demonstrate a math proficiency at the 7th grade level and an English proficiency at the 10th grade level.

In February 2006, Liliana and nine other students sued the State of California citing discrimination. The argument/evidence as report in the San Francisco Chronicle:

"...low-income students and English learners who sued the state on February 8, claiming that many students have not had the opportunity to learn the material on the exit exam because they went to substandard schools with unqualified teachers, insufficient textbooks, and squalid conditions." {Judges ruling blocks exit exam for this year. by Nanette Asimov and Bob Egelko 5/12/06}

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Robert Freedman issued a ruling in agreement with the students that will be appealed next week.

Freedman wrote in his opinion that the "record is replete" with evidence of California's underfunded schools and said his decision applies to students statewide.

"The negative effects of (the) scarcity of resources continue to fall disproportionately on English language learners, particularly with respect to the shortage of teachers who are qualified to teach these students," Freedman wrote.

It is "unclear how many California students will actually benefit from the ruling:

That's because even though 11 percent of the senior class has not yet passed the test (46,768 of 436,668 students), no one knows how many of those students are otherwise qualified to graduate.
Last year, for example, 9 percent of the senior class (31,941 of 372,930 students) did not receive a diploma even though the exit exam was not required . Both years exclude special-education students, who are exempt from the exit exam requirement this year.

State Superintendent Jack O'Connell is "great disappointed":

"Not only is the ruling a great personal disappointment for me, it's bad news for California students who've worked hard to pass the exit exam, bad news for employers who want meaning restored to our high school diplomas and bad news for our public schools that have risen to the challenge," said O'Connell, who wrote the 1999 law that set the graduation test in motion and is its biggest champion.

It's not as if lower-performing students aren't offered extra services: in fact, access to supper school, Saturday classes and free tutoring are offered to "belatedly pass the test and get a diploma."

"The real reason serious students cannot pass the exit exam is not because the attend substandard schools, but because they don't understand English."

Why don't they understand English? It's not because of the schools that "are taught by expert teachers with about 30 years of experience each." There are other reasons. Most Hispanic students live in Spanish-speaking enclaves where little, if any, English is spoken or read when not in school. To make the situation worse, some students receive their instruction in Spanish. Under these conditions, how would anyone expect students to read, write, or speak English with any proficiency? Common sense tells us that only an exceptional student could prevail and move ahead while living and studying under these conditions.
How necessary passing the test for advancement?

Students attending community college in California need no diploma. They are able to receive instruction in order to learn job and technical skills to a certain level. Only those intent on attending a four-year college need to pass the high-school exit exam.

It is unlikely that a student unable to pass the high-school exit exam will be able to do well at a four-year school. What will happened then? Will they then sue the colleges because their English proficiency doesn't allow them to meet college standards? Would a judge then agree and force the college to give them a diploma in spite of not being able to meet graduation standards?

Ms. Valenzuela, a student not proficient in English at the 10th grade or math at the 7th grade level was able maintain a 3.84 grade level. Was she taught in Spanish or, perhaps she was simply granted high marks as are many that show up and stay all day?

We don't know for sure, but in an era of the call for the raising of educational standards and test scores, how is it possible that non-English proficient students are able to drive the debate and cause a state to fall backward?

What will happen to students who can't become proficient in English not because they aren't given the opportunity to do so but because their life experiences don't allow them to do so while living in a "language ghetto" where English isn't spoken? Should they determine the educational future of English-speaking students?

Is this really "discrimination" or sour grapes because they either could not or would not keep up, damaging their pride?

Ask yourselves: What would happen if these were English-speaking American students attending public schools in any country of the world? Would they be afforded the privilege to disrupt the educational process of an entire state?


  • At Sun May 14, 06:49:00 AM PDT, Blogger Always On Watch said…

    I've sent this link to all of my California in-laws. A well-researched article!

    In my experience, trends in CA education take about five years to make it to the East Coast. Heads-up, Eastern residents! This is coming to you soon.


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