Vol. 22, No. 5,514 - The American Reporter - September 7, 2016

by Jill Stewart
American Reporter Correspondent
Sacramento, Calif.
February 21, 2005
Jill Stewart

Back to home page

Printable version of this story

SACRAMENTO - When test scores came out recently showing that Latino immigrant kids are getting much better at reading and writing English, California superintendent of schools Jack O'Connell urged schools to find ways to move them out of special English and into mainstream classes.

Good idea, since many can't get access to Advanced Placement courses for college so long as they're designated as "English learners" and kept too long in training-wheels-style English immersion classes.

I find it rich that O'Connell is urging schools to act. To a large degree, it's his fault.

Under Proposition 227, immigrant children were only supposed to stay in special immersion for a year or so, then go to mainstream class. But O'Connell has refused to credit English immersion for the soaring English literacy rates. His silence emboldens the anti-English ideologues who still strive to keep Latino kids in a separate world. Again this month, O'Connell refused to credit English immersion, telling the San Francisco Chronicle he won't guess why kids are learning English so well, as revealed by the latest California English Language Development Test. Guess? Year after year, he's failed to crunch data that could compare kids still stuck in "bilingual" to those in various forms of English immersion. The state Board of Education finally ordered O'Connell to produce a study with that in mind.

While we wait, I did my own study. I found that school districts like Los Angeles Unified - where moderate Democrats stamped out failing "bilingual" education after fierce, internal resistance by lefty teachers and bureaucrats - are producing big, lasting gains in English literacy.

By contrast, districts controlled by left-wing Democrats with an attitude of "they won't be able to talk to grandma!" are producing smaller gains.

In 2001, of the 244,000 Los Angeles schoolkids who were not native English speakers, only 17 percent scored as "advanced or early advanced" on statewide English tests. Pretty awful. Today, a stunning 49 percent of the immigrant kids get those high scores.

Back then, L.A. was paying 6,000 teachers a yearly bonus ($2,500 to $5,000) to teach in Spanish - the disastrous, discredited "bilingual" program. Now, only 679 teachers in L.A. get the bonuses and teach "bilingual."

See any pattern there, Mr. O'Connell?

By contrast, San Diego Unified - run by sad, fad-obsessed school honchos Alan Bersin and Tony Alvarado, who talk their slick "reform" game with few results - kowtowed to an anti-reform teachers union. It shows. Back in 2001, of 33,800 San Diego kids who weren't native English speakers, 24 percent got "advanced or early advanced" scores on the English tests - ahead of L.A. Today, 41 percent of San Diego kids get those high scores - well behind L.A.

Virulently anti-Prop. 227 Berkeley Unified is almost frozen in place. In 2001, of the 1,000 Berkeley kids who weren't native English speakers, 42 percent scored "advanced or early advanced" on English tests. Today, 45 percent do. Sprawling L.A. - far more urban and poverty-riddled - has blown past leafy Berkeley.

O'Connell's silence emboldens these people. In Sacramento, our foolish state legislators will soon hold education "hearings" aimed at dumbing-down Latino kids with a separate curriculum. The key guest speaker is an outrageous Pied Piper from the "bilingual" fiasco days, dead-wrong Canadian theorist Jim Cummins. We should pray that pragmatic Democrats, Republicans and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger stop the hard left. But unfortunately, most Republican legislators are oblivious to the profound war over classroom teaching, leaving it to the Democrats to fight over. Even worse, pragmatic Democrats are scared. One of their own - the brilliant Reed Hastings - just lost his job on the state Board of Education for defying lefties like state Sen. Martha Escutia on the immersion question.

While the pragmatic Democrats base their views on facts, the lefties nurse their longtime religious fervor against immersion. Just to remind you how deep their fervor runs, let's look back to 1998:

  • Then-San Francisco school board President Carlota del Portillo declared that English immersion "has no educational basis and would set our students back 30 years."
  • Jerry Perenchio, billionaire chief of Spanish-language Univision, spent more than $1 million fighting Prop. 227. A Republican, he adopted the views of lefty aides at Univision. One Perenchio aide derided English immersion - the most common method for teaching immigrant kids in the U.S. - as "an untested teaching method."
  • Then-Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa, now running for mayor of L.A., denounced Prop. 227 as another Proposition 187.
  • Then-state Sen. Richard Polanco of Los Angeles insisted, "[Prop. 227] will do more damage to the [children] in the long run."
  • A clueless aide to then-President Bill Clinton stated that Prop. 227's "extreme approach" of teaching kids in English rather than in Spanish "is likely to result in fewer kids learning English and fewer kids doing well in other academic subjects."

    Wrong, on every single count. Incredible.

    The left should grow up. Each year, California must educate a massive, new influx of non-English speaking kids from Third World Mexico and other Central American countries, in numbers seen nowhere else in our nation.

    Ronni Ephraim, the gifted chief instructional officer at L.A. Unified, says Latino parents "recognize that at school their child should acquire a strong base of English, and at home they can support them in maintaining their home language. Parents want their children to be competitive."

    So why is the California State Legislature still pursuing a separate curriculum and lower standards for Latino kids, and inviting in one of the worst Pied Pipers of the bilingual fiasco?

    "I don't understand Sacramento," Ephraim told me. "Why would anyone want to hold a kid back?" Well, that's a geniune conundrum. But abetted by O'Connell's silence, that's precisely what's afoot.

    Copyright 2016 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.

    Site Meter