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Inequality: Still the Reason Minorities are Failing in LA’s Schools


INEQUALITY AND TESTING-The analyses of the recent abysmal showing and further decline of black and Latino students on recent state tests that were designed to measure the mastery of Common Core standards purposefully ignored major factors regarding our failed public education policy – a policy that is clearly responsible for the results. 

Why is that? Could it have anything to do with the corporate agenda that seeks to justify further privatization of an almost $2 trillion-a-year public education "business" – one with privately owned or controlled charter schools that are designed to tap into these funds by corporations? 

The greatest factor in explaining the poor performance of black and Latino students on the Common Core tests is not even addressed in explaining why these students continue to fail in school and on assessment tests. 

Sixty-one years after Brown vs. Board of Education said, "Separate but equal...is inherently unequal" and against the law, segregation in LA public schools has not only gotten worse, it has gotten so bad that older African Americans often remark that the segregated all black schools they went to were better than a de facto segregated Dorsey, Crenshaw, or Audubon LAUSD school – schools where failure to achieve grade-level mastery is almost ensured and success is the miraculous exception. 

Howard Blume reports in the LA Times that Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers says, "This is going to show the real achievement gap. We are asking more out of our kids and I think that's a good thing." Really? 

In school districts like LAUSD that remain close to 90% Latino and black, the vast majority of students, parents, teachers, and most importantly, administrators have no expectation that minority children can succeed in anything but vacuous academic rhetoric -- unsupported by the rigorous time-sensitive and grade-level mastery of standards that are necessary to do well on assessments and in life. The vast majority of success stories within this minority demographic happen in the few integrated school settings that do exist.  So why doesn’t LAUSD finally bite the bullet and integrate all of the district? 

While this deferred process would initially be very expensive and unpopular, (especially in a society where both minority and majority groups continue to harbor unchallenged fantasies about each other) the financial savings would more than pay back this investment in all of our futures in a relatively short time.  We’ve seen documented success in the few existing truly integrated schools. All schools should be allowed to succeed. We need to produce a population of young people capable of sustaining themselves and our society. 

But so far, anybody who challenges the status quo by seeking the timely integration education of all students is labeled racist and "not culturally sensitive." In this LAUSD environment, social promotion of unprepared students from one grade to the next, without adequate mastery of prior grade-level standards, remains the rule and not the exception. Should we be surprised when socially-promoted students who have not mastered grade-level standards subsequently fail Common Core examinations designed to measure knowledge that predominantly poor and minority students were never taught? Now that's my notion of racism! 

There is clear and convincing evidence that other test scores like the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) and some “passing” course grades have been fixed by school administrative cheating or the intimidation of teachers who are forced to do so. Somehow people now seem surprised by the abysmal showing of Latino and black students on these latest Common Core tests – exams that themselves have no hard score, but rather an arbitrary standard as to what is acceptable. 

In trying to explain Latino and Black student failure within the limited parameters of not offending anybody, Inner City Struggle Executive Director Maria Brenes suggests that, "LAUSD should invest more in technology." However, the foundational issue of whether these students are literate enough in English to be able to productively use such devices is never addressed. 

There is no question that more technology would offer greater access to information, but there still is no substitute for the 3Rs as a necessary prerequisite for effectively using technology. This is never mentioned in the “technology-as-a-fix-all” panacea discussion. 

Any classroom teacher will tell you that it is not a lack of technology that leads to failure on assessment examinations, but rather too much technology. Virtually every student has a cellphone and ear buds to listen to music and tune out the teacher. 

And as for the $1.3 billion John Deasy legacy of iPads that “don't work,” (something LAUSD leadership is still trying to sweep under the carpet,) they actually do work pretty well in the hands of clever students who have figured out how to pass boring class time playing video games. They do this in lieu of doing classwork in a language they understand very little, thanks to social promotion. They are smart enough to know that they will be passed on to the next grade no matter what. Sadly, they are not mature enough to understand the long-term ramifications of these actions. But isn’t that the job of the adults? 

The unfortunate showing of Latino and black children on the Common Core assessments does have a silver lining for Charter school proponents -- who are using these results to ask questions in news reports, like this one from KPCC's Adolpho Guzman Lopez: As charter schools make top 10 test score list, should parents consider switching?   

What Guzman somehow neglects to tell his reader (because he wants to keep his job) is that the school he cites as an exception to Latino and black failure on the Common Core assessment exams only has 15 black students and 19 Latinos in a school with 265 students, as of 2013. 

Let's see, with the math I learned in an LAUSD school of a different era, that amounts to 12.8% minority -- a far cry from the 90% Latino and black population of the average LAUSD school. But it's not nice to talk about that, unless you want to be targeted as a racist.

(Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He’s a second generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at perdaily.com. Leonard can be reached at [email protected]) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.






Vol 13 Issue 75

Pub: Sep 15, 2015

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