Now we know the very first target of the Obama Administration’s discrimination investigations of local school districts: This obvious discriminator against Spanish-speaking students is the Los Angeles Unified School District (Ramon Cortines, Superintendent). It must be all those white racist gangs in lily-white LA.
I sent my kid to an LAUSD middle school with an excellent science magnet program, so I’m fairly familiar with how LAUSD policies produce their statistical outcomes. Yet, as far as I can tell, almost nobody who works for LAUSD understands that logic. (I applied my kid to a charter high school that did, however, understand selection so well that their admissions “lottery” was rigged in his favor.) Almost all school performance statistics are primarily driven by selection, and only evil people like James Watson and Charles Murray understand the implications of selection. And LAUSD staffers tend to be as innocent of intellectual awareness as new-born lambs. And I’m sure that the Obama Dept. of Ed will never, ever understand school statistics.
From the LA Times:
The federal government has singled out the Los Angeles Unified School District for its first major investigation under a reinvigorated Office for Civil Rights, officials said Tuesday.
The focus of the probe, by an arm of the U.S. Department of Education, will be whether the nation’s second-largest district provides adequate services to students learning English.
Officials turned their attention to L.A. Unified because so many English learners fare poorly and because they make up about a third of district enrollment, more than 220,000 students.
Uh … Doesn’t the federal government, which has only been so lax about enforcing the border, share some responsibility for why there are such an enormous number of students with poor English skills in Los Angeles?
Federal analysts will review how English learners are identified and when they are judged fluent enough to handle regular course work. They’ll examine whether English learners have qualified, appropriately trained teachers. And they’ll look at how teachers make math and science understandable for students with limited English.
The ultimate goal of federal officials is to exert pressure on L.A. Unified and other school districts to close the achievement gap that separates white, Asian and higher-income students from low-income, black and Latino students.
Like all those other school districts that have closed The Gap, such as Erehwon, Utopia, Wishfulthinkingville, and Wouldn’t-It-Be-Nice-by-the-Sea.
Federal authorities aren’t accusing L.A. Unified of intentional discrimination, but the civil rights office seeks to uncover policies and practices that result in a “disparate outcome.” Enforcement options include withholding federal money; more than 23% of the district’s $7.16 billion operating budget comes from the federal government.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan launched the ramped-up enforcement effort Monday at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., where law enforcement officers beat and drove back 600 civil rights marchers on March 7, 1965. Without naming school systems, officials said 38 faced compliance reviews; on Tuesday it became clear that L.A. Unified was among them.
Some observers hailed a resurgent civil rights office they said had languished under the George W. Bush administration.
“This is a big deal after eight years of lackluster enforcement,” said Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of the locally based Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund.
Less impressed was Mike Petrilli of the Fordham Institute, based in Washington, D.C.: “School districts are going to see this announcement and freak out, take shortcuts and just push minority kids into Advanced Placement whether they are ready for them or not,” he wrote on his blog.
In L.A., second grade is the apparent high-water mark for English learners. At that level, 33% test as proficient in English. By eighth grade, proficiency levels decline to 2%, although that includes recent immigrants and excludes students who have moved into the “fluent” category.
Uh, if you are proficient in English, why would you be classified as an English Learner? Obviously, what’s happening is that the brighter kids from non-English speaking homes are quickly picking up spoken and written English in school, passing tests, and getting reclassified out of the “English Learner” category, leaving the dumber kids to remain with that label.
Moreover, lots of those 220,000 “English learners” speak English okay. Since 1999, due to Ron Unz’s Proposition 227, California doesn’t have a lot of “bilingual education” (i.e., Spanish-speaking teacher) courses.
But huge numbers of young people who speak English with Valley Girl accents remain classified from K through 12 as “English Learners” because they don’t score well on written tests of reading and writing English. They typically also don’t score well on tests of math and science. How come? Because a lot of them don’t “test well” — i.e., they aren’t very bright.
Heather Mc Donald explained in City Journal:
But the “persistent test-score gap” argument has a more fundamental flaw. California defines English learners as students who are less than fluent in English and who occupy the bottom rungs of reading and math achievement. To be reclassified out of English-learner status, a student must score well not just on the test of English proficiency but also on statewide reading and math tests. As soon as a student becomes more capable academically, he leaves the English-learner pool and enters a new category: Reclassified Fluent English Proficient, or RFEP. By fiat, then, the English-learner pool contains only the weakest students, whereas the native-speaker pool contains the entire range of students, from the highest achievers to the lowest.
The LA Times goes on:
But even among newly fluent students, only 35% test as academically proficient in English in the 11th grade.
“Proficient” is the second highest ranking on a scale running from Far Below Basic to Below Basic to Basic to Proficient to Advanced. In other words, in LAUSD, even among the students from non-English speaking homes bright enough to pass a test of written English, most are mediocre-to-bad students.
Meanwhile, the LA Daily News reports:
Federal officials who plan to launch a probe of Los Angeles Unified’s English-language learner program next week said Wednesday they targeted the district because of its size and low performance, but not because of any complaints or violations.
The investigation of Los Angeles Unified will look at whether the district is honoring the civil rights of English-language learners and providing them equal access to educational opportunities.
The compliance review, focusing initially on schools in the west San Fernando Valley and southeast Los Angeles, is the first of 38 planned nationwide by the federal Office for Civil Rights.
“I believe this review could have a tremendous impact not only in Los Angeles, but across the nation,” said Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights with the U.S. Department of Education.
She said LAUSD was chosen because of the high proportion of ELL students and their dismal academic performance compared to their counterparts in other districts.
About a third of LAUSD’s students are English-language learners. In fact, the district educates 11 percent of the nation’s population of students learning English. But only 3 out of 100 of LAUSD’s English learners score at the proficient level in English and math in high school.
Superintendent Ramon Cortines, acknowledging that the district’s English-language learner programs need improvement, welcomed the probe. …
The compliance review comes as the district struggles to close a $640-million budget gap.
Some local education experts said studies have already proven that the district has not provided these students with a fair and equitable education.
A study last fall by the Thomas Rivera Policy Institute found that 30 percent of children who start as English-language learners in kindergarten fail to leave their remedial courses by the time they are seniors in high school. Of those students, about 70 percent are native-born U.S. citizens.
In other words, we are talking overwhelmingly about people of below average intelligence who can’t read or write as proficiently as people of above average intelligence.
Try to imagine the quantity of cluelessness that will be on display — the furrowed brows, the blank stares — on both sides of the table as the Obama Administration investigates the LAUSD over the question of why kids who can’t pass tests can’t pass tests…