Seeking Solutions

I am so tired of hearing that the reason for California students ranking 47th in the nation is that we have so many English Learners who not only score poorly on tests, but hold back the English speakers.

For 14 years, and 6,000 classroom hours I taught Computer Science at a local university, everything from Beginner through Artificial Intelligence, Undergraduate and Graduate, and more than half my students, particularly graduate students, were foreign. Some Indonesian, Thai, Korean and Chinese. Even a Brit or two.

Not once did I slow my delivery because one of them looked puzzled, nor did I have to stop and explain a word — and the reason is simple: They had to pass a State Department proctored exam to demonstrate English proficiency, just for entry on a college Visa.

Yes, I know many of the ESL group in high school do not arrive on a Visa, but the system should remain the same: No one should enter a classroom who does not understand the language. It harms both the person with the language difficulty, and those whose study is compromised while explanations take place.

Immigration, legal and illegal (so the Feds tell me), is a federal matter. Education is a State matter. The federal government should run language classes until such time as the ESL student can be mainstreamed into State public education.

Public education has accepted many non-academic roles to increase its managerial power: Transportation, food services, physical exercise, and now ESL classes.

I don’t care where the ESL students came from, who they are, or how they get here, I t is a federal problem, and the Feds must solve it!

Asking public educational professionals to reduce their non-academic footprint is asking the Sun to rise in the West!

Executives get paid depending upon the size of their domains, and that is why Superintendents and Principals happily accepted non-academic activities — bigger employment rolls and larger budget equal better management salaries.

Every bureaucrat quickly learns that there are two easy paths to higher salary — move to a larger district/city, but that entails moving the family and leaving your Country Club — or growing your domain. Often growing your domain is easier.

The only way to get ESL into the Feds is to appeal to some related federal agency to grow THEIR ranks and budget, and the Feds could then take over their rightful responsibility. The Feds will have to seize it, the public schools will not easily give it up.

We may have to await a Cosmic Event — the schools in Louisiana were really terrible, at least around New Orleans, until Hurricane Katrina struck and destroyed the schools and scattered the students. Governor Jindal seized control of the schools and reconstituted them as Charter Schools. A similar, if less violent event happened in the 1990s, when Massachusetts instituted a pop literacy exam (based on 10th grade literacy) to their incoming teachers — and more than 50% FAILED. The outcry of parents was so great it even overcame the teacher unions, and reform took place.

California must pick its time and place.

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