Friday, February 08, 2013

The ACLU is racist.

Dammit.  It didn’t work, did it.

Every time something comes out about English Language Learners not receiving services from school districts or government programs it seems like the reports are tinged with “stop picking on Spanish speaking children you racist pig” elements.  I figured since Ukiah Unified is being painted in that light by the ACLU that it might work in the reverse.  You know, accuse the ACLU of attempting to allocate a massive amount of funds to a disproportionate minority population simply based on skin color.  That’s racism.

But apparently that would be non-politically correct so we need to get to the root of the problem, which is that Ukiah High School is one of a few schools on the North Coast that is not meeting the needs of its English Language Learners. 

“Windsor, Geyserville and Ukiah have between 9 and 12 percent of English learners not being served, according to the report.”

What that means exactly is that these schools are not providing any English Language instruction for students where English is a second language, or where English isn’t spoken at all. 

This presents a problem of assimilation that I’ve talked about many times.  I’ve been reading about a variety of school districts that are befuddled about the accusations from the ACLU, especially when budget cuts have made entire class options disappear while they are forced to focus en masse on making sure that ELL students do much better on standardized testing.  It seems like the issue isn’t that ELL students aren’t being educated, it seems like there is a strong disagreement about how that education is taking place.  For instance, take the following commentary from an ELL student from Oxnard,

"They put you in the same class as everyone else regardless of your English level, whether you speak a little or not at all. It’s very frustrating,"

"School counselors don’t want to talk to you in English because you aren’t proficient, or in Spanish because there aren’t enough bilingual staff,"

Students are mainstreamed because A) the exposure to English is a good thing,  B) the pace of the class is necessary to meet the needs of idiotic standardized testing, and C) schools are sometimes accused of providing inadequate instruction by placing kids in language classes that don’t focus on stronger content.  This puts the school district in a catch-22 because either they can’t provide the instruction, can’t provide the language support, or fail to meet the needs of other students because so much time and energy is spent on English Language Learners.  No, that’s not a knock on ELL students, it’s reality.  And I have my own opinions about requiring that teachers be bilingual in a society where a majority of the population speaks in English.  And I would dare the ACLU to come in and talk to the counselors at Ukiah High School who speak very good Spanish while being insanely overworked due to budget cuts.

“An estimated 85 percent of English language learners in California were born in America.  Most live in homes where English is not the primary language. A survey of districts in the 2010 study “Reparable Harm” for the nonprofit Californians Together by language expert Laurie Olsen found that 59 percent of English learners in grades 6-12 are long-term English learners: those who were in school at least six years in this country, had stalled in gaining English fluency as measured by the annual California English Language Development Test (CELDT) and had failed the California Standards Test (CST) in English with scores of basic or below basic.”

Hey what a surprise.  You mean to tell me that students that are told not to speak English at home are stalled in their quest to become English learners?  There’s a shock. 

So how does this impact me?  Well, the ACLU has succeeded in making me bitter at the fact that I’ll have to sit in useless meetings talking about strategies that I spent an entire year on in college, and that are already used in my classes anyway because it is simply good teaching.  Most teachers are puzzled at the fact that they are focused on English Language Learners so much, while feeling like we are banging our heads against the wall.  And some of us are wondering why people can see statistics that say “Hey, part of this needs to be a focal point within the Latino community” but won’t come out with a loud speaker and actually say “HEY, PART OF THIS NEEDS TO BE A FOCAL POINT WITHIN THE LATINO COMMUNITY.” 

But I guess that would be racist. 

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