American Schools Lowering Standards For Hispanics
Hats off to the
Washington Unified School District in West
Sacramento, CA. for coming up with the solution
to the gnawing problem of poor classroom
attendance among Hispanic students.
Superintendent Stuart Greenfield, whose district
includes 11 schools, came up this doozy: he is adjusting
his school`s schedule to accommodate Hispanic students.
When they are ready to come,
Greenfield will open the doors. [“Calif. schools
extend winter break to accommodate Hispanic kids”
Associated Press, Jan. 15, 2003]
Why hadn`t anybody thought of it before?
Greenfield decided that since his
Mexican students like to take three weeks off instead
of the standard two at Christmas when they visit home, he
would simply add an extra week of vacation.
Of interest is that the Washington School District`s
Hispanic population is just 37%. The 63% that is
perfectly ready to show up for school on time is left to
its own devices.
As is often the case, the
minority rules when Hispanic issues are involved.
The comings and goings of Hispanic students during the
school year, especially high school students, has been a
thorn in the side of California educators for as long as
I can remember.
Jeff Hearn, superintendent of the Santa Maria Joint
Union High School District said, “It was out of
control. They`d leave in late November and come back in
early February and some wouldn`t graduate because of it.”
Christmas is not the only time of the year when
students vanish. Extended vacations in Mexico at any time
of the year for any reason are commonplace.
Lodi Unified School District has a policy for K-6
students who formally request permission to be absent.
Approval is granted subject to teachers preparing work
packets for the children to complete and turn in when
they return. Students must be gone for a minimum of 5
days and a maximum of 20.
Compiling and grading the assignments represents extra
work for the teacher and doesn`t replace classroom
learning. But, as Clairmont Elementary teacher Wendy Lau
said, “Where would the student be if I didn`t send
work with him? They`re already behind right from the
High school is a different matter. If the kids take
off, the school records their absences as unexcused. If
and when they come back, they`re re-enrolled but by then
are short credits.
To graduate, those kids must make up classroom time at
summer school or adult school. And there`s where you lose
Administrators have been wringing their hands for a
decade about the high rate of Hispanic student dropouts.
According to the
National Center for Educational Statistics, Hispanic
students born in the US are more than 3 times as likely
drop out than their native-born peers. And 45% of
Hispanic students born outside of the US dropped out of
high school in 2002.
Things are so bad that Santa Ana School District
Superintendent Al Mijares wants to add an extra year of
kindergartners who struggle. An additional year,
argues Mijares, [Send him
mail.] would give his “mobile student population” a
better chance for long-term success.
Across the nation, the excuses given for the dreadful
attendance figures and poor performance by Hispanic
students are well-known: racism, the end of bilingual
education, poor teachers,
insensitive administrators, run-down facilities,
shortage of supplies, etc.
But even the Los Angeles Times,
editorializing in support of Mijares (while
completely ignoring the $35 billion deficit), recognizes
the true problem:
“Three-fourths of parents
in the district lack high school diplomas, and many are
illiterate. A stunning 85% of its students qualify for
free or reduced-price lunches.”
“Every week, new
immigrants enter school, knowing no English and unable to
“School Reforms Should Pass”,
LA Times Editorial, January 12, 2003
Uneducated, non-English speaking parents are unlikely
to enforce strict rules at home demanding regular
attendance and hard academic work. And they are more
likely to consider extended absences of little
If we won`t get ahold of illegal immigration, let`s at
least take control of the school mess. Forget juggling
the schedule to suit the students. And abandon the
all-forgiving practice of re-admitting the derelicts.
High school students who don`t show up at the
appointed hour should be given a one-way ticket to the
GED testing center.
That would send a stronger message about the
importance of regular school attendance.
Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English at the Lodi
Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column
since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.