Tackling the achievement gap | May 9, 2008 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |


Mountain View Voice

Opinion - May 9, 2008

Tackling the achievement gap

As the proportion of Hispanic students in Mountain View approaches 50 percent, local school officials are struggling mightily to understand how to bring this soon-to-be-majority up to a level of learning that is acceptable to increasingly tough federal mandates.

At Mountain View Whisman, teachers often are confronted by Hispanic students who speak no English, hear no English at home and live in a neighborhood that is made up of almost 100 percent Spanish speakers. In many of these households, reading in any language is seldom a pastime that parents pass on to their children.

Historically, teachers know there is no way these children are going to learn at the same speed as their white or Asian classmates. But the No Child Left Behind Act, with its noble goal of bringing all children up to an acceptable level of "annual yearly progress," often winds up snagging schools in its web of bureaucratic sanctions. The result can be particularly unfair for districts like Mountain View Whisman.

In the district's latest annual report, Hispanic students trailed the state and county average, with barely 30 percent performing at a proficient level, compared to 80 percent for whites and Asians.

Clearly, there is work to do, and Assistant Superintendent Mary Lairon agrees. "It is bad in English language arts, but worse in math," she said. "It is just not good."

To its credit, the district is hardly accepting the results as inevitable. Teachers are tackling the problem head on, with what amounts to a full court press to spread English language proficiency among students and families.

For example, special committees for both English language and math were formed this year, and the study of English is being incorporated into everyday lessons. Also, an effort is being made to raise cultural awareness among staff members so they understand "how being an immigrant affects your learning," according to Judy Crates, director of English language development at the district.

Immigrant children themselves are being asked to share their experiences with teachers more often, Crates said. And parents of pre-kindergarten students are being invited to classes to discuss how they can become involved at the school. And there will be summer classes for any student who needs help to improve performance in math.

It is not likely that these approaches will bring the performance level up dramatically, at least not right away. But we believe these initiatives are appropriate. Parents and the general public should remember that overall, math and English scores in the district are up 7 percent, to 60 percent for students scoring proficient or above.

But the challenge for this elementary school district is to raise all boats, including those of Hispanic children, who will never fulfill their dreams if they don't learn the basics of English and math.


Posted by Paul Miller, a resident of another community
on May 12, 2008 at 11:21 am

The best solution is for the school district to expand preschool programs for all children, especially those who are not fluent in English. Preschool programs have teachers that reflect the language and ethnic diversity of the children served.
Not only do children have an easy time acquiring two or more languages when they are of preschool age, but by the time they enter K-12 education systems, there are few staff of most school districts that can speak Spanish. Of the approximately 4,200 children in the District, 43% are Hispanic according to Ed-Data while almost 81% of the staff are White.

Posted by DG, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 14, 2008 at 8:33 pm

The problem is not them, you see...

It is how they live. I have been to California st, and Latham st. All ghettos- in my view.
Their parents are rarely home, and even if they are present- they barely speak english, thus not allowing the student to ask them for help. Or asking to study with them to help upgrade their language skills.

Now, you can simply get rid of them. But one thing you must know- is that Latinos are able to learn quick , and become really determined when struck with confidence. The only confidence they need here, is to know english. Once they are rapidly absorbing the language, and American culture. They shall have no problem keeping up, they may even surpass some natural born citizens.

Another thing i want to mention, is putting an end to the gangs in Mountain View.
My precious city infested with these vermin. Do what you have to, just get rid of them. Arrest them, euthanize them, send them to the military...anything that will keep them away. Because i can tell you- they bring no good to this city, and end up corrupting the mind of innocent youth.