LOS ANGELES, California—As a federal probe into Los Angeles school district has found certain students are denied educational opportunities, a U.S. Senate bill proposes to ease federal education standards.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has found that the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has been classifying students who can’t speak English as being proficient in the language.
Additionally, Black students have had poor access to technology and library resources, as well as higher suspension and expulsion rates than other students.
Of the LAUSD’s 671,648 students, over 200,000 students are labeled as English language learners and over 60,000 students are Black.
Resulting from the probe, the LAUSD has agreed to increase college preparatory resources for ethnic minority students and provide better English training for students who do not use English as a first language.
However, LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will not provide any additional funding for LAUSD’s plan, as budget cuts statewide have forced cities to cut costs.
How will the LAUSD financially provide for its plan? Will it even need to if the federal government decides to relax its education standards?
No Child Left Behind revisions?
SenatorTom Harkin, a Democrat from Iowa and chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, introduced an education bill to his committee on 11 October 2011.
Under the bill, federal regulations setting achievement goals for all students would be less strict.
“We need to update this law to make sure that every child receives a great education,” Senator Harkin was quoted as saying of the current federal education law in the Wall Street Journal. “We’re moving into a partnership mode with the states rather than the federal government.”
Under the current federal education law, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), all U.S. public schools must meet 100 percent proficiency in math and English by 2014 or face measures, like principal replacement or conversion to charter schools.
In September, President Barack Obama told states they could opt out of NCLB if they enact certain reforms like setting standards to prepare students for college or careers and aligning teacher evaluations to student test scores.
Critics of NCLB say that it forces teachers to focus on standardized testing, limiting the curriculum to math and reading.
However, others feel that eliminating achievement goals will hinder certain students from reaching the achievement levels of their peers, particularly students who are learning English as a second language.
“This feels like a betrayal of low-income kids, kids of color,” Ms. Amy Wilkins of the advocacy group Education Trust, was quoted in the Wall Street Journal.
Senator Harkin’s bill will be discussed in his committee next week.
How could possible future passage of Senator Harkin’s bill affect LAUSD students? How could it affect Orange County (OC) Vietnamese American students, just one county south?
OC Vietnamese American students
In September, the OC Register reported that an increasing number of OC schools are in danger of failing to comply with NCLB and even lack the funding necessary to implement the reforms President Obama said would allow them to opt out.
When compared to other OC students, Vietnamese American students have fairly low academic performance levels, reflecting levels more aligned with OC Latino students than with other Asian students, according to a 2010 OC Health Needs Assessment (OCHNA) report.
The OCHNA report is called “A Look at Health in Orange County’s Vietnamese Community” and uses information gathered from a 2007 survey.
Along with having lower levels of academic performance, OC Vietnamese American students are among a group with the lowest rates of English proficiency of all Asian subgroups in California.
About 70 percent of the Vietnamese population living in OC is foreign born and about 43 percent OC Vietnamese households are “linguistically isolated,” meaning no one over age 14 in the household speaks English very well.
Do such students need higher or lower achievement goals when it comes to the English language?
Related education news, thought to consider
The American Jobs Act (AJA) failed in the Senate on 11 October 2011. President Obama believed it would have prevented up to 280,000 teacher layoffs and modernized 35,000 public schools nationwide.
How will the AJA’s failure affect the LAUSD and OC schools, especially those that have already experienced teacher lay-offs and lack modern technology?