School Boards Accelerate Race to the Bottom
School board administrators in their mindless pursuit of “equity” have decided to eliminate honors English classes in a prestigious academic district where parents would be delighted to enroll their children: Santa Monica High School.
The sentiment behind the initiative was best summed up by Sarah Rodriguez, an English teacher at the high school. She, and others involved in the 1½ year pursuit of the initiative, wanted to be “fair” to all students, and not make anyone feel left out or marginalized.
“This is not about labeling students or labeling classes,” Rodriguez says. “What we’re doing is, we’re saying this is a new paradigm.” Her overview of this new paradigm -- she insists -- is about “all of our students (being) capable and we’re going to meet them where they are.”
It’s a beautiful sentiment, but lacking in reality of what’s going to happen to the bright and gifted students’ opportunities for advanced education. She failed to mention how the initiative would “meet” their needs in a dumbed-down curriculum.
Parents have made it clear to administrators that they view the “equity initiative” as another example of administrators being shortsighted, if not blinded, by the end results of their bad decisions. “A race to the bottom,” is now a popular term used by parents to describe this and other diversity programs contributing to the eroding academic standards in public schools.
“We really feel equity means offering opportunities to students of diverse backgrounds, not taking away opportunities for advanced education and study,” says parent Joanna Schaenman, who spearheads an effort to reinstate honors class at a school where her child attends in Culver City.
The one-size (academic curriculum) fits all students, Schaenman says, is not beneficial for the students who are willing to work harder and achieve higher academic outcomes.
This parental pushback is popping up at school board meetings at different high schools operating in one of the nation’s most “progressive” regions: Los Angeles Unified School District.
“I have a child in high school,” one mother told the school board in Culver City. “It is too easy in his classroom” since the elimination of the honors classes. “They (administrators) say it’s equity, they say that’s the reason and therefore it’s okay,” she added. It is far for “okay,” she says, pointing out her son is “no longer challenged in class.”
This complaint is shared by many parents who are watching the decline of their children’s education. Now my son is “bored in class,” offers another parent.
Sensitivities expressed by the administrators in the interest of underperforming students does not appear to extend to parents of the more accomplished students. Parents objecting to the “dumbed-down” curriculum have been subject to slurs and insults by faculty and administrators: “Racist” is a common fallback term used by administrators to label parents objecting to the “equity initiatives.” At one school board meeting in another district, Asian parents were met with a sign that read: “Leave your Asian privilege at the door.”
It is now becoming harder to tag the parents as racists.
Many of the upset parents are immigrants themselves who appear as dark as the students who are underrepresented in the honors classes, primarily including Hispanic and black children.
Pedro Frigola, who is from Cuba, has two daughters attending Culver City High School. He claims the school is “performing a disservice to the students and community” with the elimination of advanced instruction.
He pointed out in a Fox television interview that the administration put forth the claim that the initiative is hatched in the name of “equity,” but “it’s not defined,” The parent stresses the necessity to provide equal opportunity for all students, but not remove opportunities for students who are excelling in their studies.
“Achieving equal outcomes at all costs,” says Frigola, is an ideology that results in holding many children back, That’s not the only drawback. Students now cannot list “advanced placement” (AP classes) on their applications when applying to Ivy League colleges, placing them at a distinct disadvantage.
This reality isn’t getting in the way of administrators championing their cause. They claim that teachers -- who work with students day in and day out -- are completely supportive of this “equity initiative.” That has not been Mr. Frigola’s experience when he has discussed the issue with teachers at his daughters’ high school. He reports they have expressed their concerns about the detrimental effects this initiative will have on the high-achieving students. “Of course they’re afraid to speak out because they don’t want to be reprimanded,” he says. “They have their careers to worry about.”
Mr. Frigola, who had grown up in Cuba, thought he had left behind the communist culture of censorship and fear of expressing a dissenting voice, but he was wrong.
In the meantime, embattled faculty and teachers have become more firmly entrenched in espousing their ideology. Rhetoric is becoming more harsh, with administrators now claiming advanced English classes were “perpetuating inequality.” They tend to rely on statistical data verifying black and Hispanic students are underrepresented in the honors classes. Of course, Asian students -- who score consistently higher -- remain overrepresented in percentages enrolled in advanced courses vs. make-up of population.
Less accomplished students appear to be picking up the messages of victimhood from the faculty. One student described his feeling as “unable to break out of the mold” and another as feeling inferior “because of the segregation” of honors from regular English classes.
“Whatever happened to the concept of working hard and earning a place in an AP class,” one parent commented on social media. “Are we teaching these children to whine rather than work hard?’
It is fair to wonder whether today’s educators are failing to prepare students for their matriculation into the real world. Students who were coddled and protected -- from revamping curriculum for “equal outcomes” to handing out “participation awards” for non-athletic winners -- will be sorely disappointed when they enter a merit-based system and find themselves at the end of the line for a salary increase or promotion up the corporate ladder.
Image: Khaled Akacha