Equal expectations

Two former California governors — one very Republican and the other very Democratic — are defending the idea that all children can meet high academic standards.

Former Govs. Pete Wilson and Gray Davis, in a rare show of bipartisan concern over the direction of public education in California, sent an open letter Friday to lawmakers and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger urging them not to retreat from tough curriculum standards and testing they say have improved academic performance.

Some Democratic legislators want a separate K-8 curriculum for students who aren’t fluent in English. The old bilingual lobby doesn’t believe Hispanic children can learn in English. When the state board of education refused to go along, Democratic critics took all funding for the board out of the state budget. Wilson and Davis wrote:

“Standards provide a measure of excellence regardless of one’s skin color, family income or ZIP code. We believe that if we set expectations high, students will respond,” the two men wrote. “Not every child will fully meet the challenge, but all will benefit from the effort.”

Lowering or weakening academic standards would create “educational apartheid,” they wrote.

One of the worst things about bilingual classes — now a rarity — was the tendency to expect less of students. Scores have been rising for English Learners and for Hispanic students under the current state guidelines, which provide extra time for elementary students who aren’t fluent to learn English, in addition to two hours a day of language arts instruction.

Sen. Martha Escutia, D-Whittier, who introduced the separate-but-unequal bill, gave Gov. Schwarzenegger a copy of “Don Quixote” in Spanish.

The governor said he would need a translator, Escutia recalled.

“How do you think a kid feels when they’re dropped in a classroom and told to read ‘Tom Sawyer,’ and you’ll be tested in two weeks?” she said she replied.

A spokeswoman for the governor pointed out that he learned English by immersion as an immigrant to the U.S.

Update: In the Sacramento Bee, Peter Schrag comments on Gov. Schwarzenegger’s attempt to play nice with the resegregationist legislators, leaving the state board without a dime. Schrag notes that English Learners are achieving English proficiency more quickly than in the old days of separate bilingual instruction.

About Joanne


  1. If I were in a spanish based country I would, the governer should have returned the favor by giving her one in german and expect here to read it.

  2. I’m sure faithful readers are sick of stories about my children, BUT
    my son spent his senior year of high school in Hungary. He was expected to take all the tests, exams, write papers, and get grades.
    He got his diploma from the school–just like native Hungarians.
    He took the college placement exams–just like native Hungarians.
    Hungarian is considered to one of the two or three most difficult languages to learn, and he would never have done this if he’d been assisted in English (that almost no one spoke much English in his school did have an effect).

    California has kids who’ve been in the system for years who can’t pass the exit exam.

  3. The most successful groups in America have obviously all immigrated. When they first arrived they did not have classes that specifically catered to their first languages. Instead, they had to learn English and they likely didn’t receive too much help in public schools. We are only doing new immigrants a disservice, and consequently doing the rest of America a disservice, if we lower standards for non-native English speakers.

    Andrew Pass

  4. Too bad it’s always one extreme or the other. I could see some forms of bilingual ed working if limited to one semester, or at most one school year.

    It was the same with the whole language vs. phonics debate. I’d appeal to common sense if I thought it existed.

  5. It’s not that there’s a lack of common sense, it’s that indulging fantasies like whole language and bilingual ed don’t carry a professional penalty at any level. The originators aren’t turned into pariahs when the hollowness of their fad becomes unignorable and the teachers who embrace the fad don’t have anything at stake and neither does anyone in the intervening educational foodchain. No harm, no foul.

  6. nailsagainsttheboard says:

    Allen hit the nail on the head–until the Left loses its stranglehold on California public schools and university graduate schools of education, the waste of taxpayer $$ will continue. Until the system changes from within, the Left goes on. Voters can’t do it alone–because Leftist judges keep overturning voter referenda ie. Prop 187, 209…and Prop 227 is actively undermined by the Leftist educrats in every public school district. I teach for LAUSD and Latino students are still being segregated in ‘ELD’ classes. I’m an endangered species at my school–a teacher who actually believes in ‘E Pluribus Unum’.

  7. Bruce Lagasse says:

    With all due respect, I don’t think I would characterize Pete Wilson as “very Republican.” From mayor of San Diego to Governor, he was always more of a RINO, and was known primarily as an election-year-only Republican.

  8. Nails, what I was referring to was the lack of professional penalty for foisting nonsense onto the educational community.

    The “cold fusion” debacle is what I had in mind.

    Flieshman and Pons didn’t have all their scientific ducks in a row and were a bit too anxious to be the first announcers. When the extraordinary proof didn’t follow to support the extraordinary claim, they were toast. Now the phrase “cold fusion” is used as a proxy for scientific fraud and Fleishman and Pons disgraced.

    There’s nothing similar that has, or will, occur to the supporters of Whole Language despite its calamitous record and total lack of theoretical or experimental support.

    If anything, the purveyors of edu-crap should suffer worse then Flieshman and Pons who made, at least, an effort to provide experimental varification. Most edu-crap purveyors don’t bother with anything so mundane as experiments or observation. No, they have schools of thought and philosophies. How do you disprove a school of thought?