The Magazine

THOSE WHO CAN'T, SUE

Mar 4, 1996, Vol. 1, No. 24 • By DEBRA J. SAUNDERS
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Ashe argues that many Latinos and Asians have flunked the reading portion because, while they claim to be bilingual or multilingual, they have not mastered English. Linda James, a principal who is president of the Oakland Alliance of Black Educators, seems to agree -- if unintentionally -- with that contention. James explained that some bilingual teachers flunk the reading test because, she told the San Francisco Chronicle, "When you are a person who has diffculty with the English language, it's going to take you a little longer to figure it out."


It should be noted that while the teachers union et al. fault CBEST for keeping good teachers out of the classroom, many educators, including named plaintiffs, received state waivers that allowed them to become first-time public-school teachers or be promoted into administration. Boyd already was a teacher when CBEST was implemented, so she didn't need to pass it to teach. She did need to pass CBEST, however, to become an administrator. In the suit she cried racism -- yet the state granted her waivers that allowed her, despite her having flunked the test four times, to be a vice principal from 1989 until her retirement in 1995.


This suit doesn't do much for minority teachers' rep -- or, considering the CTA's position that 10th-grade mastery isn't needed to teach well, the reputation of California teachers generally. Talk about living down to your stereotype as whiners.


Meanwhile, note the obnoxious claim that CBEST deprives minority students of minority teachers who would make splendid role models. These are needed role models? Teachers who sue on the ground that minorities can't be expected to perform as well as whites? Teachers who demonstrate that if you fail, the remedy is to cry racism? Educators who believe that the key to success is lowering standards?


To the contrary, the role models are the majority of teachers who take the test and pass, if not the first time, then later. The real outrage, the real racism, is in a system that graduates kids who can't read, write, or add. What these minority-educator groups ought to be outraged about is the fact that so many blacks, Latinos, and Asians managed to graduate from high school, complete four years of college and a fifth year of teacher training, and still fail to read, write, and compute as well as a 10th-grader. That's what they should try to change.


Instead they propose to increase minority student achievement by sticking minority students with incompetent teachers. That's how little they care about black, Hispanic, and Asian kids.



Debra J. Saunders writes a nationally syndicated column for the San Francisco Chronicle.