By Paolo von Schirach
July 24, 2012
WASHINGTON – Apparently the (mostly Latino) parents of children enrolled in Desert Trails Elementary School, in Southern California, (near Los Angeles), became the very first group that managed to take direct control of a failing school in California, an action resulting from a petition signed by a majority of the parents. This “take over” was made possible by a 2010 state law aimed at creating a more accountable public education system.
A failed school
A majority of Desert Trails parents, (with organizational help from Parent Revolution, an NGO funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), signed a petition demanding that the Elementary School be turned into a charter school. The issue was contested by the school board. In the end a judge ruled in favor of the parents.
But why this open rebellion against the school board? Well, because the students learn nothing at Desert Trails. In the year 2010-2011 70% of the students failed the state reading examination. 80% failed their science exam, and 56% failed math. Some school, this one.
How can this happen in America?
That said, the real story here is not about the brave parents who finally decided to go against the school board, take matters into their own hands and fight for their children, with the help of the judiciary.
No, the real story is that such an abysmal failure in public education can actually occur in the USA and that such a failure is actually defended by the education bureaucracy. And all this is happening in America. Think of it. This is a school in Southern California, next to Los Angeles. Yes, this the very same California with world renowned Silicon Valley, Stanford University and thousands of high tech geniuses. Desert Trails is not a school lost in the middle of poor and war ravaged Congo.
These California children will be marginalized
Here we are talking California, an important state, highly regarded internationally as a trail blazer when it comes to innovation. And yet we have children sent to a California public school who obviously are taught nothing. The test scores are appalling. Children with these kinds of beginnings in education will not go far. Probably most of them will not finish high school. And so they will grow up to become virtually illiterate, marginalized adults competing for menial manual jobs, as everything else will be out of reach.
What is most amazing in all this is that there seems to be no self-policing system in public education. How can a school fail so badly without anybody in a position authority taking swift remedial action? (Where was the Desert Trails principal?) Do we really need court actions to enforce the right to a decent public education in America?
It would appear that for the school board these test results at Desert Trails are about average, and so nothing to worry about. This is the real problem. We have become so used to mediocrity or worse in public education that now nobody sounds the alarm when failure becomes the new norm.
I am happy that the parents of Desert Trails are getting national attention. I hope their court victory will motivate other parents to demand higher teaching standards in California and nationwide. But it is nonetheless sad to notice that for the school bureaucracies and the teachers unions the current system that permits failure is apparently just fine. Regrettably, to date, these are our standards.Print This Post