Sorting by Color When the Education Ship Is Going Down

The latest education insider to enter into the editorial tug-of-war after release of Rhode Island’s abysmal results on its first Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests is Anna Cano Morales, director of the Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University and familiar face around the Statehouse:

Ninety-five percent of Rhode Island’s English learners do not meet the state’s English Language Arts and Literacy standards, according to recently released Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) scores. Eighty-nine percent of our Latino students are below the standards in math.

Those are staggering numbers. When we picture what they mean in human terms — 10,000 English learners, 32,000 Latino students — these numbers are stunning.

Those who promote identity politics are striving to make matters of race and ethnicity an area in which disagreement is not allowed, but we owe it to all of Rhode Island’s children to think realistically about our schools’ problems so we can identify true causes and develop appropriate solutions.  As Morales goes on to concede, talking about the English scores of students who have already been identified as needing help with English is “incoherent.”  Far more concerning is that 64% of students overall fail to meet expectations in English.

As for math, it is lamentable that 89% of Latino students don’t meet expectations, but the percentage of all students who fall short is 74%.  That’s an unacceptable 30,000 students in the first case, but an unacceptable 105,000 students in the second case.  Should Rhode Island really allocate limited resources so as to focus on 30,000 students at the expense of 75,000 when solutions that help the larger group would surely help the smaller group, as well?

Morales refers to National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores, and a look at those results deepens the picture.  Over the last decade, Hispanic students were the fastest-improving group in Rhode Island, especially in math, on which they now outperform black students.  As with other groups, however, the improvement hit a ceiling when teacher-union-favored Governor Lincoln Chafee scuttled the accountability reforms that his predecessor, Governor Donald Carcieri, and then Education Commissioner Deborah Gist had put in place.

In this light, the Latino policy director’s prescriptions are questionable.  If 64% of all students can’t even pass a test on English, would it really help matters to “immerse” them in bilingual education?  While admittedly not an expert in the area of curriculum development, that sounds like lunacy to me.  If our current teacher corps and teaching resources aren’t able to bring 74% of students up to speed in math, does it really make sense to make English-language-learners — around 7% of all students — a key focus of our hiring and purchasing decisions?

The progressive thinking that seeks to push political agendas through racial-grievance guilt trips is a big part of our problem in Rhode Island, and we need to break its hold on us.

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