Tuesday, May 24, 2005


And I thought minority cultures were supposed to be sacrosanct!

Early last school year, an African American high school student entered a first-grade classroom where she was volunteering as a teaching assistant. The first-graders, children of the Russian and Ukranian immigrant community around North Highlands, had had little contact with people of color. Their first response, say two administrators who supervise the schools, was fear. They screamed and cowered in a corner of the classroom. This wasn't supposed to happen. When Grant Community Charters, which runs the elementary school, began two years ago, it was envisioned as a charter school program that would provide work force training to the multiethnic youth of Del Paso Heights.

It became something quite different: A system of five public schools, from kindergarten to high school, where nearly all the students are white in a school district that is 37 percent white. Of the charter schools' 1,380 students, so far only 28 are in a vocational program. Those are also the only children not from Slavic immigrant families. The students are mostly evangelical Christians, and three of the schools are housed in churches. For many students, the school day begins with voluntary prayer.

Though the starkness of their situation may be unique, the Grant schools face a dilemma common to many charter schools. Because charters are public schools developed with a specific community's interests in mind, the students they attract tend to be less diverse than their neighborhoods as a whole, a uniformity that could conflict with the intent of state and federal anti-discrimination policies.

Grant Community Charters began as a collaboration between the Grant Joint Union High School District and the community, the sort of effort charter schools are designed to allow. Grant created a single school two years ago, which from the beginning served an overwhelmingly Slavic population. Then in August 2004, Grant created a charter high school and took over three other schools that had been run by another charter operator that collapsed and also principally enrolled Slavs. The schools are scattered. Futures High and two elementary schools are in North Highlands. One elementary school is in Rio Linda and another is on Jackson Road, west of Bradshaw Road in the Elk Grove Unified School District. The elementary schools are collectively known as the Grant Community Outreach Academy and do not have individual names.

Grant district officials acknowledge they sometimes have struggled between the Slavic immigrants' expectations for the schools and what U.S. law permits. The schools' short history has been turbulent:

* Although state law and Grant Community Charters' founding documents require the schools to attempt to reflect the racial makeup of the districts they serve, the schools do not - nor has much attention been given to this concern.

* The African American real estate developer who started the schools left the schools' board of directors this year after it was clear their focus had shifted.

* The schools' academic performance ranks in the bottom 10 percent statewide, lower than any other schools in the neighborhoods they serve. If their scores don't improve dramatically when the charter expires in 2008, state law could require them to close.

* An outside study faulted the schools last year, when they were under different management, for their religious content. Some parents still view the schools as religious, although Grant officials say they are not.

More than 100,000 Slavic immigrants have moved to the Sacramento region over the past decade. The 2000 census identifies more than 7,200 people of Russian or Ukrainian ancestry living in the Grant district.

Eileen Rishard teaches at the Jackson Road site. She said she tries to keep her students' culture intact. "I play Tchaikovsky in the morning," she said, standing in her classroom. "This is my newest addition." She opened a cabinet to reveal a ceramic tea set. "This tea set is from Armenia."

But Lynn Massetti, a second-grade teacher at one of the North Highlands schools, said she thinks the immigrant parents could be erring in shielding their children from the mainstream public schools. "You can't be scared and hide," she said.

Teachers and parents said the families wanted to get out of district public schools, which they perceive as dangerous. "We know big high schools are very bad," said Mikhail Novikov, who immigrated in 1990. Novikov is an administrative assistant at the charter high school. His seven children went to Rio Linda High, before the charters existed. "Many parents were very afraid," he said. From the street, the charter schools don't much resemble typical schools, but they do provide comfort for many parents. Three of the schools are on church campuses, which is common and legal for charters. One is at the former McClellan Air Force Base. Inside, though, classrooms look similar to those throughout the state.

Most of the Slavic families enrolled are religious refugees, according to school staff. "I genuinely believe they feel this is a safer campus for their children," said Valerie Buehl, a fourth-grade teacher at one of the sites. "They're very devout, and all the other children here are the same."

Florin Ciuriuc, executive director of the Slavic Community Center of Sacramento, which was involved in the creation of the charter schools, describes some of the schools as "sort of private." One of his children attends the charter elementary at McClellan Park. Though he said he respects the separation of church and state, Ciuriuc said he thinks discipline is maintained at the schools because the day can start with prayer. "A lot of what has to do with schools is prayer," Ciuriuc said.

Randy Orzalli, the Grant administrator who supervises the schools, says no prayer occurs at the schools, but parents are able to take students to daily prayers nearby. Orzalli said one of the challenges of running the schools has been trying to impress on Ciuriuc and others the importance of separation of church and state. "A lot of parents wanted a private religious school," Orzalli said. "Not only are we not interested in that, it's not legal." The law also requires charter schools to attempt to be racially representative of the communities they serve. The Grant charter high school is 94.8 percent white, and the elementary schools are 99.1 percent white. The Grant district is 37 percent white. Elk Grove Unified, where one of the charter schools is located, is 32 percent white.

Orzalli said the schools' homogeneity is a direct consequence of the reason children enroll: to learn English in a welcoming environment. But he said the ultimate goal is to integrate the children into the mainstream. Parents picking up their children at the Jackson Road school said their main concern is what they see as the moral depravity in mainstream public schools. They feel the charter schools allow them to preserve their values. "The cultural and moral counts more than the educational," said Miroslav Vysotsky, the father of two children at the school.....

More here


Australian universities were seriously jeopardising their international reputations by placing profits before academic quality, the architect of one the world's leading English language testing systems has warned. David Ingram, a Melbourne academic who co-developed the International English Language Testing System almost 20 years ago in England, yesterday attacked universities for misusing his system. He said this had ultimately led to a serious drop in academic standards. Professor Ingram said the problem was caused in part by "irresponsible action on the part of some universities which were willing to sacrifice quality for money".

"Too often, teaching staff, either out of sympathy for the students or from pressure from marketers or administrators … push students through, whatever the students' levels of performance," he said. "In doing so, they show little regard for the welfare of the international students entering their programs, and for the long-term negative impact such scant regard for quality will have on their ability to attract students and, consequently, on their revenue."

Professor Ingram, who served as the testing system's chief examiner in Australia for 10 years and is now the executive dean of Melbourne University's Private School of Applied Language Studies, said he did not dispute the findings of a Herald investigation, which pointed to widespread problems associated with the influx of non-English speaking full-fee-paying students over the past decade. One in five students now enrolled at Australian universities is from overseas, most having gained access after sitting the English proficiency test. Professor Ingram defended the integrity of the test, saying it was the universities' inappropriate use, interpretation and application of the test's results that had led to many non-English speaking students being accepted into courses beyond their capabilities. This, in turn, had led to an overall drop in academic standards. He said his criticism applied to most Australian universities because they accepted students with a proficiency level below his recommendation of 7.0 on the test. Most universities accept overseas students if they achieve an overall score of 6.0 for undergraduate programs and 6.5 for postgraduate programs.

Professor Ingram acknowledged that a fall in Federal Government funding had forced universities to accept overseas students with inadequate language skills. However, he said the universities themselves needed to compensate for this by providing more support and language-skill programs to ensure academic standards were maintained. A study on entry procedures conducted by Professor Ingram at Griffith University in 2001-02 found widespread unease among academics who said they felt obliged to push international students through "and would pass them if they could make any sense at all out of what they wrote". Professor Ingram said the findings were "quite depressing". He said he had come across two PhD candidates from overseas who were "barely coherent" in English, yet had completed postgraduate degrees at two of Australia's most respected universities. They had been exempted from sitting the language test to gain entry. "All I was able to assume was that, undoubtedly in the false belief that they were being supportive, their supervisors had helped the students write their theses or had turned a blind eye to the fact that someone else was helping them."



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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