Saturday, April 07, 2007

California High School "diversity" nonsense good for Asians

In 1969, when nearly every student at Beverly Hills High School was white, school officials went looking for some help diversifying the campus. They found it in the polyglot Los Angeles school system that surrounds the tony, iconic city. Under a system of "diversity permits," the high school began enrolling scores of minority students from Los Angeles each year. For decades, the permit program aimed to bring in a deliberate mix of black, Latino and Asian students from outside the city limits.

Today, however, the vast majority of the students enrolled with diversity permits at Beverly Hills High are high-performing Asian students. The dramatic shift stems from California's stringent anti-affirmative action law, approved by voters in 1996. Concerned with running afoul of the sweeping ban, Beverly Hills school officials have followed what amounts to a "don't ask, don't tell" policy on the diversity permits. Students who apply are not allowed to identify their race or ethnicity.

The program has become as competitive as the Ivy League, with about 8% of the students who applied last year being accepted. Critics say the program has shifted by default from a program aimed at increasing racial and ethnic diversity to one that simply brings smart, well-rounded students into the district. "We were looking to expand diversity but didn't have any racial information," said Dan Stepenosky, the former principal at Beverly Hills High. "We were operating blind, to be honest."

Not only does the high number of Asian students raise questions about the purpose of the program, but it also illustrates the inability of the Los Angeles Unified School District to keep its high-performing students in its schools. The permit program offers another option, along with private schools or even moving outside the district, for parents dissatisfied with the academics and concerned about safety on L.A. Unified campuses.

"Why wouldn't I take advantage of this opportunity?" said Teresa Roth, whose two sons are half Asian and attend Beverly Hills High on diversity permits. "In LAUSD, they don't care if your kid is gifted, if he plays sports, if he is well-rounded. They couldn't have cared less. I felt quite let down." Roth, who lives in Westwood, said she started looking for a way out of the L.A. school system after applying unsuccessfully to enroll her older son, David, in one of the district's selective magnet high schools. Sending her sons to a large, traditional Los Angeles Unified high school, she said, was not an option she was willing to consider.

The Beverly Hills High diversity permits, Roth said, offered a free, quality education on a safe campus. Several Asian students who attend Beverly Hills High on the permits gave similar reasons. In California, students cannot enroll in schools outside their districts without special permits.

Of the 159 Los Angeles Unified students who attend Beverly Hills High on diversity permits, 108 - more than two out of three - are Asian, according to L.A. Unified statistics. Only 16 of the students are Latino and 19 are black. Those numbers do nothing to balance diversity at Beverly Hills High, where - excluding those with permits - minority students are also mostly Asian. About 17% of the 2,362 students at the school are of Asian extraction, about 4% are Latino and about 5% are African American. Nearly 70% of the students are white, a category that includes 450 students of Persian descent.

The disproportionate number of Asians who receive the permits also stands in stark contrast to the racial breakdown of the 12 L.A. Unified middle schools that participate in the permit program. More than half of the students at those schools are Latino, one-quarter are African American and fewer than 8% are Asian. Beverly Hills Unified School District Supt. Kari McVeigh acknowledged that the numbers are skewed, but she defended the permits. The Los Angeles students, she said, bring an element of diversity to the sheltered, upscale world of Beverly Hills regardless of their race. "This is very much a small town surrounded by a large city, and kids here experience life very much through the lens of a small town," she said. "Any time you can . have different kids who come together from different experiences, it's a good idea. The permit program allows us to do that."

She also conceded that money is one of the motivating factors for keeping the program alive. Because the amount of public funds a school receives is based on the number of students enrolled, Beverly Hills High uses the diversity permits - and other types of permits - to fill empty seats and maximize funding. This year, the district will receive nearly $1 million for enrolling the diversity-permit students.


Choosing education

America’s system of public education has earned an extraordinary distinction in comparison to the public schools of our international competitors. Only in America do we commit such egregious malpractice against our children that they actually get dumber every year they remain trapped in the public school monopoly. Public schools suffer the same defense as members of Congress: “They’re all terrible except for mine.” As I am a candidate for Congress and a product of American public schools, I feel I have an obligation to speak truth to power. Your public school and your Congressional representative are - statistically speaking - probably both dismal failures, and for the same reason: neither is truly accountable to constituents. The similarities are striking, if not terrifying:

· Political forces largely outside the control of citizens and voters establish districts that rarely have anything to do with serving the public, but frequently have everything to do with maintaining monopoly power.

· In Congress, members gerrymander their districts to insulate themselves from competitive elections.

· In public schools, bureaucrats set neighborhood school boundaries that prevent competition among schools.

· We measure inputs rather than results.

· In Congress, increasing budgets are the most important measure of a program’s power and success, regardless of whether the program accomplishes anything, whether it’s necessary, or even if the program is counterproductive.

· In public schools, supporters equate greater quality with increased funding, despite the absence of any statistical correlation between increased budgets and improved outcomes.

· Failure results in more funding.

· In Congress, failed programs are never the result of bad ideas, implementation, or employees. They are always the result of too little funding.

· In public schools, illiteracy, dropouts, declining test scores, and the inability to match wits with our international peers are never the result of bad curricula, bad teachers, or bad instruction methods. They are always the result of bad parents, unreasonable expectations, and too little funding.

· The leaders follow fads without any evidence that their path will take them where they want to go.

· In Congress, legislators and committees use the rule of magpies - they find something bright and then they land on it. This is why Congress holds endless hearings about issues that belong on “Entertainment Tonight” and “Dateline” rather than about issues that really matter to citizens.

· In public schools, the curriculum is so dedicated to political correctness, new math, and whole language learning that it has escaped the attention of professional educators that our children do not know whether the phrase, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” comes from Thomas Jefferson or Karl Marx; how to read a food label, make change, or balance a checkbook; and, how to read, spell, and write.

· Our best and brightest flee with alarming speed and regularity.

· In Congress, voters commonly complain that they rarely have the opportunity to choose among candidates that excite or enthuse them.

· In public schools, teachers with the highest ratings for generating positive educational outcomes among their students rarely work more than five years before leaving the field entirely.

· When we are unsatisfied with the outcomes, we have few alternatives and very little recourse.

· In Congress, because of gerrymandered voting districts, earmarking, and the financial and promotional advantages of incumbency, lawmakers are virtually guaranteed re-election.

· In public schools, our only option is to move our children to private schools, at our own expense, because parents have virtually no influence over institutions that serve bureaucrats, politicians, and unions rather than students. To add insult to injury, even if we can afford private school tuition, we still have to pay property taxes for a service we found so dissatisfying that we abandoned it.

I believe that universal public education is essential. Universal public education is essential for developing engaged citizens, critical thinkers, and an advanced economy. It’s an investment in our children, our country, and our future. But, like any investment, we can make wise or poor decisions about where to allocate our resources. Today, and for a generation or more, we make very poor decisions.

This is not unusual in a socialized system - a system in which public servants allocate investments on behalf of a public they supposedly represent. In reality, the central planners who control education investments respond to politics rather than the needs of our children. The reason is simple and understandable: the public education system survives on the largesse of a political system, rather than on the dollars and needs of its customers.

The bureaucrats in the federal and state departments of education are as hopelessly out of touch as the bureaucrats who tried to centrally plan the economies of the failed communist countries. Without any information about which outcomes are actually relevant, they rely on the only information they have - how much money they spend. The Federal government made an effort at remedying this bizarre situation with mandatory testing in the tragic “No Child Left Behind” law. Unfortunately, NCLB allows each state to decide how to conduct that testing. The result is entirely predictable: state political and education leaders manipulate the tests and their definition of “passing grades” to comply with the Federal mandates and secure the Federal funding. So, rather than finding out whether our children are learning anything, we find out how bureaucrats have to adjust the “passing grade” each year to make sure that it reflects “adequate yearly progress.”

The solution to this Kafkaesque comedy of manners is simple, radical, and painfully controversial: allow parents and children to decide which school they want to attend. Only by allowing this kind of choice - using the public funds we already allocate to universal education to permit families to choose the right school, the right teachers, the right instruction method, and the right curriculum - will we be able to convey to schools the infinite range of variables necessary to make wise investments. In the same way that entrepreneurs strive to build better mousetraps, to deliver better products at lower costs, to respond to the unique demands of 300 million Americans - entrepreneurs will respond to educational choice with a veritable mall of choices that meet the needs of the real consumers of universal public education.

Putting more money into a system that doesn’t work will not make the system work. The incentives to perform in today’s public education system are set by people who have an interest in securing more power and more money, and the people responding to those incentives are accountable to the politicians and bureaucrats who set them. Only educational choice will make schools accountable to the constituents who matter - our children.



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"

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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