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Editor's Corner: Learning, by words, numbers

The sad test scores reported by Bill Coate on Page A1 of today’s Madera Tribune could be one of the main reasons the Madera Unified School District trustees decided to terminate the contract of Superintendent Ed Gonzales last month. The board members aren’t saying, but it is a strong coincidence that the release date of the test scores and the decision to fire Gonzales were so close in timing. School officials know well in advance when those scores are going to be made public.

While some schools showed up worse than others on the tests, one would think a few of the schools could have risen to the occasion and made some real improvement. That didn’t happen.

The consistently low scores raise this question: What is going on in the classrooms of those schools scoring the lowest in English and math?

Even the much-vaunted charter schools and the schools of the Golden Valley School District did relatively poorly.

One thing is obvious — the majority of students in these schools have poor English skills, and their parents don’t appear to be helping them learn as parents of previous generations of immigrants have helped their children.

Parents could help by becoming part of the educational process and learning English themselves and speaking English in their homes.

Millions of immigrants before the present generation have helped their children this way. Learning to speak English was the principal way those parents became Americans, and using the language in the home, around their children, was the way they helped their children assimilate, do better in school and succeed in life.

English-as-a-second-language classes are available to almost anyone who immigrates. Grasping the language of the country that will become their new home is the best way they can help their children do better.

One also might ask why the students are doing poorly in math. The answer, again, is language. Math is complicated even for the best students, and must be explained so that students can catch on. Again, the importance of language to the students can’t be overemphasized. And neither can the importance of their parents’ helping them to learn their new language.

This is not a new problem. It won’t be solved in a day. But if it can be solved eventually, the test scores should rise.


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