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San Diego Unified schools are facing a crisis of intentionally designed mediocrity.
The desire to slash honors courses and upend traditional grading stems from the same bad philosophy animating its top leaders.
Their vision is captured by Marcia Gentry, director of the Gifted Education Resource Institute at Purdue, who claims that a test is “not really a raw ability test. Otherwise it would yield equal numbers among all groups of people.” In this line of thinking tests are clearly racist because as of today there are outcome disparities associated with race.
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In a recent article in the San Diego Union Tribune, Richard Barrera, trustee on the San Diego Unified School District argued that determining a student’s intelligence via a test is “silly.” The paper paraphrased, saying he described the tests as “outdated and rooted in racism.”
Barrera makes the argument that personal recommendations from parents and teachers are a better metric to judge a student’s educational capabilities than actual tests. Barrera is moving the district toward eliminating advanced honors courses, and toward a pass-fail based grading system, where nobody is allowed to fail, because nobody is allowed to excel.
This will prove disastrous if left unchecked. The argument that academic testing was created to institute a racial hierarchy is a flat-out lie. It is a lazy solution that will take us down the dangerous path of leaving our students unprepared for the challenges of the real world.
Recently, Patrick Henry High parents were stunned to discover that some honors courses were no longer available to students. In the wake of public outcry this was amended and has since been seemingly resolved.
However, I’m of the strong opinion that district leaders are going to try this again and try it everywhere. I don’t believe they are sorry they did it. I believe they are sorry they got caught and didn’t properly brand the agenda.
To be sure, when these bad ideas resurface, they will be rebranded as “advanced courses for all,” but, in reality, they will be a one-size-fits-all intentionally designed mediocrity. Not everyone can take an advanced course, because students find themselves in different places, at different times. Unfortunately, these bankrupt course-ending ideas are often met with compassion, the essential fuel behind the equal outcome agenda, now branded as “equity.”
In truth, these arguments that play on compassion and caring are anything but. This vision is entirely forgetful of familial ties, and economic disparities, which are the two factors widely associated with educational outcomes.
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Rather than looking to the family, they have set their eyes on the new radical chic, i.e. biological determinism based on race. This new form of discriminatory racism is now in vogue, and playing out at a school near you, to its detriment.
As parents pull their kids out in droves, by the tens of thousands in San Diego, away goes the needed funding that is based on average daily attendance. Almost everything is trending the wrong way in San Diego Unified, and that should be a cause for concern for all Americans. Mocking California’s failures from a distance is a self-defeating indulgence. There are real kids being left behind, and a once-great place that’s sliding into decline.
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Someone must stop the bleeding driven by bad ideas. The next great scientist, architect, writer, or engineer cannot come out of San Diego if individual students are not allowed to pull themselves up as far as they can, regardless of their race.
San Diego’s leaders seem unaware that they operate in an echo chamber of discriminatory, anti-individualistic, anti-excellence thought. They would be well advised to welcome someone who truly stands for academic excellence, not radical social experimentation on children.
Rebecca Williams is a mom, former classroom teacher, co-founder of Valor charter schools, athlete, and candidate for San Diego Unified School District.