Parents, district blamed for low scores

Local Latinos say parents need to be more involved and Newport-Mesa needs to raise expectations of students.

NEWPORT-MESA — Some members of the Latino community are blaming lack of parental involvement and low school district expectations for years of poor standardized test scores at Costa Mesa’s West Side elementary schools.

Released Wednesday, the Stanford 9 elementary school test scores for the district’s limited-English students range from the 18th to 30th percentiles. The four schools that have the highest limited-English populations include: Wilson, Whittier, Pomona and Rea elementary schools. All have between 80% and 92% limited-English student populations.

Although the Stanford 9 test scores can’t be directly compared to the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills scores, which the district used the previous two years, school officials said some comparisons can be made because both test the same subject areas: reading, writing, math and language.

In both tests, the West Side schools have had the lowest scores in the district. The root of the problem, school officials claim, is the language barrier. State bilingual mandates — which were recently eliminated by the state board of education and the passage of Proposition 227 — required that students be taught basic language skills in their primary language until they become proficient in English.

“These students were taught to read and write in Spanish,” said Eleanor Anderson, the district’s director of assessment programs. “They have not been taught in English, but we were required to test them in English.” School board member Wendy Leece said she hopes the passage of Proposition 227, will motivate these students to learn English faster.

“Proposition 227 is a paradigm shift,” Leece said. “This is a new day. Let’s see what next year’s test scores will look like.” But in the meantime, some members of the Latino community are unhappy with the district’s track record in the West Side schools.

“This is not acceptable,” said Paty Madueno, a member of the St. Joachim Organizing Committee. “It seems like this is not a priority for the school board.” Madueno said many Latino parents she has spoken to feel their concerns are ignored by the school district and the administration of their childrens’ schools.

“It’s very frustrating for us,” she said. “We see a child at Kaiser [elementary school] that has better benefits from the children at Whittier.” Madueno said other Latino parents complain about having to work through the school district’s bureaucracy when attempting to present their concerns.

“We want a change, now,” she said. “We want to participate in the process.” Oscar Santoyo, the director of Save Our Youth center in Costa Mesa, said he hopes the test scores will mobilize the Latino community to become more active in schools.

“It’s depressing when we score like this,” he said. “What we need is more parent involvement. I think the schools are doing a good job. The kids need to be taught, no matter what and parents have to get involved.” Maria Elena Avila, a member of the Hispanic Education Endowment Fund, said she hopes newly appointed Superintendent Robert Barbot will be able to bring more resources to bear to help improve test scores at West Side schools.

“My thought is that I hope the new superintendent will look at these concerns that we have,” Avila said. “This is a problem we have in the Latino community and we have to be more proactive. Educating our Latino population is very crucial.”

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