July 2005

Supply and Demand

July 2005 Cover

The board of the nation’s second largest district, with a K-12 student enrollment of three quarters of a million, Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) last month approved a controversial plan to toughen graduation requirements — a plan which requires all students to complete two years of foreign language study as part of the college-prep curriculum in order to get a diploma.

Jose Huizar, who campaigned for the curriculum requirement, called it a profound high school reform that would have implications throughout the district, lifting it out of “perpetual mediocrity.” “This is one of the most significant reforms this district is embarking on in the last 20 years. The payoffs will be huge, the impacts will be huge,” he said after the vote. “Really what this is about is providing thousands of students an opportunity to attend college — an opportunity denied to them with the current policies and practices.”

The University of California and the California State University systems require applicants to complete two years each of history/social studies, laboratory science, foreign language; three years of math; four years of English; one year of visual or performing arts; and one year of a college-preparatory elective. LAUSD already required most of these courses to graduate with the notable exception of Algebra II and the two years of foreign language.

The most remarkable aspect of the policy change was the extent of support for the move from parents and students despite the fact that it will make graduation harder. Hundreds of students wore T-shirts that read “Let me choose my future,” and chanted “Give us life prep, not a life sentence,” before the board meeting. They mobilized in support of the move because they recognize that colleges and employers are demanding language skills.

High schools have to adapt to the demands of employers and colleges even if it further extends already stretched budgets. Of course, schools are under a lot of pressure to lower their drop-out rates and will resist any moves which make graduation more difficult, but their role should be to produce graduates capable of going to college and getting worthwhile jobs. We must not settle for schools which do not offer our children the opportunities they all deserve. If this means increasing education budgets, so be it. Investing for the future is generally a wise course of action.


Helping Kids Who Are Not From Around Here Feel at Home
Jane D. Hill offers a framework to help rural schools assimilate English Language Learners

Publish, Profit or Perish
Steven Donahue recommends self-publishing for aspiring teacher-authors

Self-Publishing Directory
Now that you are ready to become a published author, here is a selection of companies that provide short-run publishing and print-on-demand services

The Whys and Wherefores
Dounald Thomas reveals what motivates students to study abroad and what they can expect to gain from it

Spanish Secrets
Hannah Zeiler goes off the beaten track in search
of Spain’s less obvious language learning destinations

Valuing Bilingualism?
Domenico Maceri looks at the long-term value of bilingual education

Last Writes
Richard Lederer and Boo-yah! A Guide to Teenspeak