To the Editor:
Let’s make it clear. Reed Hastings was not denied confirmation to the California state board of education because he wanted English-language learners to receive 2½ hours of English instruction a day (“Voted Out,” Jan. 19, 2005.) The “sound bite” of “2½ hours of English instruction” was a public relations gesture that masked Mr. Hastings’ refusal to recognize that, since 1998 and under his leadership, the achievement gap between English-language learners and native English-speakers has grown.
So why were many teachers, administrators, and parents opposed to the reappointment of Mr. Hastings to the state board of education? Not because of his political beliefs, not because of his personal educational philosophy, and not because of his opinion on bilingual education, but because as president of the state board, he ignored the needs of 1.6 million students.
In thousands of 1st grade classrooms, children sit side by side, some speaking fluent English and some not knowing one word of English. It is just common sense that teaching the same exact reading lesson to these students, using the same exact materials written for students who speak English, doesn’t work. Teaching in English is not the same as teaching English.
California adopted rigorous English-Language Development, or ELD, standards that students must meet to demonstrate proficiency in English. English-language learners annually take a statewide test aligned to these standards. The state board chaired by Reed Hastings denied students the opportunity to be taught to these standards because it did not adopt standards-aligned textbooks to teach students English.
We need new members on the state board of education who understand the needs of all California students and will make it a priority to adopt materials, provide teacher training, and give assessments that effectively teach English to English-language learners.
Long Beach, Calif.
A version of this article appeared in the February 09, 2005 edition of Education Week as Calif. Board Member’s Departure: Another View