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November 05, 2004 Extra Credit
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November 5, 2004

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Thanks to NCLB, "All Hispanic Children Truly Have A Genuine Chance To Succeed"

The following are excerpts from the English translation of an op-ed by Shawn Arévalo McCollough, principal of Gainesville Elementary School in Georgia. The op-ed ran in the October 30th edition of La Opinion (Los Angeles, CA):

"Gainesville Elementary School just outside of Atlanta GA, is a shining example of how President Bush's No Child Left Behind Law helps Hispanic students. Although 93% of our kids live in poverty and 70% are Hispanic immigrant students who have difficulty with English, over 90% of our students passed the English only Georgia State Testing in 2004. How did it happen? It was the simple combination of hard work, high expectations, and most importantly the vision and power of NCLB.

"This success is very significant because it provides undeniable proof that Hispanic kids and families will rise to your level of expectations. However, there are still individuals who recklessly complain that NCLB is bad for Hispanic kids. As a Hispanic Principal, I am outraged to hear teacher union representatives like John Perez, college professors like Gary Orfield, and so called advocacy organizations like National Council of La Raza point fingers at NCLB, because they are simply making excuses and essentially "crying wolf". Worse, many of these complainers have never even worked in public schools and consequently have no credibility. They espouse a "learned helplessness" that systematically and dramatically lowers the bar of expectations for our Hispanic kids and families. Here in the US, this type of helplessness perpetuates the dangerous cycle of stereotypes that limits our Hispanic students. How will our Hispanic kids ever develop pride and independence if all they hear are complaints that the system is unfair?

"With regard to NCLB, your claim that it punishes and under-funds schools with Hispanic students is categorically untrue. Over 420 of my 600 students are living proof that Hispanic immigrant kids receive the absolute best possible education, including highly trained passionate teachers, comprehensive textbooks, state of the art technology and materials; all fully funded because of NCLB. In fact, I can say from experience that funding for our Hispanic at-risk kids at my schools have increased tremendously each year under President Bush's leadership.

"Beyond funding, NCLB provides unprecedented accountability for results. Having been a Hispanic teacher and now principal, I have worked with countless teachers who simply did not care about Hispanic students. I have watched schools arbitrarily fail out, drop out, and force out Hispanic kids because they were unable or worse, unwilling to help them succeed. But now because of NCLB, schools are finally mandated by the law to help all kids achieve success. Apathetic teachers cannot hide out or make excuses like "these students don't speak English" any longer. Everyone is bound by the same accountability for results - no excuses!"

"Further, NCLB is still in its infancy and was passed by both political parties and supported by educators everywhere. After two short years, we have already made immense strides towards empowering our Hispanic kids and families, giving them a voice in schools, and ensuring academic excellence for all. However, there is still a need for caution as we move down the road to equity. Continued premature condemnation or criticism of NCLB only serves to hurt our chances of making the law work. I can tell you from experience that we owe so much to the vision, power, and hope of NCLB because now all Hispanic children truly have a genuine chance to succeed. If you don't believe this, I challenge anyone to come to Gainesville GA, look my Hispanic kids in their proud eyes, and tell them that in spite of their 90% passing rate on state tests, NCLB is still unfair."

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NCLB Extra Credit is a regular look at the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush's landmark education reform initiative passed with bipartisan support in Congress.

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Last Modified: 11/05/2004