Shouldn't Education Have a Level Playing Field?

Should El Marino be one of the only Culver City schools to have language immersion?

Shouldn't public education be a level playing field?

OK, it's going to be difficult to write this article without sounding like a "complainer." You will just have to take my word for it--complaining for the sake of complaining is just not in my DNA. So I am raising the question here today because I have never been able to come up with a good answer myself, and maybe someone out there can help me out?

Now that we are on the same page with the motivation behind the headline, here's what it's all about: Why is El Marino one of the only Spanish immersion elementary school in Culver City? Isn't the very essence of having taxpayers fund the school system, that the same opportunity be available for ALL children who attend these schools?

If the playing field isn't level, i.e. some children are somehow deemed to be more worthy than others, then who gets to decide and why? Who gets to decide what criteria is used to determine who is selected and who is not? Something just doesn't sit right, or is it just me?

Another thing that just doesn't settle right is the selection process itself. El Marino ends up with more applications than places available. So they have a lottery every year and names are pulled out of a hat. One troubling thing for me is that the so-called "lottery" is NOT carried out in public, so no one really knows how the "lottery" is conducted. Shouldn't this process have the cleansing power of the full light of day so that there can be no doubt as to the veracity of the process?

All taxpayers pay in so all taxpayers are entitled to complete openness, right? Or am I just being old fashioned?

Lastly, Culver City has five elementary schools. Whether we like it or not, there is a de facto two-tier system. By whose authority did we get here? We certainly couldn't have one school that taught--oh, let's say--Judaism or Christianity when the others did not, and that these schools took applications from parents and then decided behind closed doors who was "in" and who was "out."

I am all for raising the standards of education, and El Marino has an exemplary record of which they should be very proud. Somehow for me, even though both of my children are beyond the age where they could attend El Marino (so I have no ulterior motive for penning this article). Their achievements are attained in a way that excludes a large number of students from it. There have to be better ways for our children to learn to speak Spanish without employing some arbitrary, shrouded in secrecy, system for a select few.

This is, and has always been, very troubling to me--I would love to know what your thoughts are.

Mike King is an Associate Partner at Partners Trust Real Estate and Acquisitions. He is passionate about three things: Family, Real Estate, and McVities Chocolate Biscuits (or cookies to the uninitiated). You can connect with Mike on Twitter @mikeking4re and on Facebook.







Mike King October 02, 2010 at 06:05 PM
Sara, thanks for taking part in the discussion, all of what you say is very valid. We can't get away from the fact that only 20% of students entering middle school have a massive advantage over the other 80% for no other reason than they were selected (the method of selection is also questionable, the lottery should be done in the open) to attend the only language immersion school that is available. This is not a nuanced difference between elementary schools. It is a massive disparity in opportunity and, in my view, is not right.
Jesica Davis October 06, 2010 at 07:26 AM
I think what's missing from this conversation is a constructive recommendation on your part regarding what education in Culver City Unified ought to look like. Though you say you are not one inclined to complain for its own sake, a responsible conversation regarding education policy cannot be left at "it's just not right." While I don't know the history of El Marino, I have always assumed that, at one point, the idea was approved to try a language immersion program at one of the schools. It's been a success, obviously, and is a desirable program. I applaud Ms. Stehlin and others like her who are working to expand the scope of the program to include more Culver City families. I had a daughter at La Ballona last year and the new immersion program seemed like a wonderful development for the school. Perhaps your column can deepen your exploration of this topic by supporting the expansion of language education in Culver City and making that a priority issue for the elementary schools. This would be a positive expression of what I sense is your desire to keep ALL Culver City students competitive in an increasingly global job market. Jesica Bornemann Davis
Madeline Ehrlich August 13, 2011 at 03:01 AM
Thank you Jeannine and Sara for making the needed corrections to this article. This is a very good example of how misinformed some of the adults in our community are. The need to educate goes beyond our students. I hope that one of the goals of our District will be to educate the community as well . This misinformation leads to a lot of anger, inappropriate blaming and more damaging misinformation.
JLS August 16, 2011 at 03:34 AM
Would love to see the expansion of language education at all Culver Elementary schools - as long as immersion remains an option and not the de facto standard. I still contend that while some kids thrive in immersion, others do not. Keep our options open, offer secondary language education from an early age, and don't keep shutting down kindergartens at one neighborhood school (effectively crippling that school's long-term survival) for the benefit of another.
Mike King August 16, 2011 at 04:06 PM
Madeline, Thanks for joining the conversation. I am sorry that your interpretation of the post was that it was coming from anger and inappropriate blaming. I can assure neither of these were present when I wrote the post, or now. If you read the post again, I am merely shining light on what I believe to be a very unbalanced system, and asking why. I would like to see the imbalance addressed, and addressed swiftly. Our States own web site has the Hispanic population in the majority in another 10 years. I believe bi lingual students have a massive advantage over those that don't. It just a plain fact that when entering middle school around 80% of our students are at a distinct disadvantage.


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