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Jewish World Review Aug. 25, 1999 /13 Elul, 5759

Walter Williams

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News from the education front --
LAST MONTH, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the State of California is not in violation of federal civil-rights statutes by testing prospective public school teachers.

According to a July 14 Los Angeles Times article, eight unsuccessful test-takers, and groups representing minority teachers, challenged the legality of the California Basic Education Skills Test (CBEST), charging it discriminates against minorities. Statistics presented during the litigation showed that 80 percent of whites passed the test the first time, compared to 38 percent for blacks, 49 percent for Mexican-Americans and 60 percent for Asian-Americans.

CBEST is not rocket science, especially for a college graduate. A multiple choice question on the math portion asked: A school district is proposing a 5 percent increase in the number of days in a school year. Currently there are 180 days in a school year. How long would a school year be with the proposed increase? a. 181 days, b. 183 days, c. 185 days, d. 189 days or e. 270 days.

Another question asked: Seven more than 2 times a number is 35. What is the number? a. 42, b. 28, c. 21, d. 14 and e. 5. The question missed most frequently on the math test asked how many students could be served a half pint of milk from a five-gallon container. I'm not going to insult readers by giving the answers to these questions.

One would expect that an eighth-grader, surely a 10th-grader, would have mastered most of the material on California's teacher test. It's disgraceful that people who want to teach our young people have not mastered eighth- and 10th-grade reading, writing and arithmetic. What's worse is they sue the state after having failed the test. I'd go hide in a corner.

John T. Affeldt, the plaintiff's attorney, said, "It means we're going to continue to see a predominantly white teaching force in California and that qualified teachers of color will be disproportionately hindered from applying." That's amazing newspeak. I'd like Affeldt to tell us how can a teacher be called qualified if he can't demonstrate mastery of eighth- and 10th-grade material.

Civil-rights organizations and black leaders always side with teachers against competency testing. Here's a test question for you to answer: What schools do you suppose teachers are assigned who haven't mastered eighth- and 10th-grade reading, writing and arithmetic? a. Predominately black or Mexican-American schools or b. Predominately white schools.

But it's really not that surprising that black "leaders" and civil-rights organizations side with teacher interests rather than the interests of young black people. Poll after poll show black parents in favor of school vouchers by large margins, yet the Black Caucus and the NAACP fight tooth and nail against school vouchers that would give black parents more options in finding better education opportunities for their children.

Last year, House Majority Leader Dick Armey sponsored a bill that would have provided 2,000 scholarships for low-income D.C. children to attend private schools. D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes-Norton led protest demonstrations against vouchers in Washington. Norton has greater concern for maintaining the education establishment's monopoly than the interests of black youngsters -- youngsters educationally handicapped and made useless for the high-tech world of the 21st century.

The good news is that these people's days are numbered, as more and more black people wise up to the civil-rights rope-a-dope. Black parents are not only increasingly sending their children to non-public schools but are fleeing cities with rotten schools, such as Washington, D.C., in droves.

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©1999, Creators Syndicate