Tips For Teachers

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How to Write Effective Progress Reports

Building Relational Trust

"Making Lessons Sizzle"

Marsha Ratzel: Taking My Students on a Classroom Tour

Marsha Ratzel on Teaching Math

David Ginsburg: Coach G's Teaching Tips

The Great Fire Wall of China

As my regular readers know, I am writing from China these days, and have been doing so four years so far. Sometimes the blog becomes inaccessible to me, making it impossible to post regularly. In fact, starting in late September 2014, China began interfering with many Google-owned entities of which Blogspot is one. If the blog seems to go dark for a while, please know I will be back as soon as I can get in again. I am sometimes blocked for many weeks at a time. I hope to have a new post up soon if I can gain access. Thank you for your understanding and loyalty.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Are Teachers Fast-Food Purveyors or Professionals?

I have been following an online discussion.  (Scratch that, what do you call it when one of the parties constantly responds with insults).  The topic is supposedly the public sector pensions of teachers.  “SP” is trying to argue that teachers are overpaid for the amount of work they do. The respondent never identifies himself as such,  but I would guess he probably is a teacher, so I’ll call him “Teacher.”*  If “SP” accurately reflects the public perception of the work teachers do, it is no wonder there is zero respect for teachers in our society.

SP: Teachers, as I pointed out, are paid a FULL year wage, for a part time job.

Teacher: As I have repeatedly pointed out, teaching is far from a part-time job. But you already know that. SP: The teaching contract proves my assertion.  Teachers work 37 weeks per year at a contracted 36 hour work week.

Teacher: Teachers work far in excess of their contracted hours and weeks.

SP:  All you do is make up lies about what hours teachers work, and it is 36 hours per week.  Truth can be painful for the trough feeder with entitlement mentality!

Teacher:  Regardless of the minimums that may be in a contract, no teacher limits themselves to the so called contract.  Teachers do not work part-time. In fact, one big reason new teachers quit in the first five years is they are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of out-of-class work that is necessary. What is true that they can save child care expenses because they have to do so much of the work at home.

SP:  Your incompetence is breathtaking! Nobody works more than their contracted hours.  The teachers union would never allow it.

Teacher: Teachers do not work part-time. That is the fact.  You are under some mistaken impression that the only time they work is during face-time with students? Such a misconception is prima facie ludicrous. SP:  Teachers work 6 hours per school day, even if they took home 2 hours of work they would still just be at 8 hours total. They do NOT take home 2 hours of work per day though.  Teachers work part time, that is a fact. Just keep making up the whoppers though, easy to shoot down.  36 hour work week, 37 week work year= part time job.

Teacher:  There is no way teachers can get all the work done they are responsible for during a six hour day. 

SP:  I know many teachers working 36 hours per week Some work even less. Teachers are NOT onsite at their schools for 8 hours per day unless you include the lunch break. They teach 5 hours per day plus a prep period of an hour, prep periods are used for grading papers and so forth.

Teacher (evidently losing patience):  If you think that one-hour prep period is sufficient for getting all the work done, you know nothing. That one hour  is a woefully insufficient amount of time.  Your anecdotal "I know many teachers..." is worthless. You really need to stop talking until you have spent a year getting some real-world experience. Try subbing for a year. Even volunteering as a classroom aide would change your tune.

SP:  No matter what you say, teachers work only part-time.

Teacher:  You would be screaming your head off if teachers actually worked a 36 hour work week for 37 weeks per year. They would do nothing but babysit kids. There would be no time for preparing lessons, making materials, previewing the audio-visuals, testing labs before kids do them, grading papers, calculating report cards, keeping up on professional literature, writing tests and so much more.  What do you think?  Should teachers work as long as it takes to complete all those listed tasks or should teachers work work the so-called "contracted" hours and no more?

SP:  You said, “There would be no time for preparing lessons, making materials, previewing the audio-visuals, testing labs before kids do them, grading papers, calculating report cards, keeping up on professional literature, writing tests and so much more.”  Lesson plans are prepared very infrequently, in fact you could use the same lesson plans throughout your entire career in many areas. Most school districts today have "lesson plan banks" that teachers use and share. You can also BUY lesson plans already made. Grading papers is done in the prep period. Calculating report cards should not be an issue and should also be done in the prep period. Keeping up on professional literature? That is not a job requirement and is also not mandated; it should be done on the teachers OWN time as it relates specifically to their job, it is basically optional "continuing education" required for the license. And professional development days, aka "minimum days", are given multiple times during the year at the expense of the student, so you lose that one. Writing "tests"?? Do you mean developing tests? They are part of lesson plans and curriculum, and again that is an issue that should not be repeated more than once every 2-3 years if that often.  The work load is a part-time 36 hour work week and a part time 37 week work year. Those are the contracted "work loads." I guess you just lost again.

Teacher: You clearly know nothing about being a teacher. Excellent teachers use off-the shelf stuff merely as a reference.  You would be even more unhappy with education outcomes if teacher used the off-the-shelf stuff in the manner you seem to believe they should.
Again I suggest you spend a year being a substitute teacher or even a classroom aide before you say another word about the work teachers do. Don't worry; I'll wait.

SP is evidently under the misconception that repeating a falsity often enough, through some sort of mysterious alchemy, will render that falsehood true. SP is also under the impression that a teaching job is more like a fast food job than anything else in the world of work.  How is it even possible to break through that wall of stubbornness against true facts?  Until our society decides whether teachers are professionals or hired laborers, it will be impossible to effect any meaningful education reform.

Teachers as professionals implies professional standards for entry into the profession, professional autonomy, professional judgment, professional salaries and the tenure to be free of whimsical termination.  Teachers as hired laborers implies strict conformity to the contracted hours, so-called “teacher-proof” curriculum, top-down job instructions and easy firing.  The strange hybrid status teachers have now is unsustainable.

*I camouflaged the user names of the parties.  I also cleaned up the grammar, and spelling of the comments and edited them a little bit for clarity.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Most American Math Teachers Cannot Teach Math

...because they studied non-math in school, not math. (And most of the rest of us have the same problem.)

I read Dr. Nancy Pine's book, Educating Young Giants, with great interest. The book is about her observation of classes in China, her discussions with Chinese teachers and parents (mostly through interpreters), and the comparisons she makes to American education. She admits to being ethnocentric at the time of her first visit to China in 1989, but while she could sometimes recognize her own egocentricity, she was not able to fully overcome it.

She noticed that in Chinese literature classes, teachers emphasized close reading and digging for the author's meaning. She felt that Chinese teachers denied students the opportunity to create personal meaning from the literature they read. Although her research in China centered on elementary literacy development, as a former math major (page 41), she became interested in observing elementary math classes. As everyone who has ever observed Chinese math classes has reported (see, for a few of many examples, Harold Stevenson, James Stigler, Liping Ma), she, too, witnessed superior teaching skill.

I have been teaching math in China for the last several years, and I taught in Japan for nearly two decades. I speak both Japanese and Mandarin. My conversations with people from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as written descriptions such as Educating Young Giants has led me to conclude that the actual education systems as well as the cultural foundations of both China and Japan are very similar.

Nancy Pine came to appreciate that Chinese teachers teach mathematics, but “most U.S. teachers merely teach arithmetic” (page 45). Dr. Pine is being generous. U.S. teachers teach non-math, specifically routines, tricks and shortcuts, but call it math on the misconception that if numbers are running around, it must be math.

Chinese teachers spend a significant amount of time considering a relatively simple math problem from every conceivable angle. The students probably already know the “answer” and that is precisely the advantage of using an easy problem. Because they already know the outcome, they can concentrate on the process, the concept-building. Once the concept is solid, their homework includes problems that American students eventually spiral to. China thereby reduces the need for the endless review so common in America.*

Dr. Pine herself admitted “that even with my strong interest in math, I would not have known enough about the underlying mathematical concepts to think through the best ways to present the initial problem that would enable students to correctly solve more complex ones” (page 45). See what she is saying? She is admitting that she was great at non-math, but weak at mathematics itself. Not only that, she says she knows “that most American grade-school teachers, who teach five or more subjects, do not have the depth of knowledge to walk children through mathematical concepts to prevent misunderstandings” (page 50).

She believes it is because American teachers are generalists who must teach every subject, while Chinese teachers are specialists who teach only one subject. I would like to suggest that being a generalist or a specialist has nothing to do with it. Chinese teachers could be generalists and their ability to teach math would still “far surpass ours” (page 46) because nearly all Chinese teachers, regardless of their particular specialty, acquired a profound understanding of fundamental mathematics (PUFM, a term coined by Liping Ma) beginning in the primary grades. If our own children acquired PUFM, they would also be much more effective math teachers, even as generalists.

You see, regardless of professional training or subject matter courses, teachers tend to teach the way they were taught. The strident calls for teachers to take more subject matter courses is misplaced. Simply learning more and more non-math will not improve teaching ability. Okay, how about we reteach math at the university level? I tried to do exactly that, only to meet with terrible resistance. “We don't want to know why the math works,” my students complained, “Just tell us how to get the answer.” Fine, let's at least teach those students who aspire to become elementary teachers. Guess what? Most universities require all elementary teaching candidates to pass a series of courses entitled something like “math for elementary teachers.” My students complained that the classes were a waste of their time, since they “had learned all that stuff in elementary school.” Most elementary teachers, even though compelled to take a real math class, most of them for the first time in their lives, end up graduating from college without learning much math due to their resistance. They subsequently teach math the way they were taught in elementary school.

The main reason that Chinese students do so well in international math tests is because they actually learn math in school. American do not. Therefore, the reasons critics cite (specially selected students, lower poverty rates, rote learning, etc) miss the point. What critics are saying is that due to circumstances beyond our control, American students can never compete with Chinese students. I call baloney. If we would actually teach math in our schools, our students could compete just fine.

Next: examples of non-math teaching I encountered in a child's algebra class.

After seeming to correctly solve a number of simplification problems of the form -(ax-b) or -(ax+b), a child complained she could not simplify this one: +(ax+b). “What do I do with all those plus signs?” she wailed. What did you do with the other ones? I flipped them (referring to a mat-and-tile manipulative she is using in class). Even after all that flipping, she still had no idea what was going on. As long as she flips correctly, she can get the right answer without ever understanding how the flipping was supposed to communicate the concept. (Here is another topic: how American teachers routine take great resources like manipulatives and use them ineffectively

In another example, the child needed to solve for x by first combining +2 + ¼, easy—the answer is 2¼. But the next problem was +3 –  -½. She wrote 3-½ as her answer, then complained because the problem was coming out “all weird.” I straightened that one out with her, only to have her evaluate the next problem, -2+ 2/3, as -2 2/3.

Dr. Pine realized that the depth of Chinese math learning far surpassed ours. Yet she seemed unable to perceive that the digging for meaning she observed in literacy classes was precisely the same digging for meaning evident in math classes*. She lauded it in math but lamented it in literacy, saying that teachers denied Chinese children the expression of their own personal opinions.

* Everywhere I wrote an asterisk I am referring to the Chinese philosophy of math education as evidenced by the textbook presentation of concepts and the implementation I and others have observed  in many Chinese classrooms.  HOWEVER, honesty compels me to relate that there are a number of  Chinese math teachers whose delivery of math concepts is at best cursory.  These teachers also assign an overwhelming amount of homework and "practice tests."  These teachers have been know to "steal" time for "unimportant" subjects like art and music for more practice tests in their never-ending quest to maximize test scores regardless of understanding. This approach is absolutely murderous to the spirit and curiosity of Chinese students.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Expert Teachers Fall Through Alternative Certification Cracks

Critics of alternative certification often express dismay that alternative certification could possible qualify someone who has no prior teaching experience.

“I am still waiting for the "alternative certification" programs in law, medicine, surgery, and pharmacy. I hear that those fields pay more than teaching, so I think that I might try my hand at one of those. Should only take 6 weeks or so to get through the program and be proclaimed "highly qualified" and I can get right to work on heart surgery, or filling prescriptions.

See? Sounds ludicrous now, does it not?”

It is a valid criticism, but assumes that all who seek alternative certification are starting from scratch. Not so.  Expert teachers moving to another state for whatever reason often have difficulty getting recertified. 

If you were a Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DODDS) teacher, returning from overseas may mean coming home to chronic unemployment.  For example, back in the 1980s DODDS began requiring all its teachers to take National Teacher Exams (NTE) regardless of how long a teacher had been effectively teaching. 

But in the US, these DODDS teachers found that many states would not accept NTE scores no matter how high the teacher's percentile score.  Nor would the states accept other documentation of competence like evaluation, publications, even student test scores on the Stanford 9, or anything else.  Some states even told these teachers they would have to get new masters degrees because their "old" one was now out-of-date, as if a terminal degree can expire. 

Many older teachers began teaching before student teaching became a requirement.  Some states will allow letters certifying experience to stand in for the student teaching requirement as long as the letters are not too old.  A teacher may be able to acquire a "provisional" teaching credential convertible to a standard credential if the teacher gets a K-12 job within two years.

The longest allowable letter of experience interval I saw was five years.  Most are three years.  But since schools will not  hire even certified older out-of-district teachers, they certainly will not even look at you if you are not certified.  They may apologize for not hiring a certified teacher due to budget, but if you are uncertified, they are happy to reject you without any apology.  Two years pass and the provisional credential expires.  One more year and the letters of experience are no good.

Plenty of great teachers are waiting tables, filing medical charts, preparing taxes, whatever.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

When Are We Ever Gonna Use This?

Raise your hand if you have ever heard this question, “When are we ever gonna use this?” When I was a young teacher, I tried hard to answer. I used to give my students (junior high and high school) examples of math problems from various occupational fields. I bought a large poster that listed many occupations along the top and many mathematics topics along the side with black dots showing exactly which occupations use which topics.

Years passed. Film projectors gave way to Youtube videos. Mimeograph machines gave way laser printers. Whole new field of occupations emerged. I metaphorically threw up my hands in exasperation. When the inevitable question arose, I answered that I had no idea how they were going to use this information. I had no idea how their interests would develop, or which occupations they would pursue, or what the jobs of the future would be. All I could do was teach them a little bit of what had taken thousands of years for people to discover about math. My students were not always satisfied.

Then Paul Lockhart came along and wrote “A Mathematician's Lament: How School Cheats Us Out of Our Most Fascinating and Imaginative Art Form.”

Now I had an answer that captured their imaginations:

“In any case, do you really think kids even want something that is relevant to their daily lives? You think something practical like compound interest is going to get them excited? People enjoy fantasy, and that is just what mathematics can provide -- a relief from daily life, an anodyne to the practical workaday world….People don’t do mathematics because it’s useful. They do it because it’s interesting … The point of a measurement problem is not what the measurement is; it’s how to figure out what it is.”

The question of the usefulness of any particular subject stems from the mutual internalization of both the teacher and students of a questionable, yet unexamined assumption.

“To say that math is important because it is useful is like saying that children are important because we can train them to do spiritually meaningless labor in order to increase corporate profits. Or is that in fact what we are saying?”

Thus instead of teaching real mathematics, we teaching “pseudo-mathematics,” or what I have often called non-math, and worse, we use math class to accomplish this miseducation (See and others). According to Lockhart, we teach math as if we think “Paint by Number” teaches art.

“Worse, the perpetuation of this “pseudo-mathematics,” this emphasis on the accurate yet mindless manipulation of symbols, creates its own culture and its own set of values….Why don't we want our children to learn to do mathematics? Is it that we don't trust them, that we think it's too hard? We seem to feel that they are capable of making arguments and coming to their own conclusions about Napoleon. Why not about triangles?

Math is like playing a game. As with any game, it has rules to be sure. However, it is more fun and more elegant than all other games because it is literally limitless.

Physical reality is a disaster. It’s way too complicated, and nothing is at all what it appears to be. Objects expand and contract with temperature, atoms fly on and off. In particular, nothing can truly be measured. A blade of grass has no actual length. Any measurement made in the universe is necessarily a rough approximation. It’s not bad; it’s just the nature of the place. The smallest speck is not a point, and the thinnest wire is not a line. Mathematical reality, on the other hand, is imaginary. It can be as simple and pretty as I want it to be. I get to have all those perfect things I can’t have in real life. I can never hold a circle in my hand, but I can hold one in my mind. […] The point is I get to have them both — physical reality and mathematical reality. Both are beautiful and interesting… The former is important to me because I am in it, the latter because it is in me.

Mathematics offers infinite possibilities for storytelling. I tell many stories as I teach math. My students are positively enchanted and remember them forever. One of my favorites is the kimono story.

I tell my students how in old Japan, servants helped geisha to put on the multiple layers of kimono. Each layer has to arranged and offset just so in order to reveal the colors of each layer. I tell them we are going to start with a geisha like 1/3. First we put on the 2/2 layer. 1/3 x 2/2 = 2/6. Notice that the geisha looks a little different, but underneath it is the same geisha. How about another layer, maybe 3/3. Okay 2/6 x 3/3 = 6/18. How about another 2/2 layer. 6/18 x 2/2 = 12/36. We can take off the layers one-by-one as well. This is called “simplifying a fraction.” Simplifying a fraction is simply a process of finding out which geisha is at the bottom of all those layers. If we are in a hurry, we can remove all the layers at once. How would we do that? In the case of our geisha, dividing by 12/12. The students love it.

The most elegant math story is the proof.

A proof is simply a story. The characters are the elements of the problem, and the plot is up to you. The goal, as in any literary fiction, is to write a story that is compelling as a narrative. In the case of mathematics, this means that the plot not only has to make logical sense but also be simple and elegant. No one likes a meandering, complicated quagmire of a proof. We want to follow along rationally to be sure, but we also want to be charmed and swept off our feet aesthetically. A proof should be lovely as well as logical.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Teachers Should Teach to the Test

Should teachers teach to the test? Some say of course we should, in order to give students the best chance for achieve their highest potential score. Some have even made teaching to the test a lucrative business. Schools are sacrificing more and more instructional time to test prep. Others say that teaching to the test games the outcome in favor of some students without actually reflecting the acquisition of real knowledge or achievement. Who is correct?

First, we must be careful to distinguish between tests teachers write covering material they themselves taught, and standardized tests. Standardized test are not written by the teacher who is teaching the material, and indeed, it is considered cheating if teachers see the questions ahead of time. Teacher-written tests cover a specific subset of content. The purpose of the test is to evaluate the students’ learning of that specific knowledge. Theoretically, if everyone in the class masters the material, everyone can potentially score 100%. Practically, teachers try to have a mix of harder and easier questions in order to differentiate levels of mastery. However, there should not be any questions outside the subset domain.

Standardized tests are very different. Test designers try to ensure that half the students will score above the target median and half below. From the students’ point of view, they perceive right away that it feels like they do not know half the questions. The realization often makes them feel inadequate and creates much of the test anxiety surrounding standardized test. I have found that explaining the difference between the test I write and standardized tests relieves much of the anxiety.

There is, of course, no point in explaining jargon like normative evaluation, median, etc. It is sufficient to simply say that the people who wrote the bubble test wrote it for lots and lots of students who have been taught by lots and lots of teachers. The writers really have no idea what I taught or how I taught it. So the writers write lots of question that they expect no one will know the answer. In fact, they write the test expecting that students will miss fully half the questions. I reassure them that it is perfectly normal to feel as if they are probably missing a lot of questions. Go ahead and guess anyway.

I tell them that the test designers include questions from lower grades in the test and questions from higher grades. The test designers know which questions are which, but of course the students do not know. I tell them if they feel like they do not know a question, it is probably from a higher grade and not to worry about it. The test designers look at the answer sheet and can tell if the students correctly answered the questions from their own grade level. If they do, they will get at least 50. I tell them this does not mean 50 points, nor does it mean 50%. I tell them it is a different kind of scoring system because it is not a test that their own teacher (like me) wrote. With high school students, I discuss a little more statistics and the idea of percentiles.

This kind of explanation usually satisfies students, removes perplexity and frustration, and helps them do their best. If the teacher’s curricular philosophy and design is strong and the teacher is a skilled teacher, then there is no need to worry about the standardized tests. Simply teach, and the standardized test will take care of itself. If the curriculum is weak, teachers will feel a strong need to teach directly to the test. However, by all means, teach to your own tests.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Can You Teach the Bible in Public Schools?

The short answer is yes, you can and should teach the Bible in public schools.

The long answer is more nuanced.

There are three subjects that benefit from the inclusion of the Bible: English, Social Studies, Political Science, Western Law, Art, Music and yes, even Science.


We expect students to recognize and understand literary allusions. The vast majority of literary allusions come from four sources: the Bible, Shakespeare (who often alludes to the Bible), Greek mythology and popular culture. There is no good reason to deny students understanding of certain literary allusions, merely because they come from the Bible. The Bible is also a literary classic in its own right. Belief is not a prerequisite to an intellectually honest presentation of the Bible as literature.

Avoiding the Bible also leads to miseducation, such as the case of a fifth grade teacher who defended reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, by saying she intended to read it as a fairy tale. C. S. Lewis intended the story to be Biblical allegory, not a fairy tale. To teach otherwise is educational malpractice. Either the teacher should teach literature such as this honestly, or avoid the book entirely. The middle ground simply will not do.

Social Studies:

History education prefers primary sources whenever available. The Old Testament is the major primary source for the ancient history of the Jewish people. The history of the church had a huge impact on the history of Europe over the last 2000 years, and an understanding of the Bible informs our understanding of European history. The Boers drew their rationale from the Bible (although I would argue that deliberately or not, the Boers improperly applied the Bible to their situation). In fact, an understanding of the Bible is essential to an understanding of the motivations behind many historical events.

Political Science and Western Law:

Our public discourse constantly refers to the Bible, and yet most of the people who think they are quoting the Bible (both Christians and non-Christians alike) have near zero understanding of the Bible context itself or the Bronze Age time when most of it was written. Christians especially have a weak understanding of what a “literal” interpretation means. When I was much younger, I met a man who had been an Air Force pilot during WWII. After the war, he went to Papua New Guinea or Irian Java (I forget which) to be a missionary. The island people had a noun which meant airplane. Literally, the word meant “a bird with the skin of a machete.” We would be foolish to think that the island people really thought the airplane was a bird, yet Biblical “literalists” make this type of mistake all the time. Another example comes from Chinese. Their word for computer means “electric brain,” but clearly the word is not figurative, spiritual or symbolic. It is simply the word for computer. In English, we still say the sun rises and sets, but no one supposes that we literally mean the sun moves up and down. Many people who say they believe in taking the Bible literally fail to distinguish these types of expressions, leading to some of the ridiculous arguments we hear everyday.

As Christopher Gunter wrote :

So what are young people to think when they hear biblical passages taken out of context to both support and refute gay rights, or the Iraq war, or any highly charged issue? They must not be afraid to question and challenge biblically based sound bites. They must have the courage and the foundational knowledge to understand for themselves the source and context of biblical passages. Our reluctance to teach the Bible perpetuates its mysteriousness, which has grave consequences in our intellectual lives and in the wider world in which we live.

Art and Music:

Anyone who study art or music appreciation will not get very far before they run into cultural works illustrating, or inspired by the Bible. If we want to understand the cultural work, we need to understand the source material.

Mr. Gunter again:

... the Bible’s influence spreads beyond the literary realm into the artistic and the cultural. Any student of art or music will deal extensively with religious material. Moreover, biblical allusions in culture persist into the 21st century: in movie titles, song lyrics, newspaper headlines, billboards, and so forth—even television’s “The Simpsons” draws extensively from the Bible. In short, biblical knowledge enriches our understanding of both high art and popular culture.


The acrimonious debate between “creationists” and “evolutionists” would evaporate if both camps actually understood what the Bible says.

As Mr. Gunter concludes:

It is a sensitive endeavor, to be sure. But we first must recognize the value of undertaking that task. The Bible is a remarkable document, parts of which can stand with Plato in their philosophical depth, with Tolstoy in their political complexities, and with Shakespeare in their poetic beauty. The religious sphere does not have exclusive ownership over those important words. We should give our young people the tools to understand the Bible, both for their own enlightenment and to better inform their decisionmaking as citizens.

Monday, September 26, 2016

California Proposition 58: A Solution Looking for a Non-existent Problem

In 1998, it was Hispanic parents who clamored to get rid of bilingual education. Bilingual education was not a bridge but a jail. Hispanic children languished in bilingual classrooms for years and years, and never attained the proficiency that would allow them to go to college. The parents were successful in getting Prop 227 passed, not so much because of the force of their own arguments, but largely through the ideological effect of English-only whites who maintain that America is an English-speaking country, and so students should be taught in English.

The California Department of Education says they are already ensuring that English learners:

...acquire full proficiency in English as rapidly and effectively as possible and attain parity with native speakers of English. AND ...within a reasonable period of time, achieve the same rigorous grade-level academic standards that are expected of all students.

Prop 227 did not get rid of bilingual education. Bilingual education is still readily available. the difference is previously, the school decided whether a child would be placed in the bilingual program. Currently, it is the parents who decide. Most parents choose English immersion.

Since the main effect of Prop 58 is to undo Prop 227, we must next investigate whether removing the decision-making power from parents is actually good for kids.

The proponents of Prop 58 claim that the American Institutes for Research (AIR) concluded “there is no conclusive evidence to support the opponents claims that Prop 227 has been successful. AIR is a credible source, so I took a closer look. The first thing to note is the cited report was published in 2006, and looked at the previous 5 years. It specifically said that because of the many variables involved, “There is no conclusive evidence that one instructional model for educating English learners, such as full English immersion or a bilingual approach, is more effective for California’s English learners than another(method)...”

In other words, a dichotomous approach does not work. AIR was unable to isolate pre-Prop 227 or post-Prop 227 as the independent variable. That is a little different from what the proponents of Prop 58 claim the AIR report said. Furthermore, AIR was unable to control for the numerous other variables that impact Hispanic achievement. So what kind of evidence is there? The AIR report itself observed,

During this time, the performance gap between English learners and native English speakers has remained virtually constant in most subject areas for most grades. That these gaps have not widened is noteworthy given the substantial increase in the percentage of English learners participating in statewide tests, as required by federal and state accountability provisions.

So even though many more English learners took the statewide tests, they did not bring down test scores as was expected. Ten years have passed since that AIR report was published. Who knows, but what a new report might find conclusive evidence, or at least a greater quantity of circumstantial evidence.

Lacking an experimental methodology, the AIR evaluation often relied on case studies, which is simply a systematic look at an anecdote. I have a few anecdotes/case studies of my own. I have not worked much with Hispanic students because most of my 40 years of teaching took place in Department of Defense Dependent Schools in Japan or in private schools located in Japan and Shanghai. I was also an in-service training provider to public secondary schools located on the Navajo reservations in Arizona. One time I was also assigned to a 6-year-old Hispanic boy who had been in horrible car accident to be his at-home teacher. I will summarize each experience.

1. The Hispanic kindergarten student. I began teaching this boy the last three months of school. I met with his classroom teacher who gave me a packet of papers to color and a copy of his third-quarter report card. His grades were very bad, and his progress was below grade level on almost every measure. His teacher referred to him as “one of those typically dumb Hispanics.” Back home, I threw away the papers she gave me, and spent the weekend creating a kindergarten program for this boy. Within three months, he was reading English and performing at grade level on every measure. His parents were thrilled.

2. The Navajos. I did not work with the Navajo students directly. At my in-service presentations, their secondary teachers complained that they did not need the information I had been commissioned by the administrators to present. They asked me to tell them how they could use their subject area textbooks to teach their students to read. I chucked my carefully planned presentation (including hands-on activities) and immediately improvised a seminar on phonics and reading comprehension using science and history books. The teachers loved it (but the administration was peeved at me. Whatever).

3. Japan. One fall, a large group of parents suddenly enrolled their children in the junior high where I was actually teaching science. The parents took this drastic measure because their children were refusing to go to school due the extreme bullying that sometimes occurs in Japanese schools. The principal pulled me out of my morning classes, and asked me to create a half-day transitional program for these kids. They studied art, music and PE in the afternoon in the mainstream class. After three months, I put them in the mainstream math classes. After the second term, I put them in my mainstream science class. After the third term, they were fully mainstreamed, including English and social studies.

4. China. I have spent 4 academic years teaching in China using English only with great success, even with first graders who speak zero English when they start. Within one year, all but just a handful were reading and comprehending at American second-grade level. Their English speech still retains errors attributable to Chinese syntax, but those errors will fix themselves eventually.

42.8% of community college students are Hispanic in 2015. Overall, the number of Hispanic students in college has been increasing dramatically year over year, while the number of white students in college has been falling over the last five years. According to Pew, a record number of Hispanic students have enrolled in college, and the high school drop-out rate is the lowest it has ever been. The numbers on both measures have been positive since 2000. English Only as a factor contributing to these results did not occur to Pew, but it is as likely a factor as any of the others that Pew did suggest. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Latino college completion is on the rise and in the past decade the number of Latinos with bachelor’s degrees or higher increased 80 percent. Of course, this achievement is not due solely to Prop 227. Programs such as AVID, TRIO, Gear Up, and others also contribute to positive outcomes.

As far as the proponents' claim that Prop 58 would expand second language opportunities for native or fluent English-speaking students, a proposition is unnecessary. Schools are already free to add foreign languages to their curriculum, or create foreign language immersion programs.

It is unfortunate that a majority of the California legislature supports Prop 58. They seem unaware of the history since the legislature in place when Prop 227 was approved has either retired or termed out. The legislature also seems unduly impressed by the articulate but empty arguments of the proponents when compared compared to the emotional tenor of the opponent's arguments. In fact, the proponents' statements in the Voter's Guide read like one of those long-winded sales pitches with a lot of beautiful words that actually say nothing. For example, the proponents introduce a paragraph in the Voter's Guide by saying, "Here's what Prop. 58 actually says:," and then proceeds to quote, not Prop 58, but the already existing California Education Code. In this way, proponents mislead voters into thinking that Prop 58 will do something that is not already mandated, when in fact the law already mandates it, and Prop 58 is unnecessary. No wonder the less sophisticated opponents got emotional.

There is no need to fix a non-existent problem. In short, the stakeholders with the most compelling interest, that is, parents of Hispanic students, do not want Prop 58. That should be good enough for the rest of us. Vote NO on Prop 58.