Latinos Do Better in LA’s Catholic Schools

Published October 1, 1998

Nationwide, nearly one in ten Latinos fail to finish high school. That isn’t the case with Latinos in Catholic schools, even those schools in the heart of inner-city Los Angeles.

For example, some 97.4 percent of California Catholic school graduates–many of whom are Latino–go on to college, compared to only half of the graduates of the Los Angeles Unified School District. The enrollment in the Los Angeles Catholic school system is 46 percent Latino; the public schools are 68.5 percent Latino.

“We have a much higher number of immigrant and low-income students than other Catholic schools around the country, and we seem to be getting the same achievement results,” said Jerome Porath, superintendent of the Los Angeles archdiocese’s Catholic schools.

Since 1970, Latino enrollment in the Catholic schools of the Los Angeles archdiocese has jumped 60 percent, with many students coming from immigrant and low-income families. Despite the lack of formal bilingual programs, students learn English quickly and excel in school. At Sacred Heart High School, which is 90 percent Latino, 95 percent of seniors go on to college.

“Given the right opportunity, low-income kids–regardless of whether they are Latino or African-American–can live up to their potential,” Tomas Rivera Policy Institute president Harry Pachon told Los Angeles Times reporter Anne-Marie O’Connor. “Catholic schools, through a variety of factors, are providing those opportunities.”

One of the keys to their success, say experts, may be the absence of tracking at Catholic schools: All high school students take college preparatory courses.

Apologists for the poor performance of public schools argue that Catholic school can select their students and benefit from the “self-selection” of committed parents. Not so, says Paul Hill, who sees Catholic school parents more as desperate than committed. When parents see their children hurt by the low quality of public schools, they become desperate and are willing to try anything, he says.

“The only intelligent conclusion is that Catholic schools may be doing better,” says Hill, who is coauthor of a study of New York’s Catholic schools.
Los Angeles Times
August 3, 1998

Ohio Official Barred from STW Meetings . . .

Diana Fessler, an elected member of the Ohio State Board of Education, was barred from attending several meetings at a June national conference in Cleveland, organized at taxpayer expense by the federal government’s National School-to-Work Office.

An angry Fessler fired off letters of protest to US Education Secretary Richard Riley and US Labor Secretary Alexis Herman, charging that such “bureaucratic tyranny undermines rational, open disagreement–the hallmark of civil liberty in the arena of government.”

“The purpose of government is to serve the interests of the people–not to develop legislative agenda, refine implementation strategies, and create marketing plans behind closed doors,” said Fessler, calling for the dismissal of the four federal officials who prevented her from attending the meetings.

“I find it incredible that those who claim that STW is good for kids, good for the economy, good for our nation, and worthy of replication find it necessary to conduct the public’s business behind closed doors . . .” wrote Fessler, who took exception to the claim that the sessions involved were just “routine staff meetings.”

“Participants had flown in from all over the country to meet in a swanky hotel, at taxpayer’s expense, to identify and discuss ‘obstacles’ that they face in moving the STW agenda forward and to develop ‘strategies’ to overcome these ‘obstacles,'” she pointed out.
Education Reporter
September 1998

. . . While Others Raise Concerns about STW

Virginia is one of just eight states still seeking School-to-Work funds but, according to Richmond Times Dispatch Editorial Page Editor Bob Holland, state officials are resisting the National School-to-Work Office’s call for a commitment to “alignment of education reform, workforce development, and economic development strategies . . ., the integration of academic and vocational education . . . [and] implementation of a skill certificate resulting from a student’s completion of a career major/cluster . . .”

“Kids have a hard enough time deciding what cereal they want for breakfast or what pair of jeans to wear each day,” noted Cheri Yecke, deputy education director for the state of Virginia. She added that the administration has no intention of forcing schoolchildren to choose a single career pathway.

Holland notes that while STW sounds good, “it’s not just beefed-up voc-ed but a monolithic system for all students.” Career counseling would start as early as seventh grade, with all students being steered to specific career groups. Students would select a career major by eleventh grade, and a competency certificate would be required for graduation.

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, career awareness starts as early as kindergarten in San Angelo, Texas, where teachers read stories that illustrate possible careers. For example, a revisionist version of “The Three Little Pigs” relates how the little porkers hire construction workers to repair their house and call a police officer to arrest the wolf, who in turn hires a lawyer to defend him.

“The issue comes back to education’s purpose,” says Holland in a recent Richmond Times Dispatch article. “Is it about preparing well-rounded individuals who can think for themselves? Or is it about steering pupils into occupations chosen by government workforce boards reading the unreliable tea leaves of labor market projections?”

“Oh, by the way,” adds Holland, “The answer will determine whether ours continues to be a free society.”
Richmond Times Dispatch
September 2, 1998