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Column: Equal Chance to Education? Not Down in the Barrios

When the Chicano complains about having nightmares instead of the American dream, he’s usually told: “Education is the answer, amigo. Get an education and your problem will be solved.”

The premise behind this panacea, of course, is that the Mexican-American or any other deprived child can receive a meaningful education merely by wanting it.

One of the reasons for the turmoil in education today is that this smug premise is false. The poor kid has never gotten and is not now getting a decent break in obtaining a good education.

A look at the recently released results of Los Angeles elementary school achievement tests gives you an idea of the depressing situation.

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Bellagio Rd. School and Belvedere School appear together alphabetically in the results but are worlds apart educationally. Bellagio Rd. School in affluent West Los Angeles while Belvedere School is in a poor East Los Angeles barrio.

Keeping in mind that the national average in these tests in 50, the scores made by these two schools are significant. In reading, Bellagio scored 69 points while Belvedere made 15 points. In language, Bellagio 67, Belvedere 18. In spelling, Bellagio 59, Belvedere 21. And in arithmetic Bellagio 68, Belvedere 21.

Affluence, by the way, seems to have some relation to good education. Windsor Hills School, for example, a 91% black school in a high socio-economic area of the West Side, ranked very high in the tests.

As it is very unlikely that Belvedere will ever become as affluent as Windsor Hills or Bellagio, the Belvedere kid must look to other means for a good education.

Judging by Belvedere’s scores it is not difficult to see why Chicanos average 8.6 years in school to the blacks’ 10.5 years and the Anglos’ 12.1 years.

But assuming, for a second, that a Belvedere kid works hard and manages to make reasonably good grades in high school, what are his chances of going to college? They’re as bad as the Belvedere scores.

With such projects as the Educational Opportunities Program (EOP) under fire, it is almost impossible that such a Belvedere kid would ever make it to, say, UCLA.

Everybody agrees that there are too few Chicanos at UCLA, yet it was recently announced that the university’s High Potential Program, which helps minority students, will be cut in half from 100 students in 1969-70 to 50 in 1970-71.

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But to talk about barrio or ghetto kids making it to UCLA is kind of ridiculous when you realize what’s happening to these kids in grammar school.

“For the past several years,” says a recent report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, “school districts throughout California have been misplacing minority children in greater and greater disproportionate numbers into classes for the mentally retarded.”

The report concludes that “these misplaced children have been given a limited curriculum which has denied them an opportunity to develop their potential.”

The report charges that the fact that the state paid local districts a premium dollar for educable mentally retarded “seems to have encouraged the placement of culturally-different and hard-to-teach youngsters in these special classes.”

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The commission found that in San Diego, for instance, parents were not properly notified or consulted prior to the placement of their children in mentally retarded classes. And, says the report, many parents who spoke Spanish only recall either signing nothing or signing what they assumed was a routine notice in written English.

These children placed in mentally retarded classes, says the report, “were victims of a self-fulfilling prophesy. Little was expected of them. They achieved little.”

One wonders how much of this criminal neglect is responsible for the fact that a Belvedere School kid can only score 15 points in a reading test while a Bellagio Rd. School kid can achieve 69 points.


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