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SEPARATE BUT MAS QUE IGUAL

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And then there's the matter of religion. Most of Guadalupe is Catholic.
About the biggest thing going in Guadalupe is the traditional Lenten celebration, re-creating the resurrection of Christ. Ceremonies take place at Guadalupe Yaqui Temple every Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoon during the seven weeks before Easter.

Holy Week, the week before Easter, is most sacred and, in Guadalupe, celebrated with nearly nonstop events, day and night. Spring break for Tempe Union High School District, however, is scheduled earlier in March.

Therefore, many Guadalupe students are off a week of school during spring break--and then miss a few Fridays and another week for Lent. The lost time is enough to send some students over the edge and out of school.

It happened to Valencia, and her high school experience is an all-too-common scenario here, says Mike Matwick, dropout prevention coordinator at Marcos de Niza High. "They wind up in a class where they are going to immediately experience failure, and these kids are at rock bottom of academic self-esteem," Matwick says. "There's this whole history of negative experiences and repeated failure and having that feeling that you don't belong."

Despite the Supreme Court's desegregation decision, Brown v. Board of Education, public schools are as segregated as ever.

In the famous 1954 case, the court ruled that separate educational systems--in this case, for African Americans and Anglos--were inherently unequal and, therefore, unconstitutional. The court ordered schools to desegregate with "all deliberate speed."

But the federal government never actually desegregated most of them. Instead, it required schools to allow all comers in the door and, in some instances, to institute a plan that would create more diversity.

Phoenix Union High School, Roosevelt Elementary and Tempe Elementary School districts operate under court-approved desegregation plans, mostly through magnet-school programs. But in Arizona and across much of the nation, schools are still unequal and largely segregated.

In July, the state Supreme Court ruled that Arizona's school funding was inequitable and, therefore, unconstitutional. Nearly all of the schools on the short end of the funding stick have high minority populations. More than half of the nation's "minority" children go to schools where they are, in fact, in the majority, according to a December Harvard study. And for Hispanic children, the numbers are even higher. Nearly three-fourths of Hispanic children go to predominantly minority schools.

Hispanics compose more than 90 percent of the student population at 35 schools in Arizona. In most cases, the segregation is a result of housing patterns, specifically, concentrations of low-income housing. The U.S. Supreme Court, in recent years, anyway, has allowed this de facto segregation, so long as schools were not designed to serve one race exclusively.

But Hispanic school activists say the public schools have not adapted, in any effective way, to the changing demographics that have created schools overwhelmingly populated by minorities.

Bilingual education is nearly nonexistent in Arizona public schools, even though more than 62,000 children in public school speak little or no English.

Despite a growing international economy and a changing population, the ability to speak Spanish is looked upon less as an asset than as a problem in many schools.

The state allows school districts to provide a number of different types of instruction to children who speak little or no English.

Among the most successful is a fully bilingual program in which children learn their lessons--math, history, social studies and so forth--in the language they understand best, while they also learn to speak English.

Only seven of the state's 220 school districts offer fully bilingual programs. Instead, pointing to funding and staffing problems, most districts offer some amount of instruction in English as a Second Language. Usually, those classes last just a few hours per day.

Bilingual programs are controversial, at least in Arizona, because in them children continue to speak and learn in Spanish for several years. Critics prefer that children use only English, at least at school, and argue that they will assimilate to American education faster that way. But students with limited English skills typically spend most of their school days in classrooms where they don't understand most of what their teachers or their classmates are saying--or what is in their textbooks.

They are pulled out for an hour or two a day to a separate classroom for English instruction, until they either catch on or drop out. Experts estimate that it takes six to eight years to become fluent enough to learn in a second language.

"It [language] is the only area of education where we routinely expect our children to outperform their teachers," says Jim Lyons, executive director of the National Association for Bilingual Education. "All that they know and can say, the schools can't understand." Despite a great need for teachers fluent in both Spanish and English, only 3 percent of the state's 35,000 teachers hold bilingual teaching certificates. Another 3 percent have an English-as-a-Second-Language endorsement, which requires less training in the language and culture of students. Still another 3 percent have a provisional certificate in one or the other, meaning that they haven't completed their course work.

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