Texas Many schools in America are doing a great job,
but the national report card shows a growing achievement gap between
the hopeful and the hopeless, Susan B. Bonsteel told the audience
here at DoD's observance of Hispanic American Heritage Month.
The gap represents the human toll of an education system that has
failed too many children many of them Hispanic, said Bonsteel,
the secretary of education's Region VI representative, based in
Dallas. Her remarks echoed the longstanding concerns of Hispanic
parents and community leaders across the country and such Hispanic
organizations as National Image Inc. and the American GI Forum.
Bonsteel pointed out that nearly 30 percent of Hispanic students
drop out of school. That rate is far higher than for any other group.
She noted that on a national reading assessment survey, 40 percent
of white fourth graders scored as proficient or better, compared
to only 16 percent of their Hispanic classmates. And, she added,
Hispanic achievement also lagged in math 10 percent of Hispanic
fourth graders scored as high achievers while 35 percent of their
white peers scored as proficient or better.
Quoting President Bush, "This is unacceptable," Bonsteel
said, "Every child deserves to learn, and we can't let the
soft bigotry of low expectation destroy the future for so many of
our children. All children no matter where they live or where
their parents come from deserve schools where the instruction
is rigorous, the teachers are qualified and those in charge are
held accountable for results."
She said no matter the color of their skin or the accent of their
speech, now is the time to break with the past and educate all children.
Many of the parents who attended the secretary of education's July
town hall meeting in California spoke only Spanish, Bonsteel noted.
"A large number of parents said what they wanted most for their
children was more rigorous courses and the teachers to teach them,"
she said. "At another town meeting, the secretary saw Hispanic
moms and dads cry as they talked about their hopes for a better
life for their children.
"Parents want better for their children," she emphasized.
"Their children want better for themselves. One 19-year-old
named Mayra put it best when she said, 'I want to be a Mexican-American
who makes a difference in this beautiful country.'"
Bonsteel said the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence
for Hispanic Americans has launched "Yes I Can," a new
program that encourages more Latino students to go to college and
that helps parents plan for their children's educational future.
More than a half-million people visited the new bilingual Web site,
www.yesican.gov, in its first
10 days on line, she noted.
She said new national education reforms like "No Child Left
Behind" seek to make quality education from kindergarten through
college the expectation, not the exception.
"We're plowing historic new ground. I'm confident we'll succeed,"
Bonsteel told the audience. "In fact, it's already happening
in many places around the country, like Pueblo, Colo., a largely
Hispanic school district. She spoke of Joyce Bales, superintendent
of Pueblo's public schools.
"All the things the president and secretary talk about
she did. She got a research-based reading program. She got the parents
involved. She set high standards and high expectations and insisted
on results," Bonsteel said. "Now people in Pueblo know
what history has long shown: When you raise the bar, people rise
to the challenge. Student achievement in Pueblo soared."