Students' education should trump petty agendas
Tucson Citizen
April 1, 2005

A mother about to discipline her uncooperative child once threatened to count to three.

The kid, who was sure he wasn't going to be told what to do, started screeching, "Why do you always have to start counting when I don't want to do something?"

The mother began, "One." The child kept screaming, "Don't count! Why do you always have to count?"

"Two." And the child, still screaming, jumped to do what he had been told to do.

This is reminiscent of public education recently. Everyone wants to get his opinion in, but in the end, if educators don't want to respond to the dearth of academic rigor,  then the state has to start counting.

And thank God it has begun counting. Like the recalcitrant child, many public schools will be dragged kicking and screaming, but they will just have to adjust to AIMS.

Our community continues to get smatterings of opinion on AIMS from every side of the political spectrum and with every agenda in mind.

Educators who should want accountability most are the most adamant against it, and their opposition usually comes through glasses tinted with some personal agenda.

Conspicuously silent is the public on an issue designed to help all.

And seldom does anyone comment on the need to drill students in academics from the early years.

Instead, as one of the agendas, we get recommendations for continuing to implement bilingual education for all Hispanic children, as in the old days, disregarding the fact that bilingual education was eliminated years ago. It was a bankrupt notion then; it remains bankrupt.

If there were real concern for helping all Hispanic children pass the AIMS, bi-ed proponents should begin by requiring themselves to teach English in English starting in first grade, instead of clinging to the belief that it takes anyone at least seven years to become proficient in English.

There also are too many educators with the agenda of recovery-group therapists implementing feel-good programs and approaches.

We have whole segments of the teaching community more concerned with kids' emotional health than with their academic and, therefore, total success; people more concerned with "teaching" all those things "that don't show up on tests."

There are teachers who are constantly reminding us that different children learn differently, that we should stop using the "cookie cutter" approach to education, and all this sentiment and passion "for the children" comes to the detriment of solid, demanding academic work. Everyone has his politics and agenda, but strong, intellect building should transcend petty pers
onal concerns.

Self-esteem and confidence in a student, even the Hispanic student, is best developed as a function of working hard and succeeding. It is not education's responsibility to mold itself to the personal desires of children and parents, but to shape children to academic requirements for their own welfare in the public arena.

Rigor and hard work will be the only things that train kids in the fundamentals.

In a Monday column in this newspaper, Susan Carlson, director of the Arizona Business and Education Coalition, made many germane points about AIMS as a graduation requirement.

We agree that the fledgling AIMS, though only a beginning, must be taken seriously. If children are to succeed, all adults must agree that not only is accountability necessary, but also that all educators should buy in regardless of their political stand.

Parents, teachers and administrators must understand that preparation for AIMS or any test, even for Hispanic students, begins in first grade, not high school.

And if, starting this year, any student cannot graduate, something has gone wrong with his education. Whatever went wrong must stop. That is precisely the point of any high-stakes graduation test.

Beyond that, the state Department of Education is addressing several issues regarding special ed students; arguments to the contrary are nothing but red herrings. Also, the regular student populations will have all kinds of classes and tutoring sessions to ensure they can pass the test by the time they are seniors - a tragic thing that high school students should need tutoring to pass a test that requires 10th-grade academics.

In the end, AIMS may not be the best solution, but it is the best step now in the right direction. The public should be for anything that makes public education accountable and holds all teachers and administrators to the same standards.

Hector Ayala has been an English teacher at Cholla Magnet High School for the last 17 years.  E-mail: