LCCR should collaborate with, not attack, MVLA

Racial bias allegations misguided, but bring important issue to the community’s attention

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Miranda Li

In June, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights (LCCR), a local advocacy group, gained local media attention from the Mountain View Voice through the publication of a news article and opinion editorial. The coverage highlighted LCCR’s conclusion that racial bias on the part of teacher and counselor recommendations at MVLA was the direct reason why Latino and African-American students were disproportionately enrolled into lower levels of math classes.

The LCCR’s approach to addressing the issue is inaccurate, inconsistent and misleading.While the LCCR intends to address a valid issue, their current approach does not take into account the larger societal issues which contribute to disproportionate enrollment. MVLA should continue its current process for recommending placement and monitoring underperforming and at-risk incoming freshmen. In addition, MVLA should strive to increase transparency and efficiency of the process.

MVLA’s current open access policy does not require students to follow counselor or teacher recommendations to request courses. The LCCR’s conclusion that racial bias is preventing students from choosing the right level of courses seems very unlikely, and its demand that MVLA adopt an objective policy toward math placement is an overreaction to the problem.

Throughout the investigation process, the LCCR made no extensive effort to reach out and understand MVLA’s course recommendation process before drawing conclusions. An imperative step of research would be to look at the process in detail. However, the organization emphasized raw data without attempting to understand the minute details of the district’s placement policy.

Additionally, the LCCR is inconsistent with its public statements. The Voice news article clearly states that the LCCR is not interested in pursuing a lawsuit, while a following blog post ends with a clear intent to pursue legal action if MVLA does not comply. Furthermore, the 2013 official report contains vague references to unspecified studies. This inconsistency lends further to the lack of credibility of the LCCR’s investigative methods.

Miranda Li

Schools in the district already have an intense, integrated annual process in place to help at-risk and underperforming incoming freshmen choose the right level of classes.  Experienced process coordinators are confident that the system places at-risk students correctly. At school, a substantial review and evaluation process begins in January and extends until April.

Input from both high school and middle school administrators and eighth grade teachers shape preliminary lists of underperforming students, while each identified student’s second trimester and quarter grades are also taken into account. Articulation meetings between the school’s administration, counselors and skills study program teachers culminate in individualized decisions for these students, most of whom continue through these recommended set of classes throughout the year.

The efforts to ensure that these students are always at the appropriate level continue throughout the school year.  At weekly skills department meetings, teachers discuss and debrief on each student’s progress. Such highly detailed and individualized tracking of student progress on such a direct level is very commendable on the school and district’s part.  The process ensures that if a student shows signs of misplacement or requests to transfer, he or she will almost always be able to move up.

Nonetheless, LAHS should continue to strive for transparency and efficiency in this specialized recommendation process. The school should try to increase the involvement of parents and students in the process, but it needs more resources to smoothly coordinate between each of the parties. The school faces a large logistical challenge already in obtaining all the information needed from the different sources within the restricted months, in addition to trying to alleviate the various obstacles faced when trying to contact parents, such as work, uncomfortable campus settings and cultural differences.
Overall, the data that the LCCR obtained does not lie, but the truth is that there are many other reasons out of the high school’s control which reduce students chances of succeeding in college and the competitive STEM fields. Instead of reaching independent conclusions without consulting the district, the LCCR will better accomplish its goal of addressing the larger societal issues behind disproportionate placement by cooperating and initiating thorough, helpful dialogue with the district.