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Voices / A Community Forum | Essay

'4% Plan' Is Just a Cover-Up

April 03, 1999|WILLIAM JOSEPH MILLER | William Joseph Miller teaches English at Washington Preparatory School

As a teacher in a magnet program in an inner-city high school, I should be elated at Gov. Gray Davis' plan to admit the top 4% of the graduates of each public high school to the University of California system.

But I'm not.

Davis' plan hopes to address the problems of maintaining diversity in the wake of Proposition 209. But like many such laudable intentions to "level the playing field" for students from so-called "underrepresented minority groups," Davis' plan will only make a bad situation worse.

First of all, his plan fails to address the problems that cause the lack of diversity. These include the lack of discipline and academic focus in many inner-city schools, a dumbed-down curriculum designed to reach the lowest common denominator, administrative priorities that are centered on athletics and performing arts, overcrowded classrooms, inequitable funding and year-round schedules that, contrary to popular belief, result in less, not more, instructional time.

Rather than addressing these problems, the 4% rule merely offers an easy way out for politicians, school administrators and educational reformers, whose misguided "reforms" often decrease rather than increase academic output.

In addition, it does the students from these schools no favors. Having been educated with a dumbed-down curriculum that stresses self-esteem and pride in one's ancestry over academic accomplishment, many students from urban schools have a very naive understanding of what is really necessary to succeed at a UC school.

Whether they have the "right stuff" or not, these students get relegated to remedial classes. Many are so overwhelmed by their lack of academic preparedness that they drop out.

In short, the 4% rule will not really provide an open door, but merely a revolving door.

As a teacher in one of the so-called 100 worst schools in the LAUSD, I believe that, in spite of the superintendent's assessment of my students' capabilities, far more than 4% are capable of succeeding at a UC school, given the proper administrative support, funding and encouragement. If that is the case, then why should those students be denied admission into the UC system simply because of some arbitrary formula? The 4% rule is merely a sophisticated form of redlining.

If a lack of diversity is a problem at UC campuses, then let's find solutions to the problems, instead of Band-Aids and cover-ups.

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