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Leave Evans Adult School Where It Is

Commentary

Giving to Belmont students the classrooms that you've taken away from their parents solves nothing.

March 26, 2000|GEORGE HILDEBRAND | George Hildebrand, director of adult and occupational education at United Teachers Los Angeles, is an English-as-a-second-language teacher at Central Adult High School and North Hollywood-Poly Community Adult School

Adult education gets only 2% of the Los Angeles Unified School District's budget, and it's clear that our supervisors at 450 N. Grand Ave. haven't the slightest idea what we do.

In a recent proposal, LAUSD chief operating officer Howard Miller suggested moving Evans Community Adult School from its core community to a site two miles away, very close to two other adult schools. The idea is to use the Evans campus--built with adult education money, incidentally--to relieve overcrowded Belmont High School.

Adult education, in which more than 4,000 teachers instruct 275,000 students in Los Angeles during any given week, is pro-K-12. We already teach many students of high school age, or just over, and we want to help.

But, if you're hungry, do you ask me for my right arm? The solution being advanced by Miller is cannibalism. It's like the camper whose toes got cold at night, so he cut off one end of his blanket and sewed it on to the other end to make it longer.

Evans, the largest adult school in the U.S., runs almost round the clock and earns one-eighth of the district's adult division budget. It already is teaching 600 high school students; what's the point of shipping them out and piling in 1,000 others? The difference isn't worth the disruption.

Adult education recognizes a basic truth: The problem of the schools is a problem of society. Our schools are overcrowded and troubled partly because waves of immigrants have landed here in the past 25 years. Many of these newcomers have no English skills; few got even a grade-school education under the misrule they endured in their homelands. Immigrant families need cultural acclimatization, and they and their kids need to learn English.

It's because of these needs that kids' scores on standardized tests here are low. Just look at an actual question from the state-mandated test for first-graders: "Which of these two pictures is the more representative of the colonial period?" What outcome other than failure could reasonably be expected here? That's why excursions into merit pay-land are so cruel and deceitful: They do not acknowledge, let alone correct, the real problem, which is getting immigrants into the mainstream. Teachers are blamed for the results of conditions over which they have no control.

In Adult Ed, we teach parents English, give them basic academic skills and train them in a trade so that they can earn more. This directly supports and strengthens these new resident families. Moreover, when parents head back to school, they're demonstrating the value of education to their kids, and they're also picking up ways to help their children learn better.

Moving Evans to a site away from its community would merely extend the dysfunctionality of the LAUSD to a school that is serving its students very well. Giving to Belmont students the classrooms that you've taken away from their parents solves nothing and weakens the overall effort. But Miller, apparently, sees only an empty shell to be filled with Belmont students, although even the feasibility of that at the vest-pocket-sized Evans has yet to be demonstrated.

The situation in the LAUSD is serious indeed, and the pressures are enormous, but evicting Evans from its community won't help.

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