Attendees of last night's meeting at Sanchez Elementary listening to Latino parents speaking about an achievement gap at SFUSD (Thibault Worth/KQED)

About 200 Latino immigrant parents gathered at San Francisco’s Sanchez Elementary School Thursday night to ask city and school district officials for a moratorium on new school programs, pending a comprehensive solution to what they say is a crisis in teaching immigrant students.

“We don’t want [our children] to be statistics,” said Maria Rocha, whose son is enrolled in the bi-lingual program at Cesar Chavez Elementary School.

Rocha says her son is struggling academically, and she is looking for an after-school community program to compensate for what she believes the school isn’t providing. Rocha says she has heard that other schools in the city provide better support for English Learners.

“[Latino English Learners] can succeed,” she said. “But we need support. That’s what we are asking for.” Rocha said that schools work differently in the United States than in her native Mexico, and that she is still learning to navigate the system.

SFUSD Mission Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero, Supervisor David Campos and Supervisor Scott Wiener were among the officials who attended. Wiener said the solution lies in raising the performance of troubled schools so that parents can stop jockeying for admission into a small number of schools perceived as the best.

“Until we do that, we are going to have an achievement gap,” said Wiener. “We’re going to have certain kids who are at schools that are underperforming. We need to make sure that all the schools are performing well.”

Cynthia Meza, a teacher at Leonard R. Flynn Elementary, said “whatever we’ve been doing is just not working. There is a huge discrepancy in academic success between English-Language Learners and their white or Asian counterparts. When Latino parents complain about issues, it’s not the same as a small group of white middle class parents saying there’s an issue,” said Meza. “Latinos are not part of the culture of power, let’s face it.”

Before the event, SFUSD Deputy Superintendent Richard Carranza, who is set to take over as head of the system in July, spoke about the district’s commitment to educating struggling students.

“I went to public schools as an English language learner not speaking one word of English, so I am very sensitive to this issue,” he said. “And it is really the rallying cry with which our district has formed its strategic plan. Our entire strategic plan is focused on really closing the achievement gap for African American, Latino, Samoans and students with disabilities.”

Carranza added that he needed to better understand what parents meant by placing a “moratorium” on new programs before taking any action on the suggestion.

Update Apr 30: After publication of this blog post, Ms. Rocha took issue with some of the quotations of her and contacted KQED requesting several corrections. KQED stands by the original reporting, but we have added the following remarks from Ms. Rocha for context.

Ms. Rocha says that Latino English Learner children have the same capabilities as other children, and that as members of society, it’s their right to receive a quality education. She also says that it is important for Latino immigrant parents to get more involved in advocating for their children and for themselves within the school system.

Latino Immigrant Parents Call For Moratorium on SFUSD Programs, Closing Achievement Gap 1 May,2012Thibault Worth


Thibault Worth

Thibault got his start in public radio hosting Morning Edition for member station WFDD in Winston-Salem. Sleep-deprived and eager to learn a new language, he left the North Carolina Piedmont for Taiwan in 2007 where he spent several years reporting on cross-Strait issues for NPR, the Financial Times, and Billboard Magazine. He also repeated low-intermediate Mandarin classes more times than he’d care to admit. After a few years in Asia, Thibault headed to France, where (fortunately) he already spoke the local language. He worked for the international broadcaster France24 as an expert guest and multimedia producer. Now happily married, Thibault is glad to find himself reporting for QUEST and Climate Watch, where he is finally putting his biology degree from Brown University to good use.

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