Sunday, April 30, 2006

May 1st immigrant rights actions; Blogging from Arizona; resisting the exit exams

Photo from the film Walkout
On the eve of the historic May 1st actions for immigrant and workers' rights here and all over the US I am blogging from Phoenix/Tempe Arizona area - the hotbed of Minutemen Project/Sen. Jon Kyl/Prop 200 & 203 [anti-immigrant/anti-bilingual education groups]. More on May 1st Actions in your area.
I am here with educators, school board members and activists from California, Arizona, Texas and New Mexico to support Latino student achievement and learning. Some of us have been inspired by the walkout/'blowout' activism of youth in many of our school districts, but the discussion on these matters has been mostly in the hallways, but not in the official Arizona, California or Texas state school board association led workshops and plenary sessions.
There has been no discussion too of the racist/anti-immigrant Prop 203 [2000 - multimillionaire Ron Unz's AZ version of his 1998 Prop 227 in CA] and Prop 200 [2004 - the son of CA's 1994 Prop 187] or of the general assault on bilingual education and immigrant communities in the education system. As usual there's no talk or consciousness of the historic 1920's Phoenix/Tempe educational justice case Romo v. Laird or the 1969 Chicanos Por La Causa-led boycott of schools and fight to change the school system. For background - see the MALDEF analysis of school desegregation - Black, White and Brown.

But local immigrant rights and social justice groups here are planning for more large demonstrations targeting their elected officials for May Day. Though some principals and school districts are cracking down on students' rights to protest and raise their voices, many young people have been encouraged by the local and nationwide upsurge in activism.
Like California, Idaho and Utah - Arizona is imposing their AIMS high school exit exam this year and high school students must pass the test in order to receive a diploma. 27 states now impose this form of high states testing. Local student and parent groups here say that the exam has 'pushed out' many low income, Latino, African American and special education students - and the schools systems, especially in the rural Native American and Latino areas and in the urban centers are still largely segregated and unequal to the schools in the suburbs and predominantly 'Anglo' neighborhoods.

The student and parent resistance to the CA High School Exit Exam continues - see previous posts; and the 2 lawsuits from Californians for Justice/Public Advocates and Morrison and Forster proceed as well. SF's the Beat Within published this insightful student perspective from Perry Jones on the issue -

'Going Dumb' -- Why Young People Exit School En Route to the Exit Exam
The week after the test, a memo was sent out to each class informing us that a
high percentage of students across California had scored low on the test, so the exit exam would be put on hold until further notice. But now the exit exam is back, standing between my cousin and his education. I still see the test, and his reaction to it, as evidence that the school system has failed my little cousin and his generation of students. With little hope of receiving a high school diploma or anything else to show for all the effort they put into their education, it's not surprising that some students give up and just "go dumb."

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