By Cheryl Ortega, Director of Bilingual Education, UTLA (United Teachers of Los Angeles). Cheryl Ortega taught for 38 years in kindergarten and primary education bilingual programs in LAUSD. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of UTLA as Director of Bilingual Education.
I became acquainted with Mr. Tuck in 2008, the first year of the rollout out of PLAS. As Director of Bilingual Education for UTLA, I had received a call from some teachers at an elementary School in Watts concerned that their Dual Language Program would be closed down by order of PLAS’s Tuck. He, Angela Bass and Doc Ervin, all PLAS officials, had determined to close the program because of supposed low test scores. In fact, there was only a single year of test scores to consider. The school, in historically African-American Watts, was 75% Hispanic. The English-speaking students in the Dual Language Program were all African-American.
The teachers, parents and students, supported by UTLA, held at least 2 demonstrations outside of the school in support of the language programs. That led Tuck to bring in police to disperse the crowd, and later some “experts from San Diego” whose incredible lack of knowledge and expertise in the realm of language learning was astonishing. These experts led a presentation on the detrimental aspects of Dual Language Learning. This was in spite of a huge body of research supporting “the amazing benefits of dual language education.” Perhaps the most well known study on this topic can be attributed to Virgina Colliers and Wayne Thomas of George Mason University. The program was closed at the end of the year with the assistant principal, under the direction of Marshall Tuck, telling the African-American students that Dual Language was not for them.
In the following year, we witnessed Spanish language signage on the campus disappear. Bilingual signs for restrooms, parent center, nurse’s office and others were all replaced with English-only signs, a huge show of disrespect towards the community.
Marshall Tuck was equally responsible for removing the renowned Academic English Mastery Program (AEMP) at the school, a program with a nation-wide reputation for addressing the needs of Standard English Learners.
At the end of the year a vote was taken at that school, along with the other 9 PLAS schools to determine the staff’s willingness to continue as a Mayor’s school. As reported to me by teachers, a ballot box was put in the teachers’ lounge. Teachers cast their ballots with no one supervising the box. At the end of the day, the votes were counted by the principal in private and the results were announced. The school voted to stay with PLAS. It was the only one of the then 10 PLAS schools to do so.
So PLAS and its director, Marshall Tuck, were responsible for:
1. Removing the two most successful language programs in the nation from the school, a chronically underserved elementary school.
2. Creating heightened hostility between the Hispanic and the African-American communities.
3. Skewing research and misrepresenting it to parents and teachers to justify their own negative goals.
4. Tampering with the faculty voting process.
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