Naheed Virani | Sacrificing Excellence for Equity

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor

We live in world that is increasingly competitive in science, technology, engineering and math. Leadership and innovation that come from it are key to good jobs and better quality of life. Our youth need to be equipped with an education to compete globally.  

As a young student of limited means, I was blessed to benefit from advanced math and science classes offered in public schools. The opportunity to dissect starfish in middle school or separate DNA in high school sparked my interest in science. Advanced placement courses in high school allowed me to earn college credits that help reduce the cost of college.   

It therefore pains me to hear that school districts in California and elsewhere are doing away with advanced STEM options for public school students to promote “equity.” Specialized high schools like Lowell are doing away with merit-based admissions. Even the California Department of Education, in its new math framework, discourages the practice of students who are excelling to pursue advanced math options. The argument is that some demographics are overrepresented in advanced classes (namely Asians). The CDE provides no additional funding or guidance to help students who are behind. Instead it denies students who are poor but diligent the opportunity to get ahead. It will make our youth unprepared to compete with countries like China and India where advancement in STEM is promoted and competition is cutthroat. This policy brings everyone down rather than lifting everyone up. A saying comes to mind that “no child left behind has morphed into no child get ahead.”  

There is a better alternative. One that encourages lifting up those who are falling behind, while not limiting those who can excel. It is service. Service from college students, recent graduates, or industry professionals to tutor those struggling in school. There are volunteer programs such as Step Up Tutoring at the L.A. Unified School District that do just that. Private-public partnerships can fund after-school programs that help struggling students or provide career training. Schools may also consider ways to pair advanced and underperforming students in supervised homeroom or rotations or provide “extra credit” to incentivize mentoring. Encouraging service would be a great way to teach our youth to put compassion into action and make everyone ready to face the world! 

Calling the CDE to advocate for better programs for those who are behind and for those who are ahead is another way you can help. 

Naheed Virani
Stevenson Ranch

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