Study Shows Latino Students More Dependent on Mobile Devices for Homework Help

Latino students are more likely to use mobile devices while working on their homework than white or black students, concludes a new study on technology use by middle school students.

The youth polling group TRU conducted a national survey funded by the Verizon Foundation to make the findings. About 1,000 sixth- through eighth-graders were surveyed.

In addition, the report found that among Latino middle school students, about 68 percent used laptops for homework, compared with 64 percent of black students and 62 percent of white students.

About 38 percent of Hispanic students used tablets for homework, compared with 30 percent of black students and 31 percent of white students.

Lastly, about 49 percent of Latino students reporting using smart phones for homework, compared with 42 percent of black students and 36 percent of white students. Hispanics also reported using the technology to study more often than other students and more frequently used technology on a weekly basis.

Meanwhile, few students reported using mobile technology at school. Verizon supported the study and said that their purpose was to better understand how to support using mobile technology in the classroom.

What do you think accounts for the disparity of Hispanic students reporting higher technology use?

A 2010 study by the Pew Hispanic Center found that Latino cell phone users were more likely than white users to use their cell phones to go online, email and instant message. However, Latinos were less likely to have a home internet connection.

Pew also noted that cell phone ownership is higher among Latinos and blacks than whites. So Latinos may use mobile technology for more purposes as a result.

Related Links:

– “Report: Latino students are highest users of mobile devices for homework.” NBC Latino.

– Verizon Foundation Survey on Middle School Students’ Use of Mobile Technology. 

– “Mobile Devices More Commonly Used to Complete Middle School Homework, But not in Classroom: Survey.” The Huffington Post.

– “Latinos and Digital Technology, 2010.” Pew Hispanic Center. 

Excelencia in Education Highlights Programs Promoting Latino College Completion

Over the past seven years, the advocacy group Excelencia in Education has compiled an impressive list of programs that are working to improve the college graduation rates of Latinos.

Every year, the group recognizes nominees in the areas of associate, bachelor and graduate level programs that have a track record of increasing Latino college enrollment, improving academic outcomes and increasing graduation rates.

For the 2012 Examples of Excelencia report, 159 programs were nominated. Of those nominees, three received the top awards and 16 others were national finalists.

Here’s a little bit of information about the top three programs recognized this year:

Valencia College’s Direct Connect . The University of Central Florida and four Florida community colleges partnered in 2006 to promote smoother transfers between colleges and universities. The colleges and universities share use of certain classrooms and labs, as well as advisors. Since the program’s inception, 3,695 Latino students have transfered from community colleges to the university.

– California State University, Bakersfield, School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Engineering. The university has focused on increasing the number of Latinos studying in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, in addition to working with nearby Bakersfield College to provide streamlined transfers between the two entities. About 40 percent of the program’s 1,039 students are Latino. About half of the community college transfer students studying in STEM programs are Latino, an increase from 22 percent in 2006. The university has also seen an increase in the number of Hispanic students majoring in STEM fields.

– University of Texas, El Paso, Master of Business Administration. The predominantly Latino university has focused on strengthening the MBA program through various efforts. They include diversifying faculty and expanding recruitment efforts. More than 59 percent of the 320 students served by the program annually are Hispanic and there were 104 Hispanic graduates from the program in 2010.

Excelencia will begin accepting nominations for next year’s list in January 2013. A searchable database is available online that lists past honorees, so you can search for programs in your area that may be worthy of media coverage.

Related Links:

– Examples of Excelencia 2012.

– Growing What Works Database.

– “Seventh annual Celebracion de Excelencia event honors top programs that increase Latino student success in College.” Excelencia in Education.

Michigan University Expands Outreach to Latino Students

Only three percent of students attending Ferris State University in Grand Rapids, Mich., are Latino. But however small the population may be, those 452 students still represent a priority to the university.

Ferris is pushing forward with efforts to better serve Hispanic students and community members. This week, Ferris is opening a new Center for Latino Studies, which aims to reach out to Latinos with education and leadership opportunities. University officials hope that it will grow into a home base or somewhat of a student union for Hispanic students and those interested in Latino issues.

Tony Baker, the center’s executive director, is also a sociology professor and a member of the Grand Rapids Public Schools Board of Education. The center will pursue partnerships in the Grand Rapids community.

Baker said one initiative that the university is pursuing to better connect with local Latinos will place Ferris education students as mentors at Union High School, a local school which has a large Hispanic population. The goal is to mentor potential future bilingual and ESL teachers, he said.

“We need to do more to create a pipeline of teachers that can serve a diverse student body,” Baker told MLive. 

The university also recently launched the Latino Business and Economic Development Center, which seeks to provide support to Latino small-business owners in the region.

The initiatives are part of a push to reach out to Hispanics in western Michigan and to encourage them to pursue higher education.

What similar efforts are colleges and universities in your community making to connect with Latinos? Are the efforts successful?

Related Links:

– “Ferris State University looks to better serve Latino students.” MLive.com. 

– “Ferris to Celebrate Grand Opening of Center for Latino Studies.” Ferris State University.

– “New Ferris center aims to boost Latino businesses in Grand Rapids.” MLive.

– Ferris State University.

“Abriendo Puertas” Program to Expand in Chicago

The “Abriendo Puertas” program aims to empower Hispanic parents to be their children’s first teacher. The initiative, which stands for “Opening Doors” in English, targets parents in Spanish who have children ages zero to five years old.

The Latino Policy Forum recently announced an effort to expand the program’s reach in the Chicago area. The Forum, which has offered the program since 2010, plans on training 1,000 parents in the region by the end of its third year. About 540 parents have been trained since its inception.

Nationally, the program has sites in 31 states serving more than 22,000 families. Parents learn in ten sessions about topics including nutrition, parents as advocates and communication.

The Forum has tracked the attitudes of participating parents. Among the findings:

  • About 22 percent of parents were not confident about teaching their children language before going through the program, compared with 83 percent afterwards.
  • About 18 percent of parents said they knew “little” to “nothing” about school expectations at first, compared with 74 percent after completing the program.
  • About 98.5 percent of the parents felt confident about teaching their children before they enter kindergarten, after completing the program. This included basic skills such as counting, learning colors and letters.

A recent study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, surveyed hundreds of parent participants and found that they improved their knowledge about early learning and brain development , developing literacy and helping their children be successful at school. They also came away more confident about their parenting skills.

The Policy Forum will be offering a workshop on how to train parents from Nov. 26-28 in Chicago. The group expects 14 organizations that serve Latinos to attend, including schools districts and nonprofit groups.

Other programs focusing on Latino parents with similar parent involvement models include HIPPY and AVANCE.

Related Links:

– “Metro Chicago Latino Parent Leadership Program to Train 1,000 by End of its Third Year.” Latino Policy Forum.

– “Abriendo Puertas” Program Gives Latino Parents a Boost. Latino Ed Beat. 

– “Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors Network.” National Head Start Association. 

Denver Schools Reach Agreement on ELLs

Denver Public Schools officials have hammered out a  modified consent decree that makes changes to how the school district’s more than 36,000 English language learners are taught.

The Denver Post reports that the agreement with the Congress of Hispanic Educators includes new changes regarding teaching training, student exit procedures and parent communication. It also orders that a study of the effectiveness of the program for teaching ELLs be completed by 2015.

The decree regarding instruction of ELLs exists because of a desegregation suit first filed in 1974, which eventually led to an agreement 10 years later on ELLs. The district has used transitional bilingual education to teach students.

EFE also reports that the new agreement will require all DPS schools to offer bilingual classes and creates a system to track student progress.

“Today we’re standing on the shoulders of people who fought a long time to guarantee students’ rights,” Kathy Escamilla, education professor at the University of Colorado, told EFE. “But unfortunately, the fight continues.”

Related Links:

“DPS, plaintiffs now speak same language on modified consent decree.” The Denver Post. 

“Agreement on bilingual education in Denver.” Fox News Latino/EFE. 

New Voting Districts Increase Latino Representation on California College Board

Three Latinas were recently elected to the Cerritos College Board of Trustees in California–a landmark victory after the college switched its election system to comply with the California Voting Rights Act.

Following the 2010 Census, school districts and other entities that used at-large election systems came under fire for a lack of representation of their diverse populations.

To avoid lawsuits, many are voluntarily switching to a single-member voting district system, which can offer minority voters greater opportunities to elect candidates of their choice. Districts can be drawn in which the majority of voters are Latino, for example, in order to boost representation.  According to the group California Watch, about 70 school boards have applied to switch over to district elections since 2009.

A voting rights lawsuit was filed against Cerritos College last year on behalf of Latino voters who said they were not represented under the at-large system. The college said it was already changing its system when it was filed, and moved over to a single-member district system. In 2009-10, about 43 percent of students attending the southeast Los Angeles County college were Latino.

The Long Beach Press-Telegram reports that one of the plaintiffs in the suit against Cerritos College, Carmen Avalos, defeated an incumbent to win a seat on the board. She was an undocumented immigrant from Mexico as a child who later went on to earn a master’s degree in education from Cal State Long Beach. She now works as a city clerk.

“Now I feel we have equity,” she told the newspaper. “We have a board that now resembles our community.”

Do your local school and college boards reflect the diversity of their student body?

Related Links:

“District-voting system brings 3 Latinos to Cerritos College board.” Long Beach Press-Telegram. 

– “Creating Geographic Districts Could Boost Latino School Board Representation in California.” Latino Ed Beat. 

– “White-dominated boards face legal threats over racial makeup.” California Watch.

Will Tucson’s Desegregation Plan Bring Ethnic Studies Back?

Plaintiffs in a decades-long federal desegregation case against the Tucson Unified School District have filed a plan with the court calling for a culturally relevant curriculum for Latino and black students, among other requests. While it does not mention it in name, the proposal could mean a push to resurrect the district’s controversial Mexican American Studies program, which was dismantled last school year. The plaintiffs want to see courses that reflect the history and culture of Mexican Americans.

“The restoration and expansion of literature and social studies courses that focus on Mexican American experiences recognizes the important role these courses play in engaging students and improving their academic achievement and graduation rates and is a critical strategy for closing the achievement gap for Latino students,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney Nancy Ramirez, with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, in a news release.

The school district has been overseen for more than 30 years under the desegregation case.

The “Unitary Status Plan” proposal also calls for integrating magnet programs and schools, increasing diversity among administrators, and setting goals for increasing Latino and black student enrollment in gifted programs, reports the Arizona Daily Star.

Further bolstering the plan, a new study by the University of Arizona concludes that the MAS courses positively affected student achievement.

The Daily Star reported that school board members had a mixed reaction to the proposal, but overall called it an improvement over previous plans.

Board member Adelita Grijalva expressed hopes that the plan would give “specific direction” for the return of the MAS program. Board member Michael Hicks took the opposing view and disagreed with the proposal calling for culturally relevant courses. He thought such courses could segregate students. But he didn’t entirely reject it.

“Although the board had reservations with some of the requests, it’s a good plan,” he told the newspaper. “Let’s see what the judge does.”

Related Links:

– “Latinos support latest plan for TUSD balance.” Arizona Daily Star. 

– Mexican American Studies: Tucson Courses Improved Achievement, New Report Says.” The Huffington Post. 

“MALDEF joins in filing draft plan to desegregate and improve educational achievement for Latino students in Tucson Unified School District.” MALDEF.

– “Ethnic Studies Could Return to Tucson in Desegregation Plan.” Learning the Language Blog. Education Week. 

DOJ to Investigate Alleged Discrimination in Louisiana Schools

The U.S. Department of Justice has announced that it will investigate claims of mistreatment of Latino students in the Jefferson Parish Public Schools in Louisiana. The move comes on the heels of a complaint filed in August by the Southern Poverty Law Center, reports the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

The center has alleged that the district did not offer adequate translation services to Spanish-speaking parents and that district administrators did nothing to stop the bullying of Hispanic students. The center also alleges that Hispanic students were told they could not graduate without proof of Social Security numbers.

Since the initial complaint was filed, the district began offering Spanish language courses to principals and encouraged hiring bilingual teachers.

About 17 percent of the district’s 46,000 students are Hispanic. The law center has also previously filed complaints against the district for its treatment of black students and special education students.

The SPLC has also previously filed similar complaints against the Wake County Public Schools and Durham Public Schools in North Carolina.

Related Links:

-“Department of Justice to further investigate discrimination claims in Jefferson Parish Schools.” New Orleans Times-Picayune. 

– “SPLC files civil rights complaint against Louisiana District.” Latino Ed Beat.

Southern Poverty Law Center.

San Antonio Moves Forward With Pre-K 4 SA initiative

San Antonio is moving forward with plans to dramatically expand access to pre-K for low-income children, in hopes that the investment will result in raising the city’s education levels over time.

Last week, voters approved a one-eighth cent sales tax increase to fund the Pre-K 4 SA  initiative.

The measure is a passion project of Mayor Julián Castro. He campaigned hard for its passage, even mentioning the importance of pre-K as a smart investment in a keynote speech he gave at the Democratic National Convention. Castro proposed the initiative after a city-commissioned task force recommended that expanding early learning would have the greatest positive impact on improving education levels in the city.

According to the mayor’s office, there are about 5,700 4-year-olds in San Antonio who are eligible for state-funded pre-K but are not enrolled in full-day programs. Some are not enrolled in any programs and others are in half-day programs. Officials estimate that the funding raised by the tax increase could provide full-day classes to more than 22,000 children over the next eight years. The city plans to open four education centers of excellence with classrooms, rooms for use by parents and teacher training space.

The San Antonio Express-News reported that the tax should generate about $31 million a year, which could serve about 3,700 children each year.

The San Antonio initiative represents a substantial commitment to improving access that Hispanic children have to pre-K classes. Hispanic children lag other groups in participation rates in preschool.

Latinos comprised about 91 percent of the roughly 55,000 students attending the San Antonio Independent School District in 2011. About 93 percent of the district’s students are classified as economically disadvantaged.  The district plans on working with the city on carrying out the plan.

The Express-News reported that voters in more heavily Latino and black precincts tended to favor the measure far more than those living in areas with mostly white voters. Voters from low through middle income levels supported the measure more than those in affluent areas. The measure passed with about 54 percent of the vote.

“Folks from across the city made a great decision to invest in education today so that we can be more economically prosperous tomorrow,” Castro told the newspaper. “I am proud of the broad coalition behind the effort. It showed that in San Antonio, we’re working well together to accomplish important things for our city.”

Related Links:

Pre-K 4 San Antonio

“Pre-K wheels are turning in election’s wake.” San Antonio Express-News.

“Pre-K plan stimulated important decision.” San Antonio Express-News. 

“Pre-K support was tied to income.” San Antonio Express-News. 

ELL Programs Win Federal i3 Innovation Grants

Several programs that assist English-language learners have won funding through the U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation grant competition.

A total of 20 winners are sharing $150 million. The i3 competition was a part of the 2009 stimulus package. The program awards local school districts, non profit organizations that partner with schools and consortiums of schools. The program seeks to award grant money to applicants that have a record of achieving gains in student achievement.

Education Week’s Learning the Language blog reported on the news, and highlighted some of the winner that are helping ELL students:

– Texas A&M University won up to $15 million to focus on developing student literacy interventions for kindergarten through third grade Spanish-speaking ELLs. The university is partnering with 25 Texas school districts.

– Jobs for the Future won up to $15 million to implement Early College High School in three school districts with substantial ELL populations–two in South Texas and one in Colorado.

– West Ed won up to $15 million to design a math program to be used to teach children in the early grades. A parent program in Spanish adn English will also be offered to parents. Many of the California school districts working on the project have a large ELL population.

– The Intercultural Development Research Association won up to $3 million to grow its PTA Comunitario program, which emphasizes the importance of college completion for ELLs . The program operates in Texas schools.

– The California Association of Bilingual Education won a grant to create a parent-engagement program targeting Spanish-speaking parents in four California school districts.

– The California League of Middle Schools will follow a group of ELLs from the sixth grade through the 10th grade, while focusing on student and parent engagement.

Related Links:

– “ELL-focused Projects are Big Winners in i3 Competition.” Learning the Language blog. Education Week. 

– Investing in Innovation Fund.