Community College Recognized for Work with Latino Students

Santa Barbara City College in California recently won national praise and a $400,000 prize, in large part because of its success with Latino students and emphasis on transferring students to four-year colleges.

The Aspen Institute awarded its Community College Excellence Award  to the Santa Barbara campus along with Walla Walla Community College. The evaluates four areas: student learning outcomes, degree completion, labor market success after college, and facilitating minority and low-income student success.

More than 30% of Santa Barbara’s roughly 28,763 students are Hispanic. About 48% of the college’s Latino students graduate or transfer within three years–compared with 35% nationally. The college places a priority on moving students on to four-year colleges and universities.

Edith Rodriguez, 22, the daughter of Mexican parents, had a juvenile record when she decided to turn her life around. NBC Latino reports that she learned about the Running Start “bridge” program at Santa Barbara City College when a representative spoke at her high school. During the summer program she took math and English enrichment courses, and once enrolled in colleges she received extra support such as tutoring.

“In my neighborhood, the people I grew up with are not in college right now because they don’t know anything about it,” Rodriguez told NBC Latino. “Most of us need to be motivated, and we don’t know about these opportunities. These programs help us.”

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that president Lori Gaskin believes that its key to reach out to students early.

“We reach out to students like Edith even before they set foot on campus, before they realize that college is a potential opportunity for them,” she told the publication. “Our students don’t necessarily have role models or cheerleaders at home.”

Related Links:

– “2013 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence Awarded to Santa Barbara City College and Walla Walla Community College,” The Aspen Institute.

– “Community colleges awarded for advancing and graduating Latinos,” NBC Latino.

– “Aspen Prize Honors 2 Community Colleges for Students’ Successes,” The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Chicago School Closings Impact Black and Latino Families

The Chicago Public School system is poised to shutter 53 elementary schools across the city to resolve a nearly $1 billion deficit, impacting thousands of mostly black and Latino children and their families.

Last year, about 44% of CPS students were Latino and 42% were African-American out of a total enrollment of 404,151.

Most of the schools being closed are in predominantly black neighborhoods with declining student enrollments. However, according to NBC Latino, eight of the schools being closed have enrollments that are more than 20 percent Latino. One of those schools is Ana Roque de Duprey Elementary School in the Humboldt Park neighborhood.

Chicago Teachers Union representative Sara Echevarria opposes the decision to close Duprey.

“This school has people who are vested in the community, who understand the culture in the community; a lot of these kids are special ed kids who need the support and the smaller class sizes,” Echevarria told NBC Latino.

However, the article notes that Chicago school officials say that the campus is only one-third full.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has defended the closings, and said they will enable the school system to spend more money on the remaining schools.

Latino Policy Forum executive director Sylvia Puente raised concerns about the 1,500 pre-kindergarten spots at the schools being closed.

“There is a severe shortage of Latinos in our early childhood education programs, so how these slots will or will not be redistributed should be studied,” Puente told NBC Latino.

A rally against the closures is scheduled for Wednesday.

Related Links:

– “Chicago’s decision to close 54 schools elicits strong reactions,” NBC Latino.

– “Chicago school closing plan ignites emotions,” The Chicago Tribune.

– “Rahm Emanuel on School Closings: Chicago Mayor Defends Action as Tough But Needed,” AP.

Illinois District Requires ESL Training for Some Teachers

The second-largest school district in Illinois will soon begin to require all teachers at 10 of its lowest performing elementary school campuses to earn English as a Second Language teaching credentials.

The U46 school system in Elgin, Illinois, served more than 40,000 students in 2011. The student enrollment is about 49% Latino and 22% limited English proficient. The failing schools impacted are heavily Latino.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the impacted schools are those that have been on “academic watch” for five years and are required to restructure under No Child Left Behind.

Some teachers are concerned that earning the ESL credential will be expensive. The ESL requirement is just one of many of the district’s restructuring changes.

The Courier News reported that school board member Amy Kerber said the plan is a “really massive undertaking and massive system shift.”

More districts are taking steps to encourage all teachers to undergo training on training English Language Learners, to address the growth in the number of children needing such specialized instruction.

Related Links:

– “Elgin-area teachers face ESL mandate,” Chicago Sun-Times. 

– “U46 teachers, parents and school board members offer their reactions to ‘massive’ restructuring plan,” Elgin Courier News.

– “Hispanic Parent Leadership Institute seeks to educate, get parents involved,” TribLocal.

– “School Superintendent Adds His Dimension to Federal Equity Report,” Hispanic Link Report.

Brief Encourages Involvement of Parents of ELL Students

A new policy brief emphasizes the importance of school-based efforts targeted at increasing parent involvement in improving the education of English Language Learner students.

The brief by the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado Boulder makes a number of best practices recommendations for school districts and individual schools.

The recommendations include:

– Provide home-school coordinators who are fluent in the child’s language and translators at key parent meetings.

– Incorporate community cultural events and celebrations.

– Print bilingual newsletters.

– Provide parents with avenues to learn English.

– Include families in school governance

– Encourage parents’ reading and writing with their children.

– Collaborate with community organizations.

In addition, the report recommends that states provide training to ELL teachers that builds on students’ culture, prioritizes funding for ELL students and ensuring that no financial inequalities exist in support for such students.

Related Links:

– “Enhancing Education for English Learners through Parental Involvement,” National Education Policy Center (NEPC).

Latino Students in Virginia Often Attend Segregated Schools

A new study finds that Latino students are becoming more segregated in Virginia schools–particularly in the northern part of the state where they are the largest minority group.

According to the study by The Civil Rights Project at UCLA, Northern Virginia is the only part of the state where Latino students are more segregated than black students.

“Despite Virginia’s long history with school desegregation, little political attention has been paid to the growing multi-racial diversity of the state’s enrollment and rising levels of isolation for its black and Latino students,” the report says.

The report examined data from the National Center for Education Statistics between 1989 and 2010, and found the following about school enrollments in 2010:

– About 6% of the state’s Latino students attended schools where white students make up less than 10% of the enrollment.

– Despite segregation, schools are also becoming increasingly diverse as well. In 2010, more than 60% of Latino students attended a multiracial school where three or more racial groups made up at least 10% of the enrollment. It was a dramatic increase from 1989, when the rate was 10%.

– The typical Latino student attended a school where low-income students made up about 41% of students.

The study breaks out numbers depending on the region of the state- Norfolk-Virginia Beach-Newport News, Richmond-Petersburg and Northern Virginia. The report makes various suggestions as to how the state can increase integration, including using magnet schools to promote more racial integration and avoiding rezoning policies that increase racial isolation.

Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project, called attention to the need for the state to adjust to its changing demographics.

“Though many racial issues remain unsettled for black students, Virginia now faces another kind of change as it becomes a truly multiracial state, which poses a different set of risks and opportunities,” Orfield said. “Leaders need the vision to renew efforts to achieve justice and integration for blacks and to be sure that the growing Latino communities are not locked into segregation and inequality.”

Related Links:

– “Latino students attending increasingly segregated schools in Virginia,” Washington Post. 

– “UCLA Report Finds Virginia’s African American Students Face Increasing Racial Segregation and Poverty in School,” The Civil Rights Project at UCLA.

Latino Charter School Operator Promotes English Immersion

The United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) began as a Latino advocacy group in Chicago in the 1980s. But now the UNO name is known more for education, as a charter school operator running ten K-8 schools and one high school.

UNO enrolls about 6,500 students, about 95% of whom are Hispanic, 93% low-income and 38% English Language Learners.

The group still emphasizes serving Hispanic students. What I find interesting is that the system emphasizes using English immersion techniques for English Language Learners. The school system’s web site emphasizes that the curriculum offers “a complete American experience.”

Juan Rangel, CEO of UNO, recently emphasized the approach in an essay about how to best educate Hispanic children for Education Next. Rangel himself did not speak English when he enrolled in kindergarten, The New York Times noted in a profile of him. He was born in Brownsville, Texas, to undocumented immigrant parents from Mexico.

“I picked up the language so fast,” he told the Times.

In his most recent essay for Education Next, he promotes the necessity for schools to promote assimilation to immigrant children.

Rangel’s support of English immersion is interesting, given that many Latino educators support the bilingual education model. Illinois is one of the states that uses bilingual education to educate ELLs. Rangel points out that his students perform better than those in Chicago Public Schools on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT).

In particular, the following passage stands out:

“Immigrants and native-born Americans alike recognize English as a unifying feature of American society and as a key to immigrant advancement. Poor English-language skills not only delay full assimilation for our community, but also deny Hispanics full access to American opportunity. UNO chose English-language immersion over the traditional bilingual transition program to teach English to its children and families.

Structured English-language immersion challenges the conventional approach to educating English language learners (ELL). Our students’ limited English-language skills could easily be used as an excuse for low performance or a need for unlimited resources, but we see it as a necessity for teachers to differentiate their instruction to reach all learners, including ELL students. Most pragmatically, English immersion is effective in closing the performance gap between ELLs and their peers nationwide, and is financially viable and scalable—unlike the many bilingual transition programs that require untenable complements of teachers and resources and produce mixed results at best.

I believe, and our schools’ performance bears this out, that a well-rounded, rigorous program with excellent teachers and leaders works with any population of students, and works especially well for Hispanic immigrant children.”

According to the Illinois Interactive Report Card, about 76 percent of UNO students met or exceeded state standards. The system does face academic struggles–it did not make adequate yearly progress.

Related Links:

– UNO (United Neighborhood Organization) Charter Schools Network.

– “Emphasize Civic Responsibility and Good Citizenship,” Juan Rangel, Education Next.

– 2012 Illinois School Report Card for UNO Network Charter Schools.

Initiatives Target Improving Education in South Texas

The predominantly Latino communities along the border between Texas and Mexico in the Rio Grande Valley are some of the most impoverished in the nation. The Valley’s residents have long struggled with low educational attainment.

According to a fact sheet from the advocacy group Excelencia in Education, only about 16% of Latino adults ages 25 to 64 in the region hold an associate’s degree or higher–compared with 37% of white, non-Hispanic, adults. About 95% of the K-12 students in the Valley are Latino.

But the higher education institutions in the region are working on major reform initiatives that aim to reverse the trend.

At the University of Texas-Pan American, freshmen with ACT scores of 18 or less or who are not in the top 25% of their graduating class must enroll in course that helps them focus on learning and transitioning into college. About 77% of freshman take the course, which was first created in 2008.

At the University of Texas at Brownsville, high school students can enroll in dual-enrollment courses. The program has grown so popular that about one-third of the university’s students are participants in the dual enrollment program. According to the university, retention rates are higher for college students who were once in the program than for those who did not participate in the program.

State education officials and legislators also are paying attention to the region. Plans are also underfoot to merge the two universities, and to create a medical school in the region at the resulting larger university. Recently, the merger legislation passed the Texas House and Senate higher education committees. The presidents of both universities also support the proposal.

In January, Texas Gov. Rick Perry called on lawmakers lawmakers to approve the merger, therefore allowing the two South Texas universities to be able to access more funds known as the Permanent University Fund. The huge pot of money currently is available to the University of Texas and Texas A&M University systems, but not UTPA and UTB.

“I can’t speak for the legislature, but this vision is so compelling, the need is so great, that it can’t help but make sense,” said Francisco Cigarroa, chancellor of the University of Texas System, in an Inside Higher Ed article.

Related Links:

– “Latino College Completion: Rio Grande Valley,” Excelencia in Education.

– “Perry: Let South Texas access permanent university fund,” The Texas Tribune.

– “UT System Planning New Rio Grande University,” The Texas Tribune.

– “Everything’s Getting Bigger in Texas,” Inside Higher Ed.

Las Vegas School System Could Stop Translating Written IEPs

Children with special needs who are also English language learners must overcome significant hurdles to succeed academically. If their parents don’t speak English and are not comfortable navigating the school system, the potential barriers to student success grow even taller.

The Las Vegas Sun reports that since 2004 the Clark County School District has provided the parents of its 8,000 ELL special education students with verbal and written translation services. These services help parents understand the complex federally required Individualized Education Plans (IEP) that outline the personalized goals for children with disabilities.

But the school district has proposed cutting out the written IEP translation services to achieve necessary budget cuts, the newspaper reports. The proposal wouldn’t cut the verbal translators present at parent-teacher meetings, which school districts must provide by law.

Fernando Romero, a Hispanic community activist and a Clark County parent whose son has autism, has spoken out against the proposal. “As a father of an autistic child, I am very upset to hear that they are planning to do this,” Romero told the newspaper. “I know how long it takes to understand the IEP and how technical it is. I’m appalled by this.”

The school district hired a consultant who made recommendations on cuts based on efficiency. In the case of the written IEP translations, the consultant determined that the documents often were sent so late to parents that they were no longer useful. District officials have said they could save $20,000.

Related Links:

“Lost in translation: District’s cost-cutting move targets non-English-speaking parents of special-needs students,” Las Vegas Sun News. March 6. 

Why Don’t More Latino Children Attend Catholic Schools?

The Latino population boom has fueled substantial public school enrollment growth. But that growth is not similarly reflected in Catholic schools, which have been losing students and closing campuses for years.

According to the National Catholic Educational Association, Latinos make up about 40% of U.S. Catholics, but only about 14% of Catholic school students. Meanwhile, Hispanic children made up about 24% of public school students in October 2011, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

The Religion News Service recently reported that a group called the Catholic School Advantage Campaign, run by the University of Notre Dame, is seeking to challenge the status quo and increase the number of Latino students in Catholic schools.

“We’ve just taken it for granted that they will come,” Sylvia Armas-Abad of the Advantage Campaign told the news service. “And at one point in time, they did–they ran to our doors. That’s no longer how it is.”

Hispanic Catholic school enrollment does vary somewhat by region. According to the NCEA, about 30% of Catholic students in western states are Latino.

Hispanic parents often believe they can’t afford to attend or that they are only for the most elite students. Tuition can seem daunting to many low-income families. According to the NCEA‘s 2012-13 enrollment report, the average elementary school tuition is $3,673, and the average secondary freshman tuition is $9,622.

Some scholarships do exist to fill the financial gaps. According to the Religion News Service, this school year about 83 percent of the scholarships awarded by the Catholic Education Foundation went to Latino students in the Los Angeles Archdiocese. Similarly, the Big Shoulders Fund in Chicago also assists low-income students with scholarships.

The Wall Street Journal reported in January that the decline in Catholic school enrollment has slowed somewhat, in part due to more Hispanic children enrolling. In some states, school vouchers are making Catholic schools more accessible to Latino families. The article said that Catholic elementary school enrollment has increased in Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, and Indianapolis.

Kevin Baxter, superintendent of elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles,  has instituted recruitment strategies that include using Hispanic mothers to recruit other potential families.

“We’ve relied old way of doing things and now we’re slowly learning it is relationship driven,” he told the Journal.

Whether the church will be able to successfully attract Hispanic families remains to be seen. As recently as January, the Archdiocese of New York announced that it would close 22 elementary schools and two high schools by the end of the school year.

Are Catholic schools in your area trying to reach out to Hispanic families?

Related Links:

– “Dwindling Catholic schools see future in Latino students,” Religion News Service/The Washington Post.

– Catholic School Advantage, University of Notre Dame.

– “Vouchers Breathe New Life into Shrinking Catholic Schools,” The Wall Street Journal.

– “Catholic schools add Dual-language classes,” Latino Ed Beat.

Latinos Underrepresented in New York City Gifted Programs

While Latino children make up the largest racial or ethnic group enrolled in New York City’s public elementary schools, they occupy the smallest percentage of the gifted  and talented program’s enrollment.

Data obtained by The Wall Street Journal shows that Latino children are dramatically underrepresented in the program, making up just 12% of the city’s 14,266 gifted elementary school students this school year. Yet Latino children make up about 41% of the 489,911 elementary students.

The Journal reports that white and Asian children make up about 70% of students enrolled in the city’s 110 gifted and talented elementary programs. Children who are Latino, black or of other races make up about 29%. The newspaper asked the city’s chief academic officer, Shael Polakow-Suransky, whether he thought the racial imblance was a problem.

“I wouldn’t say that we set a goal for ourselves on diversity,” he told the newspaper. “We set a goal for ourselves on having a high standards that we want to push our kids and our families to meet.”

The newspaper is shining a light on the disparity, as the city prepares to change the exam it uses to screen for gifted children. The new test will be the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test, relying on abstract thinking.

A large part of the racial and ethnic disparity is that low-income, minority parents don’t know about the gifted program or test. Nor do they have the resources to prepare for it, as tutoring can be expensive. Critics say that the city should not solely rely on standardized test for admission to the program.

According to the Journal, only about 13% (39,300) of children kindergarten through third grade were even tested for gifted programs in 2012, and the city does not believe in screening all students.

In a follow-up story, the Journal reported that the school system’s Chancellor ,Dennis Walcott, said the low enrollment of black and Hispanic children “is what it is.”

“It’s unfair to [black and Hispanic students] if they just need to be put in a program to satisfy some type of percentage,” he told the newspaper.

The lack of diversity among elementary schoolchildren is just the tip of the iceberg. The New York school system has also come under fire for the lack of diversity at the city’s most elite magnet high schools, including Stuyvesant and Bronx Science .

Last September, the NAACP filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education (with the support of Latino Justice PRLDEF), saying that the city’s magnet admission exam discriminated against black and Latino students.

At the time, Reuters reported that in the 2011-12 school year Latinos only made up about 2.4% of Stuyvesant students, and black students made up 1.2 percent.

Admissions standards for gifted programs can vary widely. Make sure to compare your school district’s racial and ethnic composition against the gifted population. Does your district use an exam, or include other factors?

Related Links:

– “Gifted Class Imbalance,” The Wall Street Journal. 

– “City Defends Gifted Policy,” The Wall Street Journal.

– “NAACP says entry exam bars Blacks, Latinos from Top N.Y. Schools,” Latino Ed Beat.

– “Gifted, Talented and Separated.” The New York Times.