NAEP Shows Narrowing Hispanic-White Achievement Gap

The achievement gap between Hispanic and white students in math and reading has narrowed since the 1970s, according to data from a national exam.

The National Center for Education Statistics has released new long-term achievement data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exam. The results examine the reading and math achievement in 2011-12 of 9-, 13-, and 17-year-olds.

Since the 1970s, 9- and 13-year-olds have made significant gains in reading and math — but not 17-year-olds. Since 2008, only 13-year-olds made gains. Since that era, among Hispanics, the only subject with no gains were 9-year-olds in math.

Achievement gaps narrowed because black and Hispanic students made greater gains on exams than white students. For example, the average 9-year-old Hispanic student’s score increased 25 points since 1975, versus a 12-point increase for white students. Gaps narrowed for Hispanic and black students at the 17-year-old age level as well, even though the group as a whole did not make gains.

“There are considerable bright spots, including remarkable improvement among black and Hispanic students, and great strides for girls in mathematics,” David P. Driscoll, the chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, said in a press release.

The NCES also found that a higher percentage of white students reported reading for fun daily than Hispanic or black students.

Related Links:

– “Achievement Gap Narrows on Long-Term NAEP,” Education Week.

– “U.S. Education Gap Narrows Between Whites and MInorities: Report,” Reuters.

– “The Nation’s Report Card: Trends in Academic Progress 2012,” National Center for Education Statistics.

Kids Count Report Measures Hispanic Children’s Well-Being

Latino children still have the lowest preschool attendance rate of any racial or ethnic group, The Annie E. Casey Foundation annual 2013 Kids Count report has found.

Between 2009 and 2011, about 63 percent of Hispanic children did not attend preschool, compared with 50 percent of white children.

The annual report measures the well-being of children across the nation, and provides a wealth of additional information on key indicators. It provides state-by-state information. Between 2005 and 2011, the child poverty rate increased from 19 percent to 23 percent.

The Associated Press reported that while education and health indicators are improving, economic indicators worsened.

“We hope as we go forward we’ll see continued improvement,” Patrick McCarthy, president of the Casey Foundation, told The Washington Post. “But we’re concerned about the longterm impact of the recession. Research suggests that children who spend extended periods of time in poverty are more likely to drop out of school, become pregnant and are less likely to [find permanent] work. Over the long term, they have a tough time transitioning to adulthood.”

Some additional information provides further context on the population:

– In 2011, about 34 percent of Hispanic children lived in poverty, compared with 14 percent of white children. The national average was 23 percent.

– Hispanic children were by far the most likely of any racial or ethnic group to have a head of household who lacked a high school diploma, as of 2011. About 37 percent of Hispanic children fell under this category, compared with 6 percent of white children.

– About 29 percent of Hispanic students did not graduate on time in 2009-10, compared with 17 percent of white students.

– In 2011, about 13 percent of Hispanic children did not have health insurance, compared with 5 percent of white children.

– About 42 percent of Hispanic children lived in single-parent homes in 2011, compared with 25 percent of white children.

Additionally, some states with significant Hispanic populations struggled. For the second year in a row, Nevada was ranked dead last in education. Additionally, New Mexico ranked worst in the nation in child well-being, after it was found that about 30 percent of children there are living in poverty.

Related Links:

KIDS COUNT 2013 Report

– “Report: Economic well-being of US children slips,” Associated Press. 

– “Children living in poverty longer, putting their futures at risk,” The Washington Post.

Study: Hispanic, ELL Students See Gains in Charter Schools

Hispanic students  who are economically disadvantaged and those who are English Language Learners are excelling in charter schools much more now than in past years, according to a study of charter schools conducted by Stanford University researchers.

The  2013 National Charter School Study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes found that the number of high-performing charter schools is increasing as underperforming charters are being shut down.

The study of students in 26 states and New York City found that about 25 percent of the charter schools studied had stronger reading learning gains than traditional schools, while 19 percent were weaker. In math, 29 percent of charter schools were significantly stronger than traditional public schools and 31 percent were weaker. Researchers studied individual students’ performance and growth on state exams in both subjects.

In the new study, researchers found that low-income black and Hispanic students and Hispanic students who are ELLs had significantly greater learning advantages in charter school than compared with their peers in traditional public schools. According to the study, the advantage in reading for Hispanic ELLs added up to about 50 extra days of instruction and in math, it was 43 days.

However, for black and Hispanic children who were not economically disadvantaged or ELLs, those advantages did not exist, except for Hispanics in general in reading.

“The charter sector does seem to be posting better results, especially with disadvantaged students,” said Margaret Raymond, director of Stanford’s CREDO, told Bloomberg news. “The fact that they are moving the needle with this many students since 2009 is a pretty impressive finding.”

According to the study, about 4 percent of public school students nationwide attend charter schools, totaling about 2.3 million students.

In contrast, CREDO’s previous 2009 study of 16 states found that charter school students were not performing as well as those students attending traditional public schools. Researchers say that since that study, Hispanic, black, ELL, and poor charter school students in those students experienced academic gains in reading and math.

In addition, Hispanic students had greater gains in reading than traditional public school students, and ELLs performed better in reading and math.

Related Links:

– “Study: Poor, minority students see biggest advantages from charter schools; general gains seen,” Associated Press. 

– “Stanford Study Says Charter School Children Outperform,” Bloomberg. 

– National Charter School Study 2013, Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO)

Study Suggests Junk Food Ads Contribute to Latino Youth Obesity

Latino children view about 12 food and beverage television ads a day, says a study published in JAMA Pediatrics suggesting that such viewership could be related to high obesity rates among the group.

The researchers used Nielsen data on Spanish-language and English-language television viewership to conduct their study, which analyzed the viewing habits of children ages two to 17. In 2010, Hispanic preschoolers (ages 2 to 5) watched 4,218 ads, children (ages 6 to 11) watched 4,373, and adolescents (12 to 17) watched 4,542 ads.

“Given higher rates of obesity and overweight for Hispanic youth, it is important to understand the amount and types of food advertising they view,” said a team led by Frances Fleming-Milici of Yale University, according to a JAMA news release.

Hispanic children tend to watch fewer food ads than other children daily and Spanish-language television features fewer ads. However, about half of the food ads shown on Spanish television were for products such as fast food, candy and cereals.

In fact, Hispanic children and adolescents watched 14 percent and 24 percent fewer food ads than non-Hispanic youth.

But Hispanic preschoolers ages two to five were more likely to watch Spanish-language television, so they were exposed at an early age to a disproportionate number of ads for unhealthy foods. They also were exposed to the most Spanish-language food ads. They watched 1,038 Spanish food ads in 2010.

It’s important to point out that Hispanic children are underrepresented in pre-K programs, as compared with black and white children. Unfortunately, they may be watching more television in place of attending school.

“Although Hispanic children and adolescents see somewhat fewer of these ads, the higher obesity rates among Hispanic youth, the greater exposure by Hispanic preschoolers, and the potential enhanced effects of targeted advertising on Hispanic youth suggest that this exposure may pose additional risks for Hispanic youth,” the JAMA Pediatrics article said.

Related Links:

– “Junk Food Ads May Help Drive Obesity in Hispanic kids, Study Suggests,” US News and World Report/Health Day.

– “Study suggests link between food commercials and obesity in Latino youth,” 89.3 KPCC.

– “Amount of Hispanic Youth Exposure to Food and Beverage Advertising on Spanish- and English- Language Television,” JAMA Pediatrics.

Illinois School District Trains Hispanic Parent Leaders

After noticing that few Hispanic parents were serving on school district committees, an Illinois school district superintendent decided to create a program to teach parents the skills they need to become effective leaders.

Elgin Area School District U-46  superintendent Jose Torres tasked family and community engagement employees with creating the two-year Hispanic Parent Leadership Institute in 2010 to foster greater parent involvement, The Daily Herald reports. The district even compensates parents with $1,000 stipends for their participation.

The school district is the second largest district in Illinois next to the Chicago Public Schools, and its student enrollment is about half Hispanic.

In the first year of the program, parents meet one Saturday a month to learn about the district and go through leadership training. In the second year, parents meet every other month engaged in hands-on learning opportunities.

The district already has some success stories to share about Hispanic parent participants. Teresa Aguirre serves on a middle school Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO). Other parents have advanced to positions on various committees and advisory councils. One parent was elected to the school board.

Elementary school parent Tomás Figueroa, is a participant in the program.

“Like most parents, I wanted to get more involved in my kids’ education and find out who’s making the decisions on what they’re learning,” Figueroa told the Herald. “All those questions were answered. I would recommend it to everybody.”

I previously blogged about the Elgin district this spring when it decided to require teachers at ten of its low performing elementary schools to earn English as a Second Language teaching credentials.

The district’s treatment of Hispanic students hasn’t gone without some criticism. A federal discrimination lawsuit was filed against the district in recent years, accusing schools of running a segregated gifted program that placed elementary students whose native language is Spanish in a separate program from gifted native English speakers.

Related Links:

– “U-46 hopes to train more black, Latino parent leaders,” Daily Herald.

– “Illinois District Requires ESL Training for Some Teachers,” Latino Ed Beat.

Graduation Rates of ELLs Decline in NYC Schools

New York City Department of Education officials say that the graduation rate for English Language Learners fell by almost 5 percent for the Class of 2012, in part because of tougher accountability standards. Latinos make up a large part of the  city’s ELL student population.

The overall graduation rate for June graduates declined slightly to 60.4 percent for the Class of 2012, down from 60.4 percent the previous year. According to WNYC, the ELL graduation rate was about 35.4 percent.

Officials in part said it was due to requiring a higher passing rate of a 65 on the English Regents exam. Previously, a 55 was required to graduate.

According to a press release from the department and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, additional funding of more than $4 million will be provided to 25 schools to help provide teachers training on ELLs and also will pair the schools with those who have a track record of strong performance with ELLs. Other efforts could include extended day options, more bilingual programs and new special materials.

New York University education professor Pedro Noguera told NBC Latino that the extra support is encouraging, given the achievement gaps that exist.

“There are still a large number of schools in the city’s poorest neighborhoods where the most disadvantaged ELLs are concentrated,” Noguera said.. “What we know is that when you segregate kids, you deny them access to English language speakers and with that, the resources that they need.”

Related Links:

– “Bloomberg Defends Lower Graduation Rates,” WNYC.

– “NY graduation rates stable,” The Wall Street Journal.

– New Release on Graduation Rates, New York City Department of Education. 

Hamptons Suicides Prompt Focus on Latino Community

Three suicides by Latino teenagers in recent years have prompted introspection at the academically highly regarded East Hampton High School in New York State.

The New York Times recently reported that the rapid growth of the Hispanic population in the community has created tensions that may have been a factor in the students’ suicides. According to the article, the student population in the East Hampton Union Free School District was 41 percent Hispanic in 2012, up from 21.7 percent ten years earlier.

Daniel Hernandez, 16, an Ecuadorean immigrant, died after hanging himself last September, following Homecoming. In the aftermath of the tragedy, the district emphasized a renewed focus on reaching out to Hispanic parents. The district also hired a graduate of the high school to help and work as a community liaison, 23-year-old Ana Nunez, a Columbia University graduate who is of Ecuadorean descent.

She has helped parents learn how to understand student report cards and addressed concerns about students being absent for extended periods during out of the country trips.

The article acknowledges that a myriad of issues were at play in the suicides. For example, the article said Hernandez had questioned his sexuality and had allegedly been bullied by other Hispanic students.

Many school districts have chosen to hire liaisons to focus on involving Latino families. How is your local district handling outreach?

Related Links:

– “In Hamptons, Ethnicity, Class and Suicide Lead a Hamptons School to Reach Out,” The New York Times.

– East Hampton Union Free School District

– “Officials respond to student suicides,” East Hampton Star.

Superintendent: ELLs Making Gains in LA Schools

Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy sent a memo to the district’s board of trustees recently outlining the academic gains by English Language Learners within recent years.

The memo to the district’s board was dated May 31, and was entitled, “Next Three Years: Policy and Investment.” The school district enrolls the largest number of ELLs in the nation, according to the memo. It began redesigning its program for ELLs in 2010.

He wrote that “far fewer” elementary school ELLs are testing at the “Below Basic” and “Far Below Basic” English proficiency levels. The percentage of students testing at those low proficiency levels dropped from 37 percent to 26 percent. At the secondary level, there was an 8 percent drop in students scoring at the lower levels.

California has struggled with long term English Language Learners who have been in the school system for six years or more, but still have not become English proficient. The district’s new master plan for addressing ELLs takes this into account. Two courses have been created at the middle and high school levels addressing the student population. Students receive targeted help with improving their reading and language skills, guided by testing data.

As part of the plan, 750 special education teachers were trained on strategies to use with ELLs with special needs.

The Learning the Language blog reported that Los Angeles revamped its program after an enforcement action by the U.S. Department of Education. California is also now beginning to track data on long term ELL students.

Related Links:

– Memo from John Deasy re ELLs.

– “L.A. Unified Improves English-Learner Outcomes, Superintendent Says,” Learning the Language Blog, Education Week.

– “Memo touts progress on safety, suspensions, and English Learners,” LA School Report.

– “California Eyes Tracking Long-Term English Language Learners,” Latino Ed Beat.

Program Teaches Latino Parents About Special Education

News stories often report on programs that work to build awareness among Spanish-speaking parents about the importance about college — but what about special education?

Manhattanville College in New York State recently brought together Hispanic parents through its Changing Suburbs Institute to promote awareness of special education issues, The Journal News reports.

“It is very important for me to know my responsibility — for my son,” Migdalia Lopez, who is from Puerto Rico and has a seven-year-old son, told the newspaper. “What are the benefits of the program? What are the goals? How can my son benefit? It is important not only for me, but for my community, for other parents.”

An event was held for parents who attend schools in Westchester County, New York. The newspaper reported that parents were given a bilingual glossary with technical terms such as “least restrictive environment,” “gross-motor coordination” and “alternative dispute resolution.”

According to its web site, the Changing Suburbs Institute focuses on improving education for Latinos in nine school districts. The institute’s mission includes providing professional development to teachers, conducting research, and connecting institutes and groups together to help the Hispanic community.

Some other efforts to education Latinos about autism were highlighted when Autism Speaks recently launched an ad campaign explaining the key warning signs of a child

Related Links:

– “Hispanic parents get help navigating special education maze,” Journal News.

– Changing Suburbs Institute, Manhattanville College.

– “Ads Promote Autism Awareness Among Latinos,” Latino Ed Beat.

ACLU: Rhode Island Suspends Latino Students at High Rates

A new report by the ACLU of Rhode Island finds that Latino and black students are being suspended at much higher rates than white students, relative to their student population size.

The report is based on an analysis of data from the Rhode Island Department of Education, between 2004 and 2012.

In “Blacklisted: Racial Bias in School Suspensions in Rhode Island,” the ACLU says that the racial disparity begins as early as elementary school. A Hispanic elementary students is three times as likely to be suspended as a white students, the report says. The suspensions also often result from minor behavioral issues, often characterized as “disorderly conduct” or “insubordination/disrespect.”

“Out-of-school suspensions are used too often to punish infractions that in no way justify the long-term consequences that suspensions can carry,” said ACLU Policy Associate Hillary Davis, the report’s author. “For minority students, reconsideration of the use of out-of-school suspensions is particularly critical.”

Eight of the school districts analyzed disproportionately suspended Hispanic students for all eight years in which they were studied. According to the report, Hispanic students made up 18 percent of students and 28 percent of those suspended; black students made up 9 percent of students, and 18 percent of suspensions;  and white students made up 69 percent of students and half of those suspended.

According to an article in the Boston Globe, the ACLU is backing legislation that would require school districts in Rhode Island to look for disparities in their disciplinary data annually and then develop plans as to how to eliminate any that exist.

‘‘I look forward to reading the full report that the ACLU has developed,” Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist said in a statement, the Globe reported. ‘‘I will discuss with my team and with school leaders across the state any steps we might take to ensure equity and fairness regarding school discipline.’’

Earlier in May, similar concerns about Latino and black students being suspended at high rates prompted the Los Angeles Unified School District to stop using “willful defiance” as a justification for suspension. Defiance tended to include misbehavior such as swearing and not following a teacher’s orders. At the time, school board president Monica Garcia said she was hoping to stop the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

Related Links:

– “ACLU: Blacks, Hispanics suspended more in RI,” Associated Press.

– “ACLU Report Says Black and Hispanic Youth Bear Brunt of School Suspensions in Rhode Island,” ACLU.

– “Los Angeles Schools Ban ‘Willful Defiance’ Suspensions,” Latino Ed Beat.