Study Charts Growth of Limited English Proficient Population in U.S.

Children made up a “relatively small share” of the 25.3 million foreign and U.S.-born people with limited English proficiency residing within the United States in 2011, according to a new study by the Migration Policy Institute.

The study charts the tremendous growth of the population, which is about 63 percent Latino. About 9 percent of the LEP population, or 2.3 million children, fell between the ages 5 to 15 category. This corresponds with about 16 percent of the English-dominant population falling within the same age bracket.

As study after study has found, most English Language Learners in American schools are U.S. citizens. About 74 percent of LEP children ages 5 to 17 were born in the United States.

LEP individuals also made up about 9 percent of the population ages five and older in 2011, having grown by 81 percent since 1990. They made up about half of the total immigrant population in the U.S. About one out of every five people in California were LEP, with the next largest population in Texas (both states also have public school populations that are majority-Latino).

The data may be more instructive on immigrant parents. About 10.9 million children ages 5 to 17 had at least one parent who was LEP.

Most of the male LEP population was found to work in fields such as construction and transportation, while working women worked in service and personal care jobs. Indeed, LEP adults were less likely to have college degrees and more likely to live in poverty.

Although the data does not solely focus on children, it provides some good context for articles focusing on the demographics of the LEP population.

Related Links:

– “English-Learner Population in U.S. Rises, Report Finds,” Learning the Language Blog.

– “Limited English Proficient Population of the United States,” Migration Policy Institute.

Study Analyzes Characteristics of Children of Immigrants

A new study finds that Hispanic children with immigrant parents and black children of U.S.-born parents were rated the lowest on well-being indicators when compared against other children.

The research also offers some insights into the attributes of immigrant families — their strengths as well as the significant challenges they face. According to the U.S. Census, children of immigrants are now about one of every four children. (However, it’s important to point out that most children of immigrant parents are actually U.S.-born citizens).

The study, “Diverse Children: Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration in America’s New Non-Majority Generation,” by the New York-based Foundation for Child Development, examined white, black, Asian and Latino children of both U.S.-born and immigrant parents. They broke out their findings into the corresponding eight groups, using data from 2010.

Children with immigrant parents, accounting for all four ethnic and racial backgrounds, were more likely to have an employed parents, more likely to live in a two-parent household, less likely to be born at low birthweight, and were less likely to be neither in school nor working between the ages of 16 to 19.

Meanwhile, children of immigrants across the four groups were worse off in terms of prekindergarten enrollment and health insurance coverage rates. As a result, the report urges greater investment in early education programs and health care.

“The families are good strong families when they come to the US, and yet we’re not supporting them in the ways that we could and should in regard to education and health care,” Donald Hernandez, lead author of the report, told the Christian Science Monitor. He is a sociology professor at Hunter College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York. His research focuses on immigrant families and public policy.

A number of other indicators were examined:

Income: According to the study, the median family income for Hispanic children immigrant parents is about $33,396, compared with Hispanic children with U.S.-born parents with a median income of about $42,696. Black children with U.S.-born parents fared the lowest of all groups examined, with a median income of $29,977.

Meanwhile, median incomes were actually higher in families with white and Asian immigrants ($75,044 and $79,848), than families in those ethnic groups with U.S.-born parents.

Secure Parental Employment: About 61 percent of Hispanic children with immigrant or U.S.-born parents lived in a home with a securely employed parent — compared with about 50 percent of black children with U.S. born parents.

Health Insurance: About 19 percent of Hispanic children with immigrant parents lacked health insurance and 15 percent of black children with immigrant parents lacked health insurance, the highest of the eight groups.

PreKindergarten Enrollment: Hispanics continue to be the least likely group to enroll their children in pre-K classes. Among Latinos, about 37 percent of children of immigrant parents and 42 percent of children of U.S.-born parents were enrolled in such classes in 2010. Other groups didn’t fare much better, with about 50 to 55 percent of children enrolled.

Related Links:

– “Diverse Children: Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration in America’s New Non-Majority Generation,” Foundation for Child Development.

– “Child Well-Being in Immigrant Families Differs by Race, Study Shows,” Education Week.

– “Who are America’s immigrant kids? Now who you think, study suggests,” The Christian Science Monitor.

– Foundation for Child Development

Nevada Funding Boost for ELLs Stirs Controversy

A $50 million boost in education funding may seem like good cause for celebration. But in Nevada, the reaction to the news has not been uniformly positive.

That’s because some taxpayers are miffed that only English Language Learners are the beneficiaries. The Las Vegas Sun describes how some critics believe the influx of funding “smacks of special treatment and seems like an unjust, unfair burden on taxpayers who must subsidize the education of a select group of outsiders.”

The word that jumps out to me most from that excerpt is outsiders. Unfortunately, when resources are tight, an “us-versus-them” conflict can surface.

The general public often views ELLs as immigrants — and they often assume ELLs are undocumented immigrants.

“How can I justify requesting millions of dollars for foreign kids when we can’t even help our own kids here in our own state?” one caller to a Las Vegas radio station asked, according to the article.

But the facts don’t bear that out. In Clark County Schools (which encompass Las Vegas), about 80 percent of ELLs are from the United States.

The funding situation was so dire that at one point the ACLU of Nevada, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), and Hispanics in Politics discussed a possible lawsuit against the state over the lack of adequate funding for ELLs.

A recent study by the UNLV Lincy Institute found that Clark County schools only provided $119 in funding per ELL students, compared with $4,677 in Miami-Dade Schools in Florida. About 94,771 Clark County students are ELLs.

It’s unclear how much $50 million will accomplish in terms of narrowing such a large gap.

According to the Sun, the influx of funding for ELLs will pay for items including pre-K and kindergarten classes, summer instruction, reading development, and new technology.

Related Links:

– “Funding boost for English-language learners prompts some backlash,” Las Vegas Sun.

– “Lawsuit Threatened Over Funding for ELLs in Nevada,” Latino Ed Beat.

– “Nevada’s English Language Learner Population: A Review of Enrollment, Outcomes and Opportunities,” The UNLV Lincy Institute.

– Clark County School District

Conn. District Replaces Bilingual Classes With English-Dominant Instruction

In New Britain, Connecticut, a new school superintendent has pushed for a dramatic and controversial shift in how to instruct English Language Learners.

Superintendent Kelt Cooper is doing away with bilingual education and phasing in mostly English classes that with an intensive focus on grammar, a recent story on PBS News Hour reported. He compares the approach to teaching English as a foreign language.

Cooper was unhappy with how ELLs in the district were performing on standardized tests.

Prior to the shift, DiLoreto Magnet Elementary School used dual-language instruction. But the school was faltering. As PBS notes, about 85 percent of ELLs were failing the state’s reading exam.

“When it comes to English-language learners, I make it very clear — our job and our objective is to get them to acquire English as rapidly as possible, so they can be in the mainstream,” Cooper told PBS.

Critics of the program are concerned about the message it sends to weaken the bilingual program. School board member Aram Ayalon, an education professor, believes that the dual-language program could have worked if it had been better carried out correctly.

“A basic truth in teaching is you start with what your students know, which may be Spanish, German, Polish, and you build on that,” he told PBS.

Cooper, the superintendent, previously led the school district in Del Rio, Texas, along the U.S.-Mexico border. He stirred up controversy in that district. According to media reports, he cracked down on students who lived in Mexico but attended Del Rio schools by posting staff members at the Mexican border to pull aside students crossing over.

“Anti-immigration groups heralded Cooper as a hero while civil rights advocates questioned whether he approach was constitutional — or effective, since so many of the targeted youngsters proved they were legally allowed to attend Del Rio Schools,” the Hartford Courant reported.

PBS points out that Cooper implemented an English-dominant strategy in Del Rio, with mixed results — more students reached English proficiency, but ELLs performed poorly in math and science.

Watch the PBS News Hour video report on New Britain Schools here.

Related Links:

– “Language Wars: Should Spanish-Speaking Students Be Taught in English Only?” PBS News Hour.

– The Consolidated School District of New Britain, CT.

– “New Britain Schools Outline Plan to Improve English Skills,” Hartford Courant.

– “Texas school district turns away students from Mexico,” CNN.

Latino College Enrollment and Graduation Rates Improving

A new brief by The Education Trust celebrates the spike in college enrollment by Latino students, but calls attention to the need to improve six-year graduation rates.

Between 2009 and 2011, Latino undergraduate enrollment at four-year colleges and universities increased by about 22 percent — from 949,304 students to 1,158,268. Black student enrollment increased by 8.5 percent to 1,158,268 and white enrollment increased by 2.7 percent to 6,090,212.

Between 2009 and 2011, the six-year graduation rate for Latino students improved to 51 percent, growing by 4.7 percent. The graduation rate for black students was 39.9 percent and for white students was 62.1 percent.

Using data form the U.S. Department of Education, The Education Trust has created an online database of data called College Results Online. The online tool allows users to review college-specific data and to compare colleges to their peer group of similar institutions.

The group has identified those colleges that are performing best and worst with minority students. For  example, at Stony Brook University Hispanic students are graduating at higher rates than white students. The six-year rate for Latinos is now about 66.5 percent.

The brief highlights Michigan State University for not doing well with Latino students. Hispanic students are graduating at a six-year rate of 61.5 percent, compared to 80.9 percent for white students.

The brief also said that selective admissions do not necessarily result in student success.

Related Links:

– “Intentionally Successful: Improving Minority Student College Graduation Rates,” The Education Trust. 

– College Results Online

Study: NYC Latino Male Students Lag in College Readiness

First, the good news: High school graduation rates are improving for Latino and black male students in New York City. The bad news? Many of those new graduates are not ready for college coursework.

Those are the key findings of a new report by the Research Alliance for New York City,  based at New York University.  The report, “Moving the Needle: Exploring Key Levers to Boost College Readiness Among Black and Latino Males in New York City”, shows that getting minority students to the high school finish line isn’t enough. Schools must look beyond graduation, and also focus on whether they are preparing young men for future college success.

Between 2002 and 2010, the graduation rate for Latino males in New York City improved from 45 percent to 59 percent. For black males, the rate improved from 45 to 57 percent. However, the study  found that just 11 percent of Latino males and 9 percent of black males are ready for college.

Male minority students are falling behind females. To address the achievement gap, Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched the “Young Men’s Initiative” two years ago. The Expanded Success Initiative (ESI) was also created to assist 40 schools with improving outcomes for male students.

Adriana Villavicencio, the study’s co-author, told Diverse Issues in Higher Education that the study is meant to support and evaluate the city’s efforts. “ESI is really focused on college and career readiness of black and Latino males,” she told the publication. “And we thought it would be important to ask what does that look like in New York City?”

The report points to the challenges facing young minority male students. Those issues include the overrepresentation of black and Latino boys in special education courses, high suspension rates, and limited access to advanced courses. The report recommends that the ESI program focus its resources on the ninth grade first, before expanding to the upper grades. It also establishes goals such as increasing the number of males taking honors courses, and offering mentoring and freshmen seminars to boys.

For the purposes of the report, college readiness is defined by the New York State Education Department’s “Aspirational Performance Measure.” Readiness is defined as equivalent to a Regents diploma, and a score of 80 or higher on the Regents math exam and 75 or higher on the English exam.

Related Links:

– “Study Calls Attention to NYC Effort on Black and Latino Male College Readiness,” Diverse Issues in Higher Education.

– “Moving the Needle: Exploring Key Levers to Boost College Readiness,” NYU Steinhardt.

– Young Men’s Initiative. 

– Expanded Success Initiative (ESI)

Schools Reach Parents With Spanish Radio Broadcasts

Several years ago, Denver Public Schools officials recognized the enormous popularity of Spanish-language radio among Hispanic parents and turned that knowledge into a successful new vehicle for community outreach.

Under the leadership of the then-director of multicultural outreach Alex Sanchez, the district launched the Educa Radio broadcast on local radio stations. The stations already had a built in loyal audience of Spanish-language music fans. Sanchez told The Denver Post that immigrant parents often listed to radio while at work, whether it be in a restaurant or  on a construction site.

“We are getting information to parents in a medium they are comfortable with,” he told the newspaper.

Educa Radio broadcasts have tackled thorny topics including high teen pregnancy rates among Latinas, bilingualism,  discipline,  bullying of gays and lesbian students and how to apply for federal financial aid. A weekly segment profiles schools doing particularly well with Hispanic students.

The radio programs also increased Hispanic parent involvement. The web site Take Part reports that after the radio station launched, the district saw an increase in parent calls to the district and attendance at school district-related events promoted on the radio.

The radio station broadcasts three hourly shows a week.  The initiative also has a web site with blog posts, podcasts and internet broadcasts. The show has been so successful that it has attracted Colorado state senators as guests.

The broadcast’s goals include informing parents about their rights and responsibilities, teaching them how to support their children in the home and at school, encourage involvement in parent meetings and familiarizing themselves with the Denver Public Schools.

The original host of the  Denver program, Alex Sanchez,  has now created a similar Sunday-morning program in the Austin Independent School District in Texas, known as Educa Austin. Sanchez is a Mexican immigrant, and is the district’s director of public relations and multicultural outreach.

“What I recognize is that if parents don’t participate in the education system in this country, it’s not because they don’t care about their kids, it’s because they don’t know how,” he told Take Part. “Active parents can demand services and programs that will help their kids graduate from high school on time, go to college, and have a better shot at the American dream. And who doesn’t want that?”

Related Links:

– “Parental Involvement: Radio Keeps Latino Parents in Tune With Their Kids’ Education,” Take Part.

– Educa Radio (Una iniciativa de las Escuelas Publicas de Denver)

– Radio helps Latinos, DPS stay tuned in to each other. The Denver Post.

– AISD to pilot Spanish radio program on weekend mornings, Austin American Statesman.

– Educa Austin

Virginia Protest Prompts Community Dialogue on Treatment of Hispanic Students

On the last day of classes at Huguenot High School in Richmond, Virginia, community members rallied outside of the school to protest the alleged discriminatory treatment of Hispanic students. The group included the valedictorian of the graduating class, Jessica Orsonio.

The day before, Richmond Times Dispatch columnist Michael Paul Williams recalled, Osornio delivered an emotional speech that explained some of the sentiment behind the protest.

““Immigrant students don’t know if their parents will be taken away and the families separated,” Osornio, a Mexican immigrant herself, told the crowd. “Every day we walk with fear as we try and just get through the day, never knowing what the future has prepared for us and our loved ones. The only thing we want is to be equal. In the past, that has maybe been too much to ask. But not today. We dream and hope for the best.”

The discontent had grown in part on Facebook, where students set up a “Latin@ Students Under Attack at Huguenot HS – Rally to Support Students and Families Fighting to Decriminalize Schools” page promoting the protest.

The page accused school officials of discrimination and accused faculty of threatening students with deportation, alleged school security guards and police targeted Hispanics, and that the school denied proper language services to parents.

At the actual protest, they distributed flyers calling for professional interpreting services for parents and students, translations of policies, and cultural sensitivity training for teachers and other staff.

One month later, the Richmond Times Dispatch reports that Richmond public schools officials have announced the formation of a multicultural task force to address the tension in the community prompted by rapid demographic changes.

According to the newspaper, the school system’s Hispanic enrollment has grown from about 2.3 percent of students in 2003-04 to about 8.8 percent last school year. The task force will in part be dedicated to improving the district’s inclusiveness, promoting diversity, putting together cultural exchange opportunities, and cultural awareness among students and staff.

Have similar flare-ups taken place in your school district? If so, what steps are school officials taking to address the issue?

Related Links:

– “Williams: Richmond schools must handle their growing diversity,” Richmond Times Dispatch.

– “Richmond educators looking for ways to better serve growing Hispanic population,” Richmond Times Dispatch. 

– “Latin@ Students Under Attack at Huguenot HS” Facebook Page.

Scholars Emphasize Importance of Affirmative Action Programs

A group of university professors have released a statement through The Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, arguing that the benefits of affirmative action are supported by sound research, despite the politically divisive nature of the debate over its usage.

Their goal is to both justify the usage of such diversity policies and help universities craft policies that are legally sound.

The statement makes a number of points, supported with cited studies.  It comes in the wake of the Fisher v. University of Texas U.S. Supreme Court decision, which sent the affirmative action case back to lower courts. Although it was not a decisive statement, researchers said the court did recognize that the goal of diversity in higher education is a worthy one.

“The Court also emphasized that use of race, if challenged, requires a clear judicial finding that the campus has shown that it could not find a workable and feasible non-racial strategy that would produce the desired level of diversity at tolerable administrative expense,” the statement says.

The professors first lay out the case for the benefits of diversity in a higher education setting, including reductions in prejudice and greater civic engagement. Diversity also can cutback on stereotyping, tokenism and other discrimination on campus.

The study notes that the risk for such discrimination has been highest in fields with few minorities, such as science, technology, engineering and math majors (STEM).

The researchers argue against any assertions that minority students admitted under affirmative action programs are stigmatized, and say the opposite is true. The argue against the idea that such minorities would do better academically at less elite schools. They say students who initially have low test scores may be motivated by the challenge of attending an elite university.

“The claim that minority students suffer academic harms when their admissions credentials do not “match” their institutions finds limited support in the scientific literature,” the statement says. “Research on undergraduates as well as on professional schools shows that minority students attain higher grades and have higher graduation rates when attending more selective institutions.”

The researchers argue that polices such as considering low income status rather than race and targeted recruitment of minorities are not as effective as affirmative action.

The signers of the statement include professors from Stanford University, University of Illinois, Vanderbilt University, University of Houston, and the University of Michigan.

While the statement strongly pushes affirmative action as a solution, other higher education institutions are pursuing other avenues of increasing diversity. Some universities believe that reaching out to minority students in middle and high school could increase diversity. A recent article in The New York Times described how the University of California-Irving spends more than $7 million annually on outreach. California schools have turned to such strategies since affirmative action was banned there.
“California’s public universities, and some of their counterparts around the country, have embedded themselves deeply in disadvantaged communities, working with schools, students and parents to identify promising teenagers and get more of them into college,” the article says. “It is not enough, university administrators say, to change the way they select students; they must also change the students themselves, and begin to do so long before the time arrives to fill out applications.”

Related Links:

– “The Research Basis for Affirmative Action: a Statement by Leading Researchers,” The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles.

– “Justice Step Up Scrutiny of Race in College Entry,” The New York Times. 

– Fisher v. University of Texas Supreme Court decision text.

– “In California, Push for Diversity Starts Earlier,” The New York Times.

– The Civil Rights Project

States Vary in Preparedness for Common Core Standards’ Impact on Latinos

Sates have widely varying degrees of preparedness for the implementation of common core standards — and in particular their impact on low-income, Latino and black students.

A new report by the Education Trust, “Uneven at the Start,” identifies the best- and least-prepared states at  phasing in the more rigorous reading and math standards to serve different student populations. The group used performance data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress exam to predict how states will fare. It examines both improvement and performance of each state on NAEP exams, including in fourth- and eighth- grade reading and math performance, compared against the national average.

With Latino students, Texas and Massachusetts performed best. Florida also performed well.

Meanwhile, Oregon  and California had the weakest record with Hispanic students. The two states are improving slowly when compared against other states, and have performed worse than the national average across several subject areas and age levels. According to the analysis, neither state in any category is above the national average for Hispanics.

The analysis found that no state had above average performance and improvement for Hispanic students across all the subject and grade levels.

“…Instead of just pretending that the same amount of effort will be required everywhere to get children to the new standards, we need to make sure that the lessons from states that have improved the most for all groups of children inform implementation work more broadly and ensure that struggling states have the extra help they will need to build the forward momentum that is already present elsewhere,” said Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, in a news release.

The report has charts that break out where each state falls within the spectrum of performance.

Related Links:

– “Uneven at the Start: Differences in State Track Records Foreshadow Challenges and Opportunities for Common Core,” The Education Trust. 

– “New Analyses Examine State Track Records in Performance and Improvement,” The Education Trust.