Report: Latino Students in Rhode Island Struggling

Rhode Island may not be a state that comes immediately to mind when the challenges of Latino students are discussed.

But the state has a rapidly growing population, especially in its larger cities. While other states have large Mexican origin populations, Rhode Island tends to draw from other groups such as Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Colombians, and Guatemalans.

A new report finds that the academic achievement gap between Latino and white students in Rhode Island is among the worst in the nation, and English Language Learners in particular are struggling mightily.

According to the study, about 22 percent of the state’s public school students are Latino, but only about 1.5 percent of teachers are Hispanic.  Latino students now are 63 percent of the student enrollment in Providence, 72 percent in Central Falls and a sizable number in Pawtucket. Additionally, on average Latinos in the state earn less than those elsewhere in the country.

The Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University released a report looking at Hispanic achievement in the state, entitled “Latino Students in Rhode Island: A Review of Local and National Performances.” 

The researchers analyzed the results of two assessments to make their findings — the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP).

The report singles out the Providence schools as having the greatest need to reform its programs for ELL students. It also recommends creating a statewide ELL task force to identify best practices. The study emphasizes the need to increase the number of Latino teachers and principals in the state.

“The study is fair and long overdue,” the superintendent of the Central Falls school system, Frances Gallo, told the Providence Journal. “I don’t consider it an indictment, I consider it a reality.”

According to the report, the achievement gap on the NAEP exam between Latino and white students on fourth and eighth grade math exams is among the ten worst in the nation. They also score lower in math and reading when compared against Latino students elsewhere in the country. Meanwhile, white and black students do not fare as poorly when compared to peers nationally.

Additionally, eighth grade math achievement for ELLs in the state ranks last in the country. Additionally, Rhode Island state officials say that the dropout rate for Latinos is about 20 percent, compared with a 10 percent dropout rate for white students.

Education officials are trying to make improvements. Central Falls is requiring that all teachers become ESL certified. And in Providence, ELLs will not only be segregated in ESL classes all day long, the Journal reported.

Related Links:

– “Report: Gaps Between R.I.’s Latino and White Students’ Achievement Are Among Worst in Nation,” Providence Journal.

– “Latino Students in Rhode Island: A Review of Local and National Performances,” Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University.

New Report Critical of NCLB Waivers

States are obtaining federal waivers from meeting some of the more onerous provisions of  No Child Left Behind, raising concerns that achievement gaps may no longer be exposed. A new analysis by the Campaign for High School Equity finds that the waivers would essentially weaken the law.

The study finds that in 13 states that received waivers, including Nevada and New Mexico, the number of struggling schools requiring interventions has dropped by more than 100.

“This raises questions as to whether or not struggling students will receive the support and services they desperately need and deserve,” according to the group.

The group calls on states to make sure they are accountable for every individual student subgroup, whether that be by race and ethnicity, low-income status or English Language Learners.

The report raises concerns about states that are creating “super subgroups” in their new accountability systems that combine subgroups together into one group (for example mixing ELLs, black and Hispanic students) or create a subgroup based on achievement levels.

The report outlines details on the performance groups.

Related Links:

– “Study: Education Waivers Could Leave Behind At-Risk Students,” Associated Press.

– “At-Risk Students May Lose UNder NCLB Waivers, Civil RIghts Groups Say,” EdSource Today.

– “Analysis of Waivers Raises Serious Questions About How States Will Serve Students of Color,” Campaign for High School Equity.

Survey Finds Parent School Preferences Vary By Ethnicity

A survey of parents of school-age children finds that their views of an “ideal” school often vary by race, ethnicity and economic status. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute surveyed more than 2,000 parents a year ago online for the “What Parents Want” study.

Despite differences, parents across different backgrounds agreed on core “must haves” such as a strong reading and math curriculum and emphasizing STEM (science technology, engineering and math) programs.

Elsewhere, the parents diverge.

Hispanic, black and low-income parents viewed an ideal school as having high test scores and strong preparation for the state exams more so than white and affluent parents.

Hispanic and black parents focused less on prioritizing learning good study habits and self-discipline than white parents. But minority parents were more likely to say that they wanted their child to be admitted to top tier colleges.

The report offers further details on how parents rated various factors.

Related Links:

– “Parents Favor ‘Niche’ Schools, Fordham Institute Market Study Finds,” Education Week.

– “What Parents Want: Education Preferences and Trade-Offs,” Fordham Institute.

Texas Study Finds ELL Students Face “Triple Segregation”

In Texas, poor Hispanic children who are English language learners often attend intensely segregated schools, a new study has found.

Such children face “triple segregation” because they are isolated by virtue of their ethnicity, socioeconomic background and language skills. The trend is found in both urban and suburban settings.

Education professors Julian Vasquez Heilig and Jennifer Jellison Holme from the University of Texas at Austin examined 2011 demographic data from the Texas Education Agency to make their findings in their study, “Nearly 50 Years Post-Jim Crow: Persisting and Expansive School Segregation for African American, Latina/o and ELL Students in Texas.”

The AP reports that in 2012, about 838,000 limited proficient children attended Texas schools. They made up about 16.2 percent of the total enrollment. In 2011, about 9 percent of Texas schools were found to be majority ELL, with most of those being elementary schools. The study reveals that of Texas schools with a majority ELL enrollment, 89 percent have a study body that is majority economically disadvantaged.

However, the study found a bright spot. Majority-ELL elementary schools were more likely to earn the state’s top ranking of “exemplary” than to be rated low-performing. The researchers found 72 “exemplary” and 15 low-performing majority-ELL elementary schools in Texas, noting that “the state should be applauded for these numbers.”

However, the researchers cautioned that those same children tend to go on to attend low-performing middle and high schools. And ELLs have very high dropout rates in Texas.

Researchers point out that Texas has a long history of segregating its Hispanic children. At first, this was accomplished by placing them in separate schools. Texas schools were targeted with lawsuits because of such practices long before the Brown v. Board case. Later, the state segregated children by placing them in separate classes within a school.

As a reporter, I visited many schools that had “triple segregation.” In Texas, bilingual education is required for ELLs when there is a large enough population and by nature of the program these children are placed in separate classes. Do bilingual programs inherently segregate? Are there benefits at all to this, however? The study acknowledges that this question has come up in debates over the instructional program.

“As the first-generation cases were resolved, the friction between bilingual education and desegregation became more apparent, as courts and districts sought to balance the need, on the one hand, to offer linguistically appropriate instruction for subgroups of students who do not yet speak English, and the danger, on the other hand, that such practices could result in racial and linguistic isolation of those students,” the study says.

Lastly, segregation has increased as overall districts and communities have become residentially segregated. Much of the residential segregation growth is happening in the suburbs.

This study is fascinating because it goes a step beyond racial segregation and examines a new type of segregation that has arisen based on linguistic isolation. It’s conversation worth having. It also raises the question, how does attending a segregated school impact how children learn English? And in a majority minority state such as Texas, are these trends just part of the demographic shift?

Related Links:

– “Study Shows Texas Segregated By Language,” Associated Press/Fox News Latino.

– “Study Shows Triple Segregation Persists in Texas Schools,” News Release, The University of Texas at Austin College of Education.

– “Nearly 50 Years Post-Jim Crow: Persisting and Expansive School Segregation for African American, Latina/o, and ELL Students in Texas.”

– “Cloaking Inequality” Blog (By Julian Vasquez Heilig)

Head Start Cuts Will Impact Many Latino Children

Federal spending cuts due to sequestration are expected to eliminate Head Start services for more than 57,000 children across the country, including thousands of Latino children enrolled in the programs.

About 37 percent of all children in Head Start are Latino.  The largest numbers of children predicted to be impacted reside within two states where Hispanic children make up the majority of public school students — California and Texas.

The severity of the cuts became apparent after programs submitted their planned cuts to the government. The cuts also will result in fewer class days and teacher layoffs in some programs.

The National Head Start Association has an interactive online tool that lets users find out information on a state-by-state basis.

Related Links:

– “Latinos Among Those Hit the Hardest By Head Start Cuts,” NBC Latino.

– “Feds: Spending Cuts Mean 57,000 Fewer Low-Income Children in Head Start Programs,” The Washington Post.

– “Sequestration Hits Poor Hispanics Hard,” The Washington Post.

– “National Sequestration Impact”, National Head Start Association.

Poll Reveals How Latino Parents View School Quality

A new poll shows that Latino parents are more likely than other groups to say that a lack of  high-quality teachers at their children’s schools is an extremely serious problem, while black and white parents tend to point to school funding as a big problem.

Latino, black and low-income parents are also more likely to say their children’s schools have serious problems than white or wealthy parents.

The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research surveyed 1,025 parents of children in grades K-12 from June 21 to July 22, 2013. The survey also found that parents polled believe that parents and teachers play more of a role in determining school quality than education funding.

About three-quarters of the parents supported public funding for universal preschool for four-year-olds. Most parents said standardized tests are effective ways to measure school and individual student performance.

Other findings found significant differences in the views of Hispanic and white parents on important education issues:

– About 90 percent of Hispanic parents support a publicly funded plan to offer preschool to all four-year-olds, compared with 76 percent of all parents and 70 percent of white parents (this is interesting since Hispanics have the lowest preschool attendance rate of any group).

– Only about 40 percent of Hispanic parents said they volunteered at their child’s school, or donated to support it. This was dramatically lower than white parents, at 76 percent, and black parents, at 66 percent.

– About 54 percent of Hispanic parents felt that they have a lot of influence in their child’s education, compared with 34 percent of white parents.

– About 90 percent of Hispanics said it is very important that teachers have a college degree in the subject area or grade level in which they are teaching, compared with 71 percent of white parents. Additionally, 77 percent of Hispanics said it was important that teachers have master’s or other advanced degrees, compared with 22 percent of whites.

– About 71 percent of Hispanics feel that teaching experience is important, compared with 37 percent of whites.

– About 73 percent of Hispanic parents and 60 percent of black parents said they thought it was important that teachers share their values, compared with 43 percent of whites.

– About 59 percent of Hispanics say they want to make it easier for schools to fire poor-performing teachers, compared with 80 percent of whites. All parents felt it was important for districts to help low-performing parents improve their performance.

– Hispanic and black parents are more likely than white parents to support paying teachers more if their students do well on standardized tests. About 70 percent of Hispanics, 57 percent of blacks, and 39 percent of whites support this.

– Hispanic and black parents are more likely to feel that it is very important that children be assessed to determine if they are making state standards. About 85 percent of Hispanics agree with this, compared with 69 percent of white parents. Additionally, about 42 percent of Hispanic parents and 12 percent of white parents say standardized tests measure school quality well.

– Hispanic parents had a more positive outlook on the new common core standards than white parents.

Read the full report here.

Related Links:

– “AP-NORC Poll: Race, Income Divide Views of Schools,” Associated Press.

– “Parents’ Attitudes on The Quality of Education in the United States,” APNORC.

Study Profiles Deferred Action Applicants

More than half a million young immigrants who moved to the United States as children have applied for “deferred action” from the federal government since the program was created a year ago.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program gives certain undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States before age 16 a temporary reprieve from deportation and work authorization. When President Obama announced its creation, estimates placed the number of eligible youth somewhere around 900,000.

Between August 15, 2012 and June 30, 2013 the government has received 557,412 applications. Of those, about 3.5 percent were rejected because they were not complete. Among the applications accepted, almost 75 percent were approved, one percent were denied and the remainder are pending.

Using a Freedom of Information Act request, researchers from the Brookings Institution were able to glean further information about the demographic profile of the applicants.

“If we think about what they’ve done in their lives and how they’ve spent their time in this country, the fact is that they’ve been part of the American school system,” said Audrey Singer, co-author of the report, told The New York Times. “This is one of the big things that makes them American.”

The FOIA data covers the 465,509 applicants between August 15, 2012 and March 22, 2013.  About 57 percent of applications through that time period had been approved. Brookings also has state-specific information on applicants.

Some of the key findings include:

– About 75 percent of applicants were born in Mexico. The next highest country was El Salvador, with 4 percent.

– The states with more than 25,000 applicants were California, Texas, and New York.

– The states with among the nation’s fastest growing immigrant populations — North Carolina, Arizona and Georgia — had between 15,000 and 17,000 applicants.

– The most common age of arrival in the United States for applicants was age eight. Nearly one-third were five years old or younger and two-thirds were 10 years old or younger when they arrived.

– Nearly three-quarters of applicants have been in the U.S. for at least a decade.

– More than one-third of applicants are between the ages of 15 and 18.

Related Links:

– “Study Tracks Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Acceptance, Application Rates,” The Washington Post. 

– “Study Offers a Picture of Young Immigrants Seeking a Reprieve From Deportation,” The New York TImes.

– “Immigration Facts: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA),” Brookings Institution. 

University of Texas Launches Initiative To Help Latino Males

A recently launched initiative in Texas will bring together school districts, community colleges and universities in an effort to improve education outcomes for Latino and black male students.

The Texas Education Consortium for Male Students of Color will be based at the University of Texas at Austin and seeks to encourage Texas higher education institutions to create “male-focused student programs” that address state goals in increasing the success of minority male students.

The group is pursuing several objectives. It will work to hold meetings and student summits around the issue. The program also hopes to identify and build successful male mentoring programs. The group also hopes to serve as a resource center through which best practices can be shared.

The consortium will be led by UT education professor Victor Saenz. He is also the executive director of Project MALES (Mentoring to Achieve Latino Educational Success), which I have blogged about before.

The consortium is supported in part by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating  Board, which has a “Closing the Gaps” initiative that aims to increase college enrollment in the state. and close gaps by 2015. In the latest 2013 spring progress report, the board found that there is a growing gender gap in college enrollment and Hispanic males in particular have the lowest participation rate.

According to the report, in fall 2012, only about 4.1 percent of the Hispanic male population Texas participated in higher education, which was 1.7 percent below the rate of female Hispanics. It would take about 88,000 more male Hispanic students to enroll to catch up to female Hispanic students.

Additionally, the report finds that about 47 percent of Hispanic males who graduated from high school in 2012 went directly to college the following fall, compared with 56 percent of Hispanic females.

Related Links:

– “UT Austin Launches Texas Consortium to Improve Outcomes for Male Minority Students,” Press Release.

– Project MALES (Mentoring to Achieve Latino Educational Success). 

– “Researchers Call Attention to the Educational ‘State of Crisis’ Facing Latino Males,” Latino Ed Beat.

– “Closing the Gaps Spring 2013 Progress Report,” Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Librarians Create Bilingual Reading List

In the Dallas school district, a group of librarians meets every year to create a special reading list for Hispanic children. The librarians strive to identify 20 of the best bilingual books for Spanish-speaking elementary school children.

The librarians call themselves the luminarias (lights used to guide the way), because of how they view their role as shepherding young readers. In Dallas ISD, this is especially critical since almost 70 percent of the district’s students are Latino, and nearly 40 percent are classified limited English proficient.

Reporter Stella M. Chavez of KERA radio reported on the group, and observed as children flipped through some of the books on the list at a local library. There is more than just an educational value to the list.

“They also love to see characters that are Hispanic and that’s starting to be more and more predominant but it’s far from where it needs to be,” Dallas elementary school librarian Maryam Mathis told KERA.

The books include El Fandango de Lola, about a Spanish girl who learns how to dance the fandango. The book La Hermosa Señora  is about the legend of Our Lady of Guadalupe. And Cuento de Noche is a bedtime story.

Have you seen efforts to compile similar reading lists?  

Related Links:

– “Librarians In Search of Books for Latino Kids,” KERA (NPR). 

– Library Programs, Dallas ISD (Scroll down for Luminarias Reading List)

– “For Young Latino Readers, an Image is Missing,” The New York Times.

Latinas 4 Latino Literature.

Iowa School District Struggles With Teacher Diversity

As the Latino population boomed beyond major urban centers and border states, school systems  have struggled to keep up with their rapidly changing demographics — even in unexpected places such as Iowa.

The Sioux City Journal reports that in the Sioux City, Iowa, school system about 29 percent of students are Hispanic while only 1 percent of teachers are Hispanic. That gives students few adult role models of their own background to look up to. Similarly, 96 percent of all of the district’s teachers are white while only 56 percent of the students are white.

Those are not statistics that the district’s leadership is happy about, but keeping pace can be difficult when the diversity of the young population has grown so rapidly. Only about 2.2 percent of all of Iowa teachers were minorities in 2011-12. According to the 2010 Census, about 16.4 percent of Sioux City residents were Hispanic while only five percent of all Iowa residents were Hispanic.

“It’s not that we have a diverse candidate pool, and we are only hiring Caucasians,” Superintendent Paul Gausman told the newspaper. “Our candidate pool does not have the diversity we would like to make choices.”

The school district is hoping to build a grow-your-own pipeline by creating an education career cluster that will eventually result in minority graduates of the district who one day return to teach. I’m curious if they also will try tactics such as recruiting teachers from more diverse states, such as Texas or California.

In another reflection of the district’s growing diversity, the newspaper reported that the school board recently decided to prioritize lobbying efforts in the Iowa Legislature regarding English Language Learners.  In particular, they’d like better funding for instructional programs for ELLs.

According to the article, the district has 2,635 ELLs, making up 18.5 percent of its enrollment. To further illustrate the rapid change, the district had only 213 ELLs in 1988-89.

Related Links:

– “Sioux City Schools Looking for more Diversity in Teaching Ranks,” Sioux City Journal.

– “Sioux City Schools Adds Legislative Focus on Non-English Speaking Students,” Sioux City Journal.