SAT Scores Show Hispanics Lag in College Readiness

The SAT college entrance exam picture for Hispanic students is mixed, based on 2013 data released Thursday by the College Board.

Hispanics have increased to 17 percent of test takers. Yet only about 23.5 percent of Latino students were deemed college ready based on their scores, a slight increase over the prior year.

The overall national average is also frustrating. For the past five years, the overall average college readiness of test takers has hovered at 43 percent.

The board set a benchmark score of 1550 as the score, the score they say at which there is a 65 percent likelihood that a student will have a college freshman year GPA of B- or higher. The overall average score was 1498 out of a possible 2400.

Students who tested ready for college were more likely to have taken a core curriculum, AP courses, high-level math courses such as calculus, and be in the top 10 percent of their graduating class.

Hispanics tended to lag in being academically prepared for the SAT exam. Among Hispanics who took the SAT exam, about 70 percent took a core curriculum, 56 percent reported taking AP courses, and 36 percent reported that they had “A” average grades.

College Board officials continue to push to increase the participation rates of minority students. Their efforts are not without criticism. Bob Schaeffer of Fair Test told National Public Radio that the board’s efforts are a marketing ploy.

Reflecting the country’s shifting demographics, the Texas Education Agency reported that more Hispanic public school students took the exam than white students. There were 59,294 Hispanic students taking the exam and 58,307 white students. Hispanics already make up the majority of students attending Texas schools.

Also on Thursday, The New York Times reported on a new program being launched by the College Board that is seeking to motivate more minority and low-income students to apply to elite colleges and universities.

The board is sending information packets including application fee waivers to six colleges to 28,000 high school seniors with an SAT or PSAT score in the top 15 percent of people tested but the bottom quarter of income distribution.

Recent studies have shown that even high-performing Latino, black and low-income students do not apply to the competitive admission colleges that they are qualified to attend. The Times reported that a recent study by University of Virginia researchers found that providing more college information in mailed packets to low-income students influences college application decisions.

At the time, College Board President David Coleman told the Times, ““We can’t stand by as students, particularly low-income students, go off track and don’t pursue the opportunities they have earned.”

Related Links:

“2013 SAT Report on College & Career Readiness”
“College Board ‘Concerned’ About Low SAT Scores,” NPR.
“Record Number of Minorities Take SAT But Lag in College Readiness.”
“A Nudge to Poorer Students to Aim High on Colleges,” The New York Times.
“A Simple Way to Send Poor Kids to Top Colleges,” The New York Times.

Spanish For Native Speakers College Classes Increase

Latinos raised in Spanish-speaking homes but not formally schooled in Spanish are often caught in a bind when they want to strengthen their language schools in college.

Spanish classes for non-native speakers may not be the best fit, so programs that address the needs of “heritage” speakers are increasingly popping up. As the Latino student population ages, Spanish for Spanish speakers classes could grow in popularity throughout the country.

The Associated Press reports on the trend, noting that it is still developing. Such students may have strong conversation skills, but experience challenges with reading and writing in Spanish, for example.

Harvard and the University of Miami are two examples of institutions that have special classes for such “heritage” speakers.

The AP article describes one student, Dorothy Villarreal, who realized the gaps in her Spanish when she studied abroad in Mexico.

“We were talking about the presidential election, and there was so much I wanted to explain,” Villarreal told the AP. “We’d end up playing a guessing game where I’d speak in English, and my friends, they’d speak back in Spanish to guess what I was saying.”

She is now enrolled in the Harvard heritage language class.

Additionally, the National Heritage Language Resource Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, tracks research on such programs and works on developing effective ways to teach heritage learners. The U.S. Department of Education funds the center. The center could be a possible resource for reporters.

There already are signs of the future demand for such courses. Growing numbers of school districts are using AP Spanish and Language classes with native Spanish-speaking students beginning as early as middle school.

The number of Spanish speakers residing within the United States isn’t dropping any time soon. A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that Spanish is the most common language other than in English spoken in homes, even among people who are not Hispanic.

Pew said that according to 2011 American Community Survey Census figures, about 37.6 million people ages five and older speak Spanish in the home.

Related Links:

– “Heritage language programs on the rise,” Associated Press.

– National Heritage Language Resource Center at UCLA.
– “Speaking Spanish Declining Among Latinos in the U.S.” CNN.

– “Spanish is the Most Spoken non-English Language in U.S. Homes, Even Among non-Hispanics,” Pew Research Center.

Hispanic Students Fuel Las Vegas Schools’ Record Growth

The Hispanic student population is soaring in the Clark County School District in Las Vegas, where Hispanics are fueling much of the record jump in enrollment this year.

According to the Las Vegas Sun, the student enrollment increased this year by 3,707 students to 315,087 total students. The growth exceeded the district’s expectations.

About 44 percent of Clark County students are Hispanic, while 29 percent are white.

The district is struggling with the growth, and its elementary schools in particular are overenrolled and crowded. Some 30,000 elementary school children attend school in portables. Despite the dire situation, voters in November rejected a tax initiative that would have funded renovations, two new elementary schools and other upgrades.

The Sun reports that three district elementary schools have more than 1,200 students enrolled. Those schools are now operating year-round, so that not all the students are attending at the same time.

Nevada faces significant challenges in its education system. This year, the annual 2013 Kids Count Report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation rated the state last in the nation in education for the second year in a row.

Related Links:

– “Clark County School District Enrollment Grows, With Hispanics Leading the Trend,” Las Vegas Review-Journal.

– “Record Number of Students Packing Clark County Schools,” Las Vegas Sun News.

Clark County School District

Utah College Leaders Support Immigration Reform

Eight presidents of Utah colleges and universities are calling on Congress to pass immigration reform.

The signers of the new letter include the presidents of the University of Utah, Utah State University, and Utah Valley University.

Immigration reform has largely faded from the headlines, but the presidents demonstrate that some groups are pushing to bring it to the forefront again.

They support making it easier for foreign students to obtain visas to study in science and engineering fields.

They also express support for the DREAM Act, writing that it would generate economic activity in Utah.

“Many of our future bright students came to this country as children and have been unable to take advantage of an American education and contribute to our economy because of their status,” the presidents write.

A study by the Brookings Institution found that 5,332 people from Utah applied for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program between August 15, 2012, and March 22, 2013. Deferred action is being awarded to some undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.

The presidents conclude their letter by noting, “Meanwhile, too many people are living in the shadows unable to join our work force, gain an education, and contribute to the economy they live in while we face real worker shortages and slow economic growth.”

Related Links:

– “Utah College and University Presidents call for Immigration Reform,” Deseret News.

– Utah University Presidents’ Immigration Letter

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

Program Opens Doors for Hispanic Parents

The Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors program gives parents the skills to become their child’s first teacher.

This approach mirrors national efforts to improve family engagement, Abriendo Puertas national director Sandra Gutierrez says in the FINE Newsletter from the Harvard Family Research Project.

In the program, parents of children from newborns to age 5 meet for weekly group sessions in which they learn in Spanish and English about topics including the stages of child development, promoting literacy, and health and nutrition.

A survey of parent participants last year by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, found that they increased their knowledge of early learning and how to help their children be successful in school.

In the newsletter Gutierrez describes the program:

“Every week, Latino parents meet in a support-group setting to strengthen their capacity to be their children’s first and most influential teacher and to make their home their children’s first school, rich with everyday learning experiences. Discussion topics include goal setting, communication, ages and stages of development, promoting literacy, choosing preschool and health care services, nutrition, socioemotional wellness, and advocating for children, families, and communities. These group sessions include activities such as popular games like Abriendo Puertas Loteria (Bingo), as well as references to dichos, or cultural sayings, to reinforce key messages in ways that are engaging and relatable to families.”

She continues, “Parents’ confidence increases when they recognize the power they have as leaders of their families and the extent to which all of their daily decisions profoundly influence the arc of their children’s lives.”

Read more here.

Related Links:

– “Parents as Agents of Change,” Harvard Family Research Project.

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

– Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors

Professor’s Outreach to Hispanic Students Sparks Controversy

Until this week, Texas Christian University professor Santiago Piñón was apparently best known for his work teaching a popular course on Latinos and religion.

On the web site Rate My Professors, reviewers describe him as a funny, helpful and insightful man. Several go as far as to call him one of the university’s best professors.

But this week, Piñón became the focus of media reports that portrayed him in a very different light — as an instructor who favored Latino students, over his other students.

Inside Higher Ed reports that a student in his class with a Hispanic last name who considers herself white raised concerns about an email she received from the professor offering extra help to “students of color”. She said Piñón, who is Hispanic, sent the email to nine students with Hispanic last names.

The professor’s email read:

“At the beginning of the semester I usually like to invite all my students of color to get together and discuss the challenges they may face during the semester. However, the time slipped by and I didn’t get a chance. So, I would like to ask if you are interested in a get together on Monday afternoon? We can also discuss the exam that is coming up if you want. I don’t mind if this would turn out to be a study session for my STUDENTS OF COLOR ONLY.”

The student said the offer struck her as unfair special attention and favoritism. She then posted the email’s text on Facebook and wrote, “I straight up just got segregated by my own teacher. I’m 75 [percent] white.”

The private university’s enrollment has a significantly lower Latino and black enrollment than in Texas’ public colleges and universities.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics IPEDS system, in fall 2012 the university’s undergraduate enrollment was about 74 percent white, 10 percent Latino, five percent black, and two percent Asian.

Not every student who received the email perceived the professor’s offer negatively. Daniel Castañeda told Inside Higher Ed that especially at a university with low Hispanic enrollment, students appreciate hearing from a fellow Hispanic.

“I think it was written with all good intentions, not meaning to segregate or leave anyone out,” he told the web site, adding that the emal “was taken a bit out of context by some people.”

The situation offers a cautionary tale to universities that offer special support services and enrichment opportunities to minority students. They must proceed carefully with how they present the programs, which may end up resented by other students.

In this case, some could view the professor as prejudiced against his non-Hispanic students. But was he just trying to mentor students with his same ethnic background toward college success, albeit clumsily?

After students complained to TCU administrators, Piñón sent a new email reiterating that students were free to approach him with questions about the upcoming exam. He also said in a statement that his offer was misunderstood and he has offered help to groups of students.

He wrote in the statement:

“I do like to offer myself as a resource to students (particularly those of color) who may face challenges and become discouraged; goal is to encourage and offer support, so I am troubled to think some students may have thought they were being excluded from a study session because that was not at all the intention.”

TCU issued its own statement saying that it “expects that professors provide equal opportunities to all students.”

Related Links:

-“Students of Color Only,” Inside Higher Ed.

Many Latino Children in Chicago Live Far From Playgrounds

Children living in Chicago’s most heavily Latino neighborhoods have much less access to quality parks than white children, an analysis by WBEZ radio shows. The research mapped out the city’s 525 playgrounds by census tract.

However, the Chicago Park District has plans to upgrade 300 parks over the next five years. The city says that about 90 percent of children live within a half mile, or a 10 minute walk, of a park.

But WBEZ says that Latino children are 35 percent more likely than white children to live more than half a mile away from a playground. Jaemey Bush told the station that she was concerned about playground quality in her heavily Latino neighborhood of Little Village.

“It makes me really sad that these kids don’t have a chance to play on a playground,” Bush said. “That’s such an important part of being a kid and growing up and being healthy. We also have a lot of gang violence and kids getting into trouble. I feel like more playgrounds could contribute to solving some of those problems.”

Black and Latino children also have less access to high quality parks with rubber surfaces, and are more likely to live near parks with wood chips.

To their credit, Chicago officials say they are trying to close gaps with the Chicago Plays redevelopment initiative targeted at upgrading playground park equipment over the next few years. Upgrades are being prioritized based upon nominations made by community members via a petition. WBEZ raises concerns that not every community has residents who are able to pursue the time-intensive process of applying for the funds.

An earlier study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation concluded that Hispanic children need more opportunities for exercise in their communities and lacked safe “active spaces.” That study listed playgrounds, recreation centers, school gyms, and athletic fields as important spaces for children.

Related Links:

– “Park District Comes Up Short on Playground Equity,” WBEZ.

– “Report: Latino Children Need More Active Spaces,” Latino Ed Beat.

– Salud America! The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Research Network to Prevent Obesity Among Latino Children.

What Type of Research Is Needed On ELLs?

The U.S. Department of Education is requesting proposals for research studies that would address how to better meet the needs of students who are English Language learners.

In an item appearing in the Federal Register, the department indicates interest in instructional approaches, assessments and training for educators. Written submissions are due by October 9.

The request also seeks studies that could improve meeting the needs of teachers and administrators who work with ELLs.

“The Department anticipates making use of this information to inform the development of our evaluation and research agenda in the coming years and to guide future evaluation and research studies addressing the needs of [ELLs],” the listing reads.

Additionally, the department is interested in ELLs who fall into categories including students with disabilities, middle and high school students and immigrant students with limited formal education.

Other topics of interest include using technology in instructing ELLs, using academic language to promote language acquisition and data collection strategies.

Another earlier announcement in the Federal Register requested guidance on how to improve technical services related to ELLs for educators and state officials.

Learning the Language blogger Lesli Maxwell pointed out that the requests have come amidst concerns that the education department has not addressed the ELL population’s needs.

In particular, some educators are concerned that the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition (NCELA), did not provide particularly current and useful information on how to help ELLs.

Related Links:

– “Request for Information to Inform the Title III Evaluation and Research Studies Agenda,” Federal Register.

– “English-Learner Research: Ed Dept. Looking for Guidance,” Learning the Language Blog, Education Week.

– “Ed. Dept. Seeks Feedback on Supporting English-Learners,” Learning the Language Blog, Education Week.

– National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition (NCELA)

Report: Latina Teen Pregnancy Rate is Falling

The teen birth rate for Latinas has fallen dramatically within the last few years, according to new data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Between 2007 and 2012, the teen birth rate for Latina teenagers ages 15 to 19 fell by 39 percent — the largest drop of any group. In 2012, there were 46.3 births per 1,000 Hispanic teens.

That’s still considerably higher than the average for all teenagers. The birth rate for all teenagers dropped by almost one-third, to 29.4 births per 1,000 teenagers ages 15 to 19.

In 2012, there were 305,420 babies born to teens ages 15 to 19. According to the study, that’s the fewest since the close of World War II.

Additionally, the teen birth rate fell by 7 percent between 2011 and 2012.

“The stunning turnaround in teen births is truly one of the nation’s great success stories of the past two decades,” Sarah Brown, CEO of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, said in a news release. “Clearly, progress can and has been made on a pressing social problem that many once considered intractable and inevitable.”

– “Births: Preliminary Data for 2012,” National Vital Statistics Reports.

– “Teen Birth Rate Declines: What’s Going Right,” ABC/Univision.

– “Teen Birth Rate Declines Among Latinas in ‘Stunning Turnaround’,” Fox News Latino.

– “Teen Birth Rate Cut in Half,” The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

Connecticut Seeks to Enforce Racial Balance in Greenwich Schools

The town of Greenwich, Connecticut, may conjure up images of a mostly wealthy and white population. But roughly one-third of students attending the Greenwich Public Schools are not white, and about 17 percent are Hispanic.

The concentration of Latino and other minority students at two elementary schools in Greenwich prompted the state to warn the school system that it was in violation of a law prohibiting schools from being racially imbalanced.

So far, school officials have looked at remedies including school choice and magnet programs, the Greenwich Post reported. It isn’t clear whether there is any deadline for a solution. The law requires that a school’s minority population cannot differ from the district average for comparable schools by more than 25 percent.

The New York Times reported that in 2012, the Hamilton Avenue school had a student body that was 47 percent Hispanic and 32 percent white. The New Lebanon school had an enrollment that was 59 percent Hispanic and 31 percent white. Meanwhile, other schools in the district were warned that not enough minorities were enrolled.

Indeed, there are significant achievement gaps within the district. But the Times reported that Superintendent William McKersie asked, “Are you applying an old understanding of how to get educational opportunity that could undermine what we are trying to do here?”

The article noted that the achievement gap has narrowed in recent years but that McKersie added, “We are not satisfied with the quality of education we are providing, particular to our low-income Latino and African-American students…”

Adriana Ospina, a Hispanic school board member, held a bilingual forum with parents to discuss the matter. Some Hispanic parents aren’t eager to have their children switch schools. Greenwich Time reported that one mother of a Hamilton student, Carminia Morales, expressed anxiety about integrating with wealthier schools.

“”For many families, there’s a comfort in sending their children to a school in their community with people like them,” she said. “My child would not feel comfortable in a school like North Street. Just by the simple fact that there are not uniforms, it becomes very obvious who has money and who doesn’t. It’s a privilege to be in a school where my kids can be proud of their identity and don’t have to worry about being considered less because of their background.”

The district clearly is taking the matter very seriously, and has posted a lot of information about the matter on its web site.

Related Links:

– “School Board Examines New Racial Balance Plan,” Greenwich Post.

– “Racial Imbalance Addressed at Bilingual Hearing,” Greenwich Time.

– “Law On Racial Diversity Stirs Greenwich Schools,” The New York Times.

– “Facility Utilization and Racial Balance,” Greenwich Public Schools.