College Recruiters Often Avoid Low-Income Schools

When Los Angeles Times reporters surveyed California high schools about how many college recruiters visited the campuses this fall, they found glaring disparities between rich and poor.

While the private The Webb Schools in Claremont was visited by 113 colleges and universities, the public Jefferson High School in South Los Angeles was visited by just eight recruiters. The newspaper found that schools with higher numbers of low-income, Latino and black students received the most visitors.

University officials often justify the disparity by saying that recruiters visit high schools that many of their current students graduated from. But that can set universities up for repetition of their past enrollments. Elite schools often prioritize visiting schools where the most students meet their academic requirements.

One principal said that low-income schools often lack the counselors necessary to arrange visits.

Gregory Wolniak, director of New York University’s Center for Research on Higher Education Outcomes, said visits can help encourage students to pursue higher education who come from families without a college education.

Student Javier Evangelista is applying to study engineering at competitive universities includign Stanford and said that colleges make the mistake of not visiting public schools because they don’t believe “there could be a student in this school who has the potential to win the next Nobel Prize, come up with a new technology or change the world.”

Related Links:

“College Recruiters Give Low-Income Public Campuses Fewer Visits,” Los Angeles Times.

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Missouri College Cuts Tuition for Undocumented Students

The state of Missouri does not provide in-state tuition to undocumented immigrant students by law at its public higher education institutions — but that isn’t stopping one college from taking action on its own.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that St. Louis Community College has decided to offer in-state tuition to undocumented immigrant students. That will cut the tuition rate from the international rate of $209 to $98 for students local to the college’s area and $144 for other Missouri residents.

Since community colleges have much lower tuition than universities they are often the only place affordable for undocumented students. Undocumented students are still not eligible for federal financial aid.

“The door is cracked open a little bit for some students,” Faith Sandler, executive director of the Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis, told the newspaper. “It’s a great move on the part of the community college. Hopefully, others will follow.”

The University of Missouri-St. Louis is also considering cutting tuition rates for undocumented students. College officials said that it was rare that any undocumented student was able to pay out-of-state tuition to attend the college.

Students who were granted “deferred action childhood arrival,” or deferred action, will benefit from the change. It will be interesting to see if other states or colleges make similar action due to the deferred action policy, which will allow qualified students to stay in the United States for work and study.

The program, “Universidad Ya!/College Now!” based in St. Louis, supported the decision by the community college. The organization’s president, Washington Spanish professor Virginia Braxs, told the Riverfront Times that the move is a step forward. She noted that many of her students must support themselves by working through college.

“This community of young people is graduating from high school,” she said. “They face huge barriers. They make great sacrifices — all my students work part time through high school and college to contribute to their families.”

Related Links:

“St. Louis Community College Slashes Tuition Rates for Undocumented Students,” St. Louis Post Dispatch.

“STLCC: Undocumented Students with U.S. High School Diplomas Can Pay In-State Tuition,” Riverfront Times Blog.

Universidad YA! College NOW!

“Immigrant Students Seek Va. In-State Tuition Rate,” Diverse Issues in Higher Education.

Achivement Gap Persists in California

While Latinos make up the majority of California’s public school students, they continue to lag white students on academic achievement measures.

California may have more experience working with Latino students than other states, but that hasn’t translated into better academic returns. The Associated Press points out that Hispanic students often attend poorly funded schools with larger class sizes and fewer academic courses.

The article notes that only about one out of every four Hispanic sophomores don’t pass the state’s high school exit exam, compared with one in 10 white students.

But there are some success stories. The AP reports that the agricultural area where the Sanger Unified School District is located is making progress with the children of migrant farmworkers are improving. The article notes that Sanger was once a failing district.

A report by the Bay Area Research Group found that the district began to improve after spending time on changing its culture — offering more teacher training, for example. The district created its own testing system to analyze the effectiveness of its instruction.

The study detailed how Sanger changed its culture, including going from following textbooks to addressing student needs and from professional isolation to collaboration.

What can we learn from California about what works for Latino students and what doesn’t?

Related Links:

“Latino Academic Achievement Gap Persists,” Associated Press.

“Farm Town Develops Education Success Formula,” Associated Press.

“Turning Around a High-Poverty School District: Learning from Sanger Unified’s Success,” Bay Area Research Group and Stanford University.

New Jersey to Offer In-State Tuition to Undocumented Immigrants

New Jersey will finally move forward with allowing some undocumented immigrants raised in the United States to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities, following a long tussle back and forth about the legislation.

However, Governor Chris Christie is nixing an important piece of the legislation that would have awarded state financial aid to undocumented immigrants. Democrats had fought for the state financial aid to be included but lost, the Star-Ledger reported. Some states with similar in-state tuition laws do award state financial aid. Undocumented immigrants cannot qualify for federal aid.

The legislation would give the in-state tuition benefit to those immigrants who are graduates of New Jersey high schools and attended school in the state for at least three years, the Star-Ledger reported.

Christie said that he was committed to “tuition equality,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Despite making that statement, he had been criticized previously when it appeared that he would not support the legislation.

“”These young men and women of our state – whom we have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in their K-12 education – we’re now going to give them an opportunity in an affordable way to be able to continue their education,” he said.

The Inquirer reported that of the 15 other states offering in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants, the states of Texas, California and New Mexico offer state financial aid.

Upon the news, activist Giancarlo Tello — an undocumented immigrant from Peru — said he could now afford to attend college. He said he would “begrudgingly” accept an agreement without financial aid.

Related Links:

“Chris Christie and N.J. Democrats Reach Agreement on DREAM Act,” Star-Ledger.

“Deal Clears Way for N.J. ‘Dream Act,” Philadelphia Inquirer.

“North Jersey Student Living in U.S. Illegally pushes for tuition bill,” North Jersey.com

Urban School Districts Make Progress on National Exam

Students enrolled in school districts in some of the nation’s largest cities are making significant academic gains that sometimes even outpaced their peers elsewhere in the nation, according to new data.

Since 2002, the Trial Urban District Assessment has tracked student achievement on the National Assessment of Educational Progress — known as America’s report card. The program has grown to encompass 21 urban school districts and tracks the performance of fourth- and eighth-graders in math and reading. The large districts surveyed volunteer to take part in testing.

According to the most recent data, between 2011 and 2013, fourth-graders from Chicago, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Atlanta recorded larger increases in scores in math than the national average. In L.A., Hispanic, black and white fourth-graders all saw improvements. However, L.A. lags other urban districts in overall performance.

Not all the news was positive. Fourth-graders in Houston schools experienced lower scores in reading. This was notable in a year that Houston was awarded the coveted Broad Prize for Urban Education.

The data may offer some telling information about your local school district. The districts profiled include many with large Hispanic populations, such as Albuquerque, Austin, Dallas, Fresno, Miami-Dade, Houston, New York City and others.

“The 2013 TUDA results show student performance in large cities continues to both improve overall and that large-city schools nationwide are improving at a faster pace than the nation as a whole,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement. “While we still have a lot of work to do to close achievement gaps in our largest cities, this progress is encouraging. It means that in 2013, tens of thousands of additional students in large cities are proficient or above in math and reading than was the case four years earlier.”

Related Links:

Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA), National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)
“Urban Schools Improving Faster Than Rest of US,” Associated Press.
“NAEP Gains in D.C., Los Angeles Outpace Other Big Cities,” Education Week.

Schools Expand Dual Language Instruction to High School

A suburban Chicago school district with a Spanish-English dual language program has proven so popular that it will now be expanded to the high school level.

The Chicago Tribune reports that North Shore District 112 first began its program, which serves native English and Spanish speakers, in 1996. It has grown to 636 students, or 15 percent of the school district’s enrollment.

Students learn about 80 percent of the time in Spanish at the younger grade levels in kindergarten through second grade, and reach half Spanish and half English by about fifth grade.

The district’s Highland Park High School, which is 18 percent Hispanic, will add dual courses in science, social studies, and math in coming years.

Both native English and Spanish speakers see the benefit of the program.

Marco Ayala, a doctor, was born to immigrant parents but never learned Spanish. He wanted his son to be bilingual, however.

“We love seeing him do his homework in Spanish,” he told the Tribune. “Comparing his experience to mine, it’s been night and day.”

Links:
“Dual Language Classes Bring the Best of Both Worlds to District 112,” Chicago Tribune.
North Shore School District Dual Language Program

Many Nevada Education Boards Lack Hispanic Representation

Hispanic leaders in Nevada are calling attention to an important education issue that takes place outside of the classroom — the lack of Hispanic representation on many of the state’s elected education boards.

Even in the Clark County School District, where about 44 percent of the students are Hispanic, there was no Hispanic member until recently. When a vacancy came open, the board voted to appoint a Hispanic to the seven-member board earlier this month.

“As a board we do not reflect the diversity of our district,” school board president Carolyn Edwards said according to a Las Vegas Sun story.  “Improving that ratio is important.”

Hispanic leaders are trying to encourage more Latinos to run for eduction boards.

Illustrating the importance of representation, the newspaper mentions how Hispanic state lawmakers helped push through $50 million in funding for English Language Learners.

Currently the Nevada Board of Education only has one Hispanic member and the Nevada Board of Regents has never had a Hispanic member. Both boards are elected.

Former Clark County board member Jose Solorio recalled how his Hispanic background helped offer insights into the community. He told the Sun that when the district wanted to use bond money in 1998 mostly on building schools and not on remodeling him, he persuaded them to use the funds more equitably. He argued that more low-income Hispanic children lived in the older schools that needed updates.

“It wasn’t the right thing to do to ignore the existing schools,” Solorio told the Sun. “That’s where the majority of Latinos and African Americans live.”

Related Links:

“Nevada’s Hispanics Work to Boost Representation on Education Boards,” Las Vegas Sun.

“CCSD Board Chooses State BOE Member to Fill Vacancy,” Las Vegas Sun.

Study Links Stress and Obesity Among Hispanic Youth

A new study shows that children with parents with high stress levels have a greater likelihood of being obese.

Voxxi News reports that the findings appear in the journal Pediatric Obesity and also show that the link is especially pronounced among Latinos.

The researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto examined the impact of stress on children’s body mass index, or BMI. Parents were also asked questions about their stress levels, such as whether they felt issues were piling up so much they could not overcome them, PsychCentral reported.

“Childhood is a time when we develop interconnected habits related to how we deal with stress, how we eat and how active we are,” researcher Ketan Shankardass said. “It’s a time when we might be doing irreversible damage or damage that is very hard to change later.”

He suggested one solution could be supporting struggling families better.

Is this just another obvious conclusion? Or is there any way a parent involvement program can address some of this issue?

Related Links:

“Why Hispanic Children with Stressed Parents Are More Likely to be Obese,” The Huffington Post
“Parental Stress Linked to Children’s Obesity,” Psych Central.

Texas Principal Allegedly Tells Students Not to Speak Spanish

A small Texas town is embroiled in debate after a middle school principal allegedly told students over a public address system that they would not be allowed to speak Spanish in class.

Hempstead Middle School Principal Amy Lacey is now on paid administrative leave while the Hempstead Independent School District investigates the incident, KHOU reported. According to the Texas Education Agency, about 53 percent of the school’s 206 students were Hispanic in the 2011-12 school year.

The district released a statement saying that it does not have any policy that bars the speaking of Spanish. KHOU reported that some students felt that the principal’s announcement resulted in discriminatory comments by their peers and teachers.

Hempstead ISD has 1,482 students. About 51 percent of students are Hispanic and 21 percent are limited English proficient. The small city is located north of Houston.

At a school board meeting this week, parents and students spoke out on both sides of the issue.

KHOU reported that one parent said she supported the principal because her children don’t know if their Spanish-speaking peers are making fun of them when they speak Spanish. Another speaker said the policy would help students by pushing them to speak in English, therefore better preparing them for being tested in English.

Meanwhile, parent Cynthia Zamora said the policy would hurt Hispanic students.

“You’re handicapping our children,” she told KHOU. “You’re telling them you can’t speak Spanish, and you can’t have anyone translating for you.”

NBC Latino reported that the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund sent the district’s superintendent a letter on November 21 saying legal action would be taken if such a Spanish policy were instituted.

“The anti-Spanish policy also invites potential challenges under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects ‘pure speech’ of prisoners, employees and, of course, students,” wrote MALDEF attorney David Hinojosa.

Related Links:

“Hempstead Students Say Principal Tried to Ban Them From Speaking Spanish,” KHOU.
“Hempstead ISD continues to debate ‘no Spanish’ Policy,” KHOU.
“TX Principal Accused of Banning Students from Speaking Spanish in Classroom,” NBC Latino.

Home Visiting Programs Help Latino Toddlers

Sometimes even preschool is too late to effectively intervene and boost the achievement levels of low-income Latino children.

But home visiting programs bring school into the home, and help parents become their child’s first teacher. A recent report by the Latino Policy Forum, “Primeros Pasos,” shows how such programs are making a positive difference in Illinois.

The programs are characterized by their work to improve parenting practices as well as parents’ awareness of their child’s development. They also operate as an early alert system of sorts to identify any developmental or health challenges. They also may prevent child abuse and set children on track toward greater success in school.

“Home visiting programs are generally targeted toward those families who are most at risk for adverse outcomes, like teen parents. And home visiting can begin prenatally to coach and equip young parents in how to support their child’s health development,” the report’s author, Jacob Vigil, told WTTW’s Chicago Tonight.

The study also suggests that strong home visiting programs are often those that receive state funding support.

The Early Head Start home visiting program works with children under the age of three. Yuri Gutierrez has two young children in the program and told WTTW that one of the biggest things she learned was the importance of reading to them.

The Latino Policy Forum makes a number of other recommendations on how to improve early childhood learning. They include increasing the number of bilingual early learning educators and providing more training opportunities to such individuals.

They also recommend improving awareness among Latino parents about the importance of early learning and parent involvement. In addition, they encourage the collection of data on infants and toddlers and the service providers that work with such children.

Even the report focuses on Illinois, it is worth a read and could easily be applied to the rest of the nation.

Related Links:

“Early Education in the Latino Community,” Chicago Tonight, WTTW.

“Primeros Pasos: Strengthening Programs that Support Illinois Infants and Toddlers,” Latino Policy Forum.

Home Visiting Campaign, The Pew Charitable Trusts.