Cleveland Schools Agree to Boost Hispanic Enrollment in STEM Programs

Very few Latino and Spanish-speaking students attend the Cleveland school district’s four science and math specialty high schools.

Indeed, only 130 Hispanic students attend the schools out of the district’s total Hispanic enrollment of 5,586 Hispanic students. The disparity was so extreme that it caught the eye of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). This week, the office announced an agreement with the district to remedy the problem .

The specialty high schools have STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programs.

As part of the agreement, the school district agreed to do the following:

– Form a committee of district and community members to determine the barriers to more Hispanics enrolling in the STEM program.
– Develop a plan to submit to the OCR by the end of the school year to ensure access, which will be implemented in 2014-15.
– Promote STEM programs to Latino families and students.
– Ensure that Spanish-language materials about the programs are available to families.
– Monitor Hispanic enrollment in STEM and adjust the plan as necessary to address any further discrepancies.
– Improve counseling services.

The Office of Civil Rights commended the district to cooperating. Hispanic community leader Jose Feliciano also told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that he had no ill will toward the district.

“I never had any sense that they were keeping kids out,” he said. “They just weren’t doing affirmative things to get kids in.”

Related Links:
“Cleveland School District Will Be Better Promote STEM Programs to Hispanic Students Under New Civil Rights Agreement,” Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“U.S. Department of Education and Cleveland Metropolitan School District Reach Agreement to Provide Equal Access to STEM Programs for Limited English Proficient (LEP) and Latino Students,” U.S. Department of Education.

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New Federal Guidelines on Discipline Announced

Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder urged a major overhaul of school discipline policies on Wednesday.

In a joint announcement of new guidelines on the issue, they sharply criticized school districts that suspend minorities at disproportionately high rates and also punish students for minor infractions. They also were critical of infractions being handled as criminal matters. The announcement was a major takedown of so-called “zero tolerance” policies.

The Washington Post reported that Duncan said discrimination is “a real problem today — it’s not just an issue from 30 or 40 or 50 years ago.”

A number of civil rights organizations lauded the announcement.

“These much-needed guidelines send a strong message from the federal government that it takes seriously the criminalization of children, particularly children of color, in schools,” said NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund president Sherrilyn Ifill, Education Week reported. “It acknowledges that race plays an improper role in school discipline practices with long-term negative consequences for students’ educational outcomes.”

Education Week reported that school discipline policies may be in violation if they target certain student groups or that disproportionately impact a certain racial or ethnic group.

Are you familiar with your local school district’s discipline policy? How many students are being suspended and what are their ethnic backgrounds? How many students end up arrested? You can obtain this information to better inform your reporting. You may be surprised by how many students have been suspended at least once or how frequently students are arrested.

Related Links:
“New Federal School Discipline Guidance Addresses Discrimination, Suspensions,” Education Week.

“School Climate and Discipline,” U.S. Department of Education.

“Holder, Duncan Announce National Guidelines on School Discipline,” The Washington Post.

‘Children’s Report Card’ Grades California

A new report card grading the well-being of California’s children concludes the state has a long way to go if it wants to earn an “A.”

The advocacy group Children Now has released the “2014 California Children’s Report Card: How Kids are Doing in Our State and What Needs to Be Done About It,” which grades the state on 27 indicators. The grades are based around issues related to education, health and child welfare.

The majority of the state’s public school students are Latino.

Among the different grades assigned in the education section:

— The report gives the state a “C+” on preschool. It reports that 39 percent of Latino 3- and 4-year olds are enrolled in preschool, and recommends that the state provide access to high-quality preschool programs to all children. It finds that California lags other states in inspections of its preschool programs.

— The state receives a “B-” on transition to and readiness for kindergarten programs. The report recommends stronger ties between preschool and kindergarten programs that include aligning curriculum and joint professional development. It recommends a state kindergarten readiness assessment to better inform educators, policymakers, teachers and parents.

– The report assigns the state a “D” for K-12 investments, concluding that California schools are “chronically underfunded.” The report acknowledges progress is being made, as the 2013-14 budget will allow for a $2.8 billion or 5 percent increase in year over year funding.

– The report awards a “B-” on school finance reform, in reference to the state’s new local control funding formula (LCFF) that is intended to provide more equitable funding for students. The school funding reform change will provide more funding for English Language Learners, low-income and foster children.

– The study gives the state a “B-” on the state’s implementation of the Common Core State Standards.

– The state is given a “D+” on its Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs. The report points out that only 67 percent of the state’s eighth graders met state science standards in 2013, including 56 percent of Latino students.

– The state is given a “D” on teacher training and evaluation. It recommends that the state update its standards on awarding teaching credentials and establish stronger evaluation systems.

Related Links:
“2014 California Children’s Report Card,” Children Now.
“No More Excuses: As California rebounds, invest in kids,” EdSource.
“Well-Being of California Children Lags, According to New Study,” Contra Costa Times.

California School Transitions ELLs to Common Core

Even though Laurel Elementary School in Los Angeles faces considerable challenges, it boasts an impressive list of accolades.

Most Laurel students come from low-income backgrounds, and about 60 percent are English Language Learners. The students have tended to perform better on math than language arts on California standardized tests, according to The Hechinger Report.

The Hechinger Report article discusses how educators at the school are preparing for the transition toward common core standards, which will be more rigorous and demand more advanced language skills from students.

In response, educators at the school are infusing more language development into math classes. Third-grade teacher Alejandra Monroy, who is from Chile, is teaching vocabulary as she explains math concepts.

While teaching students the concept that “3 X 4 = 12” she explained that the first two numbers are “factors” and the entire series a “multiplication sentence.”

Then she explained the concept of patterns through numbers.

“A pattern can be something like red/blue/red/blue right?” Monroy asked. “A sequence that repeats. When you count by skipping numbers — 2-4-6 — you’re doing a pattern.”

If you speak with teachers, how are they preparing to phase in the common core for ELLs? How are their teaching methods changing? When elementary school teachers teach math, how are they changing their approach?

Related Links:

“With new standards, will California’s youngest English learners lose their edge in math?” The Hechinger Report.

“Miami Prepares for Impact of Common Core Standards on ELLs,” Latino Ed Beat.

Teacher uses Hispanic Comic Hero to Inspire Students

Latino characters are often lacking in the books that students read. A Dallas bilingual teacher is working to fill that void by creating a Latino comic book superhero.

Dallas Independent School District second-grade teacher Hector Rodriguez created “El Peso Hero” to offer a positive Hispanic character who champions immigrants and fights crime.

Some of the themes addressed are those that students and their families may be familiar with. The superhero speaks in Spanish, but other characters speak English.

The Dallas Morning News reported that Rodriguez shares the comics with his students. Andrea Delgado, 7, told the newspaper that she likes the character and how he helps people with his special powers.

“I was like, ‘Wow, how can he do that’?” she said “I want to be a writer like my teacher, and I want to draw.”

If you speak with teachers or librarians in your area, do they include diverse characters in the classes and librarians at school?

Related Links:

“Dallas teacher creates comic hero to fight wrongs against immigrants,” The Dallas Morning News.

“Young Latino Students Don’t See Themselves in Books,” The New York Times.

“Librarians Create Bilingual Reading List,” Latino Ed Beat.