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.

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.

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.

Various Factors Discourage Latino Students From AP Courses

Latino students may be discouraged from enrolling in Advanced Placement courses for a number of reasons.

Students’ perceptions can impact their decisions. They may have a lack of knowledge about the classes or have the impression that the classes will be too challenging.

Other factors are outside of students’ control: teachers and administrators may decide who is allowed–and not allowed– to enroll in such courses.

“Many teachers don’t truly believe that these programs are for all kids or that students of color or low-income kids can succeed in these classes,” Christina Theokas, director of research at The Education Trust, told the New York Times in an article on the subject.

Despite such discouragement, more Latino, black and low-income students are enrolling in AP courses than in the past.

There is criticism of the program, too. Some say AP courses have become watered down as more students have enrolled. Others question whether simply enrolling greater numbers of students in AP courses will make them perform any better in college.

If you are interested in delving further into data on Hispanic student performance, check out the College Board’s annual AP Report to the Nation.

In addition, you can also look into requesting data from your local school district on how many Hispanic students are enrolled in specific AP courses, and what their passing rates (generally considered a 3 or higher) are on the actual exam. Pay particular attention to how many students are taking AP courses in the areas of math and science.

Related Links:

“Pulling a More Diverse Group of Achievers Into the Advanced Placement Pool,” The New York Times.
9th Annual AP Report to the Nation, College Board.

NAEP Scores Detail Hispanic Student Performance

Hispanic fourth- and eighth-graders made small gains in math and reading on the National Achievement of Educational Progress — known as the “Nation’s Report Card” — but achievement gaps remain a persistent problem.

The latest data released measured growth between 2011 and 2013.

Hispanic and black children still have not caught up to white children. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the achievement gaps are troubling, The Dallas Morning News reported. He used the opportunity to promote the expansion of preschool programs.

“The only way to significantly close the achievement gap is to stop playing catch-up (after students start regular classes) and increase access to early childhood education,” he said. “Why don’t we try fixing the problem before it begins?”

Hispanic fourth- and eighth-graders made progress in math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress between 2011 and 2013, according to new data. Additionally, Hispanic eighth-graders scored higher in reading in 2013 than two years earlier.

You can access online data for more detailed performance data by state.

Related Links:

“U.S. Reading and Math Scores Show Slight Gains,” The New York Times.

“U.S. Students Show Incremental Progress on National Test,” The Washington Post.

“Texas Hispanic Students Lag in ‘Nation’s Report Card,'” The Dallas Morning News.

National Assessment of Educational Progress

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.

Florida Race-Based Standards Prompt Complaint

Florida education officials are being challenged on their plan to evaluate Latino and black students based on much lower math and reading achievement goals than those set for white and Asian students.

Educators have long advocated for judging students based on growth, rather than a set cut score. A significant achievement gap still persists. But does that mean standards should be set lower for black and Hispanic children as a result?

When the standards were approved last October, a Florida Department of Education spokesperson said that officials felt they needed to take into account the groups’ “starting point.” The goals are set to go into effect in the 2013-14 school year.

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal complaint with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice on Friday against the state’s race-based plan.

“The research is clear: Low expectations result in low achievement,” said Jerri Katzerman, SPLC deputy legal director, in a news release. “By setting lower expectations for black and Hispanic students, Florida is telling these students that it is their skin color – not their hard work and perseverance – that will determine their success in school. This plan will only widen the achievement gap in Florida classrooms.”

In reading, the passing goals set by 2018 are 74 percent for black students, 81 percent for Hispanic students, 88 percent for white students and 90 percent for Asian students. In math, the goals are 74 percent for black students, 80 percent for Hispanic students, 86 percent for white students and 92 percent for Asian students.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that one of the parties to the complaint, 14-year-old Robert Burns, who is black and has excelled on state exams, believes the goals should be 100 percent for all students.

“If you expect 60, I’ll give you 60. If you shoot for the moon, I’ll land on the stars,” he told the newspaper. “I’m more than what statistics or Florida thinks of me. When I found out they were going to set lower standards for me based on the color of my skin, I felt devastated. I don’t think it’s fair. I don’t think it’s right.”

The 100 percent proficiency goal cited by Robert has been viewed as the hallmark of No Child Left Behind. Indeed , the complaint cites former President George W. Bush’s now famous quote condemning the “soft bigotry of low expectations.”

However, Florida has performed well on performance standards with its Hispanic students. For example, an evaluation of student performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) found that Florida students were strong-performers, when compared with students from other large states.

Additionally, a report from the National Center for Education Statistics also recently found that the Latino high school graduation rate was about 72 percent in Florida in 2010.

Related Links:

– “SPLC Files Complaint WIth DOJ Over Florida’s Race-Based Education Goals,” Orlando Sentinel.

– “Florida’s Race-Based Education Goals Discriminate, Complaint Alleges,” South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

– “Civil Rights Complaint Lodged Against Florida’s Student Achievement Plan,” Southern Poverty Law Center. 

– “Florida Sets Lower Achievement Goals for Latinos Than White Students,” Latino Ed Beat.

NAEP Shows Narrowing Hispanic-White Achievement Gap

The achievement gap between Hispanic and white students in math and reading has narrowed since the 1970s, according to data from a national exam.

The National Center for Education Statistics has released new long-term achievement data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exam. The results examine the reading and math achievement in 2011-12 of 9-, 13-, and 17-year-olds.

Since the 1970s, 9- and 13-year-olds have made significant gains in reading and math — but not 17-year-olds. Since 2008, only 13-year-olds made gains. Since that era, among Hispanics, the only subject with no gains were 9-year-olds in math.

Achievement gaps narrowed because black and Hispanic students made greater gains on exams than white students. For example, the average 9-year-old Hispanic student’s score increased 25 points since 1975, versus a 12-point increase for white students. Gaps narrowed for Hispanic and black students at the 17-year-old age level as well, even though the group as a whole did not make gains.

“There are considerable bright spots, including remarkable improvement among black and Hispanic students, and great strides for girls in mathematics,” David P. Driscoll, the chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, said in a press release.

The NCES also found that a higher percentage of white students reported reading for fun daily than Hispanic or black students.

Related Links:

– “Achievement Gap Narrows on Long-Term NAEP,” Education Week.

– “U.S. Education Gap Narrows Between Whites and MInorities: Report,” Reuters.

– “The Nation’s Report Card: Trends in Academic Progress 2012,” National Center for Education Statistics.

Superintendent: ELLs Making Gains in LA Schools

Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy sent a memo to the district’s board of trustees recently outlining the academic gains by English Language Learners within recent years.

The memo to the district’s board was dated May 31, and was entitled, “Next Three Years: Policy and Investment.” The school district enrolls the largest number of ELLs in the nation, according to the memo. It began redesigning its program for ELLs in 2010.

He wrote that “far fewer” elementary school ELLs are testing at the “Below Basic” and “Far Below Basic” English proficiency levels. The percentage of students testing at those low proficiency levels dropped from 37 percent to 26 percent. At the secondary level, there was an 8 percent drop in students scoring at the lower levels.

California has struggled with long term English Language Learners who have been in the school system for six years or more, but still have not become English proficient. The district’s new master plan for addressing ELLs takes this into account. Two courses have been created at the middle and high school levels addressing the student population. Students receive targeted help with improving their reading and language skills, guided by testing data.

As part of the plan, 750 special education teachers were trained on strategies to use with ELLs with special needs.

The Learning the Language blog reported that Los Angeles revamped its program after an enforcement action by the U.S. Department of Education. California is also now beginning to track data on long term ELL students.

Related Links:

– Memo from John Deasy re ELLs.

– “L.A. Unified Improves English-Learner Outcomes, Superintendent Says,” Learning the Language Blog, Education Week.

– “Memo touts progress on safety, suspensions, and English Learners,” LA School Report.

– “California Eyes Tracking Long-Term English Language Learners,” Latino Ed Beat.

Hispanic Students Improve on Economics Exam

Hispanic students are improving in their understanding of economics, but still lag behind white students, according to the results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress in economics taken by high school seniors.

The exam was taken by 11,000 high school seniors in 2012, and the results have been compared with those of students who took the exam in 2006.

Overall, Hispanic students scored higher and a higher percentage performed at or above the “basic” level. The percentage of Hispanic students scoring at or above basic grew from 64% in 2006 to 71% in 2012.

About 26% of Hispanic students scored “proficient” or better, compared with 53% of white high school seniors.

Students were tested in the areas of market economy, national economy and international economy.

Jack Buckley, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, believes that improving performance of Hispanic students could have more to do with improving reading and writing skills than their actual comprehension of economics.

Related Links:

– “NAEP Economics Results Reveal Proficiency Woes,” Curriculum Matters Blog, Education Week.

– The Nation’s Report Card: Economics 2012 (National Assessment of Educational Progress)