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.

Eva Longoria Funds UCLA Study on Latinas and Education

Latina teens who are bilingual, have Hispanic teachers and counselors, and are involved in extracurricular activities have a stronger likelihood of attending college, a new study has found.

The report, “Making Education Work for Latinas in the U.S.,” was conducted by The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at the University of California, Los Angeles, and commissioned by the actress Eva Longoria and her foundation.

Longoria’s foundation focuses on boosting education and entrepreneurship among Latinas. She hopes to use the report’s findings to better help Latinas.

Civil Rights Project co-director and education professor Patricia Gandara highlighted the importance of raising the education levels of Hispanic women.

“Latinas are the linchpin of the next generation — how a child fares in school is highly correlated with their mother’s education,” Gándara said in a news release. “If the cycle of under-education is to be broken for the Latino population, it will depend to a large extent on changing the fortunes of young women.”

Latinas benefit from involvement in extracurricular activities, which promote increased self-esteem. However, they face barriers to being more involved at school that include money, transportation issues, family needs and not feeling included.

The study shares that many Latinas enroll in non-selective two-year colleges because they are not aware of the greater opportunities at more selective four-year universities. Students who enroll in community college are less likely to graduate with degrees.

The paper includes the success stories of seven young Latinas. One of the young women recalled the influence of a Hispanic counselor.

“She was a person who really influenced me to want something more with my 
life because she would tell me that because I was a Latina that I would be stereotyped..you don’t want to prove people right,you want to prove them wrong! You want to be able to say ‘I’m Latina and I’m going to college and I’m furthering my education!”

Related Links:

“UCLA Study Funded by Eva Longoria IDs Factors That Improve Educational Outcomes for Latinas,” UCLA Newsroom.

“Making Education Work for Latinas in the U.S.,” The Civil Rights Project at UCLA.

The Eva Longoria Foundation

‘Juntos’ Programs Target Teens and Parents

A growing number of school districts and universities are working together to push more Latino youth to pursue a college education.

At the same time, school districts also are seeking to boost Latino parent involvement.

A program called Juntos, which means “together” in Spanish, tackles both goals. The program originated at North Carolina State University and now is being replicated at middle and high schools in several states. It is intended for students in the eighth- through twelfth-grades.

As part of the program, Latino teens and their parents attend a six-week-long series of workshops that tackle topics including goal-setting, the college admissions process and seeking financial aid for college.

The Tulsa World newspaper reports that Oklahoma State University and the Tulsa Public Schools are now partnering to implement the program.

“Many Latino parents don’t know how to navigate the American education system and because of where they come from, these parents see the school as the one in power,” said Antonio Marín, a grant coordinator at Oklahoma State. “They need to know they can come to the school to talk to the principal and the teacher and the counselor, and that college is an option for their kids.”

Oregon State University is also leading a Juntos program for students in Madras, Oregon. It is part of the university’s “Open Campus” initiative, which aims to work with K-12 schools, colleges and local government to create higher education opportunities.

Open Campus coordinator Jennifer Oppenlander told KTVZ News that involving parents and their children in the activities makes the program distinctive.

“By attending Juntos together, the experience gives families a comfort level and makes them feel as if they have a support group,” she said.

Are colleges and school districts in your community partnering to work together on similar programs? If not, what is the state of relations between K12 and higher education institutions in your community?

Related Links:

“Juntos Initiative Helps Tulsa Latino Students Succeed,” Tulsa World.

“OSU Program Preps Madras Latinos for College,” KTVZ.com.

“Juntos Summit Unites Latino Students in Quest for Higher Education and Rewarding Careers,” North Carolina State University News Center.

– The Juntos Program

Do School Districts Need Hispanic Outreach Positions?

The Prince George’s County School System in Maryland came under scrutiny after the county’s executive recently appointed three new members to the Board of Education — none of whom were Hispanic.

Of the district’s approximately 123,000 students, roughly 25 percent are Hispanic (though no Hispanics serve on the 13-member board).

After the backlash, The Washington Post reports that the district recently hired Maritza Gonzalez, as a diversity officer charged with overseeing Latino affairs. The district, which has a student population that is majority black, is now experiencing Hispanic growth.

The article reports that in Gonzalez’s position, she is already taking on tasks such as translating at meetings for parents. The newspaper notes that in her new role as a liaison, she has also heard from Hispanic parents that they want more pre-K classes and English classes for adults.

She also has set an agenda that includes focusing on offering dual language Spanish immersion programs and promoting college.

“I hope that she helps to address the needs of the growing student body here,” state Sen. Victor R. Ramirez told the Post. “I feel right now there’s a disconnect.”

Many districts have turned to hiring translators and creating parent involvement offices geared at improving outreach to various minority and immigrant communities. Is this a trend you are seeing in your area?

Related Links:

“Prince George’s Schools Hires Diversity Officer to Focus on Latino Affairs,” The Washington Post.
“Hispanic Leaders Upset Over Latino Representation in Prince George’s,” The Washington Post.
Prince George’s County Public Schools

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.

The Return of Mexican American Studies to Tucson

Arizona state law dismantled the Mexican American Studies program offered by the Tucson Unified School District with a ban on ethnic studies courses passed three years ago. But due to a judge’s desegregation order, the program appears to be headed for a resurrection.

The course was removed due to the ban– but a judge’s order for “culturally relevant” classes appears to be enough to revive it. According to an NPR report, the Mexican American Studies courses were originally created due to a desegregation order.

Classes haven’t resumed and apparently district officials are working to ensure that they offer a program that is acceptable to the state. The program had been criticized by critics who said it fostered anger toward Anglos.

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal has also commented on the difficulty of bringing back classes that he would deem acceptable.

“Do you cover those injustices in a way in which we say these are profound things that we should be aware of and we have to work in this country to make this country a better place? Or do you use those injustices to create racial division, and do you use those injustices to create hatred?” asked Huppenthal, according to NPR.

Related Links:

– “Tucson Revives Mexican-American Studies Program,” NPR. 

– Mexican American Studies May Return to Tucson, Arizona, Kind Of. The Huffington Post. 

– “Rift in Arizona as Latino Class is Found Illegal,” The New York Times. 

Universities Take Early Intervention Approach

Conversations about closing the achievement gap for Hispanic students often center around reaching children as early as possible — in preschool, or even as toddlers.

More universities are embracing a similar mindset. They are seeking to reach students before they’ve even thought of applying to college. That means working with students and parents in high school, or even middle school.

An article in The New York Times proposes that these outreach efforts may be able to accomplish diverse universities in ways that traditional affirmative action policies cannot.

The story points to California as a case study, since it has a ban on affirmative action admissions.

“It is not enough, university administrators say, to change the way they select students; they must also change the students themselves, and begin to do so long before the time arrives to fill out applications,” says the article.

The story highlights 18-year-old Erick Ramirez, who attends Anaheim High School and was just accepted to San Francisco State University. He was able to do that through the help of representatives from the University of California, Irvine, working with him over a three-year period after school and on weekends. They focused on topics such as classwork, test prep and applying for financial aid.

According to the article, UC-Irvine spends more than $7 million a year on out reach. That includes working with low-income students. Part-time employees and college students often work with schools.

UC Irvine graduate and current employee Cristina Flores helps students attending Century High School in Santa Ana with tasks including filing out college applications. She worked with Jasmin Rodriguez, 17, who plans to attend UCLA next year.

“Without their guidance, I would have been so lost,” Jasmin told the Times. “There’s so many little things you don’t know unless someone tells you.”

Related Links:

– “In California, Diversity in College Starts Earlier,” The New York Times.

Stanford Administrator Advocated for Latino Students

Former Stanford University administrator Cecilia Preciado Burciaga worked to support many first-generation Latino college students transition into the university.

Now that she has passed away at age 67, many of those former students are stepping forward to share the impact she made on their lives. They include successful professors and attorneys.

“She taught hesitant young women and men, many the first in their families to attend college, that they belonged and could thrive at the elite private school, and later kept more than a few from dropping out,” according to a Los Angeles Times article.

“She soothed nervous parents, persuading them, in Spanish and English, that the university was a safe place for their children and that it would open their eyes to new worlds. At Stanford, she also successfully pushed university leaders to hire additional Latinos, African Americans, Native Americans and women for faculty positions, and admit more to graduate programs.”

Despite her achievements, she also endured some tumultuous periods. After 20 years at Stanford, she was laid off by the university in 1994. She then became a founding dean at California State University-Monterey Bay. But that relationship concluded when in 2002, she was one of three Latino plaintiffs who came to a $1 million settlement with the university in a racial discrimination case.

Through those difficult times, she continued to be admired by her former students. Stanford posted its own tribute to her on its web site. She and her husband Tony were resident advisors at the Chicano dorm, Casa Zapata.

R. Vanessa Alvarado, ’97, a deputy city attorney in Los Angeles, said the two were role models for her.

“What is most meaningful about Cecilia and Tony’s presence in my family life’s is that they gave our mother, a woman with a third-grade education who grew up on a small farm on the outskirts of a small town in Jalisco, Mexico, and my father, who graduated from high school past the age of 60, the reassurance that their two daughters would not be lost amid the seemingly inaccessible walls of a university,” she told Stanford News.

“I remember when my mother came back to campus for Admit Weekend and talked on a panel for prospective students how amazed I was as she advocated to Latino parents to let their children go away for school. I mentored students as an undergraduate, as a law student and continue doing that today. That is how I will continue to honor their memory.”

This makes me wonder–who are the Latino administrators of this era who are supporting such students? What lessons can we learn from them?

Related Links:

– “Cecilia Preciado Burciaga, advocate for Latino students, dead at 67,” Stanford News.

– “Chon A. Noriega: Cecilia Preciado Burciaga, Presente,” Huffington Post Latino Voices.

– “Cecilia Preciado Burciaga dies at 67; longtime Stanford administrator,” Los Angeles Times.

Latino Students Need Help to Overcome “Stereotype Threat”

Teachers can use positive intervention strategies to help overcome the “stereotype threat” that Latino students often feel, a recent Stanford University study found.

The study was published in February in the Journal of Personality and School Psychology.

The researchers found that positive affirmations can help battle the “stereotype threat” of feeling stigmatized as a member of an ethnic group that is perceived as inferior. Past research has found that the stress of this threat can hurt students’ academic performance.

The Latino middle school students participating in the study practiced certain affirmative activities. They were given a list of values such as being good at art, religious, or being humorous. They were then asked to writes about the values they viewed as the most important.

In another assignment, they were asked to reflect on the things in their lives that were most important. In yet another, they wrote a brief essay about how the things they valued would play a role in the coming months.

Students worked on such exercises through the year during important moments that can prove stressful, such as before taking tests and right as they were starting the school year.

According to the researchers, Latino students who went through the affirmative activities had higher grades than those in the control group, and that the positive impact lasted for three year. The activities did not appear to impact white students.

“Self-affirmation exercises provide adolescents from minority groups with a psychological time out,” Stanford professor Geoffrey Cohen said, according to a new release. “Latino Americans are under a more consistent and chronic sense of psychological threat in the educational setting than their white counterparts on average. They constantly face negative stereotypes about their ability to succeed, so they are the ones to benefit the most from affirmations that help them to maintain a positive self-image.”

Related Links:

– “Simple efforts bridge achievement gap between Latino, white students, Stanford researcher finds,” Stanford University.

– “Interventions Help Latino Students Beat ‘Stereotype Threat,” Study Says,” Learning the Language Blog, Education Week.

– “Study finds intervention can close achievement gap,” The Bakersfield Californian.