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.

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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.

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

New Report Critical of NCLB Waivers

States are obtaining federal waivers from meeting some of the more onerous provisions of  No Child Left Behind, raising concerns that achievement gaps may no longer be exposed. A new analysis by the Campaign for High School Equity finds that the waivers would essentially weaken the law.

The study finds that in 13 states that received waivers, including Nevada and New Mexico, the number of struggling schools requiring interventions has dropped by more than 100.

“This raises questions as to whether or not struggling students will receive the support and services they desperately need and deserve,” according to the group.

The group calls on states to make sure they are accountable for every individual student subgroup, whether that be by race and ethnicity, low-income status or English Language Learners.

The report raises concerns about states that are creating “super subgroups” in their new accountability systems that combine subgroups together into one group (for example mixing ELLs, black and Hispanic students) or create a subgroup based on achievement levels.

The report outlines details on the performance groups.

Related Links:

– “Study: Education Waivers Could Leave Behind At-Risk Students,” Associated Press.

– “At-Risk Students May Lose UNder NCLB Waivers, Civil RIghts Groups Say,” EdSource Today.

– “Analysis of Waivers Raises Serious Questions About How States Will Serve Students of Color,” Campaign for High School Equity.

Head Start Cuts Will Impact Many Latino Children

Federal spending cuts due to sequestration are expected to eliminate Head Start services for more than 57,000 children across the country, including thousands of Latino children enrolled in the programs.

About 37 percent of all children in Head Start are Latino.  The largest numbers of children predicted to be impacted reside within two states where Hispanic children make up the majority of public school students — California and Texas.

The severity of the cuts became apparent after programs submitted their planned cuts to the government. The cuts also will result in fewer class days and teacher layoffs in some programs.

The National Head Start Association has an interactive online tool that lets users find out information on a state-by-state basis.

Related Links:

– “Latinos Among Those Hit the Hardest By Head Start Cuts,” NBC Latino.

– “Feds: Spending Cuts Mean 57,000 Fewer Low-Income Children in Head Start Programs,” The Washington Post.

– “Sequestration Hits Poor Hispanics Hard,” The Washington Post.

– “National Sequestration Impact”, National Head Start Association.

Report: College Aid Changes Could Hurt Latino Students

A new report by a federal advisory committee concludes that several proposed need-based financial aid changes to the Higher Education Act (HEA) could threaten the completion rates of low-income college students, and in particular Latino and black students.

The Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, which issued the “Inequality Matters” report, is a federal advisory committee chartered by Congress that provides advice to the U.S. Department of Education on financial aid policy.

The report says that a number of proposed changes could hurt students. They include denying aid based on students being at-risk of not completing their degrees, demanding budget-neutral funding of TItle IV Student Aid, eliminating Pell Grants to fund block grants to the states, dismantling partnerships in need-based student grant aid, and relying only on improvements to student aid.

The report also provides data broken out by race ethnicity on college enrollment and completion.

Related Links:

– “Exacerbating Inequality,” Inside Higher Ed. 

– “Inequality Matters, A Policy Bulletin for HEA Authorization,” Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance.

U.S. Education Secretary Promotes Pre-K for Latinos

This week during a meeting with journalists, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan raised concerns about the low enrollment rates of Latino children in preschool.

“Less than half of Hispanic children attend any kind of preschool — that’s kind of staggering,” Duncan said Wednesday, according to an article in The Washington Post. “This is the fastest-growing population and a lower-than-average participation rate.”

According to The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual Kids Count report, about 63 percent of Hispanics who were three and four year olds between 2008 and 2010 did not attend preschool. That’s a lower rate than the 53 percent average of students not attending preschool. It also was the lowest rate when compared with Asian, white, black, and Native American children.

Duncan said the roots of the problem can be attributed to challenges such as a lack of access to preschool, but also because Latino families are reluctant to enroll their children.

According to the Learning the Language blog, Duncan shared that when he led the Chicago Public Schools, evening kindergarten classes between 3-6 p.m. were offered in Latino communities where there were waiting lists for earlier classes.

“People thought we were crazy,” Duncan said, according to the blog. “But we had a huge take-up on that. You have to be creative about how you provide the opportunities.”

Duncan’s comments come as President Obama pushes for universal preschool for 4-year-olds. In his proposed budget, he wants the federal government to help pay for preschool for the states by increasing the federal tobacco tax. According to the Post, that could generate $75 billion over ten years.

A separate Washington Post article reported that several hundred business leaders sent a letter to Congress and the White House supporting more federal spending on preschool.

Related Links:

– “Duncan: More Hispanic children need to enroll in preschool,” The Washington Post .

– “Business community shows support for preschool expansion in letter for Obama,” The Washington Post.

– “Education secretary says preschool is key for Latino success,” NBC Latino.

– “Arne Duncan Touts Advantages of Bilingualism,” Learning the Language Blog/Education Week.

– “Report: Fewer than Half of U.S. Children Attend Preschool,” Early Years Blog.

Harvard Criticized Over Dissertation on Hispanics’ IQ

Harvard University students have gathered 1,200 signatures protesting the John F. Kennedy School of Government’s approval of a dissertation asserting that Latinos have low IQs.

The Boston Globe reports that the petition calls on the university to investigate how the dissertation by doctoral candidate Jason Richwine was approved. “Academic freedom and a reasoned debate are essential to our academic community,” the petition said. “However, the Harvard Kennedy School cannot ethically stand behind academic work advocating a national policy of exclusion and advancing an agenda of discrimination.”

Richwine’s thesis argued that Hispanic children attending U.S. schools will not improve past their immigrant parents. “No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against,” Richwine wrote in the paper.

He also called the average IQ of Hispanics “effectively permanent.”

Richwine’s thesis, “IQ and Immigration Policy,” came to light and stirred controversy this month after he co-authored a Heritage Foundation report asserting that the effective cost of immigration reform would be $6.3 trillion. Richwine has since resigned from his position at the foundation.

George Borjas, chair of the Kennedy School’s Standing Committee on Public Policy, which accepted the work, said the dissertation was sound. Borjas, who was born in Cuba, is an economist and professor who also has promoted reducing immigration to the United States.

So far, Richwine has stood by his conclusions, in which he says immigration policy should be based on IQ. “The dissertation shows that recent immigrants score lower than U.S.-born whites on many different types of IQ tests,” he wrote in the National Review online. “Using statistical analysis, it suggests that the test-score differential is due primarily to a real cognitive gap rather than to culture or language bias.”

Petition spokesman Berdion Del Valle, who is Hispanic, said that it is important that research be academically rigorous and ethical.“If Harvard doesn’t apply rigorous academic standards for its research, how can we guarantee our policy discussions are not affected by irresponsible scholarship?” he told NBC Latino.

This debate reminds me of difficult issues that we have faced since the implementation of No Child Left Behind testing began. Speaking in support of the passage of that law, President Bush referred to the “soft bigotry in low expectations” that blocks progress in closing achievement gaps from happening. This debate exposes the unfortunate truth that there are many people out there, even those with advanced degrees, who still do not expect much of minority children.

What is being done to change these attitudes?

Related Links:

– “Harvard students erupt at scholar Jason Richwine’s claim in thesis,” Boston Globe.

– “Harvard students demand investigation into Jason Richwine immigration thesis,” NBC Latino.

– “IQ and Immigration Policy,” Jason Richwine.

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)

Hartford, Conn., Schools Reach Agreement On ELLs

Years after concerns were first raised about how the Hartford Public Schools in Connecticut were instructing English Language Learners, the district has entered into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, pledging to make a number of changes to address the needs of the population.

The Center for Children’s Advocacy first filed a complaint with the OCR in April 2007. The student population includes many Spanish-speaking students, in addition to refugees from various countries.

The February 2013 agreement includes ensuring that ELL students receive at least 45-60 minutes a day of ESL instruction from an ESL-certified teacher (or bilingual) and that ELL students receive support in learning core content. It also required the district to actively recruit qualified ESL- and bilingual-certified staff, and offer professional development on ELL instruction to general education teachers.

In addition, when administrators meet to review school performance data they also will review ELL data, including examining the students’ academic progress and graduation rates. In addition, the district will make interpreting services available to parents–but agreed to avoid using students as interpreters.

The district also must provide certain information to the Office of Civil Rights by October 2013, including the numbers and types of ELL staff at each school, a description of professional development opportunities, and a copy of its plan for communication with non-English speaking parents.

By December 2013, the district must provide information including a list of all ELL students and their proficiency levels, the schedules of ELL teachers, and a description of support services in core content for ELL students.

According to the Learning the Language blog, attorney Stacey Violante Cote with the Center for Children’s Advocacy said that the group became concerned about a lack of services for ELL and immigrant students.

“That’s why this agreement with OCR is so necessary,” she said. “We need something that is going to outlast any administrative turnover or changes in the district’s reform agenda.”

Meanwhile, the blog reported that Mary Beth Russo, the school system’s lead facilitator for ELL services, said the district began implementing changes far before the agreement was signed. Those changes included offering school choice to ELLs. Hartford also began publishing a guide providing information about ELLs at every school, including their academic performance and the staff working with the population.

ELL students face considerable hurdles to overcome. According to the Hartford Courant, only 49% of ELL students in the district graduated in four years in 2010, compared with 62% of non-ELLs.

Related Links:

– “Hartford Schools, Civil Rights Officials Agree on Services for ELLs,” Learning the Language Blog/Education Week. April 9. 

– “After Federal Probe, Hartford Schools Agree to Improve Services for ‘English Language Learners,'” The Hartford Courant.

– Hartford Board of Education Resolution Agreement