‘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.

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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

Report Emphasizes Importance of Latino College Completion in California

Latinos in California have “unacceptably low rates” of college completion that must improve in order for the state to have a strong future, a new report says.

The report, “The State of Latinos in Higher Education in California,” was conducted by the nonprofit group The Campaign for College Opportunity.

The most stark fact illustrating the challenge is that in 2011, only about 11 percent of Latino adults ages 25 or older held a bachelor’s degree in the state, compared with 39 percent of white adults.

On the positive side, Diverse Issues in Higher Education reported that Michele Siqueiros, executive director of the campaign, noted that “surveys continue to confirm that Latinos have very high aspirations. Latino parents are very supportive of their children getting a college education. In fact, 92 percent of them believe that a college education is very important.”

While more Latinos are graduating high school, that isn’t necessarily leading them to graduate from college.

While many Latinos feel attending college is important, the study points out several factors that hinder their chance of finishing. Among those potential barriers, Latinos are less likely to enroll in a four-year university, less likely to attend a selective college, less likely to enroll full-time, or to complete a bachelor’s degree.

The group makes a number of recommendations for improving outcomes for Latino students. The list includes creating a statewide plan for higher education, investing in student services, increasing funding for higher education, strengthening the state’s financial aid program, and improving the relationship between K12 and higher education entities.

The report also suggests that the state create benchmarks based on Latino enrollment and publicize progress made toward those goals.

According to the study, about 94 percent of California’s Latinos under the age of 18 were born in the United States. When Latinos attend college, they are more likely to attend community colleges. According to state data, of the state’s freshman Latino students in fall 2012, there were 118,727 enrolled in community colleges, 23,046 enrolled in the California State University system, and 8,747 in the University of California system.

Many Latino students who enroll in community colleges must take remedial courses in order to be college-ready, and studies show those students are less likely to finish college. According to California state data, only about four in 10 Latino students complete community colleges in six years. Additionally, of those Latinos who complete community college and enroll in the California State University system only about 63 percent earn a bachelor’s degree within four years.

Meanwhile, well-prepared Latino students attending the UC system fare better: almost 74 percent graduate within six years, and 46 percent in four years. Additionally, almost 82 percent of Latino community college transfers to the UC system graduate in four years.

Related Links:

– “The State of Latinos in Higher Education in California,” The Campaign for College Opportunity.

“California’s Low Latino College Completion Rate Imperils State’s Future,” Diverse Issues in Higher Education.

“For Economy’s Sake, Latinos Need College Push,” San Diego Union Tribune.

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.

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. 

Nevada Funding Boost for ELLs Stirs Controversy

A $50 million boost in education funding may seem like good cause for celebration. But in Nevada, the reaction to the news has not been uniformly positive.

That’s because some taxpayers are miffed that only English Language Learners are the beneficiaries. The Las Vegas Sun describes how some critics believe the influx of funding “smacks of special treatment and seems like an unjust, unfair burden on taxpayers who must subsidize the education of a select group of outsiders.”

The word that jumps out to me most from that excerpt is outsiders. Unfortunately, when resources are tight, an “us-versus-them” conflict can surface.

The general public often views ELLs as immigrants — and they often assume ELLs are undocumented immigrants.

“How can I justify requesting millions of dollars for foreign kids when we can’t even help our own kids here in our own state?” one caller to a Las Vegas radio station asked, according to the article.

But the facts don’t bear that out. In Clark County Schools (which encompass Las Vegas), about 80 percent of ELLs are from the United States.

The funding situation was so dire that at one point the ACLU of Nevada, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), and Hispanics in Politics discussed a possible lawsuit against the state over the lack of adequate funding for ELLs.

A recent study by the UNLV Lincy Institute found that Clark County schools only provided $119 in funding per ELL students, compared with $4,677 in Miami-Dade Schools in Florida. About 94,771 Clark County students are ELLs.

It’s unclear how much $50 million will accomplish in terms of narrowing such a large gap.

According to the Sun, the influx of funding for ELLs will pay for items including pre-K and kindergarten classes, summer instruction, reading development, and new technology.

Related Links:

– “Funding boost for English-language learners prompts some backlash,” Las Vegas Sun.

– “Lawsuit Threatened Over Funding for ELLs in Nevada,” Latino Ed Beat.

– “Nevada’s English Language Learner Population: A Review of Enrollment, Outcomes and Opportunities,” The UNLV Lincy Institute.

– Clark County School District

Scholars Emphasize Importance of Affirmative Action Programs

A group of university professors have released a statement through The Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, arguing that the benefits of affirmative action are supported by sound research, despite the politically divisive nature of the debate over its usage.

Their goal is to both justify the usage of such diversity policies and help universities craft policies that are legally sound.

The statement makes a number of points, supported with cited studies.  It comes in the wake of the Fisher v. University of Texas U.S. Supreme Court decision, which sent the affirmative action case back to lower courts. Although it was not a decisive statement, researchers said the court did recognize that the goal of diversity in higher education is a worthy one.

“The Court also emphasized that use of race, if challenged, requires a clear judicial finding that the campus has shown that it could not find a workable and feasible non-racial strategy that would produce the desired level of diversity at tolerable administrative expense,” the statement says.

The professors first lay out the case for the benefits of diversity in a higher education setting, including reductions in prejudice and greater civic engagement. Diversity also can cutback on stereotyping, tokenism and other discrimination on campus.

The study notes that the risk for such discrimination has been highest in fields with few minorities, such as science, technology, engineering and math majors (STEM).

The researchers argue against any assertions that minority students admitted under affirmative action programs are stigmatized, and say the opposite is true. The argue against the idea that such minorities would do better academically at less elite schools. They say students who initially have low test scores may be motivated by the challenge of attending an elite university.

“The claim that minority students suffer academic harms when their admissions credentials do not “match” their institutions finds limited support in the scientific literature,” the statement says. “Research on undergraduates as well as on professional schools shows that minority students attain higher grades and have higher graduation rates when attending more selective institutions.”

The researchers argue that polices such as considering low income status rather than race and targeted recruitment of minorities are not as effective as affirmative action.

The signers of the statement include professors from Stanford University, University of Illinois, Vanderbilt University, University of Houston, and the University of Michigan.

While the statement strongly pushes affirmative action as a solution, other higher education institutions are pursuing other avenues of increasing diversity. Some universities believe that reaching out to minority students in middle and high school could increase diversity. A recent article in The New York Times described how the University of California-Irving spends more than $7 million annually on outreach. California schools have turned to such strategies since affirmative action was banned there.
“California’s public universities, and some of their counterparts around the country, have embedded themselves deeply in disadvantaged communities, working with schools, students and parents to identify promising teenagers and get more of them into college,” the article says. “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.”

Related Links:

– “The Research Basis for Affirmative Action: a Statement by Leading Researchers,” The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles.

– “Justice Step Up Scrutiny of Race in College Entry,” The New York Times. 

– Fisher v. University of Texas Supreme Court decision text.

– “In California, Push for Diversity Starts Earlier,” The New York Times.

– The Civil Rights Project

States Vary in Preparedness for Common Core Standards’ Impact on Latinos

Sates have widely varying degrees of preparedness for the implementation of common core standards — and in particular their impact on low-income, Latino and black students.

A new report by the Education Trust, “Uneven at the Start,” identifies the best- and least-prepared states at  phasing in the more rigorous reading and math standards to serve different student populations. The group used performance data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress exam to predict how states will fare. It examines both improvement and performance of each state on NAEP exams, including in fourth- and eighth- grade reading and math performance, compared against the national average.

With Latino students, Texas and Massachusetts performed best. Florida also performed well.

Meanwhile, Oregon  and California had the weakest record with Hispanic students. The two states are improving slowly when compared against other states, and have performed worse than the national average across several subject areas and age levels. According to the analysis, neither state in any category is above the national average for Hispanics.

The analysis found that no state had above average performance and improvement for Hispanic students across all the subject and grade levels.

“…Instead of just pretending that the same amount of effort will be required everywhere to get children to the new standards, we need to make sure that the lessons from states that have improved the most for all groups of children inform implementation work more broadly and ensure that struggling states have the extra help they will need to build the forward momentum that is already present elsewhere,” said Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, in a news release.

The report has charts that break out where each state falls within the spectrum of performance.

Related Links:

– “Uneven at the Start: Differences in State Track Records Foreshadow Challenges and Opportunities for Common Core,” The Education Trust. 

– “New Analyses Examine State Track Records in Performance and Improvement,” The Education Trust.

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.

Poll: Texas Education Budget Cuts Hurt Latino Families

Latinos living along the border between Texas and Mexico reported feeling hurt by the state’s $5.4 billion in state education budget cuts two years ago, according to a new poll by the Texas State Teachers Association and the group Latino Decisions.

About 67% of those polled said they knew about the cuts and as a result noticed negative changes such as fewer teachers, cuts in after-school programs, cuts in transportation and supplies, overcrowding and larger class sizes, teacher pay cuts, and other problems. Most favored accessing the Rainy Day Fund for more school funds.

The survey clearly highlights that education, and not just immigration, is a key issue for Latinos.

“The importance of public education to border area Texans should not be underestimated,” poll director Sylvia Manzano said in a TSTA news release.

Those Hispanics polled also reported being quite engaged in their children’s schools, including by involvement in sporting events, fundraising, and meetings with teachers and principals. Additionally, the poll found most parents want their children to obtain a college degree.

“The results present a clear warning to those who promote blue collar job training for Hispanic students over increased access to a college education,” according to the Latino Decisions report. “When asked if it is better for their children to secure a job full-time after high school, or go to college full time, Hispanic parents chose full-time college over the job 85% to 10%.”

According to Latino Decisions, 400 Latino adults who live in El Paso, Laredo and The Rio Grande Valley were polled in March, with interviews conducted in English and Spanish. These findings are very interesting, but also must be placed into context. Southern Texas has many Mexican American residents and schools that are almost totally Latino, while there are areas further north, such as Dallas, which are predominantly immigrant, and yet the schools overall are more integrated.

Related Links:

– “For Hispanics in Texas border communities, politics isn’t just local — it’s personal,” Latino Decisions. 

– “Poll: For Latinos in Texas, schools are the heart of the community,” NBC Latino.

– “TSTA poll: Hispanics take school cuts personally,” Texas State Teachers Association.