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.

‘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.

College Recruiters Often Avoid Low-Income Schools

When Los Angeles Times reporters surveyed California high schools about how many college recruiters visited the campuses this fall, they found glaring disparities between rich and poor.

While the private The Webb Schools in Claremont was visited by 113 colleges and universities, the public Jefferson High School in South Los Angeles was visited by just eight recruiters. The newspaper found that schools with higher numbers of low-income, Latino and black students received the most visitors.

University officials often justify the disparity by saying that recruiters visit high schools that many of their current students graduated from. But that can set universities up for repetition of their past enrollments. Elite schools often prioritize visiting schools where the most students meet their academic requirements.

One principal said that low-income schools often lack the counselors necessary to arrange visits.

Gregory Wolniak, director of New York University’s Center for Research on Higher Education Outcomes, said visits can help encourage students to pursue higher education who come from families without a college education.

Student Javier Evangelista is applying to study engineering at competitive universities includign Stanford and said that colleges make the mistake of not visiting public schools because they don’t believe “there could be a student in this school who has the potential to win the next Nobel Prize, come up with a new technology or change the world.”

Related Links:

“College Recruiters Give Low-Income Public Campuses Fewer Visits,” Los Angeles Times.

Study Links Stress and Obesity Among Hispanic Youth

A new study shows that children with parents with high stress levels have a greater likelihood of being obese.

Voxxi News reports that the findings appear in the journal Pediatric Obesity and also show that the link is especially pronounced among Latinos.

The researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto examined the impact of stress on children’s body mass index, or BMI. Parents were also asked questions about their stress levels, such as whether they felt issues were piling up so much they could not overcome them, PsychCentral reported.

“Childhood is a time when we develop interconnected habits related to how we deal with stress, how we eat and how active we are,” researcher Ketan Shankardass said. “It’s a time when we might be doing irreversible damage or damage that is very hard to change later.”

He suggested one solution could be supporting struggling families better.

Is this just another obvious conclusion? Or is there any way a parent involvement program can address some of this issue?

Related Links:

“Why Hispanic Children with Stressed Parents Are More Likely to be Obese,” The Huffington Post
“Parental Stress Linked to Children’s Obesity,” Psych Central.

Texas Principal Allegedly Tells Students Not to Speak Spanish

A small Texas town is embroiled in debate after a middle school principal allegedly told students over a public address system that they would not be allowed to speak Spanish in class.

Hempstead Middle School Principal Amy Lacey is now on paid administrative leave while the Hempstead Independent School District investigates the incident, KHOU reported. According to the Texas Education Agency, about 53 percent of the school’s 206 students were Hispanic in the 2011-12 school year.

The district released a statement saying that it does not have any policy that bars the speaking of Spanish. KHOU reported that some students felt that the principal’s announcement resulted in discriminatory comments by their peers and teachers.

Hempstead ISD has 1,482 students. About 51 percent of students are Hispanic and 21 percent are limited English proficient. The small city is located north of Houston.

At a school board meeting this week, parents and students spoke out on both sides of the issue.

KHOU reported that one parent said she supported the principal because her children don’t know if their Spanish-speaking peers are making fun of them when they speak Spanish. Another speaker said the policy would help students by pushing them to speak in English, therefore better preparing them for being tested in English.

Meanwhile, parent Cynthia Zamora said the policy would hurt Hispanic students.

“You’re handicapping our children,” she told KHOU. “You’re telling them you can’t speak Spanish, and you can’t have anyone translating for you.”

NBC Latino reported that the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund sent the district’s superintendent a letter on November 21 saying legal action would be taken if such a Spanish policy were instituted.

“The anti-Spanish policy also invites potential challenges under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects ‘pure speech’ of prisoners, employees and, of course, students,” wrote MALDEF attorney David Hinojosa.

Related Links:

“Hempstead Students Say Principal Tried to Ban Them From Speaking Spanish,” KHOU.
“Hempstead ISD continues to debate ‘no Spanish’ Policy,” KHOU.
“TX Principal Accused of Banning Students from Speaking Spanish in Classroom,” NBC Latino.

Home Visiting Programs Help Latino Toddlers

Sometimes even preschool is too late to effectively intervene and boost the achievement levels of low-income Latino children.

But home visiting programs bring school into the home, and help parents become their child’s first teacher. A recent report by the Latino Policy Forum, “Primeros Pasos,” shows how such programs are making a positive difference in Illinois.

The programs are characterized by their work to improve parenting practices as well as parents’ awareness of their child’s development. They also operate as an early alert system of sorts to identify any developmental or health challenges. They also may prevent child abuse and set children on track toward greater success in school.

“Home visiting programs are generally targeted toward those families who are most at risk for adverse outcomes, like teen parents. And home visiting can begin prenatally to coach and equip young parents in how to support their child’s health development,” the report’s author, Jacob Vigil, told WTTW’s Chicago Tonight.

The study also suggests that strong home visiting programs are often those that receive state funding support.

The Early Head Start home visiting program works with children under the age of three. Yuri Gutierrez has two young children in the program and told WTTW that one of the biggest things she learned was the importance of reading to them.

The Latino Policy Forum makes a number of other recommendations on how to improve early childhood learning. They include increasing the number of bilingual early learning educators and providing more training opportunities to such individuals.

They also recommend improving awareness among Latino parents about the importance of early learning and parent involvement. In addition, they encourage the collection of data on infants and toddlers and the service providers that work with such children.

Even the report focuses on Illinois, it is worth a read and could easily be applied to the rest of the nation.

Related Links:

“Early Education in the Latino Community,” Chicago Tonight, WTTW.

“Primeros Pasos: Strengthening Programs that Support Illinois Infants and Toddlers,” Latino Policy Forum.

Home Visiting Campaign, The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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 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

College Early Admissions Program Aims to Boost Hispanic Enrollment

An innovative new program in Texas aims to increase the college-going rates of Hispanics by admitting students to college as early as the beginning of their junior year of high school.

The University of Texas at Arlington and the Arlington Independent School District recently announced the new “Bound for Success” program.

Students ranked in the top 20 percent of their class by the end of their sophomore year will be “pre-admitted” to the university. About 1,500 students are expected to qualify, and will receive acceptance letters in the coming days. There is a catch — the offer will only remain valid if they complete their high school graduation requirements.

Counselors from UT-Arlington also will work with students on the high school campuses weekly to guide them through their course selections, including dual-enrollment classes. The university will also become involved on campuses by offering families college-readiness and financial aid workshops. Students also will be welcome to attend activities and events at the university.

“We know that there are students who excel throughout their high school years but for a variety of reasons do not pursue a college education,” Dr. Marcelo Cavazos, Arlington school district superintendent, said in a news release from the university. “With this program, we are re-affirming that these students are prepared for success and that we are going to help guide them along their path to a college degree.”

The school district’s superintendent was motivated to create the program after he became concerned about a survey finding that 27 percent of Arlington’s Hispanic graduates had not applied to college, in addition to 20 percent of all graduating seniors.

In the 2011-12 school year, the Arlington school district had 64,592 students, of which 43 percent were Hispanic and 65 percent were economically disadvantaged.

The program is already challenging and raising students’ expectations of themselves.

“I didn’t even expect to go to college,” 17-year-old Luis Leroy, who will receive an acceptance letter, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I didn’t think I would go.”

By removing the process that students must go through to apply for college, will more end up attending college than previously? It will be interesting to follow this experiment and see.

Related Links:

“UT Arlington, Arlington ISD Launch ‘Bound For Success’ Early Admissions Initiative,” University of Texas at Arlington.

“Arlington School District Partners With University for Early College Initiative,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Report Offers Portrait of Latino Infants and Toddlers

A recent report offers a snapshot of how Latino infants and toddlers are faring compared to their peers.

The McCormick Foundation and Child Trends offer some insights through the report, “The Youngest Americans: A Statistical Portrait of Infants and Toddlers in the United States.”

Among the most concerning findings — Latino toddlers are half as likely to be read to as their white peers. Additionally, they are a third less likely to be sung to or have stories told to them, another indicator that assists with language development.

Tellingly, Hispanic parents also are much more likely than white parents to be concerned about their young children’s development.

Hispanic toddlers and infants also are very likely to experience frequent moves between new homes as children. They are less likely to receive preventive medical care.

The report offers a myriad of statistics in a variety of different areas, which includes occurrence of asthma, parent education levels, and teen birthrates.

Related Links:

“The Youngest Americans: A Statistical Portrait of Infants and Toddlers in the United States,” McCormick Foundation and Child Trends.

“New Study Shines Light on Inequalities Among America’s Youngest Children,” McCormick Foundation News Release.

New Jersey Considers In-State Tuition for Undocumented Immigrants

New Jersey is moving closer to passing legislation that would give undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children the ability to pay in-state tuition and receive financial aid at state colleges and universities.

On Thursday, a state Senate committee voted to approve the legislation, sending it to a full vote next week.

The Star-Ledger reported that undocumented youth who have attended New Jersey high schools for at least three years and graduated would be eligible. To qualify for the benefit, individuals would have to sign affidavits saying they will work on seeking legal status.

One big piece of the proposed legislation that distinguishes it from similar laws in other states is that it would offer state financial aid to the undocumented students. Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for federal aid, which makes it difficult for many to attend college even with in-state tuition rates. reported that according to the state’s Office of Legislative Services, allowing undocumented immigrants access to tuition assistance grants and scholarships would cost up to $5 million more annually. reported that Giancarlo Tello, 23, would benefit from the bill. He is an undocumented immigrant who moved to the United Stated from Peru when he was 6 years old. He attended Rutgers University but left school because he could not afford the out-of-state tuition.

“If you consider me a fellow resident of New Jersey, if you believe I deserve an education, a chance at the future, then I urge you all to vote yes on this bill,” he told the committee before they approved it by an 8-3 vote.

A letter from the Federation for American Immigration Reform, known as FAIR, argued that granting in-state tuition would strain an already tight state budget.

“Many New Jersey schools, colleges and universities are experiencing severe budget shortages as a result of the weakened economy and the state debt crisis,” the letter said.

According to a report released in August by the Brookings Institution, the federal government received 14,273 applications from undocumented youth living in New Jersey for the deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) program as of March 22, 2013. About 58.5 percent had been approved.

The deferred action program is meant to offer temporary legal status to young people, often referred to as “Dreamers,” brought into the country illegally as children. They have to meet requirements that include entering the country before age 16. The New Jersey numbers show there are plenty of potential students who would benefit from in-state tuition rates.

When I was working as an education reporter in Texas, I occasionally submitted freedom of information requests to the state requesting information on how many students were benefitting from the in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants law, how many were attending each college and university, and how much state financial aid they received.

Texas was the first state in the country to create an in-state tuition law. Other states with similar laws include California, Utah, New York, Washington, Illinois, Kansas, New Mexico, Nebraska, Maryland and Connecticut, among others.

The information about the numbers of undocumented students attending Texas colleges and universities helped better inform my reporting, and it can be useful background in your articles about undocumented young people.

If your state does not have such a law, have you asked undocumented high school students how being denied in-state tuition impacts their educational goals?

Related Links:

“NJ Senate Panel Advances In-State Tuition Bill,” The Associated Press.
“N.J. Bill to Offer In-State TUition, Financial Aid to Immigrants in the Country Illegally Gains Momentum,” The Star-Ledger.