Schools Expand Dual Language Instruction to High School

A suburban Chicago school district with a Spanish-English dual language program has proven so popular that it will now be expanded to the high school level.

The Chicago Tribune reports that North Shore District 112 first began its program, which serves native English and Spanish speakers, in 1996. It has grown to 636 students, or 15 percent of the school district’s enrollment.

Students learn about 80 percent of the time in Spanish at the younger grade levels in kindergarten through second grade, and reach half Spanish and half English by about fifth grade.

The district’s Highland Park High School, which is 18 percent Hispanic, will add dual courses in science, social studies, and math in coming years.

Both native English and Spanish speakers see the benefit of the program.

Marco Ayala, a doctor, was born to immigrant parents but never learned Spanish. He wanted his son to be bilingual, however.

“We love seeing him do his homework in Spanish,” he told the Tribune. “Comparing his experience to mine, it’s been night and day.”

Links:
“Dual Language Classes Bring the Best of Both Worlds to District 112,” Chicago Tribune.
North Shore School District Dual Language Program

Many Nevada Education Boards Lack Hispanic Representation

Hispanic leaders in Nevada are calling attention to an important education issue that takes place outside of the classroom — the lack of Hispanic representation on many of the state’s elected education boards.

Even in the Clark County School District, where about 44 percent of the students are Hispanic, there was no Hispanic member until recently. When a vacancy came open, the board voted to appoint a Hispanic to the seven-member board earlier this month.

“As a board we do not reflect the diversity of our district,” school board president Carolyn Edwards said according to a Las Vegas Sun story.  “Improving that ratio is important.”

Hispanic leaders are trying to encourage more Latinos to run for eduction boards.

Illustrating the importance of representation, the newspaper mentions how Hispanic state lawmakers helped push through $50 million in funding for English Language Learners.

Currently the Nevada Board of Education only has one Hispanic member and the Nevada Board of Regents has never had a Hispanic member. Both boards are elected.

Former Clark County board member Jose Solorio recalled how his Hispanic background helped offer insights into the community. He told the Sun that when the district wanted to use bond money in 1998 mostly on building schools and not on remodeling him, he persuaded them to use the funds more equitably. He argued that more low-income Hispanic children lived in the older schools that needed updates.

“It wasn’t the right thing to do to ignore the existing schools,” Solorio told the Sun. “That’s where the majority of Latinos and African Americans live.”

Related Links:

“Nevada’s Hispanics Work to Boost Representation on Education Boards,” Las Vegas Sun.

“CCSD Board Chooses State BOE Member to Fill Vacancy,” Las Vegas Sun.

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 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

Study Measures Stress Levels Among Hispanic Parents

Hispanic parents who are recent immigrants experience higher levels of stress than U.S.-born Hispanic parents and immigrant parents who have been in the United States for a longer period of time, according to a new study by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Overall, poor parents experience more stress than affluent parents. According to a news release, the findings were based on interviews with several thousand parents beginning one month after the birth of a child, and then at intervals until up to two years of age. Most of the parents were near or below the federal poverty level, defined as $23,550 for a family of four in 2013.

“The abundance of stress for poor parents is clear, potent and potentially toxic for them and their children,” said Chris Dunkel Schetter, a UCLA psychology professor and the study’s lead author. “Both mothers and fathers who were poor and members of an ethnic or racial minority group reported higher financial stress and more stress from major life events like death and divorce than those who were either just poor or just part of a minority group.”

According to the news release, stress was caused by issues such as parenting, finances, violence, deaths and racism. Stress was measured in a variety of ways, which included blood pressure and body mass index measurements.

The study found that low-income Latino parents were less likely than white or black parents to feel that their lives are uncontrollable and overwhelming. They also reported less stress from major life events.

Related Links:
“Study of Young Parents Highlights Links Among Stress, Poverty and Ethnicity,” UCLA Newsroom.

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.

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.