Study: Hispanic, ELL Students See Gains in Charter Schools

Hispanic students  who are economically disadvantaged and those who are English Language Learners are excelling in charter schools much more now than in past years, according to a study of charter schools conducted by Stanford University researchers.

The  2013 National Charter School Study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes found that the number of high-performing charter schools is increasing as underperforming charters are being shut down.

The study of students in 26 states and New York City found that about 25 percent of the charter schools studied had stronger reading learning gains than traditional schools, while 19 percent were weaker. In math, 29 percent of charter schools were significantly stronger than traditional public schools and 31 percent were weaker. Researchers studied individual students’ performance and growth on state exams in both subjects.

In the new study, researchers found that low-income black and Hispanic students and Hispanic students who are ELLs had significantly greater learning advantages in charter school than compared with their peers in traditional public schools. According to the study, the advantage in reading for Hispanic ELLs added up to about 50 extra days of instruction and in math, it was 43 days.

However, for black and Hispanic children who were not economically disadvantaged or ELLs, those advantages did not exist, except for Hispanics in general in reading.

“The charter sector does seem to be posting better results, especially with disadvantaged students,” said Margaret Raymond, director of Stanford’s CREDO, told Bloomberg news. “The fact that they are moving the needle with this many students since 2009 is a pretty impressive finding.”

According to the study, about 4 percent of public school students nationwide attend charter schools, totaling about 2.3 million students.

In contrast, CREDO’s previous 2009 study of 16 states found that charter school students were not performing as well as those students attending traditional public schools. Researchers say that since that study, Hispanic, black, ELL, and poor charter school students in those students experienced academic gains in reading and math.

In addition, Hispanic students had greater gains in reading than traditional public school students, and ELLs performed better in reading and math.

Related Links:

– “Study: Poor, minority students see biggest advantages from charter schools; general gains seen,” Associated Press. 

– “Stanford Study Says Charter School Children Outperform,” Bloomberg. 

– National Charter School Study 2013, Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO)

Report: Many Silicon Valley Latino Students Not Prepared for College

While Silicon Valley is world-renowned for its innovative high-tech industry, a new report says that only 20 percent of Latino students in the region are graduating high school within four years and are eligible for admission to the University of California and California State University systems.

The achievement gap is most glaring when compared with Asian students, 71 percent of whom graduate in four years and are eligible to enroll in the UC and CSU systems. For white students, it is 53 percent and for black students, 22 percent.

Innovate Public Schools produced the report, entitled “Broken Promises: The Children Left Behind in Silicon Valley Schools.” It examines student academic achievement in the Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, where about 38 percent of the students are Latino. The report breaks out the data by school district and–in some cases–individual campuses.

This is Innovate Public Schools’ first report. The organization’s formation was announced last year, supported by the Walton Family Foundation and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Innovate Public Schools was established in part with the intent of creating charter schools or new public school models that better serve minority and low-income students. So it’s important to consider that the group has a clear platform it is trying to advance with the report, which shows that traditional schools and school districts tend to do poorly with closing achievement gaps for Latinos. The group concludes that charter schools are more likely to do better with Latino students. The director of the group, Matt Hammer, is a former director of People Acting in Community Together (PACT), a group that successfully pushed area districts to open charter schools.

Innovate Public Schools highlights the average algebra proficiency rates at the seventh- and eighth-grade levels as early predictors of future success. Those proficiency rates are 23 percent for Latinos, 24 percent for African-Americans, 76 percent for Asians and 57 percent for white students. Silicon Valley Education Foundation president Mohammed Chaudhry is quoted as saying that Hispanic students are “slipping off the college track in elementary and middle school, signified by their inability to pass algebra in 8th grade and often in 9th.” Ninth grade is when students have traditionally been expected to take and pass algebra.

The report points out that in the Sunnyvale School District, 27 percent of Latino eighth graders take algebra, while 91 percent of Asians take the class. Grades, test scores and teacher recommendations determine who is able to take the class. The report points out that Latinos end up taking Algebra Concepts instead of algebra, which focuses on vocabulary and other skills.

But giving students access to classes doesn’t always close the gap. In the San Mateo-Foster City School District, 81 percent of Latino eighth-graders take algebra, but they end up with only 10 percent of students rated proficient.

The report highlights several charter and experimental schools serving mostly Latino students, such as the Rocketship Mateo Sheedy elementary school, as success stories for Latinos (who make up about 89 percent of that school’s enrollment). The students spend about a quarter of their time in a computer learning lab, attend school for eight hours, and do not receive art or music classes. The report also refers to the Renaissance School, a collaboration between the Alum Rock school district and PACT, as doing well with Latino middle school students.

The Aspire East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy high school focuses on dual enrollment courses. But things aren’t all rosy. A recent Palo Alto Daily News article found that only 64 percent of the academy’s class of 2011-12 graduated, compared with the 83 percent average in San Mateo County. The principal said the rate was low because students were often taking five years to finish.

Related Links:

– “Broken Promises: The Children Left Behind in Silicon Valley Schools,” Innovate Public Schools.

– “Silicon Valley Community Foundation Announces New Education Reform Effort,” Philanthropy News Digest.

– “Report: Silicon Valley Schools Do Poor Job of Preparing Latinos for College,” NBC Bay Area.

Latino Charter School Operator Promotes English Immersion

The United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) began as a Latino advocacy group in Chicago in the 1980s. But now the UNO name is known more for education, as a charter school operator running ten K-8 schools and one high school.

UNO enrolls about 6,500 students, about 95% of whom are Hispanic, 93% low-income and 38% English Language Learners.

The group still emphasizes serving Hispanic students. What I find interesting is that the system emphasizes using English immersion techniques for English Language Learners. The school system’s web site emphasizes that the curriculum offers “a complete American experience.”

Juan Rangel, CEO of UNO, recently emphasized the approach in an essay about how to best educate Hispanic children for Education Next. Rangel himself did not speak English when he enrolled in kindergarten, The New York Times noted in a profile of him. He was born in Brownsville, Texas, to undocumented immigrant parents from Mexico.

“I picked up the language so fast,” he told the Times.

In his most recent essay for Education Next, he promotes the necessity for schools to promote assimilation to immigrant children.

Rangel’s support of English immersion is interesting, given that many Latino educators support the bilingual education model. Illinois is one of the states that uses bilingual education to educate ELLs. Rangel points out that his students perform better than those in Chicago Public Schools on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT).

In particular, the following passage stands out:

“Immigrants and native-born Americans alike recognize English as a unifying feature of American society and as a key to immigrant advancement. Poor English-language skills not only delay full assimilation for our community, but also deny Hispanics full access to American opportunity. UNO chose English-language immersion over the traditional bilingual transition program to teach English to its children and families.

Structured English-language immersion challenges the conventional approach to educating English language learners (ELL). Our students’ limited English-language skills could easily be used as an excuse for low performance or a need for unlimited resources, but we see it as a necessity for teachers to differentiate their instruction to reach all learners, including ELL students. Most pragmatically, English immersion is effective in closing the performance gap between ELLs and their peers nationwide, and is financially viable and scalable—unlike the many bilingual transition programs that require untenable complements of teachers and resources and produce mixed results at best.

I believe, and our schools’ performance bears this out, that a well-rounded, rigorous program with excellent teachers and leaders works with any population of students, and works especially well for Hispanic immigrant children.”

According to the Illinois Interactive Report Card, about 76 percent of UNO students met or exceeded state standards. The system does face academic struggles–it did not make adequate yearly progress.

Related Links:

– UNO (United Neighborhood Organization) Charter Schools Network.

– “Emphasize Civic Responsibility and Good Citizenship,” Juan Rangel, Education Next.

– 2012 Illinois School Report Card for UNO Network Charter Schools.