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

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.

Latino Students Fuel Illinois Schools Toward a Tipping Point

Latino students now make up slightly more than 24 percent of all public school students in Illinois, and are pushing the state’s schools toward becoming a majority-minority.

The Chicago Tribune reports that Illinois has almost reached the tipping point, with minority students making up 49.4 percent of all students. The growing number of Hispanic students in the suburbs, and now solely in the Chicago Public Schools, is also fueling the growth.

The shifts have prompted school districts to search for more bilingual teachers, providing bilingual documents, and offering GED classes to parents. Additionally, seminars about the American education system are offered to parents.

“There’s a need for school districts to respond to their growing demographic,” Sylvia Puente, executive director of the Chicago-based Latino Policy Forum, told the Tribune. “We want quality education for all our students. It’s incumbent on school districts to understand who their student population is.”

White and black students have dropped in their share of the student population, while Latino and Asian enrollment is increasing.

Related Links:

“Minority Student Population in Illinois Schools to Surpass White Students,” Chicago Tribune.

Illinois School District Trains Hispanic Parent Leaders

After noticing that few Hispanic parents were serving on school district committees, an Illinois school district superintendent decided to create a program to teach parents the skills they need to become effective leaders.

Elgin Area School District U-46  superintendent Jose Torres tasked family and community engagement employees with creating the two-year Hispanic Parent Leadership Institute in 2010 to foster greater parent involvement, The Daily Herald reports. The district even compensates parents with $1,000 stipends for their participation.

The school district is the second largest district in Illinois next to the Chicago Public Schools, and its student enrollment is about half Hispanic.

In the first year of the program, parents meet one Saturday a month to learn about the district and go through leadership training. In the second year, parents meet every other month engaged in hands-on learning opportunities.

The district already has some success stories to share about Hispanic parent participants. Teresa Aguirre serves on a middle school Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO). Other parents have advanced to positions on various committees and advisory councils. One parent was elected to the school board.

Elementary school parent Tomás Figueroa, is a participant in the program.

“Like most parents, I wanted to get more involved in my kids’ education and find out who’s making the decisions on what they’re learning,” Figueroa told the Herald. “All those questions were answered. I would recommend it to everybody.”

I previously blogged about the Elgin district this spring when it decided to require teachers at ten of its low performing elementary schools to earn English as a Second Language teaching credentials.

The district’s treatment of Hispanic students hasn’t gone without some criticism. A federal discrimination lawsuit was filed against the district in recent years, accusing schools of running a segregated gifted program that placed elementary students whose native language is Spanish in a separate program from gifted native English speakers.

Related Links:

– “U-46 hopes to train more black, Latino parent leaders,” Daily Herald.

– “Illinois District Requires ESL Training for Some Teachers,” Latino Ed Beat.

Latino Test Performance Varies Significantly by State

It’s often said that the zip code a child is born into is a strong predictor of their future academic performance and the quality of education that they will receive. But perhaps the same can be said about the state where a child is born.

The New York Times recently reported on an analysis by the National Center for Education Statistics of the five states with the largest populations, showing the different performance levels of Latino students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress exam.

Those “mega-states” studied are California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas. Th five states enroll more than half of the country’s English language learners, a total of 2.9 million–nearly 1.5 million of whom are in California. They also enroll about 40 percent of the nation’s public school students, or 18.7 million students.

NAEP scores are seen as the best tool by which to compare academic performance across state lines.

One notable headline: California Latino students struggled considerably across the board, while Florida and Texas were strong-performers. While the analysis also shows that Latino students continue to lag white students considerably in performance on the tests (full report here), there was considerable variation in Latino performance between states.

The percentage of Latino eighth-graders performing at the proficient level or above in math in 2011 are below, with Texas leading the nation:

California: 13%, Florida: 22%; Illinois: 19%; New York: 13%; Texas: 31%; Nation: 20%.

And the performance of Latino eighth-graders proficient or higher in reading in 2011, in which Florida and Illinois led the nation:

California: 14%; Florida: 27%; Illinois: 23%; New York: 20%; Texas: 17%; Nation: 18%.

The performance of fourth-graders proficient or higher in math, in which Florida and Texas leading:

California: 17%; Florida: 31%; Illinois: 20%; New York: 20%; Texas: 29%. Nation: 24%.

The performance of  Latino fourth-graders proficient or higher in reading was as follows in 2011, with Florida leading:

California: 12%;  Florida: 30%Illinois: 18%; New York: 20%; Texas: 19%; Nation: 18%.

And here is the performance of Latino fourth-graders proficient or higher in science in 2009, with Texas and Florida leading:

California: 8%; Florida: 23%; Illinois: 10%; New York: 13%; Texas: 16%; Nation: 13%

And the performance of Latino eighth-graders proficient or higher in science, with Texas leading the nation:

California: 11%; Florida: 24%; Illinois: 11%; New York: 12%; Texas: 23%; Nation: 16%.

Jack Buckley, commissioner of the NCES, said there was no “consistent pattern among these states,” The Times reported. And that, “each state seems to have areas where it shines and others where they lag behind its counterparts.”

The analysis includes the data broken out by other racial/ethnic categories and factors such as income and ELL status.

Learn more about the analysis of performance in the top five largest states here.

Related Links:

– “Test Scores of Hispanics Vary Widely Across 5 Most Populous States, Analysis Shows,” The New York Times. 

– Mega-States: An Analysis of Student Performance in the Five Most Heavily Populated States in the Nation. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Illinois Suburbs Grapple With Latino Achievement Gap

Achievement gaps persist for Latino students living in the Chicago suburbs, The Daily Herald reports. The newspaper bases those conclusions on the 2012 Illinois state report cards, released this week.

The newspaper’s report included analyzing the test scores of Latino students at 27 high schools in the Northwest Illinois suburbs. About 38 percent of Latino students met or exceeded the state reading standards and about 40 percent did in math. By comparison, about 60 percent of all students in the Northwest suburbs meet or exceed standards in math, reading and science.

Some suburbs are focusing on creating career centers at high schools to improve student outcomes. For example, Wheeling High School in the suburbs created a STEM–science, technology, engineering and mathematics–program that has resulted in improved test scores.

About half of the school’s students are Latino. The newspaper reports that about 56.3 percent of Wheeling High’s Latino students met or exceeded math standards in 2012, about 20 points above the state average for Latinos.

“A growing percentage of our workforce population are Hispanic in this state and nationwide,” Wheeling principal Lazaro Lopez told the Herald. “We need them to be as educated and successful as their non-Hispanic counterparts because it’s going to have a direct impact on our economy.”

Related Links:

– “School report cards: Hispanic ‘achievement gap.” Daily Herald.

– Wheeling High School.

Report: Less than 6 Percent of Illinois Pre-K Teachers Trained to Teach ELLs

A new study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, found that very few pre-K teachers in Illinois have been trained to teach English language learners. The study also raised further concerns with its survey results, which found that few of those educators are interested in acquiring that training.

English language learners account for one-third of Hispanic schoolchildren in the state. About 20 percent of the Illinois kindergartners are ELLs–most of whom are Spanish-speaking.

The state has made a big push for expansion of bilingual education. By 2014, the state wants state-funded, school district-based, pre-k classes with 20 or more English learners to be led by a teacher certified in either bilingual instruction or English as a second language, in addition to being trained to work with pre-K students.

The UC-Berkeley researchers surveyed 354 preschool programs and 307 educators representing  about 2,600 teachers. It encompassed programs serving nearly 65,000 students, 27 percent of whom are ELLs.

Their results show that the state’s goals have yet to match up with reality. Currently, in predominantly Latino communities, the ratio of English language learner students to trained bilingual teachers is 50 students per every one teacher.

Fewer than 6 percent of all pre-K teachers surveyed are currently are dually endorsed with bilingual/ESL and early childhood certifications, compared with about 9 percent of teachers in high-Latino communities.  The researchers conclude that this disparity raises concerns about teacher quality.

In addition, the survey shows that about 45 percent of administrators see little need for teachers to have ESL training. In heavily Latino communities, about 42 percent of administrators saw a significant need for the training. In both cases, they were reluctant because of the costs associated and the time commitment that would be required.

“…Preschool itself isn’t a silver bullet,” Margaret Bridges, a senior researcher at UC-Berkeley’s Institute of Human Development, said in a press announcement about the study. “Quality matters. And as classrooms become more diverse, the cultural and linguistic competencies of  teachers are very real factors in a child’s academic success.”

The study is part of the New Journalism on Latino Children project based at UC-Berkeley, and produced in partnership with the Illinois Early Learning Council and the Chicago-based Latino Policy Forum.

Related Links:

– “Who Will Teach Our Children? Building a Qualified Early Childhood Workforce to Teach English-Language Learners” 

Illinois Law Boosts Bilingual Education Programs

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a law on Thursday that aims to strengthen the state’s bilingual education programs by ordering a report  on their effectiveness and by creating ways to increase parent involvement.

The law, House Bill 3819, was sponsored by state representative Linda Chapa LaVia and state senator Iris Martinez. “Parents of non-English speaking students want–and need–to feel a greater stake in navigating their child’s education,” Rep. Chapa LaVia said at the ceremony, reported Fox News Latino. “This new law opens the door to such innovations as ‘parent academies’ to accomplish that.”

The law supports the creation of parent academies for parents of bilingual students that will be held in Spanish. These programs are intended to help immigrant parents navigate the school system. The academies will focus on teaching parents about topics including understanding standardized tests, encouraging reading at home,  promoting homework completion, building character and encouraging a relationship with their child’s teachers.

It also requires that bilingual programs’ success rates be evaluated by the Illinois Advisory Council on Bilingual Education and that the findings be delivered in a report to the state superintendent by January 2013. The report will evaluate whether bilingual programs should be modified to increase student success and boost parent involvement. It also asks the council to address how bilingual parent advisory committees at the school district level can be used to increase parent input on the programs’ effectiveness.

Fox reported that Illinois State Board of Education figures show that in 2010, about 183,000 students did not speak English as their first language. They made up almost 10 percent of all students. About 80 percent of the students were Spanish-speaking.

Governor Quinn added that the law “will keep Illinois on the cutting edge of bilingual education programs to ensure that every student is ready for the workforce,” reported Fox.

Related Links:

– “Law aims to strengthen bilingual education in Illinois.” Fox News Latino/EFE

– “New Illinois law to evaluate bilingual education.” AP.

– “Illinois law strengthens bilingual education.” WREX.

– House Bill 3819.

– Illinois Advisory Council on Bilingual Education.

Report Outlines Education Agenda for Latino Students in Illinois

Nearly one in four Illinois public school students is Latino. And their story is no longer confined to the Chicago Public Schools, where Hispanics are 43 percent of the enrollment. Most of the  state’s Latino student population is now in the suburbs and rural areas.

new report by the Latino Policy Forum lays out the challenges facing the population. Only one in three Latinos are enrolled in preschool. By the time they reach the third grade, these Latino students lag white students by 31 percentage points in reading scores.  English Language Learners, 86 percent of whom speak Spanish, lag 48 points in reading by third grade.

“Such statistics are alarming, and these trends left unchecked will have devastating implications for Illinois: ensuring positive outcomes for their community is no longer simply a Latino issue,” the Shaping Our Future report says. “The well-being of Latinos–whose population has increased by nearly 500,000 over the last decade–is inextricably linked to the well-being of all of Illinois?”

So, what can be done?

The report identifies areas of interest and specific action items to be taken on:

Raising Academic and Instructional Standards:

The report suggests providing linguistically appropriate tests for students, such as increasing students’ time to take tests and allowing students to respond in Spanish. In addition, it advises that students complete college prep coursework and be provided programs such as dual-language instruction.

Preparing Teachers and Academic Leadership:

The Forum urges racial diversity among the teacher and administrator workforce. It urges that bilingual and mainstream teachers have proper training to deal with the diverse student population. In addition, it seeks to promote Latino students’ access to highly qualified teachers.

Addressing Funding and Facility Concerns.

The state’s heavy dependency on property taxes to fund schools has perpetuated continued unequal funding districts, with high-minority districts receiving about $1,595 less per student than low-minority districts. The Forum promotes advocating for increased funding and new strategies for distributing funds. In addition, it suggests building schools to be able to prevent overcrowding and increasing students’ access to technology.

Fostering Partners in Education.

The organization has planned the Acuerdo group geared at bringing Latino organizations and leaders together to advocate for the community’s needs and push initiatives forward.

Partners with schools, classrooms and school districts can include community-based organizations, foundations, businesses, faith-based organizations, health organizations and families. They can provide resources for issues such as funding support and providing support such as gang prevention programs.

The report also stresses the importance of family involvement initiatives, such as sharing with parents school information such as the benefits of preschool. Schools can also be educated themselves about how to go back to school and learn English. In addition, the report points out that suburbs often have fewer community organizations that provide services than Chicago, and are in need of more partners.

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The Latino Policy Forum also hosted a discussion today along with leaders from the National Council of La Raza, Chicago Public Schools and Illinois State Board of Education in conjunction with the report’s release. WestEd’s Aida Walqui, an expert on ELLs, also spoke about the common core standards.

Related Links:

– “Shaping Our Future: Building a Collective Latino K-12 Education Agenda.” Latino Policy Forum. 

– Education Acuerdo

Latino Policy Forum

Lawsuit Says Illinois School District Had Segregated Gifted Program for Hispanics

Parents in suburban Chicago have filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the Elgin School District U-46, accusing the district of running a segregated gifted program that placed elementary students whose native language is Spanish in a separate program from native English speakers. A trial is currently under way.

Former English language learners who had been classified as proficient in English were placed in the gifted program for native Spanish speakers along with children still classified as English language learners, The Daily Herald reported. This gifted program was known as the Spanish English Transition School Within a School (SET SWAS). District officials said the students did not meet standards to qualify for the general education gifted programs.

The Daily Herald reports that both sides have put gifted education experts on the stand. University of Texas at Austin director of bilingual education Alba Ortiz audited the program and testified that the programs were “institutionalized discrimination.” “They are deemed English-proficient, so why segregate them from their English-language peers?” she asked.

But this week, University of Virginia professor Carolyn Callahan testified that the separate programs for native Spanish-speaking children were necessary because the children would fall behind in programs for native English speakers and needed bilingual support in Spanish and English.  The Courier-News reports that Callahan said programs were “language-based, not race-based.”

The Courier-News also reported that gifted teachers testified in support of the separate programs. Teacher Rachael Jackson said she would cry if the program ended. “The students need the support,” she said. “They need to be in a place where they feel safe, where they feel confident, where they’re with other kids like them.”

At one point during the trial, the Courier-News reported that Superintendent Jose Torres said that the separate programs helped students feel more confident because they were with other students who looked like them. “If that’s the case, we would have segregated schools,” U.S. district judge Robert Gettleman responded. “Brown vs. Board would have been wrongly decided.”

The Chicago Tribune reports that Latino students comprised about 27 percent of students in the gifted program in 2008-09, while they were 40 to 45 percent of the enrollment. The plaintiffs’ attorney said only 2 percent of gifted elementary students in the English-speaking program were Hispanic.

The lawsuit was filed in 2005, and also said that district boundary changes segregated black and Hispanic students into overcrowded classes and that black and Hispanic students didn’t have equal access to gifted programs.

Do your local school districts have gifted bilingual classes? I’ve visited a gifted class in Texas solely for bilingual students, so I know they exist elsewhere. But in the class I visited, the students were all classified as limited English proficient. In Elgin’s case, children who recently had been classified as English proficient were then placed in the separate gifted program for native Spanish speakers.

Is this a case of the district making a “separate but equal” argument in defense of segregation? Or was the district just trying to meet the language-specific needs of the Hispanic children?