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)

Study Examines Teacher Assignment Inequalities Within Schools

We often hear about disparities in teacher quality between rich and poor schools. But what about the inequality that takes place within schools?

Every school has a mix of teachers of varying levels of talent and experience. School principals wield the power to determine which students they will be assigned. Experienced teachers may seek to handpick their students. Well-informed, affluent parents may also demand specific teachers.

A new study by Stanford University researchers published in Sociology of Education examined teacher assignments within the Miami-Dade County Public Schools system between the 2003-04 through 2010-11 school years. (Last school year, about 66% of Miami-Dade students were Hispanic.)

Researchers found that low-performing students were more likely be assigned to teachers with less experience, those from less-competitive colleges, female teachers and black and Hispanic teachers.

According to the study, teachers with 10 or more years of experience and those in leadership were more likely to have high-performing students in their classrooms. Teachers who are white, male or attended more competitive universities also tended to be assigned more high-performing students.

There was one interesting exception, however. Those schools under strong accountability pressure were less likely to place the high-achieving students with veteran teachers. But in most cases, campuses are assigning struggling children to less experienced teachers, and the achievement gap persists.

The study cautions that efforts within districts to lure more veteran teachers with financial incentives to certain difficult-to-staff campuses can backfire.

“Within-school sorting may prevent the most effective teachers from being matched to students who need them most even if the sorting of teachers between schools is minimized,” the study says.

According to the study’s survey of principals in Miami-Dade, about 28% of principals said they rewarded strong teachers with the class assignments they wanted. Their motivation was to retain the strong teachers.

In addition, the study notes that “If white principals tend to develop better relationships with white teachers in their school than they develop with black or Hispanic teachers, then a desire to reward their friends with desired classes may contribute to the racial differences in class assignments we observe in schools led by white principals.”

While researchers were critical of assigning students to less-experienced teachers, they were not as critical of the practice of assigning black and Hispanic students to black and Hispanic teachers. They point out that minority teachers may desire these assignments and may have a more powerful impact on their students’ achievement, prompting principals to support making such assignments as well.

This begs the question–is it bad to match students with teachers of the same race or ethnicity? And is some of this happening in regards to Hispanic students because of language issues as well?

In addition, how can the teacher assignment process be reformed?

Related Links:

“Stanford study finds troubling patterns of teacher assignments within schools,” Stanford Report.

“Systematic Sorting: Teacher Characteristics and Class Assignments,” Sociology of Education.

Stanford Administrator Advocated for Latino Students

Former Stanford University administrator Cecilia Preciado Burciaga worked to support many first-generation Latino college students transition into the university.

Now that she has passed away at age 67, many of those former students are stepping forward to share the impact she made on their lives. They include successful professors and attorneys.

“She taught hesitant young women and men, many the first in their families to attend college, that they belonged and could thrive at the elite private school, and later kept more than a few from dropping out,” according to a Los Angeles Times article.

“She soothed nervous parents, persuading them, in Spanish and English, that the university was a safe place for their children and that it would open their eyes to new worlds. At Stanford, she also successfully pushed university leaders to hire additional Latinos, African Americans, Native Americans and women for faculty positions, and admit more to graduate programs.”

Despite her achievements, she also endured some tumultuous periods. After 20 years at Stanford, she was laid off by the university in 1994. She then became a founding dean at California State University-Monterey Bay. But that relationship concluded when in 2002, she was one of three Latino plaintiffs who came to a $1 million settlement with the university in a racial discrimination case.

Through those difficult times, she continued to be admired by her former students. Stanford posted its own tribute to her on its web site. She and her husband Tony were resident advisors at the Chicano dorm, Casa Zapata.

R. Vanessa Alvarado, ’97, a deputy city attorney in Los Angeles, said the two were role models for her.

“What is most meaningful about Cecilia and Tony’s presence in my family life’s is that they gave our mother, a woman with a third-grade education who grew up on a small farm on the outskirts of a small town in Jalisco, Mexico, and my father, who graduated from high school past the age of 60, the reassurance that their two daughters would not be lost amid the seemingly inaccessible walls of a university,” she told Stanford News.

“I remember when my mother came back to campus for Admit Weekend and talked on a panel for prospective students how amazed I was as she advocated to Latino parents to let their children go away for school. I mentored students as an undergraduate, as a law student and continue doing that today. That is how I will continue to honor their memory.”

This makes me wonder–who are the Latino administrators of this era who are supporting such students? What lessons can we learn from them?

Related Links:

– “Cecilia Preciado Burciaga, advocate for Latino students, dead at 67,” Stanford News.

– “Chon A. Noriega: Cecilia Preciado Burciaga, Presente,” Huffington Post Latino Voices.

– “Cecilia Preciado Burciaga dies at 67; longtime Stanford administrator,” Los Angeles Times.

Latino Students Need Help to Overcome “Stereotype Threat”

Teachers can use positive intervention strategies to help overcome the “stereotype threat” that Latino students often feel, a recent Stanford University study found.

The study was published in February in the Journal of Personality and School Psychology.

The researchers found that positive affirmations can help battle the “stereotype threat” of feeling stigmatized as a member of an ethnic group that is perceived as inferior. Past research has found that the stress of this threat can hurt students’ academic performance.

The Latino middle school students participating in the study practiced certain affirmative activities. They were given a list of values such as being good at art, religious, or being humorous. They were then asked to writes about the values they viewed as the most important.

In another assignment, they were asked to reflect on the things in their lives that were most important. In yet another, they wrote a brief essay about how the things they valued would play a role in the coming months.

Students worked on such exercises through the year during important moments that can prove stressful, such as before taking tests and right as they were starting the school year.

According to the researchers, Latino students who went through the affirmative activities had higher grades than those in the control group, and that the positive impact lasted for three year. The activities did not appear to impact white students.

“Self-affirmation exercises provide adolescents from minority groups with a psychological time out,” Stanford professor Geoffrey Cohen said, according to a new release. “Latino Americans are under a more consistent and chronic sense of psychological threat in the educational setting than their white counterparts on average. They constantly face negative stereotypes about their ability to succeed, so they are the ones to benefit the most from affirmations that help them to maintain a positive self-image.”

Related Links:

– “Simple efforts bridge achievement gap between Latino, white students, Stanford researcher finds,” Stanford University.

– “Interventions Help Latino Students Beat ‘Stereotype Threat,” Study Says,” Learning the Language Blog, Education Week.

– “Study finds intervention can close achievement gap,” The Bakersfield Californian.

Latino and Black Students Underrepresented at Top Colleges, Says Study

A new report by Stanford University researchers shows the proportion of Latino students enrolled at top universities barely budged between 1982 and 2004. In fact, the racial disparities given the growing diversity of the country’s population have worsened.

White students are three times as likely as Hispanic students to enroll in a highly selective university.

The researchers at the Center for Education Policy Analysis found that in 2004, students admitted to very selective schools were 72.5 percent white, 12 percent Asian, 7 percent Latino and 3.5 percent black. Meanwhile, that year the high school graduating class was 60 percent white, 14.5 percent black, 16 percent Latino and four percent Asian.

In 1982, the proportion of Latino students enrolled in highly selective colleges wasn’t much different. At that time, about 6 percent of students were Latino and 5.6 percent were black.

Researchers attributed the problem to growing income inequality, tuition growth, a widening achievement gap by income and fiercer competition for admission to top colleges. However, they said the enrollment disparities are not due to achievement gaps, which they believe have narrowed for black students, but could result from the elimination of affirmative action policies. Another recent report found that affirmative action policy bans have reduced the diversity of graduate programs.

In addition, they found that the students were underrepresented even when controlling for family income. They say that if students are admitted based on being among the top ten percent of graduates in their states, as Texas does, the diversity would actually decline.

The report concludes:

“Changes in who applies to college, which colleges they apply to, how colleges determine whom to admit (including if and how they use race and race-related factors in admissions decisions), and where students decide to enroll (which depends in part on tuition costs and the availability of financial aid, as well as on students’ perceptions of how well colleges’ academic offerings and social climate fits their needs) all may play a part in the increasing underrepresentation of black and Hispanic students at the most selective colleges and universities. These college decision processes, as well as the persistent racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps, must change if highly-selective colleges and universities are to enroll more diverse classes of students.” 

They designated highly selective universities based on ratings from the Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges guides, which schools from a 1-7, with 1 being the most selective. Barron’s bases their ratings on high school GPAs, class ranks, SAT/ACT scores and proportion of students admitted. Researchers considered a 1 most competitive and a 2 as highly selective, and considered the diversity of students enrolled in those two categories of schools in the study.

Researchers found it interesting that the most selective universities (level 1) had slightly more diverse enrollments, by income and race, than those at the second level.

The study comes as the Supreme Court is poised to take on the issue of affirmative action admissions to universities with consideration of the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case.

Related Links:

-“Race, income, and enrollment patterns in highly selective colleges, 1982-2004.” Center for Education Policy Analysis, Stanford University. 

– “Minority Enrollment: Black and Hispanic Students Underrepresented at Highly Selective Colleges, Stanford Study Finds.” Huffington Post.

– Center for Education Policy Analysis at Stanford University.