Report Analyzes Impact of Texas’s Graduation Requirements on Latinos

A policy brief from University of Texas researchers concludes that new legislation cutting back the emphasis on testing in the state’s high school graduation requirements will help Latino and black students.

The reported was released by the Institute for Urban Policy Research & Analysis at UT. The new legislation cuts back the number of state tests students must pass in order to graduate from high school.

The brief notes that the legislation came about because during the session “there was a widespread view that students were being over-tested.”

While “end of course” exams were cut that students were required to pass in order to graduate, five still remain. The remaining exams are Algebra I, English I, English II, biology, and U.S. History. The 10 exams cut included Algebra II, geometry, English III, chemistry, physics, world geography and world history.

Even with the change, many students will still struggle with the existing “end of course” exams.

Such tests linked to graduation often disproportionately negatively impact minority students. Several years ago, I wrote a story for The Dallas Morning News pabout a Hispanic girl who learned English as a second language and was struggling to pass the Texas science exit exam, after failing it four times, so she could graduate from high school. I met with her family and followed her as she participated in Teen Court and attended after-school test prep sessions.The scientific words were one of her biggest challenges.

“I haven’t failed any classes in high school,” she told me. “It’s killing me, the stupid test.”

She eventually passed, on her fifth attempt.

If your state requires passing a graduation test to graduate, consider following a student who is retaking the exam and the steps they take to try to pass. This puts a human face on the challenges students face.

Related Links:

“Policy Report: High School Graduation Requirements Show Promise for African American, Latino Students,” Institute for Urban Policy Research & Analysis at The University of Texas at Austin.

“Pass TAKS – or Pass on Diploma,” The Dallas Morning News.

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Texas Study Finds ELL Students Face “Triple Segregation”

In Texas, poor Hispanic children who are English language learners often attend intensely segregated schools, a new study has found.

Such children face “triple segregation” because they are isolated by virtue of their ethnicity, socioeconomic background and language skills. The trend is found in both urban and suburban settings.

Education professors Julian Vasquez Heilig and Jennifer Jellison Holme from the University of Texas at Austin examined 2011 demographic data from the Texas Education Agency to make their findings in their study, “Nearly 50 Years Post-Jim Crow: Persisting and Expansive School Segregation for African American, Latina/o and ELL Students in Texas.”

The AP reports that in 2012, about 838,000 limited proficient children attended Texas schools. They made up about 16.2 percent of the total enrollment. In 2011, about 9 percent of Texas schools were found to be majority ELL, with most of those being elementary schools. The study reveals that of Texas schools with a majority ELL enrollment, 89 percent have a study body that is majority economically disadvantaged.

However, the study found a bright spot. Majority-ELL elementary schools were more likely to earn the state’s top ranking of “exemplary” than to be rated low-performing. The researchers found 72 “exemplary” and 15 low-performing majority-ELL elementary schools in Texas, noting that “the state should be applauded for these numbers.”

However, the researchers cautioned that those same children tend to go on to attend low-performing middle and high schools. And ELLs have very high dropout rates in Texas.

Researchers point out that Texas has a long history of segregating its Hispanic children. At first, this was accomplished by placing them in separate schools. Texas schools were targeted with lawsuits because of such practices long before the Brown v. Board case. Later, the state segregated children by placing them in separate classes within a school.

As a reporter, I visited many schools that had “triple segregation.” In Texas, bilingual education is required for ELLs when there is a large enough population and by nature of the program these children are placed in separate classes. Do bilingual programs inherently segregate? Are there benefits at all to this, however? The study acknowledges that this question has come up in debates over the instructional program.

“As the first-generation cases were resolved, the friction between bilingual education and desegregation became more apparent, as courts and districts sought to balance the need, on the one hand, to offer linguistically appropriate instruction for subgroups of students who do not yet speak English, and the danger, on the other hand, that such practices could result in racial and linguistic isolation of those students,” the study says.

Lastly, segregation has increased as overall districts and communities have become residentially segregated. Much of the residential segregation growth is happening in the suburbs.

This study is fascinating because it goes a step beyond racial segregation and examines a new type of segregation that has arisen based on linguistic isolation. It’s conversation worth having. It also raises the question, how does attending a segregated school impact how children learn English? And in a majority minority state such as Texas, are these trends just part of the demographic shift?

Related Links:

– “Study Shows Texas Segregated By Language,” Associated Press/Fox News Latino.

– “Study Shows Triple Segregation Persists in Texas Schools,” News Release, The University of Texas at Austin College of Education.

– “Nearly 50 Years Post-Jim Crow: Persisting and Expansive School Segregation for African American, Latina/o, and ELL Students in Texas.”

– “Cloaking Inequality” Blog (By Julian Vasquez Heilig)

University of Texas Launches Initiative To Help Latino Males

A recently launched initiative in Texas will bring together school districts, community colleges and universities in an effort to improve education outcomes for Latino and black male students.

The Texas Education Consortium for Male Students of Color will be based at the University of Texas at Austin and seeks to encourage Texas higher education institutions to create “male-focused student programs” that address state goals in increasing the success of minority male students.

The group is pursuing several objectives. It will work to hold meetings and student summits around the issue. The program also hopes to identify and build successful male mentoring programs. The group also hopes to serve as a resource center through which best practices can be shared.

The consortium will be led by UT education professor Victor Saenz. He is also the executive director of Project MALES (Mentoring to Achieve Latino Educational Success), which I have blogged about before.

The consortium is supported in part by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating  Board, which has a “Closing the Gaps” initiative that aims to increase college enrollment in the state. and close gaps by 2015. In the latest 2013 spring progress report, the board found that there is a growing gender gap in college enrollment and Hispanic males in particular have the lowest participation rate.

According to the report, in fall 2012, only about 4.1 percent of the Hispanic male population Texas participated in higher education, which was 1.7 percent below the rate of female Hispanics. It would take about 88,000 more male Hispanic students to enroll to catch up to female Hispanic students.

Additionally, the report finds that about 47 percent of Hispanic males who graduated from high school in 2012 went directly to college the following fall, compared with 56 percent of Hispanic females.

Related Links:

– “UT Austin Launches Texas Consortium to Improve Outcomes for Male Minority Students,” Press Release.

– Project MALES (Mentoring to Achieve Latino Educational Success). 

– “Researchers Call Attention to the Educational ‘State of Crisis’ Facing Latino Males,” Latino Ed Beat.

– “Closing the Gaps Spring 2013 Progress Report,” Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Excelencia in Education Highlights Programs Promoting Latino College Completion

Over the past seven years, the advocacy group Excelencia in Education has compiled an impressive list of programs that are working to improve the college graduation rates of Latinos.

Every year, the group recognizes nominees in the areas of associate, bachelor and graduate level programs that have a track record of increasing Latino college enrollment, improving academic outcomes and increasing graduation rates.

For the 2012 Examples of Excelencia report, 159 programs were nominated. Of those nominees, three received the top awards and 16 others were national finalists.

Here’s a little bit of information about the top three programs recognized this year:

Valencia College’s Direct Connect . The University of Central Florida and four Florida community colleges partnered in 2006 to promote smoother transfers between colleges and universities. The colleges and universities share use of certain classrooms and labs, as well as advisors. Since the program’s inception, 3,695 Latino students have transfered from community colleges to the university.

– California State University, Bakersfield, School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Engineering. The university has focused on increasing the number of Latinos studying in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, in addition to working with nearby Bakersfield College to provide streamlined transfers between the two entities. About 40 percent of the program’s 1,039 students are Latino. About half of the community college transfer students studying in STEM programs are Latino, an increase from 22 percent in 2006. The university has also seen an increase in the number of Hispanic students majoring in STEM fields.

– University of Texas, El Paso, Master of Business Administration. The predominantly Latino university has focused on strengthening the MBA program through various efforts. They include diversifying faculty and expanding recruitment efforts. More than 59 percent of the 320 students served by the program annually are Hispanic and there were 104 Hispanic graduates from the program in 2010.

Excelencia will begin accepting nominations for next year’s list in January 2013. A searchable database is available online that lists past honorees, so you can search for programs in your area that may be worthy of media coverage.

Related Links:

– Examples of Excelencia 2012.

– Growing What Works Database.

– “Seventh annual Celebracion de Excelencia event honors top programs that increase Latino student success in College.” Excelencia in Education.

Supreme Court to Consider Affirmative Action in College Admissions

The U.S. Supreme Court will take up a case involving the use of race in admissions decisions at the University of Texas. Affirmative action has long been a hot-button issue.

UT currently admits the top 10 percent of high school graduates. However, the state uses race and ethnicity as a factor when considering whether to admit students who are not in the top 10 percent. In 2010, among undergraduates accepted 49 percent were white, 22.5 percent Latino, 5 percent black with Asian students accounting for most of the remainder.

The Houston Chronicle reports that Louisiana State University senior Abigail Noel Fisher, who is white, sued after she was rejected by UT, who graduated in the top 12 percent of her high school class with a 3.59 GPA. “I hope the court will decide that all future UT applicants will be allowed to compete for admission without their race or ethnicity being a factor,” Fisher said in a statement released by the Project on Fair Representation.

 A representative of the American Council on Education spoke in defense of using race as an admissions factor. “We hope we will be able to continue to apply the institutional mission that includes diversity as one of the features that a school values,” Ada Meloy of the council told the Chronicle.
The newspaper points out that the university has actually increased minority enrollment since it began using the top 10% rule, which doesn’t weigh race.