Friday, May 23, 2008

Blog on Hold

Well, faithful readers, I must announce that this blog will have to be put on indefinite "hold," as your blogger will be leaving Hispanic CREO and moving to a new organization.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Better Late Than Never

Where was this article last November?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

One More Reason to Love NPR

Here's why: they have some smart talk about Latino kids.

Pedro Noguera, venerated and visionary teacher and professor of education at NYU, and Jeffery Passel of the Pew Hispanic Center discuss myths about Latino kids.

1 in 4 children under 5 is now Latino, so this has proven itself to be an increasingly relevant topic as the population grows. Noguera, in particular, offers some strong commentary when talking about the opportunity gap. He notes that Latino students have fewer opportunities to attend well-funded schools and that they are more likely to attend under-resourced schools - which seriously diminishes the likelihood of them attaining an excellent education. Right on. And let's change that, by the way.

Want to listen? Here you go.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Competition = Success for Disabled Students

Researchers Jay P. Greene and Marcus A. Winters weigh in in today's East Valley Tribune on how Arizona's voucher program has benefited the state's special needs population by creating competition between public and private schools. According to their research, special needs students who stay in traditional pubic schools benefit from the voucher program, because their schools are motivated to improve in order to retain students.

Greene and Winters's most recent project measured the impact that a similar voucher program had on public schools in Florida and was sponsored by the Manhattan Institute. The researchers employed their Florida research to analyze Arizona's program.

Initially, I am reluctant to agree with Greene and Winters. After all, just because vouchers have had a positive impact in Florida doesn't necessarily mean that they have been equally effective in Arizona. One must be careful about such slippery reasoning - I prefer hard data.

However, I would say that there's no reason why Greene and Winters can't use the same methods to evaluate Arizona's voucher program - and they should.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A School Choice Win in Washington

The Washington Post published an excellent editorial yesterday praising the city's voucher program and advocating for its renewal.

This is notable for two reasons. Firstly, it's an extremely compelling editorial and secondly, The Washington Post is a somewhat unlikely supporter of this issue. So congratulations to them for bucking the trend and speaking out for this program and the kids that are in it.

I am truly heartened by this city's renewed focus on the future of its children. Mayor Fenty and Chancellor Rhee have brought an amazing fresh breath of reform to Washington and they deserve considerable admiration for their commitment to improving the education of DC's kids.

Now, time will tell if our children's education will ultimately triumph over the status quo and the forces that keep it in place. Luckily, the WTU is embroiled in a nasty lawsuit right now, so maybe they will be distracted from this issue. One can only hope.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Study: Take That, Other Studies!

The Cato Institute released a study today criticizing other studies.


Entitled, "Dismal Science: The Shortcomings of U.S. School Choice Research and How to Address Them," the report points out the flaws in school choice research, focusing in particular on the lack study on the ways that school choice programs affect the education market.

I haven't read the entire report yet, so my comments have to be limited, but I was always under the impression that markets were infrequently addressed because most programs aren't large enough to create systemic market impact. My two cents.

Monday, April 14, 2008

More on Cool V. School

Mr. AB of From the TFA Trenches comments on the San Jose Mercury News article that I wrote about last week. The best part is this:

"Get this straight and send it to your friends: Children of color don’t devalue a good education and therefore fail to get it, they’re never given it and eventually, sensibly, stop caring.

By the time San Jose’s Latino population gets to high school, they will have endured nine years of being told they are failures, of listening to the devaluation of their home language, of watching all fun be stripped from their education, and of receiving sub-par instruction from inadequate teachers. It is a testament to the triumph of the human spirit that any child of color graduates from a high-challenge school at all."

Check out his entire post here. And thanks to dy/dan for the tip-off.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Latinos: Can You "Behave" in School?

I feel like I've spent much of this week ranting about racism in education, but here's another great example (unfortunately): Fairfax County Virginia's "Behavior Study," which ruled that Black and Hispanic kids behave worse and have worse "moral character" than White and Asian students. 

Some brave School Board members are protesting the "study," which was conducted by surveying teachers and asking them to judge the moral character of their students. The results were disaggregated by race and then presented as a staff report. 

For the past few decades, educators have worked to convince the public that all children - regardless of their race or economic background - can learn. And now, they're recanting that statement. Talk about a step backwards. 

Update: The Fairfax County School Board has decided to suspend voting on the report. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Too Cool for School?

Today, Eduwonk's guestblogger J.B. Schramm asks the question, "How Can We Make Going to College Cool?" 

Schramm claims that high school students are more likely to attend college if their friends also plan to attend. Therefore, according to his logic, "positive peer pressure" is the solution to getting kids to go to college. You have to make college cool, or so he writes, because then, kids will want to go. 

One problem: minority and low-income kids don't avoid in college because "it's uncool." They do not enroll because it is expensive, the admissions process is confusing, or they are not academically-prepared for the work, amongst other reasons. These students understand the value of a college degree - it doesn't have to be "cool" - but they are up against a lot of obstacles in reaching that degree. 

It is important to have a "college culture" within schools - and especially important in low-income, high minority schools. But peer pressure isn't enough. Schools need to give our students the practical skills and strategies that will help them understand how to apply to college, get in, and stay through graduation. Kids understand the value of college - let's teach them how to get there. 

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Dropout Crisis: Not a Problem After All

So, maybe this whole dropout thing isn't as terrible as we thought. 

Or so says Steve Blow in his Dallas Morning News article, published yesterday. 

"Here's my guess," he writes, "Most kids who drop out manage to become productive citizens anyway." Later in the article, Blow declares, "Look around. Lots and lots of jobs require only a basic academic education. Let's tailor some schools to match those students and those jobs." 

He's right - there are a lot of jobs that require only a basic education. But are those the jobs that provide livable salaries, that come with health care benefits, that include a 401k plan? 

Most likely not. 

The point of education - which Blow misses - is to give our children options for the future. We must prepare them for any career path that they choose. Students should be equally prepared to choose to become auto mechanics as they would be to become pre-med students. There is nothing wrong with having a job that doesn't require a lot of education, but children must be able to opt out of these jobs and not be forced into them. 

I'm pretty sure that Blow has never heard the phrase, "the soft racism of low expectations." Unfortunately, that is just what he is promoting. 

The Daily Grito is back, new and improved!

The Daily Grito has returned from its brief hiatus - and we are ready to make some changes to our blog! 

Firstly, we will begin to post regularly three times per week: on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. These postings will cover all of the weekly news and information about education reform and the Latino community. 

Secondly, we will be partnering with some new guestbloggers to provide you with even more commentary on education reform. More news about that to follow. 

Thirdly, we will now offer periodic interviews and analyses of educational issues. We will also switch the Friday blog round up to be a periodic feature. 

We look forward to all of these changes and the improvements that they will offer to our blog. We hope that you do too! 

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Hispanic High School Grads Are On the Rise

By Guestblogger Rena Mathena

The West Interstate Commission for Higher Education has just released its 7th edition of their report,
Knocking at the College Door: Projections of High School Graduates by State and Race/Ethnicity, 1992-2022, which has some shocking and exciting numbers for the Hispanic high school population across the country.

Out of all high school students, Latinos are the ones who will see the largest increase in their graduation rate from 2004-2005 to 2021-2022. In states where there is a large Latino population, like Arizona, Colorado, and Florida, the increase is an exciting surprise, since all three states are looking at more than a 60% jump, with Arizona expecting a 102.6% swell in graduates. The increase of Hispanic graduates is going to be an excellent contributor to the overall increase of the national graduation rate.

Even in states with smaller Latino populations, like Tennessee, Nevada, and Utah, the projected growth of Hispanic high school students and graduates will give their parents a powerful influence in the education systems of their state. With more Latino students and parents becoming part of the school system, their voice for change and choice will be louder and could help bring about more educational reforms in states where that had never been a big possibility.

Some of the most impressive expected growths, like Nevada’s 228.7% increase of Hispanic graduates and Tennessee’s +400% projected increase, will be a big bright sign to state educators and officials. Parents are going to be looking at their schools and wanting the best choices to assure their children will be a part of this rising achievement trend.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Language Debate Across the States

In Florida, some educators and individuals are calling for better instruction in Spanish and more efforts to ensure that bilingual children are also biliterate...whereas in Arizona, the battle is still raging over the state's new English fluency requirements and their potentially punitive effects on students.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Even for Citizens, In-State Status is Hard to Attain

The Washington Post has an article today about how some Latino students - U.S. citizens - have been denied in-state tuition at public universities because of the immigration status of their parents. A number of universities have ruled that if their parents are illegal immigrants, these children can be denied in-state tuition, because they are "technically" dependent on the status of their parents.

This seems like a clear violation of citizens' rights to me, but take a look for yourself...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Homeschooling Parents Victorious in California

The California Department of Education will continue to allow parents without official teaching credentials to homeschool their children, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The decision signifies a major victory on the part of homeschooling parents, who came under fire in February when a California court ruled to require parents who homeschool their children to have teacher certification. Despite this decision - which has been decried by many of the state's politicians - the state Department of Education will maintain their current policy on home schooling - effectively ignoring the ruling.

The Dept. of Education's decision to maintain their original policies ensures that home schooling continues to exist as a vital educational option for California's children. Although on the whole, only a small percentage of Hispanic students are homeschooled, a movement is growing to attract more minority students to this type of education.

Bonus: An op-ed from the San Francisco Chronicle commenting on this issue.

Monday, March 10, 2008

UCLA's New Major Combines Spanish, Community Service

Undergraduates at UCLA can now combine their work in Spanish literature with community service under a new major entitled, "Spanish and community and culture," which was instituted by the university this week. The program allows students to merge their love for Cervantes and Gabriel García Márquez with social justice internships, ensuring both a strong academic education and significant practical experience.

Kudos to UCLA for encouraging social involvement amongst its students. I will be interested to see if the majority of students who participate in this program are Latino themselves, or if other minorities and White students also sign up for the new major.

Will also be interesting to see if Black Studies departments and Women's Studies departments take on this idea for themselves.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Spanish-Speaking Parents: Are You Keeping Up with Your Kids?

By Guestblogger Rena Mathena

After reading these two recent articles, from the Denver Post and the Star-Ledger, I was wondering what connections could be made between the two.

The first discusses the Denver Public School System’s increasing percentage of gifted minority students participating in the “highly gifted and talented” programs. According to the article, schools are trying to include the 76% Latino and Black student population in their special programs regardless of their first language or how many free lunches they receive. This translates to mini-Affirmative Action technique to help those students who may not be scoring as high as white students to also benefit from the special program. Although the figures are increasing, the overall percentage of “gifted” students who are ethnic minorities is only 25%.

The second article from New Jersey’s Star-Ledger described the struggles of the large Hispanic population's struggle to have civil resources printed in Spanish. Spanish-speaking New Jersey residents are in need to bilingual bus schedules, instructions for registering their children for school, etc. If this information is provided in Spanish, the 900,000 people speaking Spanish in New Jersey would be able to take advantage of resources that were previously unknown to them and they would also be able to understand state regulations that were previously posted only in English.

Examining these two articles through a parent-student perspective is easy. If more resources are printed in English and Spanish - as the Hispanic community in New Jersey recommends - more Hispanic parents would be able to understand school notices and the options their children have of participating in special programs, such as gifted and talented programs. With increased parental involvement and support for their children’s participation, the percentage of Hispanic students in gifted and talented programs at schools would increase, giving more students a chance to learn at their greatest potential.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: the more parents are involved in their children’s schooling, the better opportunities students will have to learn at their best.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Goldwater Institute Releases Study of Arizona's Choice Programs

Today Matthew Ladner of the Goldwater Institute released a study entitled "School Choice in Arizona: A Review of Existing Programs and a Road Map for Future Reforms."

The school choice programs in Arizona serve a considerable number of Latino children, so his findings will be of particular relevance to the Hispanic community.

Young Latino Voters Charge Polls and I Philosophize

This is good news for the Latino community. The more voters, the better, and having politically engaged young people will be key to the future well-being of Hispanics in the U.S.

But simply having voters is not enough. It is essential to have educated voters - voters who can think for themselves, reason for themselves, and independently decide how they should vote. This is where our country's educational system steps in, as it was founded to ensure that every child in America would have the skills necessary to be this sort of educated voter and participate in the democratic system. Although today, we often consider education an end in itself, in truth, it is the means to an end - that end being a functional democracy.

So, when 47% of Latino children are dropping out of high school before graduation, we can ask, is our school system accomplishing its ultimate goal? Is it creating young adults who have the literacy and critical thinking skills necessary to be productive citizens? Is it creating young adults who are educated voters?

The answer: a resounding no.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Chiming in...

The NY Sun adds it's $0.02 on Obama's voucher stance/slip.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Obama's Voucher Backlash

I pretty much always like reading Joe Williams's Democrats for Education Reform blog and this post on Obama's "scandalizing" voucher moment is a worthy, entertaining read, even though it's a few days old.

Here's some additional analysis on the V-word from Education Week's Campaign K-12.

Welcome Colorado Visitors!

Welcome y bienvenidos to all listeners of Colorado's 1150 AM, where I recently spoke on-air about this blog.

If you are interested in reading about why this blog was founded, you can find out here.

I encourage you to leave comments and feedback on our posts and if you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me at

Thursday, February 21, 2008

School Choice in Watts

Hispanic Pundit has a posted an excellent video about school reform in Watts - the notoriously troubled section of LA. The video centers on the trials and travails of Locke High School, which you may remember as the center of this 2007 controversy.

As you watch, keep in mind that Locke High School is not the only school in such desperate need for change. Thousands of other schools across the U.S. are in need of similar reforms.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Retrospective: Latino Students After Seven Years of NCLB

Elena Rocha at the Center for American Progress has a new article up: "NCLB and Latinos: No Latino Child Left Behind Matters." She does a good job profiling the Latino education crisis AND speaking on the positive gains that Latino students have made under the accountability-focused NCLB.

And then there's this:

Failure to take immediate action to improve public schooling for Latinos will be detrimental. There isn’t much time to reverse course. Latinos are and will continue to be a significant force in every aspect of American life. Admittedly, constructing a 21st century education system that properly supports Latinos and other minorities, poor children, English language learners, and children with disabilities will require greater commitment and financial investments from federal, state, and local leaders. But continuing on the existing path is not an option.

I don't take issue with her assertion that public schooling for Latinos must improve - it's true, it must. But I have to disagree that "greater commitment and financial investments from federal, state, and local leaders" is going to be the key to improving those public schools. More money does not equal a better education; take DC, for example, which consistently ranks among the lowest in the country on student achievement, yet spends over $13,000 per pupil.

Years of pouring money into our school system has not solved the Latino education crisis - 42% of Latino students still drop out of high school before graduation.

Therefore, I ask: do you want a system that supports all kinds of learners? Where students attend schools that serve their individual educational needs? Where Latino students are consistently successful, because they are learning in a way that suits them?

Give families a choice. Give them school choice.

And best of all: it won't cost us millions of dollars.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Florida's Class Size Reduction Threatens Public School Choice

This fall, Florida's schools will begin to enforce a strict class size reduction policy, decreasing the number of student slots allowed in each classroom, according to the Tampa Tribune.

The policy will reduce the overall number of choice spots that are available in public schools - meaning that parents who apply for inter-district transfers or hardship transfers are more likely to be denied. Unfortunately, this means that low-income families will have even fewer educational options than before.

However, an unintended consequence of this policy may be that more parents end up applying for Florida's CTC scholarships, which provide children with the opportunity to attend a private school. I will definitely be interested to see if applications to this program increase as class size reduction takes effetc.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hispanic CREO's Target States Win Big in Friedman Study

By: Rena Mathena

Hispanic CREO is seeing positive results in our target states, where we are working to empower families with school choice. The Friedman Foundation's latest evaluation of the nation's 21 school choice programs finds that three of our target states have some of the best-ranking school choice programs.

Hispanic CREO's target states of Arizona, Florida, and Ohio all have school choice programs ranking in the top ten positions, with the Florida McKay Scholarship Program for students with disabilities in the number one spot, and Arizona’s Personal Tax Credit Scholarship coming in at number three.

Others in the top ten included Arizona’s Foster Child Vouchers (number 5), Ohio’s Autism Vouchers (number 6) and Educational Choice (EdChoice) Vouchers (number 8), and Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarships (number 10).

This new evaluation, along with other recent articles and reports, is building major momentum in the school choice movement, softening the ground for school choice programs in other states. The movement is likely to gain even more momentum if school choice continues to retain support from Republicans, while growing its support amongst Democrats.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

School Choice Works for Latino Kids!

Apparently, it's been working pretty fantastically since 1998.

If you haven't already read Matthew Ladner's analysis comparing the NAEP performance of Latino students in Florida to those in Arizona, well....hop to it and check out the incredible difference that school choice has made.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Snell v. Stern on Instructional Reform

A good article by Lisa Snell came out of Reason Magazine yesterday. It's a response to Sol Stern's (now infamous) criticism of school choice and a detailed analysis of how instructional reform has yielded little impact on the achievement rates of low-income and minority kids. As she notes, good instruction is essential (that's a given), but it is not The Answer to education reform; school choice is still necessary.

Definitely a thought-provoking read.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Are Latinos Disenchanted with GOP Policy?

By Guestblogger Rena Mathena

This past Wednesday, the Colorado Confidential posted this article,
“State of U.S. Latinos has Suffered in Bush-led Union, Hispanic Leaders Say,” by Kate Bernuth, explaining the loss of Latino support during President Bush’s second term after noticing that nothing was much better than it had been in 2004, when Bush had 40% of the Hispanic vote, a record number for a GOP candidate.

After all the promises made by Bush during his first term that have yet to be completely accomplished, like reforming the immigration system, providing health care for uninsured Hispanic workers, and improving education opportunities for minorities and low-income families, it’s no wonder why the Republican National Hispanic Assembly of Colorado is saying that the GOP will struggle to get a high percentage of the Hispanic vote. After listening to his last State of the Union address on Jan. 28, Bush did not seem to be advocating for his Hispanic voters and he hardly mentioned the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001, which he began to improve K-12 public education, especially for minority and low-income students. It almost seemed like he had given up, making it hard for most Latino voters to continue to support the GOP or to have believe that NCLB will continue and improve public education. The one vague promise is his proposed "Pell Grants for Kids" program, which has potential, but also needs to be further "fleshed out" before we can put much faith in it.

Looking at the statistics from 2004, 24% of Latino 16- to 24-year-olds dropped out of high school and only 25% of those who did graduate went directly to college. In 2006, 22.4% of Latino students dropped out of high school, and of those who did graduate, only 30.3% went directly to college. Not much of a difference when looking back on the grand promises of NCLB, implemented by Bush to repair the educational crisis.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Details: Pell Grants for Kids

Like all other cabinet-level departments, the Dept. of Education unveiled its 2009 fiscal year budget yesterday. Here are some details on the much-talked about and controversial Pell Grants for Kids:

  • $300 million has been designated for the program.
  • The scholarships are directed primarily towards minority, low-income students attending low-performing schools.
  • Students receiving the scholarships will have to take national standardized assessments and have their progress tracked (although schools will not be held to NCLB standards).
  • Individual states and LEAs will be able to apply for the grants on a competitive basis.
Latino students are likely to benefit significantly from the program, as they are some of America's students most likely to attend low-performing schools and thus, most likely to receive one of the Pell Grants for Kids.

If yesterday's budget hearing was any indication, this program is sure to incite strong feelings from voucher opponents. At one point, the questions from the audience actually devolved into a rant against Secretary Spellings's aides and their "love of vouchers and NCLB."

Hold on, friends...this is going to be a wild ride.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

More on Teachers v. Parents

New Education Policy Research study on how to encourage parental involvement despite language barriers.

Hint: Find new ways to reach ELL parents.

New University of Missouri study on low-income students' access to high-quality teachers.

Hint: They don't have much.

Teachers v. Parents: Who is the Greater Influence?

In his weekly column for the WaPo, Jay Matthews argues that, contrary to popular belief, teachers have a greater influence on children's achievement than their parents:

Do unsupportive parents create pathetic schools or do pathetic schools create unsupportive parents? It is the most frustrating of chicken-and-egg questions. Many education experts will say it is a bit of both, but that's a cop-out. Most of our worst schools are full of low-income children in our biggest cities. No one has yet found a way to revive those schools in any significant way by training the students' parents to be more engaged with their children's educations. It is too hard to do and too unlikely to have much impact on the chaotic school district leadership.

What has worked, again and again, is the opposite: Bring an energetic and focused leader into the school, let that person recruit and train good teachers and find ways to get rid of those who resist making the necessary changes. Great teaching makes great schools, and once you have a good school, parents become engaged and active.

I don't disagree with him entirely, but I do believe Matthews gives too little credit to parents.

Matthews focuses mainly on parental engagement - for example, programs that teach parents how to help their children with their homework. This type of program is clearly important, but as Matthews said, it doesn't exactly create systemic change. Students benefit and parents benefit, but schools rarely transform because parents start checking homework assignments at night.

What does have the power to create systemic change - and what Matthews misses - is parental advocacy. This type of "parental involvement" is not taught by schools, primarily because of its political nature. After all, if schools teach parents to demand better, eventually, those parents will start demanding better of the schools themselves.

Yet advocacy is a necessary skill for parents, especially low-income, minority parents. Wealthy Anglo parents often have the education, social capital, and financial resources to be effective advocates for their children. Low-income parents, minority parents, immigrant parents - these are people who we should pour our resources into. These are the people to whom we must say, "This is America. Your child deserves an excellent education. Now, let's go fight for it."

If it is taught effectively, parental advocacy can change not just the lives of students and parents, but the entire school system as well. This is the next phase of parental involvement - moving from engagement to advocacy - and it has incredible potential.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Well, this is not the first time..

that you've heard it, but School Reform News is reporting that "School Choice Could Help Slow Latino Dropout Rate."

Interestingly, the article includes some comments on the difference in dropout rates between Latino immigrants and American-born Latinos. For obvious reasons, Latino immigrants drop out of school at a much higher rate, but as of yet, there is little research to indicate exactly how educators can reach out to these students and prevent them from leaving school. As the Latino immigrant population grows and moves to new areas, however, this will surely because a necessity for school systems that want to graduate their Latino youth.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Friday Blog Roundup

This week's finalists, in quote form:

"Maybe that’s the problem. I got into teaching for all the wrong reasons. I was idealistic… I didn’t think I would change the world, by any means, but I thought I would infuse enlightenment into the neglected minds of these inner city kids. What can I say? I was 17.... I was going to be the radical English teacher that taught the kids to subvert the system and refuse to surrender to their destiny." Se Hace Camino Al Andar.


"If it becomes law, AB586 would provide formal and financial acknowledgement to a reality that informs all the work we do in education. It is not only more difficult, but more expensive to educate an English Language Learner. It is not only more difficult, but more expensive to educate a low-income child. As long as Los Altos spends $11,000 per student while my district spends $6,000, educational equity will remain a pursuit and never a point of arrival." Teaching in the 408.


"I have lived on the East Coast and in the Midwest for more than 18 years, and during that time I've come to deeply appreciate the great capacity and courage of Americans to talk about their problems and differences rather, needless to say, than shooting each other over them. But today, such conversations seem fewer and less civil than they once were.

Perhaps the reason why Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's message of reconciliation is getting some traction is because for many Americans, the divisiveness and intolerance of recent years have meant the erosion of a fundamental American value." Desde Washington.

Guest Posting at Hispanic Pundit!

One-third of Latino college students say that their parents should be more involved in their college careers - and help them decide things like which classes to take and which activities to participate in.

And you thought college kids just wanted to "fly the coop."

Want to learn more? Head on over to Hispanic Pundit, where I've posted my first guest blog.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Mark Krikorian Cries "Multiculturalism!"

In an article for the National Review Online today, Mark Krikorian attacks John McCain for his support of "multiculturalism," which he defines (with Francis Fukuyama's help) as, "not just tolerance of cultural diversity in de facto multicultural societies, but as the demand for legal recognition of the rights of ethnic, racial, religious, or cultural groups."

Of course, Krikorian condemns McCain's stance on immigration, but what's more, he derides his support of bilingual education. He also criticizes McCain for insisting that Hispanic Americans be honestly and realistically represented in the media - as the important, intelligent human beings that they are.

Wait a minute! Krikorian is criticizing McCain for these things? For recognizing the civil rights of other people? Wow, I must have missed the big meeting where bigotry and racism became okay again. But no matter. My best suggestion is this: read Krikorian's intolerant, supremacist message. Then, write to him and explain exactly WHY he is so very wrong - and why minorities in this country deserve basic civil rights. Also note that, once upon a time, his ancestors were immigrants and minorities too - and that only because this country afforded THEM basic rights, is he even writing his column today.

This man must be joking.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Latinos in 2008: MALDEF Roundtable

The Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) hosted its first annual roundtable on law, policy, and civil rights this afternoon, titling it, "State of Latinos 2008." The roundtable featured three different panels, which focused separately on Congress and Public Policy, the Judiciary and MALDEF's Key Lawsuits, and the Presidential Elections and the Latino Vote.

The event was impressive for a number of reasons, not least of which was the diversity that it brought to the (round) table. Hispanics from various backgrounds, organizations and political affiliations weighed in on the issues, offering their unique perspectives on such matters as comprehensive immigration reform, "activist judges," how Democrat and Republican candidates are (or are not) reaching Latino voters and more.

Much of the discussion centered around immigration reform, for obvious reasons. A majority of the panel participants were pessimistic about the chances for immigration reform in 2008 and many were adamant about the need to "change the tone" of the immigration debate. Some speakers characterized immigration reform as a social justice issue. "People need to understand that erosion of rights for a slippery slope... that leads to erosion of rights for all," said Maria Echaveste, a member of the board of directors of MALDEF.

Being involved in partisan issues on a daily basis, it can become easy to forget that some issues truly do unite people across parties. Therefore - and pardon my gushing - it was inspiring to see Hispanics from both sides of the aisle committed to this cause.

My one major criticism is this: for a roundtable on "civil rights," an awful lot of civil rights issues appeared to be missing from the agenda. Things like, oh, education reform, health care, etc. I'm looking forward to another roundtable next year, but also hoping for some changes in this arena.

Comments Have Returned!

As the more observant among you may notice, I have officially turned the comments back "on" for The Daily Grito. I hope that this will encourage more discussion and debate amongst my readers - so please contribute!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Spanish to English: Helping Adult ELLs Make the Transition

Fairleigh Dickinson, an independent university in northern New Jersey, has recently begun a program called "MiraeRo," or "To the Future," to help adult Korean speakers to transition to speaking English while studying for an associate in arts (A.A.) degree. This is modeled after the university's "Puerta al Futuro" (Gateway to the Future) program, which was originally designed for Spanish-speaking English Language Learners. The programs, which last three years in total, offer evening and weekend classes to ELL students with little to no knowledge of English and gradually transition them from classes taught their native language to classes taught exclusively in English. The Puerta al Futuro program, which began in 2003 with 20 students, has now grown to over 200 students.

The potential impact of this type of program is impressive, especially for Latino adults. Considering that in 2003, less than 12% of US Hispanics had a bachelor's degree, one can easily see how programs like these could offer excellent educational opportunities to Spanish-speaking adults. Not only would higher educational attainment amongst Latinos benefits the students themselves, but the degrees would make them more marketable and employable and thus, more likely to contribute positively to the American economy on the whole. If well-designed and well-executed, these programs have the potential to empower huge numbers of adult ELL students to find better, higher paying careers and increase the amount in which they give back to our economy.

New Guestblogger: Hispanic Pundit

Hispanic Pundit will now be guestblogging occasionally for The Daily Grito and I will be doing the same on his site. Free market ideas, education reform, the Hispanic community - what could be a better combination?

Stay tuned for his always interesting reporting and commentary on the latest in politics and daily events.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Friday Blog Roundup

Today's blog roundup asks the following questions:

Online public schools....are they the educational option of the future?

What is the perspective of a KIPP mom on the schools' pedagogy and structure?*

Must curriculum for ELL students be culturally relevant?

* This entry is especially notable for the KIPP debate, since, in the blogosphere, there is a great glut of opinions from educators and ed reformers and hardly any weigh-in from families who are actually in the KIPP schools.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Educational Robin Hood: Sneaking into Out-of-District Schools

Today's blog post is authored by an Hispanic CREO intern, Moira Nadal. For comments or questions, she can be reached at

An article in the New York Times reveals a crisis currently faced by many suburban school districts: students claiming false residence to sneak into out-of-district schools. It describes the experience of one school in New Jersey trying to deal with this problem and the drastic measures administrators have turned to in order to cope. To combat this major problem, for example, school districts are hiring investigators and retired policemen, creating anonymous hotlines and posting bounties for reports of out-of-district students that are proven to be true.

The lack of educational opportunities that creates this phenomenon is a problem for students across the US. Several sources in the article are quoted as saying that students’ sneaking in is a persistent problem in their districts. This is clearly a manifestation of parents' need to have more and better options for schooling their children. In several parents’ and community blogs across the nation, parents admit to sending their children to out-of-district schools and give many reasons why they choose to do so. For many parents in the Berkeley area, for example, the issue of convenience came up for working parents who want their child’s school to be closer to their place of work. In Georgia’s Henry County, many seem to believe that a search for better facilities is leading students to sneak in from neighboring counties.

Other forums mention students who want to switch to another school because of smaller classes, better teachers, and safer learning environments. These reasons for transferring are particularly relevant to Latino students, who are disproportionately enrolled in failing or persistently dangerous schools. For many low-income Hispanics, especially those who are denied school choice and lack the resources to pay for private school, transferring to an out-of-district school - or sneaking in - may be the only viable opportunity for a decent education.

There are still many parents who wish that their child’s school were more convenient, to their work or to a caregiver. There are parents frustrated by the lack of qualified teachers and learning materials, overcrowding, and violence; who wish for their children to be able to go to schools with more competitive sports teams or with specialized language classes. There are many reasons that students are sneaking illegally into other school districts - these reasons are the same why parents deserve to be given more power over their children’s school choices.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Preschool: The Magic Dropout Prevention Technique?

Each year, hundreds of thousands of Latino students enter high school. Four years later, less than 60% of them graduate. Nationally, Latinos represent one of the highest dropout rates of any ethnic group; dropping out at a rate much more frequent than White or Asian students.

Today, the WaPo features Jay Matthews's reflection on dropout intervention strategies - and the effectiveness of each. The most "impactful" program appears to be a preschool program, where students spend 1.8 years in a preschool which has small classes and requires parental involvement. This program yielded 19 "extra" high school graduates for every 100 students who participated. Other programs relied on class size reduction, teacher salary increases, etc... but check them out for yourself.

What Matthew's rightly notes is that only one of the programs profiled can actually be instituted by high school educators - the rest are for K-8 schools.

Even so, it is interesting to me to see that the most effective program is a preschool program. This validates the correlation between Latinos' dropout rates and their lack of preschool education (Latino children in the US are the least likely to receive early childhood education). It also gives us some clues as to where we should focus our resources when trying to address the Latino dropout crisis.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Futures Uncertain for Undocumented Graduates

This morning, the Washington Post takes on the question, "What happens to undocumented students after high school?" Without the protection of an official visa or the benefits of in-state residency, college is simply out of reach for most undocumented students, no matter how impressive their academic achievements. The article doesn't offer easy answers or propose a solution to this problem, but it does offer an informative glimpse into the battles that these students must fight if they want to pursue higher education.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Friday Blog Roundup

Away we go! These blog links were compiled by myself and my fabulous intern, Nicole.

Wow, do I feel for NYC Educator after
this day. Ah, the joys of teaching. Like the time one of my students gave me a "research paper" that was actually a Wikipedia entry on LeBron James. Of course, he then tried to tell me, when I showed him the Wikipedia, that they weren't the same thing.

Liking the Republican candidates this year, but don't know how to separate the sound bites from the truth? For those of you who care about education reform,
take a look at Sadie's review of the Republican candidates and their positions. This post is very well researched and most importantly, includes a "Real Actions" list of what the candidates have actually done to effect change. Amen.

It's like eduwonkette was reading my mind....well, at least,
we were thinking about the same things this week. Check out her response to the question, "Where should I send my kid?"

Thursday, January 10, 2008

UK Paves Way for Education; US Latinos Lag Behind

Today's post is written by Nicole Matos, a student of Bryn Mawr College and an intern at Hispanic CREO. She can be contacted by e-mail at

UK school minister Jim Knight announced plans to require that every secondary school student, almost 6 million children, to have Internet access in their homes, according to Friday's article from the Guardian. The government will work with major IT corporations, such as Virgin and Microsoft, to make such services more affordable and schools will receive 100 million pounds to guarantee access for disadvantaged families. The major motivation out of this is to narrow the achievement gap between “pupils from the richest and poorest families”. This gap widened in the UK by 10% last year.

The initiative will help narrow the achievement gap in two ways. Firstly, it will level the playing field amongst students. At this time, more than one million UK children do not have access to a computer. Lacking the ability to do Internet research and other computer work at home, these students are at a great disadvantage when competing with their more technologically privileged peers. For these children, most learning and schoolwork is limited to school or a library, while more privileged students get to do it at home. Secondly, the initiative will narrow the achievement gap by creating a network for parents to receive “real time reporting,” online updates and communication from teachers and students.

A policy like this instated in the US would be a positive step forward to solving our own gap. A recent report done by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund shows that Latinos, especially Latino children, are lagging far behind their White counterpoints when it comes to having computer and Internet access. According to the report, only about 40% of Black and Latino children have Internet access, while 77.4% of White children do. Even at a higher income levels, Latinos still lag behind and Spanish speaking Latinos are not to “have strikingly low rates” of computer ownership and Internet access.

Technologically disadvantaged students suffer a vicious cycle where their lack of computer ownership and Internet access affects their educational success which, in turn, affects their future career success. A policy like this would be an exciting new way to get Latino children a better chance at academic success and would be a first step to getting Latinos on the right path to computer literacy.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Wedneday Issue: Educating Parents to Make the Right School Choose

Earlier this week, the University of Colorado at Boulder and Arizona State University released a collaborative study entitled, "Who Chooses Schools, and Why?" Full text found here.

In the report, the authors examine how parents who exercise school choice evaluate their children's educational options and settle on the best school. They review the literature about parents who send their children to private school, as well as parents who participate in means-based voucher programs, who send their children to charter or magnet schools, and those who choose to homeschool their own children.

Here are some key findings (in italics) and my commentary:

The primary stated motivation in all types of choice is perceived academic quality; the primary influence in terms of documented behavior is peer composition in terms of race and class.... White parents tend to avoid schools with high minority concentrations, and minority parents tend to avoid schools with high percentages of low-income students.

Therefore, while parents are searching primarily for the best academic education for their children, demographic information heavily influences how they define "best academic education."

The school choice movement has long argued that school choice will desegregate schools. While it is true that in certain cities, private schools are more racially diverse than their public counterparts, this research indicates that not all parents who elect schools of choice are necessarily looking for racial (or class) diversity. Therefore, the question becomes: how do we help (White) parents get away from the assumption that a high minority population equals a worse education and
how do we convince (minority) parents that schools with large low-income populations can offer a good education?

The primary way that parents learn about schools in through their social networks.... What social networks do is present constrained sets of schools. Of particular note here is that lower-income families tend to have more failing and less competitive schools in their choice sets.

Here is where school choice organizations can provide a real boon to parents. We have the resources to develop effective "word of mouth" strategies to reach out to low-income parents. So, what will they be? How can we ensure that parents are getting the right "word of mouth" information and thus, empowered to make good decisions about their children's schooling?

Recent research also shows that having instructional and academic information about schools, which many choice programs provide (i.e. booklets on choice programs) is not necessarily sufficient to get families to choose schools of high academic quality. Demographic information about schools appears to be a key factor parents consider in a variety of choice settings...

And here, friends, is one of the paradoxes of school choice. Universal school choice means that parents have the power to choose whatever schools they want, and that choice can be based on whatever information they want, even if it goes against the ideals of the school choice movement (like desegregating schools, for example). So how do we strike a balance between giving parents what they want (and deserve) and ensuring that choice really CAN improve and diversify our school system? It's an interesting question and something that, surely, choice advocates should have on their minds.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Big WHY

Why, oh why, Michael Gerson asks in a WaPo op-ed, haven't Democrats pursued real education reform?

Why should teacher pay be determined by collective bargaining instead of teacher competence, especially in low-income schools that need to reward and retain good teachers? Why not give districts more flexibility to fire teachers who would serve children better by changing professions?

Edbizbuzz offers a provocative - and quite poetic - response to his question.

Tomorrow's Wednesday Issue: Join the Daily Grito as we expound on what recent research on parental involvement in school choice programs means for education activists.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Parents and the Education Game

I've been reading a bit on parental involvement lately, but I promise that I will not even mention the phrase "helicopter parent."

Firstly, of particular interest to the Latino community, are the ideas of Edwin C. Darden, Appleseed's director of education policy, who writes on how to teach low-income parents to "work the system" to guarantee their children's best education. Noting that many low-income parents do not understand how the educational system operates and do not believe that they can influence it in any way, Darden cites the need for legislation like NCLB, which, he claims, "has the potential to address these problems [see above] and spark greater parental involvement throughout the United States." He also recognizes that, "The grand battles over testing, adequate yearly progress, and reconstruction of failing schools threaten to swamp efforts to strengthen compliance with NCLB's parental involvement provisions."

Obviously, Darden is right that parents are not effectively engaged in their children's education. But are the mandates of NCLB really all that helpful? Here's what NCLB gives parents: a few letters home, saying, "Your child's school did not make AYP, therefore, you may enroll him/her in free tutoring classes." Is that engaging parents, truly educating them and empowering them to make decisions about their children's education?

I much prefer some of the other ideas that Darden includes, such as Montgomery (MD) County's Parent Academy, which offers more than 35 free workshops for parents. These workshops are not mandated by NCLB - but they seem to be a much more effective way to get parent's involved in their children's education and not just act as spectators.

Secondly, a thank you to the blog Historical/Present for directing me to the report Deciding on Postsecondary Education, from the National Postsecondary Education Cooperative. Some key points critical to the Latino community:

- Focus groups with first generation students revealed that it is not unlikely for academically under-prepared and/or first generation students to delay the college search process for a few years following their high school graduation.

- Research by Zimbroff (quoted in the study), revealed that youth in cultures that emphasize community values and discourage "standing out" are less likely to leave home and tend to prefer local institutions over prestigious or geographically distant colleges.

- Focus group research indicated that Hispanic first generation college students were encouraged to stay close to home for college, since they would "need the support of their families."

Some other interesting findings in the study - I suggest you check it out.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

University-School Partnerships: A Collaboration for Success?

Happy New Year! I'm glad to be back with you for 2008.

There will be no "Wednesday Issue/Interview" today, seeing as today is really a "Monday" - well, okay, it just feels like one. However, I am happy to report on some recent education reform news:

California is trying an innovative approach to school partnerships: allowing colleges and universities to start their own K-12 schools. Now, university-school partnerships are not a new idea; over the past few decades, it has become a common practice (especially in urban areas) for institutions of higher education to collaborate with schools and districts to improve learning. What's new about this is that for the first time, California can claim a number of schools that are actually RUN by colleges and universities - not just partnered with them.

The universities pitch it as a win-win situation: the children receive a high-quality education (thus, improving their chances at a successful college career) and the universities win by being able to "funnel" these youngsters into their college programs. Oh, and by the way, the schools also serve as "laboratories" to see whether the educational theories being taught by the university are working or, as the article quotes, "falling flat."

Wow, I would love to have my child attending a school where he/she is essentially a lab rat. A chilling quote by Howard Levine, Dean of UC Davis's School of Education, is this:
"Either we know something about how to deliver education to these children or we don't." Well, Mr. Levine, I sure hope that you're banking on knowing! We already have too many schools failing our students; we don't need another one, thank you.

That said, the idea is not all bad. I think that these could be very productive partnerships and they do show a willingness on the part of education schools to be accountable (even if only to themselves). Many schools of education would do well to evaluate their own relevancy and effectiveness; this could be a step in the right direction for that.