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 some...is 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 mnadal@brynmawr.edu.

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 nmatos5@gmail.com.

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.