Guest post by Andrés Henriquez (@AndresHenriquez)
Over the last several months there have been a number of exciting developments in the world of education policy that deserve mentioning for all of us in the Latism community. While the summer months may be down time for many, it is a busy time for educators and policymakers who are trying to shape and improve the future lives of Latino children.
And the urgency has grown. As a result of Census data, we know that Hispanics are the fastest growing demographic in the U.S. and we see the impact in our K-12 schools. According to the Department of Education, 37% of students in the 4th grade and 21% of students in 8th grade are considered English language learners. Given this large population of English language learners and questions of a potential ongoing growth in the number of ELL students in our schools, politicians, and policymakers are working to identify and address the current and potential needs of Hispanic students. Here is a sampling of exciting initiatives in progress:
- The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) recently released the report Achievement Gaps: How Hispanic and White Students in Public Schools Perform in Mathematics and Reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Our nation’s report card suggests that Hispanic Students are making progress both in reading and in mathematics (as compared to data a decade ago). However, there is on average a 20 point difference or “achievement gap” between Hispanics and their white counterparts according to the report. Some states are doing better than others to ease the achievement gap but much work remains.
I am reminded of the “Matthew Effect,” a term coined by psychologist and reading researcher Keith Stanovich: “the rich get richer and poor get poorer.” This means that students without a solid early foundation in reading (and those who read less than their classmates who are stronger readers) never gain expanded vocabulary, background knowledge and fluency skills for higher-level compression and learning and always lag behind their peers who are stronger readers. It appears that the Matthew Effect is also happening in mathematics. An excellent analysis of the Latino achievement gap has been written by Sarah Sparks of Education Week “20-Year Hispanic Academic Gaps Persist in Math, Reading.” When this data was released several weeks ago, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sent out a press release that “urged parents, educators, and school leaders at every level of government to make Hispanic Educational excellence a national priority.”
- “Winning the Future: Improving Education for the Latino Community,” a action-oriented white paper was recently released by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence and the Department of Education. “Winning the Future” outlines steps that are critical to our nation’s fastest growing minority group. This includes:
a) Supporting a great teacher in every classroom.
This is particularly true for many Latino students who generally go to schools in areas of poverty and do not have access to effective teachers.
b) Developing the next generation of Latino teachers working with Minority Serving Institutions.
The critical piece with teacher preparation, I believe, is to get highly effective teachers who can teach English language learners from whatever source necessary, including alternative certified teachers.
c) Supporting English learners with new targeted in-school programs.
Yes, we need many more such programs that are effective and research-based. In particular we need to see many more schools with high concentrations of ELLs and Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE students) implementing rigorous college and career readiness curriculums and graduating students prepared for college.
- Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) recently introduced a bill called the “English Learning and Innovation Act of 2011.” The legislation will help ensure that English Learners have access to high-quality instruction that enables them to acquire English and become prepared for postsecondary education and rewarding careers. The bill is calling for competitive grants and could potentially be part of the Elementary Secondary Education Act. Keep your eye on Senate bill 1158 through Government Track website for future details about this important legislation.
- An important addition to educating ELLs to college readiness is the work Stanford University is launching to help build English language proficiency standards to go alongside the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics as well as the forthcoming Next Generation Science Standards. The work, which will be led by Kenji Hakuta a Professor and ELL expert, will help ELLs meet English-proficiency levels in content areas.
These initiatives all offer great opportunities for our Latino children. Last year, President Obama signed Executive Order 13555 demonstrating the President’s strong support for the role Hispanics play in our nation. The result of the Executive Order is playing out this summer as The White House hosted a Hispanic Policy Conference bringing together community leaders to discuss a range of issues which include education. Latism’s very own Giovanni Rodriguez (@giorodriguez) and Elianne Ramos (@ergeekgoddess) were present at the conference and have a nice recap of LATISM at the Whitehouse.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Andrés Henríquez is a program officer in the National Program of Carnegie Corporation of New York, where he leads the Corporation’s work on standards and assessments as well as the work in adolescent literacy. Prior to joining the Corporation, Henríquez served as the Assistant Director at the Center for Children and Technology (CCT) at the New York offices of the Education Development Center, Inc. He has also worked as a program officer at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Washington, as a senior research analyst at MTV Networks, a researcher at Sesame Workshop and taught for five years at a public elementary school in East Harlem. He received his undergraduate degree in psychology from Hamilton College and a M.Ed. from Teachers College, Columbia University.