Wednesday, August 27, 2014

'Crisis' label deflects responsibility for migrant children by Nestor Rodriguez & Cecilia Menjívar

I really respect the opinion of these two scholars on the matter of migration and unaccompanied minors.  Both have dedicated their entire careers to the topic of hemispheric migration.  We would do well to heed their cautionary words and analysis on how this so-called "crisis" is actually, unfortunately, nothing new but is rather an artifact of the media and political spin that nevertheless has consequences for policies that still may not get at the root of this long-term social problem.
By Nestor Rodriguez and Cecilia Menjívar
The conventional characterization of the day regarding the situation with Central America migrant children heading to the United States is one that simply is not based on reality. There is no crisis.
The media, public officials and politicians have all contributed to create an image of this migration flow as a crisis, but Central American children have migrated unaccompanied to the United States by the thousands for decades. Granted, the numbers increased recently, but the conditions that have been cited in the media to explain this migration have remained constant during the past decade, so they cannot explain the "surge" we saw recently.

This popular construction of a "crisis" in the media, however, has had a significant consequence - not just for what the coverage has related but for what has been left out. It has focused our attention on the violence in the "origin" countries that contributes to the migration north but not to the root causes of this violence and how closely tied it is to U.S. actions.

This image of a crisis supposedly rooted in current violence in Central America misdirects our sense of responsibility for this region, which has suffered for decades from U.S. military interventions, U.S.-supported dictatorial regimes and ruthless neoliberal policies. Perhaps no other region was as thoroughly transformed and brutalized to serve U.S. interests during the Cold War as was Central America. Yet, when the legacy of decades of military intervention and School of the Americas' training of these countries' torturers emerges in the form of the highest murder rates in the world, the United States quickly finds distance from those conditions as if this violence sprang up independently of U.S. actions.

This historical erasure and the depiction of this migration as being the result of a crisis located solely in Central America confuse the American public. They cannot understand why the United States should assume responsibility for the children who are fleeing the conditions of violence that their government in large measure contributed to create.

The depiction of this migratory flow as a crisis also deflects attention from immigration policies in the United States since the 1990s. In our research, we have listened to hundreds of deeply worried Salvadoran, Honduran and Guatemalan parents in the U.S. who toil in multiple jobs to support their children from whom they have been separated for years, if not decades. These Central American parents are unable to travel to visit their children because, given the militarized southern U.S. border and their uncertain status, they would be unable to make it back.

Separation from children for Central American immigrants is quite common, longer and more uncertain than it is among other immigrants - for instance, Mexicans. Under these circumstances, and with their kids facing everyday violence at home, the parents feel pressured to send for the kids. In the absence of a new immigration law to regularize their immigration status, sending for them, even if it is a dangerous enterprise, appears to be the only chance these parents have at family reunification. As long as millions of immigrants continue to live in the United States separated from their children back home for lack of an immigration policy to address their irregular status, the ebb and flow of child migration from Central America to the United States will continue.

There are no quick fixes to the problem of child migration, but one way Congress can start reducing this migration is to pass an immigration policy to lessen family separation, as various congressional measures did from 1965 to the early 1990s. Also, rather than using federal funds to put a bandage on a "problem" that has roots in Cold War policies, the Obama administration can use this money to improve schools, generate opportunities for dignified employment, create safety nets and strengthen public safety in Central America. These measures would go a long way in redressing the damage inflicted on Central Americans during the decades of Cold War expansionism (for which President Bill Clinton apologized to Guatemala in 1999).

These improvements would address the needs of many of those who feel pressured to migrate and those who are compelled to join gangs. Mislabeling social processes like migratory flows as "crises" leads to misplaced responsibility and misdirected and uninformed solutions that create even bigger unintended consequences in the future.

Rodriguez is a professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin and co-author of "Black/Brown Relations and Stereotypes" and "Guatemala-U.S. Migration: Transforming Regions." Menjívar is a professor of sociology at Arizona State University and author of "Fragmented Ties: Salvadoran Immigrant Networks in America" and "Enduring Violence: Ladina Women's Lives in Guatemala."

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A back-to-school conversation with teachers and school leaders

duncan-100As teachers gear up for a new school year, I want to offer two thoughts. One is a message of celebration and thanks. The other is a response to a concern that has come up often in many conversations with teachers and families, and which deserves an answer.
First, the thanks. America’s students have posted some unprecedented achievements in the last year — the highest high-school graduation rate in the nation’s history, and sharp cuts in dropout rates and increases in college enrollment, especially for groups that in the past have lagged significantly. For these achievements, we should celebrate America’s teachers, principals and students and their families. These achievements are also indications of deeper, more successful relationships with our students. All of us who’ve worked with young people know how much they yearn for adults to care about them and know them as individuals.
These achievements come at a time of nearly unprecedented change in American education — which entails enormously hard work by educators. Nearly every state has adopted new standards, new assessments, new approaches to incorporating data on student learning, and new efforts to support teachers.
This transition represents the biggest, fastest change in schools nationwide in our lifetime. And these efforts are essential to prepare kids to succeed in an age when the ability to think critically and creatively, communicate skillfully, and manipulate ideas fluently is vital. I have heard from many teachers that they have not received all the support they’d want during this transition. Yet America’s teachers are making this change work — and I want to recognize and thank them for that and encourage their leadership in this time of change.
That’s the easy part of this message. The harder part has to do with concerns that many teachers have brought to my door.
My team and I hold regular conversations with teachers, principals and other educators, often led by Teacher and Principal Ambassador Fellows, who take a year away from their schools to advise my agency. Increasingly, in those conversations, I hear concerns about standardized testing.
Assessment of student progress has a fundamental place in teaching and learning — few question that teachers, schools and parents need to know what progress students are making. And few question the particular importance of knowing how our most vulnerable students are progressing. Indeed, there’s wide recognition that annual assessments — those required by federal law — have done much to shine a light on the places and groups of students most in need of help. Yet in too many places, it’s clear that the yardstick has become the focus.
There are three main issues I’ve heard about repeatedly from educators:
  1. It doesn’t make sense to hold them accountable during this transition year for results on the new assessments — a test many of them have not seen before — and as many are coming up to speed with new standards.
  2. The standardized tests they have today focus too much on basic skills, not enough on critical thinking and deeper learning.
  3. Testing — and test preparation — takes up too much time.
I share these concerns. And I want our department to be part of the solution.
To those who are reading the last sentence with surprise, let me be clear: assessment is a vital part of teaching and learning, but it should be one part (and only one part) of how adults hold themselves responsible for students’ progress. Schools, teachers and families need and deserve clear, useful information about how their students are progressing. As a parent of two children in public school, I know I want that. And in fact, most teachers and principals I talk with want to be held responsible for students’ progress — through a sensible, smart combination of factors that reflect their work with students — not the level students came in at, or factors outside of their control.
But assessment needs to be done wisely. No school or teacher should look bad because they took on kids with greater challenges. Growth is what matters. No teacher or school should be judged on any one test, or tests alone — always on a mix of measures — which could range from classroom observations to family engagement indicators. In Nevada, educators include a teacher’s contribution to the school community in their measures; in Hawaii, schools consider student feedback surveys and professional growth, such as leading workshops or taking university coursework). Educators in Delaware look at measures of planning and preparation such as lesson plans and descriptions of instructional strategies to be used for students with diverse needs. Federal policy rightly stays out of picking those individual measures, but ensures that in evaluating teachers, states and districts include student growth, and consider multiple measures.
But the larger issue is, testing should never be the main focus of our schools. Educators work all day to inspire, to intrigue, to know their students — not just in a few subjects, and not just in “academic” areas. There’s a whole world of skills that tests can never touch that are vital to students’ success. No test will ever measure what a student is, or can be. It’s simply one measure of one kind of progress. Yet in too many places, testing itself has become a distraction from the work it is meant to support.
I believe testing issues today are sucking the oxygen out of the room in a lot of schools — oxygen that is needed for a healthy transition to higher standards, improved systems for data, better aligned assessments, teacher professional development, evaluation and support and more. This is one of the biggest changes education in this country has ever seen, and teachers who’ve worked through it have told me it’s allowed them to become the best teachers they’ve ever been. That change needs educators’ full attention.
That’s why we will be taking action in the coming weeks that give states more flexibility in key areas that teachers have said are causing worry.
States will have the opportunity to request a delay in when test results matter for teacher evaluation during this transition. As we always have, we’ll work with them in a spirit of flexibility to develop a plan that works, but typically I’d expect this to mean that states that request this delay will push back by one year (to 2015-16) the time when student growth measures based on new state assessments become part of their evaluation systems — and we will work with states seeking other areas of flexibility as well.
We want to make sure that they are still sharing growth data with their teachers, and still moving forward on the other critical pieces of evaluation systems that provide useful feedback to educators. We will be working in concert with other educators and leaders to get this right. These changes are incredibly important, and educators should not have to make them in an atmosphere of worry. Some states will choose to take advantage of that flexibility; others, especially those that are well along in this transition, will not need a delay.
The bottom line is that educators deserve strong support as our schools make vital, and urgently needed, changes. As many educators have pointed out, getting this right rests also on high-quality assessments. Many educators, and parents, have made clear that they’re supportive of assessment that measures what matters — but that a lot of tests today don’t do that — they focus too much on basic skills rather than problem solving and critical thinking. That’s why we’ve committed a third of a billion dollars to two consortia of states working to create new assessments that get beyond the bubble test, and do a better job of measuring critical thinking and writing.
I’m concerned, too, when I see places where adults are gaming tests, rather than using them to help students.
And we also need to recognize that in many places, the sheer quantity of testing — and test prep — has become an issue. In some schools and districts, over time tests have simply been layered on top of one another, without a clear sense of strategy or direction. Where tests are redundant, or not sufficiently helpful for instruction, they cost precious time that teachers and kids can’t afford. Too much testing can rob school buildings of joy, and cause unnecessary stress. This issue is a priority for us, and we’ll continue to work throughout the fall on efforts to cut back on over-testing.
There’s plenty of responsibility to share on these challenges, and a fair chunk of that sits with me and my department. We encouraged states to move a whole lot of changes simultaneously, because of the enormous urgency to raise standards and improve systems of teacher support — not for another generation of students, but for today’s students.
But in how this change happens, we need to listen carefully to the teachers, principals and other educators who are living it on a daily basis — and we need to be true to our promise to be tight on outcomes, but loose on how we get there.
From my first day on this job, the objective has been to work in a spirit of flexibility to help states and communities improve outcomes for kids. We need to make changes, but we are also making progress. I’m determined that, working in partnership, we’ll continue to do both – be flexible and make progress for our kids.
Change is hard, and changes of significance rarely work exactly as planned. But in partnership, making course alterations as necessary, we will get there.
Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education

Delivering a Keynote Address next week on Sept. 3, 2014 at Rice University's 50th anniversary of the Teacher Education Program

--> Friends,I am extremely honored to have been asked to deliver a keynote address next week in Houston at Rice University as part of the 50th anniversary commemoration of its Teacher Education Program on September 3rd in the Anderson-Clarke Center’s Hudspeth Auditorium on the Rice University campus (an RSVP is required) as you can see in this announcement of the event.
Among other things, I will  be talking critically about our high-stakes testing system and how we as Texas can and should move in a different direction, beginning this next legislative session with a sharing of clear ideas on how to move forward—together with a fresh sense of what teacher's work could and should be under this system. Texas is ground zero for all this high-stakes testing nonsense and so it only makes sense that we lead the change.
I will also share our Tejano/Mexican American Studies curriculum development initiative that consists of a partnership with the Austin Independent School District (AISD) the City of Austin, and Nuestro Grupo, a grassroots organization, to establish a Cultural Arts and Literacy Saturday Academy for fourth-grade, AIDS children.  This curriculum will get taught in Spanish, beginning with an inaugural ceremony this fall at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Culture Center. 
Under the auspices of the National Latino/a Education Research and Policy Project, I also head a national grow-your-own (GYO) Latina/o teacher initiative in 5 cities in 5 states that will suggest future directions for teacher preparation in the U.S.
 I promise to be suggestive and informative. Please scroll down to see how you can rsvp.
Jeff Falk
– August 20, 2014Posted in: News Releases
David Ruth
Jeff Falk

Rice’s Teacher Education program will celebrate 50th anniversary with special events Sept. 3-4
HOUSTON – (Aug. 20, 2014) – Rice University’s pioneering Teacher Education program, part of Rice’s Susanne M. Glasscock School of Continuing Studies, will celebrate its 50th anniversary Sept. 3-4 with two special events highlighting educational equity in Texas schools. The events coincide with the beginning of the state’s K-12 school year.
Sept. 3, Angela Valenzuela, a professor in the Educational Policy and Planning Program at the University of Texas at Austin, will give a public keynote address on “Educational Equity, Politics and Policy in Texas.” She also serves as director of the University of Texas Center for Education Policy and is the new director of the National Latino Education Research Agenda Project that aims to create a national teacher education pipeline for Latino youth. Valenzuela’s talk will be at 7 p.m. in Anderson-Clarke Center’s Hudspeth Auditorium, 6100 Main St. Public registration for this event is free; however, an RSVP is required at teach.rice.edu/50years.
On Sept. 4, a panel will explore the topic “Educating for Equity in Texas Schools.” This discussion is open only to the media and invited guests and will be from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. in Rice Memorial Center’s Grand Hall, 6100 Main St. Panelists will include Alex Byrd, associate professor of history at Rice; Grace Magnani, 2014 Rookie of the Year teacher in Fort Bend Independent School District; Linda McNeil, director of Rice’s Center for Education; Juliet Stipeche, president of the Houston Independent School District Board of Education and associate director of Rice’s Center for Excellence and Equity; Judy Radigan, director of Rice’s Teacher Education program; and Valenzuela.
Founded in 1964, Rice’s Teacher Education program was established on the tenets of creating content experts who are adept at writing and delivering innovative curriculum. Today, Teacher Education at Rice University provides professional education courses that include extensive study of critical issues in education and effective teaching for diverse learners.
For more information about the Rice University Teacher Education program, go to http://teach.rice.edu.
Members of the news media who want to attend should RSVP to Jeff Falk, associate director of national media relations at Rice, at jfalk@rice.edu or 713-348-6775.
For a map of Rice University’s campus with parking information, go to www.rice.edu/maps.
Follow the Glasscock School via Twitter @GlasscockSchool.
Follow Rice News and Media Relations via Twitter @RiceUNews.
Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 3,920 undergraduates and 2,567 graduate students, Rice’s undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is just over 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice is highly ranked for best quality of life by the Princeton Review and for best value among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. To read “What they’re saying about Rice,” go here.
- See more at: http://news.rice.edu/2014/08/20/rices-teacher-education-program-will-celebrate-50th-anniversary-with-special-events-sept-3-4/#sthash.RjeKuqPj.dpuf

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Experts: K-12 Population Shift Toward Students of Color Will Shed Light on Resource Inequalities

Experts: K-12 Population Shift Toward Students of Color Will Shed Light on Resource Inequalities

Category: Facts & Figures,Latino Issues,News,Subfeature |
by Ronald Roach

Deborah Santiago is chief operating officer and vice president for policy at the Washington-based Excelencia in Education advocacy organization.
Deborah Santiago is chief operating officer and vice president for policy at the Washington-based Excelencia in Education advocacy organization.

For the first time ever, non-Hispanic Whites are projected to make up less than 50 percent of the U.S. K-12 public school population. The National Center for Education Statistics has estimated that minorities will comprise 50.2 percent of students in public school classrooms in the 2014-15 academic year.

The shift comes as the nation’s public schools have enrolled surging numbers of non-White Hispanic children in recent years. Non-White Hispanic children will account for 25.8 percent of American public K-12 students this school year and 28.5 percent in the 2019-20 academic year. In 2009-10, 22.8 percent of American students were Latino, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Non-Hispanic Whites are projected to make up 49.8 percent this year and 46.9 percent in 2019-20 of American public school students. African-American enrollment in public schools will be 15.4 percent this year and 15 percent in 2019-20. Among American public school students, Asians will make up 5.2 percent this year and 5.3 percent in 2019-20; Native Americans will be 1.1 percent in 2014-15 and 1 percent in 2019-20.

The population shift is bringing forth challenges, such as higher poverty rates among students and the need for more English-language instruction for children of immigrant families. Low-income students of color, in particular, attend schools that are highly likely to be segregated by race, reflecting U.S. housing patterns, and the schools tend to have fewer high-quality teachers than those in affluent areas, experts say.

“Certainly we know that there is still a great deal of segregation for Latinos, African-Americans and other groups. And they tend to be in school districts that don’t have the high-quality teachers or resources available,” says Deborah Santiago, the chief operating officer and vice president for policy at the Washington-based Excelencia in Education advocacy organization.

In thinking about and discussing the issues emerging with the changing school population, Santiago prefers “to say this is an amazing opportunity rather than challenge to make the kind of investments in education that we fundamentally need” in the U.S.

“This framing of students of color as the majority is an opportunity to do the real systemic change that we’ve only been doing around the edges,” she says. “There are opportunities to make sure that we have high expectations and that we have quality teachers. … We need to make sure that we are as diligent as we have been in the past to make sure this cohort of students is college ready.”

Dr. Patricia Gandara, the co-director of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA and a member of the White House Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, told the Associated Press that public schools will have to confront poverty as an issue in order to help their students reach their potential.

About one-fourth of Hispanics and African-Americans live below the poverty line and many poor Hispanic children live with the instability of their families not having legal status, she said. The focus on teacher preparation and stronger curriculum is “not going to get us anywhere unless we pay attention to the really basic needs of these children, things like nutrition and health and safety, and the instability of the homes,” Gandara noted.

Deborah Veney Robinson, the vice president of Government Affairs and Communications at The Education Trust organization, agrees that the most significant challenges ahead for public school will be “making sure vulnerable students have highly effective teachers in every classroom … and that the spread of effective teachers is equitable so that we’re seeing students getting their fair share of high-performance teaching.”

Robinson adds that the higher education sector will have to significantly improve its capacity in retaining and helping students earn degrees. “I think [higher education’s] primary levers are going to be not just access for a more diverse population of students, but also looking at what it can do to make sure students are being successful, meaning that schools are affordable and that students actually graduate,” she says.

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