Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Senators Back Guest Workers

Senators Back Guest Workers
Panel's Measure Sides With Bush
By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 28, 2006; A01

A key Senate panel broke with the House's get-tough approach to illegal immigration yesterday and sent to the floor a broad revision of the nation's immigration laws that would provide lawful employment to millions of undocumented workers while offering work visas to hundreds of thousands of new immigrants every year.

With bipartisan support, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 12 to 6 to side with President Bush's general approach to an immigration issue that is dividing the country, fracturing the Republican Party and ripening into one of the biggest political debates of this election year. Conservatives have loudly demanded that the government tighten control of U.S. borders and begin deporting illegal immigrants. But in recent weeks, the immigrant community has risen up in protest, marching by the hundreds of thousands to denounce what they see as draconian measures under consideration in Washington.

"There is no issue outside of civil rights that brings out the kind of emotions we have seen," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), one of the bill's primary sponsors, who called the controversy "a defining issue of our times."

Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) rushed committee members to complete their work to meet a midnight deadline imposed by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), who favors a tougher approach more in line with the version passed by the House last December. But once the committee had acted, Frist declined to say last night whether he would substitute the committee's legislation for his own, which includes no guest-worker program.

Frist's efforts to wrest control of the issue from the Judiciary Committee could produce a power struggle among Republicans once the majority leader brings up the issue for debate and votes in the full Senate, probably this week. Specter and the other committee leaders may have to muscle their bill through as an amendment if Frist refuses to back down.

Frist, a presidential aspirant whom Bush helped elect as majority leader, favors tightening control of the nation's borders without granting what he calls amnesty to the approximately 11 million illegal immigrants living in this country. But Bush favors a comprehensive approach, which he says must include some program to answer business's need for immigrant labor.

"Congress needs to pass a comprehensive bill that secures the border, improves interior enforcement, and creates a temporary-worker program to strengthen our security and our economy," Bush said yesterday at a ceremony to swear in 30 new U.S. citizens from 20 countries. "Completing a comprehensive bill is not going to be easy. It will require all of us in Washington to make tough choices and make compromises."

Polls indicate about 60 percent of Americans oppose guest-worker programs that would offer illegal immigrants an avenue to lawful work status, and three-quarters of the country believe the government is doing too little to secure the nation's borders.

But the immigrant community has been galvanized by what it sees as a heavy-handed crackdown on undocumented workers by Washington. The House in December rejected calls for a guest-worker program and instead approved a bill that would stiffen penalties on illegal immigrants, force businesses to run the names of each employee through federal databases to prove their legality, deploy more border agents and unmanned aerial vehicles to the nation's frontiers and build massive walls along sections of the U.S.-Mexican border.

At least 14,000 students stormed out of schools in Southern California and elsewhere yesterday, waving flags and chanting to protest congressional actions. About 100 demonstrators, including members of the clergy, appeared at the Capitol yesterday in handcuffs to object to provisions in the House bill that would make illegal immigrants into felons and criminalize humanitarian groups that feed and house them. More than a half-million marchers protested in Los Angeles on Saturday, following protests in Phoenix, Milwaukee and Philadelphia.

"The immigration debate should be conducted in a civil and dignified way," Bush said. "No one should play on people's fears, or try to pit neighbors against each other."

A confrontation between the Senate and House Republicans now appears inevitable.

"We are eager, once the Senate passes this bill, to sit down and talk with them, but there are certain fundamental principles which we simply cannot compromise on," said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who cosponsored the bill that passed the Judiciary Committee largely intact last night. "It has to be a comprehensive approach. As we all know, just building walls and hiring more border patrols are not the answers to our immigration problem."

Specter, the committee chairman, had tried for weeks to find a middle ground between senators advocating a generous guest-worker program and those categorically rejecting amnesty for illegal immigrants. In the end, that search for a compromise failed because advocates of the guest-worker program had more than enough votes to overcome conservative opposition.

The panel voted to accept a bill largely patterned on the measure sponsored by Kennedy and McCain. Specter and Republican Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), Sam Brownback (Kan.) and Mike DeWine (Ohio) joined the committee's Democrats to win passage.

The panel's bill would allow the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in this country to apply for a work visa after paying back taxes and a penalty. The first three-year visa could be renewed for three more years. After four years, visa holders could apply for green cards and begin moving toward citizenship. An additional 400,000 such visas would be offered each year to workers seeking to enter the country.

Senators also accepted a proposal by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that would offer 1.5 million illegal farmworkers a "blue card" visa that would legalize their status. The committee also accepted a provision by Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) that would shield humanitarian organizations from prosecution for providing more than simple emergency aid to illegal immigrants, rejecting an amendment by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) to require humanitarian groups providing food, medical aid and advice to illegal immigrants to register with the Department of Homeland Security.

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) protested that the Feinstein proposal was more focused on offering illegal immigrants a path to citizenship than meeting the labor demands of agriculture. Cornyn suggested the Judiciary Committee bill was moving toward creating a caste of second-class workers.

But Cornyn may have summed up Senate fears when he referred to energized voters protesting what they see as amnesty for people who violated the nation's laws and made a mockery of its borders.

"The American people are thinking, 'Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me,' " he said. "The only way we can get the confidence of the American people is to convince them we are absolutely serious about border security and law enforcement."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

Massive Student Walkout Spreads Across Southland,0,932535.story?coll=la-home-headlines
From the Los Angeles Times

Massive Student Walkout Spreads Across Southland
By Cynthia H. Cho and Anna Gorman
Times Staff Writers

March 28, 2006

Nearly 40,000 students from across Southern California staged walkouts to protest proposed immigration legislation Monday, blocking traffic on four freeways and leaving educators concerned about how much longer the issue will disrupt schools.

The protests are believed to eclipse in size the demonstrations that occurred during the anti-Proposition 187 campaign in 1994 and even a famous student walkout for Chicano rights in 1968.

Some principals put their schools on lockdown Monday to keep students from leaving campus, and Los Angeles Unified School District officials said all middle and high schools will be on lockdown today.

Monday's demonstrations appeared to start in Los Angeles but quickly spread to San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange and Ventura counties. Though the protests were mostly peaceful, there were a few clashes and several arrests.

Motorists were left in gridlock as youths marched down Sunset Boulevard, Melrose Avenue, Laurel Canyon Boulevard and other major thoroughfares.

At one point, protesters marched onto the Hollywood Freeway in downtown Los Angeles and two sections of the Harbor Freeway, downtown and in San Pedro, briefly halting traffic.

Students in Orange County briefly blocked the Riverside Freeway and Santa Ana Freeway in Fullerton, waving Mexican flags and tossing a rock that smashed the window of a CHP cruiser.

By noon, thousands of youths had gathered in front of Los Angeles City Hall, with student leaders meeting privately with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The rally took on a festive tone, with many waving Mexican flags and yelling, "Latinos Stand Up!" and "Viva Mexico!"

"It was my dad's and grandfather's sweat and tears that built the city of Los Angeles," said Marshall High School senior Saul Corona, whose father came to the United States illegally before getting a green card. "People like them did things no one else wanted to do because they wanted me to have a better future."

The protests appeared to be loosely organized, with students learning about them through mass e-mails, fliers, instant messages, cellphone calls and postings on Web pages. By contrast, the massive rally Saturday that drew 500,000 people to downtown Los Angeles was highly organized, with demonstrators urged to wear white and bring American flags.

Many students said they were marching in opposition to a bill sponsored by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) that passed the House in December. The bill would give police more power to enforce immigration law and would lead to 700 miles of additional fencing along the border.

Even as the students marched, a Senate committee approved an immigration package Monday that would enable some of the about 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country to become U.S. citizens.

As immigrants or children of immigrants, several marchers said they would be personally affected by Sensenbrenner's pending bill.

"If this law passes, what will happen?" said Yadira Pech, 16. "There would be no more Los Angeles High School. Nearly all of us are immigrants."

Added Antonio Chavez, an eighth-grader at University Heights Middle School in Riverside: "Our parents, our families came here from Mexico. We want other families to be able to come here too."

Some students said they did not know exactly what the bill said but believed that it was part of an anti-immigrant movement taking hold nationwide.

"We just walked out because we didn't want to be at school," said Diana Hernandez, a senior at Dorsey High School in Los Angeles. "But we also believe [the legislation] is wrong."

The demonstrations became violent in some areas. In San Diego County, two dozen protesters were arrested in Escondido after refusing orders from police to disperse. Two patrol cars were reportedly vandalized.

In Riverside, a peaceful student protest unfolded downtown as six youths and one adult were arrested across town after scuffles with police clad in riot gear and carrying nightsticks, authorities said. After following students throughout the city and calling for them to disperse, officers confronted the group. Students responded by hurling rocks and bottles at police.

"They're pushing us around," said Pati Sanchez, a Norte Vista High School senior. "People should be able to say what they think."

In Santa Ana, officers used nightsticks and pepper spray to control students throwing bottles and rocks. They also set up barricades to prevent the protesters from disrupting traffic. One student was arrested and a few others suffered minor injuries, police said.

Four adults were arrested during a protest in Van Nuys, but no major violence occurred in Los Angeles County. The demonstrations prompted a tactical alert by Los Angeles police so the department could deploy officers to areas where they were needed.

"They're noisy but well-behaved," said LAPD Chief William J. Bratton as he walked through the downtown crowd. "Let them have their say."

In a district with about 358,000 middle and high school students, an estimated 26,000 walked out of more than 50 Los Angeles Unified campuses. Teachers, principals and school police urged students to demonstrate on campus, but students flooded through gates and onto city streets and sidewalks.

"It's very disruptive," said Ellen Morgan, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Unified School District. "We want them to express their opinions, but there are venues, there are forums for them to do so. We'd like them to stay in school and get an education."

Not only did the mostly high school students miss class time, administrators said, but the district could lose money if students did not show up. And with postings on promoting more walkouts today, principals were doing whatever they could to encourage students to stay on school grounds.

All L.A. Unified middle and high schools will be on lockdown today, which means no one will be allowed to leave school once they enter, officials said. The district plans more stringent measures this morning, prohibiting students from going from class to class as usual.

Teachers are planning lessons on the immigration issue, and administrators are setting aside spots on campus for rallies and sit-ins. Some school officials plan to punish students who left campus with enforced attendance at Saturday school.

In Los Angeles, principals sent notes home that urged parents to tell their children to stay on campus and warned of disciplinary action for those who did not.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Journalist David Bacon's Photos of the March in San Francisco

Texas LULAC--School Finance Agenda - 2006



  • The Texas student population will double by the year 2040 and it is necessary to tie increased funding with enrollment in growth.

  • Raising school funding to the level of Texas’s best schools will result in an increase in per capita spending.

  • An under-educated workforce results in loss of higher paying jobs.


  • It should be fair and equitable for all businesses

  • Allow a $300k exemption for small businesses

  • Close all loopholes


  • LULAC recommends the property tax be lowered to a range between $1.00 to $1.25

  • We oppose any increase in regressive sales taxes.

  • Texas already has one of the nation’s highest sales tax rates


  • We support fair and equitable ‘meaningful discretion,’ allowing school districts to determine how money is spent.


  • We support increased cigarette, alcohol, etc taxes for school spending contingencies, recognizing that these are not reliable sources for funding.


  • The legislature ought to ensure equality across the state for facilities funding.
  • Historic Photos: Between Half-million and a Million Protesters March against Immigrant Law in Los Angeles

    Thanks to my colleague, Octavio Pimentel, I've got some great pictures here on the march in Los Angeles.
    If you got to this link, you'll see that the number of marchers in L.A. could have been as high as a million. These pictures make this higher estimate credible. Click the photo for higher resolution. -Angela

    News from Denver, CO: Backlash Against the Backlash Grows

    I want to share Dr. Estevan Flores' commentary on the march in Denver. -Angela

    They came from all across Colorado, from Denver to the West Slope and Greeley to Pueblo and all points in between. Waving American flags along with Mexican, Salvadorean, Guatemalan, and others, more than 150,000 people jammed downtown Denver on Saturday to protest anti-immigrant legislation in Washington, DC, and ongoing attacks on immigrants here in Colorado.

    Sponsored by a coalition of groups, including Colorado Progressive Coalition and allies including Rights for All People, Service Employees International Union, American Friends Service Committee, and Padres Unidos, the Denver event followed similar large scale rallies for immigrant justice this week in Chicago (300,000 people); Phoenix (30,000); Los Angeles (500,000); Atlanta (25,000 estimated), and other major cities. The crowds in all cities were mobilized by local radio and TV stations, particularly Spanish speaking news outlets.

    Why did so many people come together for the largest political rally in decades in Denver? Here's why....The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote soon on HR 4437, sponsored by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (Wisconsin) and supported by Colorado's own anti-immigrant politician, Rep. Tom Tancredo (Littleton). The bill focuses on punishment only, not comprehensive solutions, building a wall along the US's southern border, scapegoating immigrants, and criminalizing anyone - churches, public service agencies, non-profit groups, and others - providing aid to immigrant workers lacking documentation.

    This legislation is so mean-spirited that Los Angeles Roman Catholic Cardinal Roger Mahony has said that, if it passes, he will allow his priests and others to act against it as people need to be fed, clothed, housed, and provided medical care if they are sick. Senator Hillary Clinton (New York) said recently that "This bill would literally criminalize the Good Samaritan and probably even Jesus himself. We need to sound the alarm about what is being done in the Congress."

    Here in Colorado, one of the national centers of anti-immigrant scapegoating, despite the many contributions of immigrants to our agricultural, construction, service, and tourism industries, the rally's turnout clearly overwhelmed event organizers who had hoped for 2,000 people and wound up filling the entire Civic Center Park from the Denver City and County Building all the way up the hill past the State Capitol!

    Holding signs that said "We Are Not Criminals," "we are honest and work hard," and "you can't spell U.S.A. without US," the huge, peaceful crowd listened to speakers, music, and started an impromptu march that closed down parts of 14th Avenue and Colfax Avenue. One sign summed it up nicely "the more that you attack us, the stronger we get."
    From Ch. 9’s website—Police estimated 30,000-50,000; rule of thumb by a veteran sociologist who attends rallies and marches (me—ETF), “always multiply by at least two or three times what police estimate”


    DENVER – Thousands of people gathered at Civic Center Park Saturday to protest federal legislation that would criminalize undocumented immigrants.

      The immigration reform rally in Denver was one of the largest protests across the country Saturday. March 25, 2006. 5:00 p.m. The rally started at 10:00a.m. in downtown Denver. Police estimate about 30-50 thousand people jammed the streets causing road closures.

    Authorities closed Broadway, Bannock, Colfax and 14th Avenue for the protest. Congress is on the verge of passing legislation that will decide how immigrants will be treated for decades to come.

    Supporters are demonstrating across the nation because they fear that immigration reform could pass through the Senate Judiciary Committee without reflecting the wishes of the people, says local community organizer.

    From: Butch Montoya []

    NEW AMERICA MEDIA (Commentary): IMMIGRATION MATTERS -- Backlash Against the Backlash Grows
    Commentary, Frank Sharry
    New America Media, Mar 23, 2006

    Editor's Note: There are clear signs that immigrants and their supporters in the religious, state government, labor and business sectors are fighting back against xenophobia being fanned by hard-line opponents of comprehensive immigration reform, writes Frank Sharry, executive director of the National Immigration Forum.

    WASHINGTON, D.C.--If 2005 was the Year of the Minutemen, 2006 is becoming the Year of Immigrants Rising. Just look at the tens of thousands of immigrants who marched in downtown Chicago last March 11 for immigrant rights and against restrictive immigration proposals.

    Less than three months ago, the leadership of the House of Representatives, in a vicious act of "drive-by" legislating, rushed through a bill that experts consider to be the most anti-immigrant piece of legislation in the United States in 80 years.

    Here are some of the lowlights of the Sensenbrenner bill, HR 4437:

    -- 11 million undocumented immigrants would be declared "aggravated felons" for having come to this country to do back-breaking work at low wages in order to feed their families.

    -- Priests, nuns, health care workers and other helpers would be threatened with jail time for assisting the undocumented.

    -- Local police would have to enforce federal immigration laws, undermining community policing strategies meant to build confidence between police and immigrant communities.

    -- Day labor sites would be shut down by federal law, overruling the hard work of activists and enlightened local communities attempting to solve problems caused in part by Congressional inaction on comprehensive immigration reform.

    -- Seven hundred miles of walls would be built between the United States and our friendly neighbors to the south, an act that has touched off a diplomatic crisis with Latin America.

    The self-righteous politicians who cooked up this bill were undoubtedly pleased with their handiwork. They wanted their colleagues to go back to their districts over the holidays with something to crow about on talk radio and at town hall meetings. The lucky were invited to the Lou Dobbs show.

    But politics is like physics: For every action there's a reaction. What looked so tempting last year is looking counterproductive this year. It seems the House anti-immigrant tantrum has angered and activated immigrants, their allies, religious leaders and local governments like never before. Here is are some recent events:

    -- On March 7, over 30,000 immigrants showed up on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., to protest the Sensenbrenner bill and to call for legalization. Families came from work and from up and down the East Coast to show their faces and raise their voices. Many carried simple homemade signs that said, "I am not a criminal."

    -- Later that week Chicago was the scene of a rally that according to police drew at least 100,000 immigrants, and organizers claimed drew over 300,000. Both the Chicago and D.C. rallies were marked by unprecedented cooperation between the labor movement, immigrants rights advocacy organizations and community organizations led by immigrants.

    -- Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles recently announced that if the Sensenbrenner bill becomes law he will instruct his priests to defy it and provide services to the undocumented, even if it means going to jail.

    -- City councils and county supervisors from Southern California to Ohio and Massachusetts are passing resolutions against the Sensenbrenner bill and calling for comprehensive reform that puts immigrants onto a path to citizenship.

    -- Beyond Chicago, in Portland, Ore., 5,000 people protested HR 4437. Religious leaders are staging vigils in Ohio. Activists are demonstrating in the Michigan State House, and immigrants are pouring into Washington, D.C., to lobby for comprehensive reform along the lines of the McCain-Kennedy bill pending in the Senate. When Sen. John McCain traveled to Miami and New York to talk about immigration reform, 1,000 immigrants showed up in each city to cheer.

    -- Even the undocumented Irish from the New York and Boston are becoming active. Some 2,000 descended on Washington, D.C., this week. Wearing T-shirts emblazoned with green lettering that said "Legalize the Irish," they lobbied lawmakers to back the McCain-Kennedy bill with its earned legalization provisions.

    -- The business community is also upset over the Sensenbrenner bill. Groups of employers are flying into Washington, DC and demanding meetings with their representatives. Their message: they need immigrant workers and want to see their work force legalized, not deported.

    Call it the backlash to the backlash. Some are even calling the passage of the Sensenbrenner bill the "Proposition 187 moment" of this decade, referring to 1994, when California Gov. Pete Wilson and the Republican Party won re-election by supporting the anti-immigrant ballot initiative Prop. 187. The measure and the ugly campaign for it so angered Latino and Asian immigrants that it led to a surge in citizenship and voting that threw the Republican Party out of virtually every statewide office for a decade.

    Obviously, some Republicans understand that supporting immigrants is good for the country and their party. Sen. McCain of Arizona, a leading contender for the 2008 Republican nomination for president, gets it. So do some of his possible rivals for the Republican nomination, Sens. Sam Brownback of Kansas and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.

    But more typical of the current thinking in GOP leadership circles is Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee. He's gearing up to usher a Sensenbrenner-like bill in the Senate, presumably to score points with the same rabid anti-immigrant crowd the House played to. He probably thinks it will help him in the GOP presidential primaries.

    Well, Pete Wilson thought his 1994 anti-immigrant platform would help his 1996 run for president. But his role in turning California from a purple state into a blue one and his reputation as a polarizing figure in immigrant communities made Wilson so radioactive no national politicians will be seen with him to this day.

    Think about it. Over the past three decades, the GOP has systematically targeted employers, Catholics and Hispanics in order to forge a governing majority. Now, House Republican leaders are targeting employers, Catholics and Hispanics in order to appease talk radio hosts and the loud-but-not-large anti-immigrant zealots.

    Here's a political prediction: over time, the Minuteman vote will pale in comparison to the political tsunami gathering strength in immigrant communities and among pro-immigrant constituencies across America.

    Monday, March 27, 2006

    In bills' small print, critics see a threat to immigration

    In bills' small print, critics see a threat to immigration
    The measure would designate the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington as the only court in the nation to handle immigration appeals.

    By Rachel L. Swarns
    Saturday, March 25, 2006

    WASHINGTON — A little-noticed provision in two key Senate immigration bills would reshape the handling of immigration appeals cases and has touched off an outcry from several legal scholars, federal judges and the policymaking group for the federal courts.

    The measure would designate the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, an administrative court that focuses primarily on patent cases and currently handles no immigration appeals, as the only court in the nation to handle immigration appeals.

    Such appeals are currently shared by the other 12 federal appellate courts.

    The judges and scholars say that the circuit court in Washington, which handles about 1,500 nonimmigration cases a year, would be swamped by an additional 12,000 immigration cases. And they say that the court lacks the expertise to handle complex immigration cases, which often raise a host of constitutional and human-rights issues.

    The question of how these cases are handled is particularly sensitive because federal appeals court judges have sharply criticized what they have described as a pattern of biased and incoherent decisions from immigration judges in asylum cases, which are the bulk of immigration appeals.

    The two bills — one by Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the other by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. — were intended in part to ease the burden on the nation's federal appeals courts, which have had a sharp increase in immigration cases.

    The provisions could come up for a vote in the Senate as early as next week.

    Judiciary Committee staff members said that designating a single court to handle the cases would ensure a consistent standard for immigration decisions and discourage immigrants from shopping for favorable courts.

    They said that immigration lawyers would be assigned to the court to help enhance expertise and that the number of judges would be increased to 15 from 12.

    But Richard Posner, a federal appeals court judge in Chicago, said the measures were "not a sound solution."

    Even with the three additional judges, he said, the annual caseload would surge to 900 per judge from 125.

    "I cannot think of an area of law that is more remote from immigration than patents," Posner wrote in a letter to Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., a Judiciary Committee member. "No doubt the judges of the federal circuit can become knowledgeable about immigration law, but they will be overwhelmed by the new caseload."

    Leonidas Ralph Mecham, secretary for the Judicial Conference of the United States, a group of judges that makes policy for the federal courts and presents the judiciary's views to Congress, raised similar concerns.

    "No sufficient justification to support changing the status quo and shifting these cases from the regional courts to the federal circuit has been provided," Mecham wrote in a letter to Specter.

    The judges also raised concerns about a proposal that would appoint a single judge to decide whether immigration cases were worthy of consideration for appeal. If the judge declined the case, no further review would be available.

    Durbin said he planned to offer an amendment that would kill the measures, telling his colleagues on the Judiciary Committee that it would be premature to make such changes before holding hearings.

    Critics of the new legislation also say that a better solution would be to add resources to the overstrained local immigration courts and the immigration appeals court, known as the Board of Immigration Appeals.

    Have knowledge in hand for the immigration debate

    This came out in the Austin Am-Statesman yesterday. I found it to be very helpful. -Angela

    Have knowledge in hand for the immigration debate

    10 things you may not have known about immigration.

    By Chuck McCutcheon
    Sunday, March 26, 2006

    WASHINGTON — Immigration is about to sweep aside foreign port ownership and lobbying scandals as the dominant election year debate on Capitol Hill, with the Senate preparing to take up a bill this week on the thorny topic. With that in mind, we've assembled 10 facts behind the headlines.

    Did you know . . .

    1. That during 2001-04, the number of entering legal immigrants, 3.8 million, eclipsed the 3.7 million who arrived in the 1890s during the mass migration from Europe? That's according to the U.S. Office of Immigration Statistics.

    2. That after Mexico, the primary sources of legal U.S. immigrants are India, China and the Philippines? Mexico accounts for about 20 percent; the next three about 6 percent each. They are followed, at 3 percent or less, by Vietnam, El Salvador, Cuba, Haiti, Bosnia, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Ukraine, Korea, Russia and Nicaragua. These top 15 account for 60 percent of legal immigrants.

    3. That there are at least 11.5 million unauthorized U.S. immigrants from all countries? The estimate, by the Pew Hispanic Center, is a figure larger than the populations of Cuba (11.3 million), Portugal (10.6 million) and Michigan (10.1 million).

    4. That more than 7 million unauthorized immigrants were employed in March 2005? The number accounts for nearly 5 percent of the civilian labor force, the Pew Center estimates. These immigrants make up 36 percent of insulation workers, 29 percent of roofers, 27 percent of butchers and food-processing workers, 22 percent of maids and housekeepers and 19 percent of parking lot attendants.

    5. That the percentage of immigrants, legal and illegal, in some of the nation's biggest cities remains below the era of a century ago, never mind the recent high numbers? In the early 1900s, the level of immigrants in cities such as New York and Chicago was in the 12 percent to 14 percent range, American University history professor Alan Kraut said. Today, Kraut said, the figure is about 11 percent.

    6. That the "green card" is actually dark blue? It has come in a variety of colors at various times in its history, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. The changes were made to prevent counterfeiting and, later, to make it easier for machines to read. The first cards enabling unnaturalized immigrants to live and work indefinitely in the United States — a product of the Alien Registration Act of 1940 — were printed on white paper. By 1951, the form was green, but in 1964 it was pale blue and a year later changed to its current color. It also has been issued in pink and pink-and-blue.

    7. That the cost of making one arrest along the U.S.-Mexico border jumped from $300 in 1992 to $1,700 in 2002? So finds a Cato Institute study by Princeton University sociologist Douglas Massey, whose measurement is in constant, year 2000 dollars.

    8. That Border Patrol officials rely on more than 250 remote video camera sites and 10,500 ground sensors? The system uses radar, heat-sensitive, seismic and magnetic technologies. But as of August 2005, it covered just 4 percent of the combined northern and southern borders, according to Congress' Government Accountability Office.

    9. That the number of foreigners other than Mexicans entering illegally has soared? The Border Patrol apprehended 25,000 in 1997 and more than 100,000 in 2005, according to the Congressional Research Service. A Senate bill would authorize the secretaries of state and homeland security to develop ways to help Mexico tighten its southern border to combat human smuggling from Guatemala and Belize.

    10. That the Homeland Security Department releases non-Mexican illegal immigrants caught in the United States if they do not have felony convictions and do not pose a threat to national security? The reason is a lack of bed space in detention facilities. They are given a notice to appear in court for deportation proceedings, but most never show up.

    The department wants to end the disparity by expanding bed space. There are about 20,000 beds, and the budget request for next year would add 6,700. Compare that to the MGM Grand Las Vegas, the country's largest hotel, which has about 8,000 beds.

    Sunday, March 26, 2006

    Immigration debate heating up in Senate

    Mar 26, 9:58 PM EST

    Associated Press Writer

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- Founded by immigrants and praised as a haven for the oppressed, the United States now is struggling to decide the fate of as many as 12 million people living in the country illegally.

    The Senate takes up the emotional debate on the heels of weekend rallies that drew hundreds of thousands of people protesting attempts to toughen laws against immigrants. Among the election-year proposals that President Bush and members of Congress are considering:

    -Erecting a fence on the Mexico border to deter illegal immigration.

    -Treating people who sneak across the border as felons to be deported.

    -Allowing foreigners to stay in the country legally as custodians, dish washers, construction workers and other low-paid employees.

    -Allowing those working in the U.S. a path to citizenship.

    -Requiring them to get in line behind everyone else back in their home countries who want to become Americans.

    Senate aides met into the evening Sunday in advance of a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting to debate legislation, but there was no evidence of a breakthrough on the issue most in dispute. Lawmakers have been divided on whether illegal immigrants should be required to return to their home country before they become eligible for U.S. citizenship.

    For his part, Bush arranged to attend a Monday naturalization ceremony for 30 new citizens at Constitution Hall, a few blocks from the White House.

    And demonstrations are planned near the Capitol, including a prayer service with immigration advocates and clergy who plan to wear handcuffs to demonstrate the criminalization of immigration violations.

    Bush is going to Mexico this week for a meeting with the leaders of Mexico and Canada. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday it's important that Mexico "recognize the importance of defense of the borders and of American laws."

    Protests raged across the country over the weekend, led by more than 500,000 people who marched through downtown Los Angeles on Saturday in one of the largest demonstrations for any cause in recent U.S. history. Marchers also took to the streets in Phoenix, Milwaukee, Dallas and Columbus, Ohio.

    Demonstrations continued Sunday, when nearly 3,000 people, many wrapped in Mexican flags, rallied at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus and an estimated 3,500 United Farm Workers members and their supporters protested in Los Angeles.

    The president, working hand-in-hand with the business community that relies on cheap labor, is pressuring Congress to allow immigrants to stay in the country legally if they take a job that Americans are unwilling to do.

    Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., also supports the idea and has vowed that his committee will advance a bill to the full Senate on Monday, even if they have to work "very, very late into the night."

    "If they're prepared to work to become American citizens in the long line traditionally of immigrants who have helped make this country, we can have both a nation of laws and a welcoming nation of workers who do some very, very important jobs for our economy," Specter said Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

    Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., has said that whether or not a bill gets out of the Judiciary Committee, he is opening two weeks of debate on the issue Tuesday. He has offered a plan that would tighten borders, add Border Patrol agents and punish employers who hire illegal immigrants because he says the most important concern is improving national security in an age of terrorism. His bill sidesteps the question of temporary work permits, but he has said he's open to the idea.

    Democrats have said they will do everything they can to block Frist's bill. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said Sunday that legislation creating tougher enforcement does not do enough.

    "We have spent $20 billion on chains and fences and border guards and dogs in the southern border over the last 10 years," Kennedy said on "Face the Nation" on CBS. "And it doesn't work. What we need is a comprehensive approach. I think President Bush understands it."

    Where Kennedy and Bush differ is on the question of what to do with foreigners who are already living and working in the United States. Kennedy and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have a bill that would allow those immigrants to apply for citizenship once they pay taxes and a fine and learn English.

    Critics like Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., say that would give amnesty to people who have broken the law by entering the country without permission.

    "It's a slap in the face to every single person who has done it the right way, and to everybody who's waiting out there to do it the right way," Tancredo said. "It's bad policy. And it's also, I think, for the Republican Party especially, bad policy."

    Bush wants to give foreign workers a guest permit to stay for a specific amount of time to do a job, without a path to citizenship. Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., propose to let employed illegal immigrants stay for five years but then leave, pay fines and apply to re-enter the country.

    If the Senate can agree on the bill, the work won't be over to get legislation to Bush's desk to become a law. The House passed a bill last year that increases penalties for illegal immigration activities, requires employers to verify the legal status of their employees and provides $2.2 billion for a 700-mile fence across the border. But it did not address the guest worker issue.

    Los Angeles Immigration Rally Draws Thousands

    March 26, 2006
    Filed at 12:25 p.m. ET

    LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Thousands of immigration advocates marched through downtown Los Angeles in one of the largest demonstrations for any cause in recent U.S. history.

    More than 500,000 protesters -- demanding that Congress abandon attempts to make illegal immigration a felony and to build more walls along the border -- surprised police who estimated the crowd size using aerial photographs and other techniques, police Cmdr. Louis Gray Jr. said.

    Wearing white T-shirts to symbolize peace, the demonstrators chanted ''Mexico!'' ''USA!'' and ''Si se puede,'' an old Mexican-American civil rights shout that means ''Yes, we can.''

    In Denver, more than 50,000 people protested downtown Saturday, according to police who had expected only a few thousand. Phoenix was similarly surprised Friday when an estimated 20,000 people gathered for one of the biggest demonstrations in city history, and more than 10,000 marched in Milwaukee on Thursday.

    ''We construct your schools. We cook your food,'' rapper Jorge Ruiz said after performing at a Dallas rally that drew 1,500. ''We are the motor of this nation, but people don't see us. Blacks and whites, they had their revolution. They had their Martin Luther King. Now it is time for us.''

    Many protesters said lawmakers were unfairly targeting immigrants who provide a major labor pool for America's economy.

    ''Enough is enough of the xenophobic movement,'' said Norman Martinez, 63, who immigrated from Honduras as a child and marched in Los Angeles. ''They are picking on the weakest link in society, which has built this country.''

    The U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation that would make it a felony to be in the U.S. illegally, impose new penalties on employers who hire illegal immigrants, require churches to check the legal status of people they help, and erect fences along one-third of the U.S.-Mexican border.

    The Senate is to begin debating the proposals on Tuesday.

    President Bush on Saturday called for legislation that does not force America to choose between being a welcoming society and a lawful one.

    ''America is a nation of immigrants, and we're also a nation of laws,'' Bush said in his weekly radio address, discussing an issue that had driven a wedge into his own party.

    Bush sides with business leaders who want to let some of the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants stay in the country and work for a set period of time. Others, including Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, say national security concerns should drive immigration reform.

    But many protesters rejected claims the national security claim, noting that the legislation would hurt Hispanics the most.

    ''When did you ever see a Mexican blow up the World Trade Center? Who do you think built the World Trade Center?'' said David Gonzalez, 22, who marched in Los Angeles with a sign that read, ''I'm in my homeland.'''

    Between 5,000 and 7,000 people gathered Saturday in Charlotte, carrying signs with slogans such as ''Am I Not a Human Being?'' In Sacramento, more than 4,000 people protested immigration legislation at an annual march honoring the late farm labor leader Cesar Chavez.

    The demonstrations are expected to culminate April 10 in a ''National Day of Action'' organized by labor, immigration, civil rights and religious groups.
    Associated Press writers Bob Jablon and Kim Nguyen contributed to this report.
    Copyright 2006 The Associated Press

    Colleges Say SAT Mistakes May Affect Scholarships

    This is a pretty incredible story. I wonder what changes it will encourage in the area of college admissions?

    March 26, 2006
    Colleges Say SAT Mistakes May Affect Scholarships


    At many colleges, the biggest impact of the mistakes made by the College Board in scoring the October SAT will be on eligibility for scholarships, not on admissions decisions, college officials say.

    "With admissions, the colleges say they are practicing holistic review," said Donald E. Heller, an associate professor of education at Pennsylvania State University and an expert in student financial aid. "But with scholarships, some use flat cutoff points with the SAT score. They say if you score above 1,200 or 1,800 on the SAT, you are eligible for a scholarship. If you don't get that score, you don't get that scholarship."

    Jennifer Topiel, a spokeswoman for the board, said on Friday that the board recommended that scores not be used that way.

    But the reality is that they are used like that in numerous college and statewide scholarship programs. Dr. Heller said he found in a recent study that 7 out of 14 states that offered broad-based merit scholarship programs used specific SAT scores to determine awards, usually along with students' grade point averages. And, he said, many colleges that offered their own merit scholarships did the same.

    Over the past two weeks, the board has revealed that because of technical problems in scanning the October exam, the scores of more than 5,000 students were inaccurately reported. It notified colleges of corrections for 4,411 students whose scores were too low — by as many as 450 points out of a possible 2,400 — but is not making changes for 600 other students whose scores were too high.

    Christine A. Halloran, an assistant director of admissions at the College of New Jersey, called the scoring revisions a "nonevent" in terms of admissions because much of the decision-making "is based on the strength of the academic transcript."

    But she said that under the state's merit scholarship program, which is tied closely to how students perform on the SAT, about five students would receive better scholarships because the board had raised their October scores.

    The New Jersey program offers a sliding scale of scholarships that depends on a student's class rank and SAT scores. In-state students in the top 5 percent of their graduating classes, for example, are eligible for full tuition, room and board, plus a laptop computer, if they earn a combined score of 1,500 to 1,600 on the math and reading portions of the SAT. If their scores are from 1,450 to 1,490, they receive tuition, a laptop and a $2,000 stipend; from 1,400 and 1,440 they receive $6,500 and a laptop. Those with lower scores receive less. The amounts diminish for students with lower class ranks.

    Franklin and Marshall College, in Lancaster, Pa., which does not have a set cutoff for scholarship eligibility but takes the SAT scores into account, had one applicant whose score correction of more than 300 points meant the difference between a $5,000 scholarship and one worth $12,500.

    "I know it is really hard for the public to understand why 50 points can make a difference," said Dennis Trotter, a vice president and dean of admissions. "But when it comes down to it, we might be looking at 200 students who might qualify for these scholarships, and they go head to head. There are a lot of intangibles. One of the quantifiable things is the SAT score, along with the high school record. A swing of even 80 or 100 points on the SAT could mean the difference between the highest-level scholarship or not receiving one at all, because it is all so competitive."

    Still, some students say the revisions to the test scores do not compensate them for missed opportunities.

    Jake DeLillo, a star lacrosse player at Yorktown High School in New York, received recruitment letters from more than 50 colleges last year, and he was particularly interested in colleges like the University of Massachusetts, which had strong lacrosse programs. But, he said, some of the coaches told him that his spring SAT scores were not high enough, and he needed to raise them about 100 points to be considered.

    When he took the October SAT, he thought he had done well — until he got his scores. The results forced him to shift his search to other colleges, and he was accepted by the New York Institute of Technology, last year's national Division II lacrosse champion. Mr. DeLillo said he was looking forward to attending.

    Two weeks ago, he said, the College Board told him it had understated his October results by 170 points. "It was definitely upsetting," he said. "People make mistakes, but this was a big one."

    Copyright 2006The New York Times Company

    Schools Cut Back Subjects to Push Reading and Math

    Wow! This is a very sad commentaring on the impact of testing on curriculum. -Angela

    March 26, 2006
    Schools Cut Back Subjects to Push Reading and Math

    SACRAMENTO — Thousands of schools across the nation are responding to the reading and math testing requirements laid out in No Child Left Behind, President Bush's signature education law, by reducing class time spent on other subjects and, for some low-proficiency students, eliminating it.

    Schools from Vermont to California are increasing — in some cases tripling — the class time that low-proficiency students spend on reading and math, mainly because the federal law, signed in 2002, requires annual exams only in those subjects and punishes schools that fall short of rising benchmarks.

    The changes appear to principally affect schools and students who test below grade level.

    The intense focus on the two basic skills is a sea change in American instructional practice, with many schools that once offered rich curriculums now systematically trimming courses like social studies, science and art. A nationwide survey by a nonpartisan group that is to be made public on March 28 indicates that the practice, known as narrowing the curriculum, has become standard procedure in many communities.

    The survey, by the Center on Education Policy, found that since the passage of the federal law, 71 percent of the nation's 15,000 school districts had reduced the hours of instructional time spent on history, music and other subjects to open up more time for reading and math. The center is an independent group that has made a thorough study of the new act and has published a detailed yearly report on the implementation of the law in dozens of districts.

    "Narrowing the curriculum has clearly become a nationwide pattern," said Jack Jennings, the president of the center, which is based in Washington.

    At Martin Luther King Jr. Junior High School in Sacramento, about 150 of the school's 885 students spend five of their six class periods on math, reading and gym, leaving only one 55-minute period for all other subjects.

    About 125 of the school's lowest-performing students are barred from taking anything except math, reading and gym, a measure that Samuel Harris, a former lieutenant colonel in the Army who is the school's principal, said was draconian but necessary. "When you look at a kid and you know he can't read, that's a tough call you've got to make," Mr. Harris said.

    The increasing focus on two basic subjects has divided the nation's educational establishment. Some authorities, including Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, say the federal law's focus on basic skills is raising achievement in thousands of low-performing schools. Other experts warn that by reducing the academic menu to steak and potatoes, schools risk giving bored teenagers the message that school means repetition and drilling.

    "Only two subjects? What a sadness," said Thomas Sobol, an education professor at Columbia Teachers College and a former New York State education commissioner. "That's like a violin student who's only permitted to play scales, nothing else, day after day, scales, scales, scales. They'd lose their zest for music."

    But officials in Cuero, Tex., have adopted an intensive approach and said it was helping them meet the federal requirements. They have doubled the time that all sixth graders and some seventh and eighth graders devote to reading and math, and have reduced it for other subjects.

    "When you only have so many hours per day and you're behind in some area that's being hammered on, you have to work on that," said Henry Lind, the schools superintendent. "It's like basketball. If you can't make layups, then you've got to work on layups."

    Chad Colby, a spokesman for the federal Department of Education, said the department neither endorsed nor criticized schools that concentrated instructional time on math and reading as they sought to meet the test benchmarks laid out in the federal law's accountability system, known as adequate yearly progress.

    "We don't choose the curriculum," Mr. Colby said. "That's a decision that local leaders have to make. But for every school you point to, I can show you five other schools across the country where students are still taking a well-rounded curriculum and are still making adequate yearly progress. I don't think it's unreasonable to ask our schools to get kids proficient at grade level in reading and math."

    Since America's public schools began taking shape in the early 1800's, shifting fashions have repeatedly reworked the curriculum. Courses like woodworking and sewing joined the three R's. After World War I, vocational courses, languages and other subjects broadened the instructional menu into a smorgasbord.

    A federal law passed after the Russian launching of Sputnik in 1957 spurred a renewed emphasis on science and math, and a 1975 law that guaranteed educational rights for the disabled also provoked sweeping change, said William Reese, a professor at the University of Wisconsin and author of "America's Public Schools: From the Common School to No Child Left Behind." But the education law has leveraged one of the most abrupt instructional shifts, he said.

    "Because of its emphasis on testing and accountability in particular subjects, it apparently forces some school districts down narrow intellectual paths," Dr. Reese said. "If a subject is not tested, why teach it?"

    The shift has been felt in the labor market, heightening demand for math teachers and forcing educators in subjects like art and foreign languages to search longer for work, leaders of teachers groups said.

    The survey that is coming out this week looks at 299 school districts in 50 states. It was conducted as part of a four-year study of No Child Left Behind and appears to be the most systematic effort to track the law's footprints through the classroom, although other authorities had warned of its effect on teaching practices.

    The historian David McCullough told a Senate Committee last June that because of the law, "history is being put on the back burner or taken off the stove altogether in many or most schools, in favor of math and reading."

    The report says that at districts in Colorado, Texas, Vermont, California, Nebraska and elsewhere, math and reading are squeezing other subjects. At one district cited, the Bayonne City Schools in New Jersey, low-performing ninth graders will be barred from taking Spanish, music or any other elective next fall so they can take extra periods of math and reading, said Ellen O'Connor, an assistant superintendent.

    "We're using that as a motivation," Dr. O'Connor said. "We're hoping they'll concentrate on their math and reading so they can again participate in some course they love."

    At King Junior High, in a poor neighborhood in Sacramento a few miles from a decommissioned Air Force base, the intensive reading and math classes have raised test scores for several years running. That has helped Larry Buchanan, the superintendent of the Grant Joint Union High School District, which oversees the school, to be selected by an administrators' group as California's 2005 superintendent of the year.

    But in spite of the progress, the school's scores on California state exams, used for compliance with the federal law, are increasing not nearly fast enough to allow the school to keep up with the rising test benchmarks. On the math exams administered last spring, for instance, 17.4 percent of students scored at the proficient level or above, and on the reading exams, only 14.9 percent.

    With scores still so low, Mr. Harris, the school's principal, and Mr. Buchanan said they had little alternative but to continue remedial instruction for the lower-achieving among the school's nearly 900 students.

    The students are the sons and daughters of mostly Hispanic, black and Laotian Hmong parents, many of whom work as gardeners, welders and hotel maids or are unemployed. The district administers frequent diagnostic tests so that teachers can carefully calibrate lessons to students' needs.

    Rubén Jimenez, a seventh grader whose father is a construction laborer, has a schedule typical of many students at the school, with six class periods a day, not counting lunch.

    Rubén studies English for the first three periods, and pre-algebra and math during the fourth and fifth. His sixth period is gym. How does he enjoy taking only reading and math, a recent visitor asked.

    "I don't like history or science anyway," Rubén said. But a moment later, perhaps recalling something exciting he had heard about lab science, he sounded ambivalent.

    "It'd be fun to dissect something," he said.

    Martín Lara, Rubén's teacher, said the intense focus on math was paying off because his math skills were solidifying. Rubén said math has become his favorite subject.

    But other students, like Paris Smith, an eighth grader, were less enthusiastic. Last semester, Paris failed one of the two math classes he takes, back to back, each morning.

    "I hate having two math classes in a row," Paris said. "Two hours of math is too much. I can't concentrate that long."

    Donna Simmons, his mother, said Mr. Lara seemed to be working hard to help Paris understand math.

    "The school cares," Ms. Simmons said. "The faculty cares. I want him to keep trying."

    Sydney Smith, a vice principal who oversees instruction at the school, said she had heard only minimal grumbling from students excluded from electives.

    "I've only had about two students come to my office and say: 'What in the world? I'm just taking two courses?' " Ms. Smith said. "So most students are not complaining about being miserable."

    But Lorie Turner, who teaches English to some pupils for three consecutive periods and to others for two periods each day, said she used some students' frustration to persuade them to try for higher scores on the annual exams administered under California's Standardized Testing and Reporting program, known as Star.

    "I have some little girls who are dying to get out of this class and get into a mainstream class," Ms. Turner said. "But I tell them the only way out is to do better on that Star test."

    Copyright 2006The New York Times Company

    Friday, March 24, 2006

    SAT Problems Even Larger Than Reported

    March 23, 2006
    SAT Problems Even Larger Than Reported

    The College Board disclosed yesterday that the problems resulting from the misscoring of its October SAT examination were larger than it had previously reported.

    In a statement, the organization said it discovered last weekend that 27,000 of the 495,000 October tests had not been rechecked for errors. It said that after checking those exams and one other overlooked set, it had found that 400 more students than previously reported had received scores that were too low.

    A board official added that the maximum error was 450 points, not 400.

    This is the third time in two weeks that the board, which administers the exam, has acknowledged that its earlier assessment of the problems was wrong. In its statement, the board also outlined steps it planned to avoid mistakes.

    The disclosures prompted fresh criticism that the board had not been as forthcoming as it should have been in disclosing the problems promptly and in detail.

    "Everybody appears to be telling half-truths, and that erodes confidence in the College Board," said Bruce J. Poch, vice president and dean of admissions at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif. "It looks like they hired the people who used to do the books for Enron. My next question is what other surprise we're going to hear about next."

    The board said two weeks ago that it had found scoring problems on the October SAT after two students requested in December that their tests be re-scored by hand. In the review, the board became aware of a more widespread problem.

    It asked Pearson Educational Measurement, the large testing company that scores the exam, to rescore the October exams. As a result, the board found that 4,000 students had received understated scores and that 600 had overstated scores. The policy of the board is to change just scores that are too low. Pearson has said the errors resulted in part from too much moisture when it scanned the answer sheets to be graded by machine.

    Last week, the board said 1,600 exams, separated for special processing because of security and other questions, had not been rescored. The board asked Pearson to rescore those tests. While awaiting that rescoring, the board asked Pearson to confirm again that all the October tests had been scored a second time. It turned out that they had not been.

    Last weekend, the board said, Pearson informed board officials that 27,000 tests had not been "fully evaluated." Neither the board nor Pearson explained how or why those tests had been overlooked.

    In rescoring the 27,000 tests this week, 375 were found to have scores lower than they should have been. The incidence of problems ˜ 1.4 percent of the 27,000 ˜ was significantly higher than in the first batch of problems, in which eight-tenths of 1 percent of the tests were misscored. An additional 18 misscored tests were found among the 1,600 separated from the rest of the October exams for special processing.

    According to the board statement yesterday, the total number of students who received scores too low was 10 percent larger than it had reported before, approximately 4,400 rather than 4,000. The board said yesterday that 613 others had received scores higher than those they had earned on the three-part exam, which has a possible 2,400 points.

    The vice president for public affairs at the board, Chiarra Coletti, said it would notify college admissions officers and high school guidance counselors last night through an "e-mail alert," and inform affected students today.

    Pearson, one of the biggest players in the testing industry, has experienced other scoring problems. It started scoring the SAT last year.

    In its statement yesterday, the board said Pearson would ensure that all answer sheets were "acclimatized before scanning" and would scan each answer sheet twice. Pearson will also improve its software to detect whether answer sheets have expanded because of humidity.

    In addition, the board said Booz Allen Hamilton, the consultants, would conduct a "comprehensive review, with emphasis on the scanning process," over the next 90 days, and would recommend improvements.

    Ms. Coletti said that she did not know how much the new procedures would cost, but that the test fee for the rest of this year would "certainly remain the same."

    The board statement quoted Douglas Kubach, chief executive of Pearson Educational Measurement, as saying that the company regretted "the uncertainty and disruption these issues caused" and was "determined to take every possible necessary step to restore confidence in this process."

    "Electronic scanning of answers is essential to giving the large number of students who take the SAT the speed and accuracy they require in this important test," he added.

    A spokesman for Pearson, David Hakensen, said he could not provide more information on whether the new steps would mean higher prices.

    Robert A. Schaeffer, public education director for FairTest, a group that criticizes heavy reliance on testing, said the new announcement reinforced "the need for an outside independent investigation to find out how many more problems have not been reported."

    "The College Board and Pearson are clearly not competent to police themselves," Mr. Schaeffer said.

    Wednesday, March 22, 2006

    Standardized Tests Face a Crisis Over Standards

    March 22, 2006

    Standardized Tests Face a Crisis Over Standards
    By MICHAEL WINERIP / New York Times

    NEVER has the nation's education system been so reliant on standardized tests and the companies that make them. Thanks to the federal No Child Left Behind Law, this year, for the first time, every student from third to eighth grade and one high school grade must take state tests. That is about 45 million tests to be graded annually and it does not even include all the standardized tests now required for professional certification, or the SAT, ACT, AP, GRE exams, to name a few.

    Last week was not a good one for the half-dozen companies that dominate the testing industry. Pearson admitted that it had incorrectly scored thousands of the College Board's SAT tests. The Educational Testing Service agreed to pay $11.1 million to settle a class-action suit brought on behalf of 4,100 people who were told that they had failed a teacher licensing test when they had actually passed. And in New York, new seventh- and eighth-grade tests developed by McGraw-Hill included several questions from practice tests that were mistakenly used again on the real tests.

    Test officials say that it was just a bad week and that mistakes are few, considering all the tests given.

    But in a recent study that is looking more prescient every minute, Thomas Toch, co-director of a new research group, EducationSector, describes how overextended and underregulated the testing industry is; he warns of many more bad weeks to come, unless something is done.

    "The scale of N.C.L.B. testing requirements, competitive pressures in the testing industry, a shortage of testing experts, insufficient state resources, tight regulatory deadlines and a lack of meaningful oversight of the sprawling N.C.L.B. testing enterprise are undermining N.C.L.B.'s pursuit of higher academic standards," he writes. And that is from a man who supports the federal law.

    While testing errors make headlines, Mr. Toch writes that even more worrisome is the pressure on states to dumb down their tests — to switch from challenging tests with essay questions to multiple choice to save money and meet federal reporting deadlines. He points out how much cheaper and faster machine-scored multiple-choice tests are to grade. Florida can do a million multiple-choice tests in a day, while correcting tests with essay questions can take weeks. It costs a test company 50 cents to $5 to score an essay, compared with pennies for each multiple-choice question.

    The result? "Many of the tests that states are introducing under N.C.L.B. contain many questions that require students to merely recall and restate facts, rather than do more demanding tasks like applying or evaluating information," Mr. Toch writes in his study, which can be found at

    A recent Education Week survey found that 42 percent of students are now taking state reading and math tests that are entirely multiple choice. To save time and money, Kansas and Mississippi switched to all-multiple-choice tests this year.

    Which brings us to Connecticut. Last year, Connecticut filed suit against the federal Department of Education, contending that federal officials had failed to pay the cost of all the tests required by No Child Left Behind. While the suit got much news media play, many of the underlying testing issues were missed.

    Connecticut wants to maintain its state tests, which feature many essay questions and problems that require students to explain their work. The state maintains that to administer these tests every year from third to eighth grade, as the federal law requires, will cost $8 million more than federal financing provides.

    In a May 3, 2005, letter, the federal education secretary, Margaret Spellings, said that while Connecticut's tests "are instructionally sound, they go beyond what was contemplated by N.C.L.B." Federal officials suggested that Connecticut switch to multiple-choice tests and eliminate writing tests to cut costs.

    For many, the Connecticut lawsuit is a pivotal moment. Will the law's testing demands raise national education standards or lower them?

    Connecticut has long been considered the gold standard of state testing programs, mixing multiple choice and essays. A fifth-grade reading test describes a popular game in Uganda and asks students to write an essay comparing the African game with a game played at their school. Connecticut's high school science test requires students to design and carry out a lab experiment, record the results and answer questions about it.

    "Connecticut's reputation is to produce tests that are the best in the country," says James Popham, a national testing expert who is a professor emeritus at the University ofCalifornia, Los Angeles. "The Feds' position is so shortsighted. N.C.L.B. is supposed to be increasing the caliber of education and this is lowering it. It's eroding the power of the test to explain what kids can and cannot do."

    In their legal papers, Connecticut officials said the deputy secretary of education, Ray Simon, suggested that the state, in addition to saving money by switching to multiple-choice reading and math tests in several grades and dropping its writing assessments, could also "use multiple choice for the N.C.L.B. science tests in grades 5, 8 and 10."

    Betty Sternberg, Connecticut's education commissioner, said having challenging tests pushed schools to teach higher-level skills. "Writing is an essential skill that every youngster needs to succeed," she said. "Eliminating it is not an option."

    TO hold down testing costs, Connecticut sought permission to give its state tests to every other grade, as it has done since the 1980's.

    Ms. Spellings rejected this request, saying that annual testing was a crucial part of the law. Chad Colby, a spokesman for the federal Education Department, said officials would not comment on the pending lawsuit. But in an opinion article in The Hartford Courant last year, Ms. Spellings compared Connecticut officials to children who did not like tests and said that, as adults, they should "surely know better." She wrote that tests needed to be administered annually to highlight and shrink the achievement gap between white and black students.

    In response, Gov. M. Jodi Rell wrote that testing twice as often would not close the gap and that the money would be better spent on preschool, technology and a longer school day.

    Unlike Connecticut, Mississippi gave in and switched to multiple-choice tests. "Our budget has been very tight the last several years," said Kris Kaase, an associate state superintendent. Asked if he worried that the state was dumbing down its tests, he said, "It's a concern people have."

    "It means a statewide assessment is not as complete an assessment of a student as we would like," he said.

    Copyright 2006The New York Times Company


    Monday, March 20, 2006

    Compassion, not Criminalization in Immigration Reform!

    "I was a stranger and you welcomed me," (Matthew 25:35).

    Immigration is a deeply relevant issue for both Americans and Christians. The U.S. is a nation of immigrants, one that has been continually reshaped by new groups of people bringing diverse cultures, perspectives, and resources. Immigration is also a core issue for Christians: the biblical story continually shows God's concern for the migrant and the outcast. The early Hebrews were "strangers in the land of Egypt" and were asked to remember this heritage by protecting the strangers among them in the promised land. Similarly, throughout the New Testament, Christians are called to care for the outcast and the stranger.

    The U.S. desperately needs to heed the biblical imperative to care for the stranger. Since the mid-‘90s, when the government established operations in San Diego, El Paso, and Arizona increasing fencing and border security, more than 2,500 people have died of dehydration and exhaustion crossing the desert into the U.S. In addition, thousands of immigrants who do make it into the U.S. are treated inhumanely by an increasingly militarized border security system of police, fences, and jails.

    A common misconception exists that immigrants use up national resources. However, immigrants actually contribute $1,800 more on average in annual taxes than they receive in benefits, according to a 1997 study by the National Academy of Sciences. Immigrants pay local taxes through work, purchases, and housing, as well as direct federal taxes. Young immigrant workers contribute to Social Security through payroll taxes. Immigration is also key to a vital economy; in the U.S. immigrants add about $10 billion annually to the U.S. economy. Immigrants to the U.S., documented and undocumented, contribute a great deal to our national economy and government.

    "The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 19:34)

    Links to organizations and resources providing more information on immigration reform:

    National Immigration Forum

    National Council of La Raza

    American Friends Service Committee

    U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

    No More Deaths Campaign

    Latin America Working Group

    New American Opportunity Campaign

    Mennonite Central Committee Washington Office

    Justice For Immigrants Campaign

    World Relief

    Studies on U.S. Immigration:

    National Academy of Sciences

    U.S. Department of Labor

    Spending on instruction varies among Texas school districts

    This piece critiques the 65% plan, something that will likely surface during the special session on school finance.
    It's good to get beyond the rhetoric and see what the data actually say.

    Spending on instruction varies among Texas school districts
    Even stellar performers don't always hit Perry's proposed 65 percent mark, study finds.

    By Raven L. Hill
    Monday, March 20, 2006

    Even Texas' highest-performing school districts vary widely in how much they spend on instruction, according to a study released this week by a coalition of education groups, a finding that adds to the debate about the reasoning behind Gov. Rick Perry's "65 percent rule."

    The rule would require school districts to spend almost two-thirds of their budgets on "direct classroom instruction" and will be phased in over several years. The education groups have argued that funding should be handled at the local level.

    The report looked at total expenditures and their role in the educational process during the 2003-04 school year and found that most, whether for instruction or other operations, were crucial in meeting the needs of Texas' 4.3 million students.

    "To have a one-size-fits-all number that is used not just for reporting but for sanctions is inappropriate," said Catherine Clark, associate director of the Texas Association of School Boards.

    The association joined other state organizations representing administrators, school boards, business officials and 29 school districts, including Austin, in commissioning the study.

    Texas public schools spent $30.3 billion on instruction, operations, administrative and related costs, according to the report.

    Sixty-one percent of the money, an estimated $18.6 billion, went toward instruction expenses, such as salaries and benefits for teachers and staff. General operations, including building maintenance, transportation, food service and security costs, accounted for 20 percent. The remainder was spent on administrative salaries, along with health, legal and professional services.

    "I am open to having an annual process by which I must explain (spending decisions) to the public," Austin Superintendent Pat Forgione said. "But having an arbitrary trigger of 65 percent, . . . I've not seen any research that says it's better than 60 percent or 70 percent."

    School districts spent more or less than the state average depending on student demographics, location, as well as community expectations, the report noted.

    For example, small districts as a rule had relatively higher administrative costs. Meanwhile, districts with more students from low-income families spent more on instruction support services and slightly more on operations, possibly because of the need for services such as counseling, health, and breakfast and lunch programs.

    The study also found greater spending variations when it compared higher- and lower-performing districts among their peers in the same class than when comparing higher- and lower-performing districts to each other.

    For example, Palo Pinto, a small district outside of Fort Worth that was rated exemplary by the state, spent less than 50 percent on instruction in the 2003-04 school year because it has higher transportation and utility costs, Clark said.

    By comparison, the Hamilton school district near Waco, also rated exemplary that year, spent about 64 percent.

    Lower-performing districts tended to spend more on instruction than higher-performing districts.

    State Education Commissioner Shirley Neeley has not released spending guidelines for Perry's rule.

    The guidelines are expected to be based on federal definitions of instruction spending, which exclude money used to pay for librarians, counselors, nurses, food service and transportation.

    According to those who have met with Neeley, the policy will probably set 65 percent as a goal with no sanctions for districts that fail to meet it.

    "The definition needs to be one that makes sense to the public and to the business of education," Clark said.; 445-3620

    School spending

    Gov. Rick Perry's rule will require school districts to spend at least 65 percent of their budgets on instruction. Currently, spending patterns vary across Texas, according to a report released by the Texas Association of School Boards and other education groups, because of local circumstances such as student demographics, geography, resources available and community expectations and needs. These are the percentages spent on instruction in 2003-04:

    Spending by district type

    Major urban 62.3%

    Major suburban 62.4%

    Other central city 61.5%

    Other central city suburban 59.4%

    Independent town 59.6%

    Non-metro fast growing 60.0%

    Non-metro stable 59.3%

    Rural 58.7%

    State average 61.2%

    Central Texas school districts

    Austin 60.6%

    Del Valle 61.8%

    Eanes 63.7%

    Georgetown 66.3%

    Lago Vista 64.6%

    Lake Travis 64.3%

    Leander 61.5%

    Manor 59.5%

    Pflugerville 63.9%

    Round Rock 62.3%

    San Marcos 63.0%

    Sources: Texas Association of School Boards, Texas Education Agency

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    Lobbyists step up for the special school finance session in April

    So the special session on school finance convenes shortly on April 17, 2006. Here is Carlos Guerra's analysis. One want to be hopeful but....

    Another related piece also appearing in the Houston Chronicle on March 17 titled"Special session to repair school finance set for April 17" adds important detail.


    Lobbyists step up for the special school finance session in April

    Web Posted: 03/19/2006 12:00 AM CST

    by Carlos Guerra
    San Antonio Express-News

    The special session of the Legislature to fix Texas' school-funding system — declared unconstitutional in November — will convene April 17, Gov. Rick Perry said last week. And on this, the fourth try, if lawmakers don't fix it by June 1, it could be disastrous for Perry — who is headed into a four-way plurality election in November — and worse for kids.

    There are passionate constituencies on all sides of this issue. Yes, our workforce's educational level will determine Texas' economic future. But it is also easy to see why property owners grumble about ever-rising property taxes.

    Many public schools are excellent, and untold thousands of great teachers are producing outstanding students. But there is also no shortage of tales about bad schools, squandered public money and school boards that are well-oiled patronage machines.

    At the same time, it is also hard to disagree with conscientious parents and educators who point out that woefully inadequate funding keeps Texas schools from providing today's kids with the educational programs needed to excel.

    The current drive to overhaul the state-local funding mechanism that raises the $33 billion for schools started in the regular 2003 legislative session, where the effort finally died amid much acrimony. Perry called a special session to deal with the issue in 2004, but it was angrier and less productive.

    Perry then advised lawmakers to seek consensus on a fix before the 2005 regular session, but that session came and went, and the only accord lawmakers reached was that they might find accord more easily if the state Supreme Court held a gun to their heads.

    They got their wish in November when the justices found Texas' school funding system unconstitutional. But the ruling was very limited. Because so many school districts are taxing at the $1.50 maximum rate, the court ruled, an unconstitutional state property tax has been created, and school districts no longer have "meaningful discretion" in raising tax rates or spending on community priorities.

    And if those things aren't fixed by June 1, the justices warned, state money will stop flowing to local districts.

    Perry recruited former comptroller John Sharp, a Democrat, to head the Texas Tax Reform Commission — a panel dominated by business types — and ordered it to put together "a revenue-neutral" package of tax-swaps to lower property tax rates and replace the lost revenue with other tax money.

    The panel's report has not been released, but panel members say they will recommend lowering property taxes to $1 and replacing the money lost with new taxes on service providers, a gross-revenue tax on most corporations and raising the cigarette tax by $1 per pack.

    And already, two new, heavily funded lobbying groups have formed to join the older trade groups that killed previous efforts to raise taxes on businesses. One new group consists of Texas' largest law firms and the other's membership is a who's who of the state's largest manufacturers.

    As for the many parents, educators, administrators, school board members and progressive Texans who want Texas to go beyond smoke-and-mirrors tax-swaps and bogus high-stakes tests, and actually provide the money needed to make our public schools — and our students — competitive with other states, they too are coming together. But the Coalition to Invest in Public Schools' Web site is still under construction, as it has been for a while.

    I wonder who will win this one?

    To contact Carlos Guerra, call (210) 250-3545 or e-mail His column appears on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

    Sunday, March 19, 2006

    Taking TAKS to Task

    Congratulations to Kimberly Marciniak and her parents who supported Kimberly’s decision to stand up for something that she believed in. My older daughter in the seventh grade also didn’t take the TAKS test this year (nor last). Coupled with changing admissions trends that de-emphasize standardized test scores, this news is encouraging. -Angela

    Taking TAKS to Task
    03/18/2006 12:00 AM CST
    By Jenny LaCoste-Caputo
    San Antonio Express-News Staff Writer

    When Kimberly Marciniak first decided to take a stand against standardized testing by boycotting the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, critics from all sides begged her to change her mind.

    Since public school students in Texas must pass the test to earn a high school diploma, teachers and guidance counselors worried the intelligent young girl was throwing away her chances for college. A guest on a local radio talk show said she'd made a "stupidly stubborn decision."

    Now Marciniak, 18, has the ultimate "I told you so." She has been accepted to her top three college choices and offered scholarships from each one.

    Marciniak is part of a growing contingent of students nationwide showing their opposition to high-stakes testing by putting down their pencils.

    In Massachusetts, New York, Washington and California, students and parents have boycotted state tests in recent years. And a growing number of colleges and universities also are turning their backs on standardized tests by dropping the requirement that applicants submit an ACT or SAT score.

    A senior at North East School of the Arts — a magnet program at Lee High School — Marciniak has a stellar academic record and spent last school year studying in New Zealand.

    Despite the advanced placement courses she's taken and the classes she's aced, Kimberly will count among the school's dropouts this year because of her refusal to take the TAKS test.

    "I think a lot of people thought when it actually came down to graduation requirements that I would eventually take the test," Marciniak said. "I always felt like if I was doing the right thing and I felt so strongly about it, then no matter what happened, I'd be OK."

    If the growing backlash against standardized tests keeps up, Marciniak may have plenty of company.

    More than 730 four-year colleges and universities nationwide do not use the SAT or ACT to make admissions decisions about a substantial number of their applicants. Policies vary from school to school.

    Some schools may not require test scores at all, while others exempt students who meet grade-point average or class rank criteria. Some schools may require the scores but use them only for placement purposes or to conduct research studies.

    The list of test optional schools is growing. The schools range from small liberal arts colleges to state college systems in California and Oregon and includes more than 40 schools in Texas, the University of Texas at Austin and at San Antonio, among them.

    But that doesn't mean students who don't take the TAKS will have an easy time being admitted. It's possible to attend a Texas college without having officially graduated, admissions officers say, but policies vary.

    Robert Schaeffer, the public education director for FairTest, an advocacy organization based in Cambridge, Mass., that opposes what it calls the misuse of standardized tests, keeps an online list of colleges that don't consider test scores for admission.

    He said half a dozen colleges in the past year have switched to test optional — including Knox — and he expects several more to make that decision in the coming year, based on his conversations with admissions officials at those schools.

    "Many colleges are realizing that test performance is not a true measure of a student's merit," Schaffer said.

    Amen to that, say students like Marciniak and Mia Kang-Radlet, who as a freshman at MacArthur High last year refused to take a TAKS practice test and the real thing when it rolled around.

    They say the "drill and kill" mentality of test preparation is destroying their thirst for knowledge and creating a generation of students who are missing crucial lessons in critical thinking, creativity and discovery.

    "The issue for me with TAKS has never been whether or not I can pass, but whether or not I can participate in something I believe is unfair," Marciniak said. "Civic responsibility is something I learned about in my seventh-grade year. You have no right to complain about the president if you don't vote. Well I look at TAKS the same way. I would have no right to complain if I know there is something I can do to change it."

    Marciniak applied to small, "test optional" liberal arts colleges. Her top two choices: Hampshire College in western Massachusetts and Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., both offered her scholarships based on her decision to boycott TAKS.

    In her acceptance letter, Hampshire admission officials signed off with a P.S. that read: "Kim, your willingness to stand up for your beliefs is inspiring. At Hampshire, you'll be able to combine your passion for social justice, cultural studies, education reform and the visual arts into a meaningful education."

    The school offered her its "To Know Is Not Enough" scholarship for active participation in democracy to bring about change, worth $30,000. Annual tuition at Hampshire, plus room and board, is just over $40,000 a year.

    "The school's motto is 'To know is not enough' and it implies that knowledge for the sake of knowledge is not enough and it should be knowledge in service," said Elaine Thomas, director of college communications for Hampshire. "We have a definite commitment to civic action. We particularly attract and like students who ask a lot of questions. Our approach to education is inquiry based. That's what makes Kimberly a perfect fit here."

    Knox awarded Marciniak its top social concerns scholarship, worth $28,000 over four years, plus an additional visual arts scholarship. The school was founded by social reformers in 1837 and some of its earliest students included women and African Americans, said Paul Steenis, vice president of enrollment and dean of admissions. Knox charges about $32,000 per year, including room and board.

    "When we saw Kim take this stand on very principled grounds, really taking some risks, it really resonated with us," Steenis said. "Just this past year we took the bold step of becoming a test optional college. It's a growing trend particularly among more select colleges to move beyond test scores. It's really a response to this world that is increasingly obsessed with testing at all levels. Teaching to a test has become more important than learning."

    Marciniak said her parents — her mom graduated from Wellesley College and her dad graduated from Harvard University — stood behind her decision to boycott the test, even if it jeopardized her college chances.

    She said she hopes she's proven a point.

    "I was so thrilled not only to be accepted but also thrilled that in a sense I proved all those disbelievers wrong. My decision did not hurt my college application process like everyone feared," Marciniak said. "In fact I saw the exact opposite — the colleges I applied to looked on a principled boycott as a positive thing."