Saturday, October 25, 2008

Report Reveals High Parent Frustration with America's High Schools

This study has some interesting findings although it's important to mention that parental involvement in this study and the other cited in the article appear to define involvement based on few criteria (showing up to school).

What might be useful is how schools can also partner with parents outside of school and make use of opportunities to engage with them during events and activities where they are involved and supporting their children in diverse ways.

Research on low-income high-achieving youth reveal the impact of non-traditional methods of parental involvement that played a significant role in not only the confidence to do well in school, but the positive constructions of self (an understanding of their culture, history, retaining of a second language, etc) that were also key to their success. All of these factors combined with a supportive contact (teacher, counselor, mentor, etc.) in and out of school can/ should be viewed as a potential model that would help youth be successful in school.

Schools need to first recognize and place value on those diverse methods of involvement, then see how they can learn from and build upon parents' efforts so that they're stronger and more well versed on how to be advocates for their children's education. To see parental involvement efforts as a dichotomous phenomenon (present in school or not) really undermines those things that parents do for their children, and when schools (and research) promote this model it can create walls that make it difficult to forge reciprocal relationships between schools and parents.

Check out the full report


Oct. 23, 2008
WASHINGTON, Oct 23, 2008

-- Parents wish to be more engaged by schools, but need better tools and information
Parents across America share high hopes for their children's academic success and many know their involvement is vital. But parents with students in low-performing high schools say their schools don't give them the tools and information they need to be more effective in helping their students succeed, according to a national report released today.

"One Dream, Two Realities: Perspectives of Parents on America's High Schools," by Civic Enterprises, and based on research conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates, captures the views of parents of high school students in America's urban, suburban, and rural communities from diverse backgrounds and income levels. The findings point to concrete steps that can improve parental engagement in schools and strengthen efforts to prepare all young people for success in college and the workplace. The report was commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The full report can be accessed at:

"The critical role parents play in educating children is often a blind assumption or a target of attack," said John Bridgeland, president and CEO of Civic Enterprises and co-author of the report. "The findings of this report call for a halt to the blame game. This report disproves the prevailing myth that low-income parents are not interested in their children's academic success. The opposite is true. Parents, especially those with students trapped in low-income or low-performing schools, desperately want to be involved and want their students to succeed. What parents need is an access point - a way into schools - so they can become partners in helping students learn and achieve."

Many parents surveyed believe that schools should do a better job of reaching out to them or engaging them as partners, particularly parents of students in low-performing schools. In fact, 80 percent of all parents surveyed, and 85 percent of parents of students in low-performing schools, believe parents should be involved as advocates for their children when it comes to picking courses and teachers.
The report reveals a stark contrast between the experiences of parents with students in low-performing schools and those with students in high-performing schools. According to the survey:

-- Only 15 percent of parents with students at low-performing schools feel
that their school is doing a very good job challenging students,
compared with 58 percent of parents with students in high-performing
-- Forty-seven percent of parents with students in low-performing schools
said that their schools were doing a good job in encouraging parents to
be involved compared to 85 percent of parents with students in
high-performing schools.
-- Twenty-five percent of parents with students in low-performing schools
say that their school informed them about academic and disciplinary
problems compared to more than half (53 percent) of parents with
students in high-performing schools.
-- Less than 20 percent of parents with students in low-performing schools
believe schools do a very good job preparing their students across four
categories: preparation for college; helping students develop
confidence, maturity, and personal skills; developing a special talent;
and preparing them for a good job. Half of parents with students in
high-performing schools feel this way.
-- Half of parents of students in low-performing schools said they felt
welcomed in the schools compared to four out of five parents with
students in high-performing schools.

Each year, more than one million students fail to graduate from high school on time. Research shows that when parents are involved, students perform better and are less likely to drop out. Yet studies have shown that as students grow older, parents tend to become less involved with their children's academic lives due, in part, to unique barriers like difficulty in helping them with homework or lack of resources for parents of high school-aged students.

The report is a follow-up to the 2006 Gates Foundation-funded survey of high school students, "The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts." "The Silent Epidemic" report noted lack of parental involvement as one of the key reasons dropouts gave for leaving school. Out of 470 dropouts surveyed around the country, only 21 percent said their parents were "very involved" in their schooling. More than 70 percent of dropouts said that one key to keep them in school was better communication between parents and schools, and increasing parental involvement in their education. "One Dream, Two Realities" suggests that parents can play a significant role in reversing this trend.
"Unfortunately, parents of students trapped in low-performing schools--those who need the most support--are the ones that are least likely to be engaged by their children's schools," said Geoff Garin, president of Peter D. Hart Research Associates. "But we know there is a clear pathway to help improve student achievement in these low-performing schools, and that is through schools and parents working together to create opportunities where parents can play an active role in their children's academic success."

The report includes parents' recommendations to strengthen opportunities to support their children's academic success. The report suggests schools meet with parents before high school starts to be clear on what constitutes success in school. Other suggestions include: providing a prompt notification of academic problems; establishing an ongoing dialogue, not just when problems occur; partnering with community organizations to offer parent involvement classes; providing information packets that give parents details about the school and the courses each child is taking; assigning a single point of contact within the school to allow each parent to address key questions or concerns regarding their children; recruiting parent volunteers to serve as liaisons between the school and other parents to help identify ways of including otherwise disengaged parents; and including parent perspectives in the America's Promise Alliance 100 dropout summits in all 50 states over the next three years.

"We know that ensuring that every student is prepared for success in college, career, and life means keeping the doors of our high schools and communication lines open to parents," said Vicki Phillips, director of education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "This report shows that we must do more to ensure that all parents, particularly those with students in low-performing schools, are given new and better ways to enlist their full participation and engage them as even stronger advocates for their children's success."

Civic Enterprises

Civic Enterprises is a public policy development firm dedicated to informing discussions on issues of importance to the nation.

Statement from America's Promise Alliance President and CEO Marguerite Kondracke on "One Dream, Two Realities: Perspectives of Parents on America's High Schools"

"Our Cities in Crisis report revealed the stark contrast between the graduation rates of high schools in our nation's largest cities and their surrounding suburbs. This new report by Civic Enterprises shows that there is also a stark contrast that exists when it comes to providing opportunities for parents of students who attend low-performing high schools to be fully engaged in the academic success of their children compared to those whose children attend high-performing schools.

"This report makes clear that parents of students at both high- and low-performing high schools want to play an active role in their children's education, but there is more work to be done to ensure that parents in all communities have the resources and the support to be as actively engaged as they want to be. Research tells us that their involvement is essential to our young people's success, and the lack of it is a tragic, but real factor in young people failing to graduate on time.

"Two years ago, Civic Enterprises released a watershed report revealing just how dire the high school dropout crisis was in our country. Appropriately titled, 'The Silent Epidemic,' this study illustrated for the first time the true depths of an educational and social catastrophe that was jeopardizing the financial security and future of our nation. Each year, more than one million students drop out of high school--that's one teenager every 26 seconds and 7,000 each school day. The cost of this crisis is equally staggering as dropouts from the class of 2007 alone will cost the nation more than $329 billion in lost wages, taxes and productivity over their lifetimes.

"America's Promise Alliance's national Dropout Prevention Campaign is working hard to reduce the dropout rate. In the next two years, we will sponsor 100 Dropout Prevention Summits in all 50 states and parental involvement in education is a key element of this campaign. In addition to parental involvement, we need curriculum reform, after-school programs, efforts to improve health care and nutrition programs, increased resources and greater accountability. Most of all, we need to recognize that no one entity can solve this crisis alone, but working together, we can make enormous strides to ensure our children succeed."
SOURCE Civic Enterprises, LLC

U.S. to renew push for crackdown on illegal workers

By Nicole Gaouette
October 23, 2008

Reporting from Washington -- In a final drive to toughen immigration enforcement, the Bush administration will again try to institute a system that would force employers to fire workers who have discrepancies in their Social Security data.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Thursday that he would ask a federal judge to lift an injunction imposed against the "no-match" rule after foes including the American Civil Liberties Union and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sued to stop it last year.

The move could affect millions of workers -- citizens and immigrants alike -- and continues to draw fierce opposition from business as well as civil liberties and immigrant advocate groups.

In an annual address on border enforcement and illegal immigration, Chertoff said that he expected continued resistance to the rule but that his agency had addressed concerns raised in the lawsuit.

Under the rule, businesses could be prosecuted for failing to respond to notices from the Social Security Administration that workers' information does not match data on file with the government, often an indicator of illegal immigration but frequently the result of simple inconsistencies or clerical errors.

The no-match rule would be part of the Bush administration's wide-ranging crackdown on illegal immigration, a campaign that also involves controversial mass workplace raids and requirements that federal contractors verify that every employee is authorized to work.

With less than three months before a new administration comes to power, Chertoff used the annual address to try to hammer out a legacy for himself and his young agency, founded in 2003. Chertoff declared that Homeland Security had made unprecedented progress in slowing the flow of migrants crossing the border.

"For the first year in many years that anybody can remember, the efforts we've undertaken at the border have begun to turn the tide of illegal immigration," Chertoff said, citing a flat or declining number of illegal immigrants in the country, more aggressive enforcement at work sites and greater levels of infrastructure and personnel at the border.

"Many of the things we've accomplished are things that people thought we couldn't do," Chertoff said. "We've done more in five years than has been accomplished in decades before."

The Homeland Security chief said the next administration should maintain current levels of enforcement and urged Congress to return to the controversial issue of comprehensive immigration reform, which lawmakers abandoned after efforts sputtered last year.

Chertoff said the crackdown would cast immigration reform in a more favorable light.

"Americans will soon say, 'OK, it's now time to allow more legal immigrants in,' " he said. "Ultimately, we're going to have to go back to Congress and ask for comprehensive immigration reform."

Chertoff also said the agency had completed about 370 miles of the Southwestern border fence and put odds that it would reach its year-end goal of 670 miles at "90% to 95%."

The no-match rule requires employers to give workers 90 days to clear up any discrepancy in their Social Security data, such as names and numbers that do not correspond to government records. If a mismatch can't be resolved, the worker must be fired or the firm runs the risk of federal prosecution.

As part of the injunction last year, Homeland Security was ordered to examine the rule's potential effect on small businesses, and it determined it would cost up to $36,624 a year for the largest small businesses to comply, not including the costs of termination and replacement of workers.

Some business owners were dismayed by Thursday's announcement.

"Local folks do not want to do the hard manual labor," said Jim Wilson, owner of a suburban Minneapolis nursery.

"People act as if we just pay enough, we'll get the [American] workers," said Sheridan Bailey, who owns an Arizona steel fabrication business where the hourly pay has increased to $22 this year, from $15.43 in 2006. "It doesn't matter how much you pay, you can't get blood out of a turnip if the workers aren't there."

Chertoff was not sympathetic. "Making money is not a sufficient justification for violating the rule," he said.

But Bailey said the issue was not making money, but survival. "We have to have labor; we can't do it without labor," he said.

Gaouette is a Times staff writer.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Math mistake sees hundreds of teachers laid off

This is terrible! Also in recent news were articles about South Texas recruiting these Dallas teachers. Wonder how many took job opportunities.


(CNN) -- The Dallas, Texas, school district laid off hundreds of teachers Thursday to avoid a projected $84 million deficit.

"Today is a day of tremendous sadness throughout the district," Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said in a written statement.

"These teachers and counselors are people who devoted themselves to helping Dallas students, and we will do everything within our power to help them find new jobs."

The district laid off 375 teachers and 40 counselors and assistant principals Thursday, and transferred 460 teachers to other schools within the district.

The deficit was caused by a massive miscalculation in the budget, CNN affiliate WFAA-TV reported.

Children, one crying, crowded Thursday around Mary Crose, a music teacher at San Jacinto Elementary School.

"I've had them since they were in kindergarten," she told The Dallas Morning News, as she wrapped her arms around two of the children. "We've been through a lot at our school, and it's going to be so hard. We need the prayers and support of everyone in Dallas."

"Why do you have to leave?" a girl wailed, through her tears.

"I've been looking at some of the notes they've already written," Crose said, unfolding several pieces of notebook paper. A pink heart had been drawn on one. Words were scrawled on others in crayon.

"My kids are going to lose out because I'm a very good teacher, and so they're going to lose out because they won't have me," a tearful Sandy Keaton, a second-grade teacher at San Jacinto Elementary, told WFAA. Video Watch teacher's tearful lament »

The 375 teachers represent about 3 percent of the district's more than 11,500 teachers. Last week, 152 employees -- including clerks, office managers and teacher assistants -- voluntarily left their jobs, the district said. On September 29, 62 central staff members lost their jobs.

Voluntarily resignations and transfers spared 88 jobs, WFAA reported.

The district estimates that the job cuts and unfilled vacancies will save $30 million. An additional $38 million will be saved by cutting various programs throughout the district.

The Dallas Independent School District is the nation's 12th largest, with more than 160,000 students.

"The children are going to suffer," Karina Colon, a prekindergarten bilingual teacher at San Jacinto Elementary, told The Dallas Morning News.

Colon kept her job, but was crying for her colleagues. "I should feel happy," she said.

The Dallas Independent School District will hold a job fair Tuesday for all employees who were given notice. More than 110 employers will attend the fair, which was put together by the district, the United Way and the Dallas Regional Chamber.

Young High School Dropouts The Possibilities and the Challenges

Check out the full report


By Linda Harris and Evelyn Ganzglass | Center for American Progress
October 17, 2008

This paper looks at strategies for connecting high school dropouts between the ages of 16 and 24 to pathways to postsecondary credentials that have value in the labor market. We will highlight examples of innovations in policy, program delivery, pedagogy in adult education, youth development and dropout recovery, and postsecondary education. We do this not only to advocate for expanded adoption of these best practices, but to seed thinking about ways these policies and practices, if better integrated and funded, can bring about more robust and successful dropout recovery and postsecondary education to address this challenge.

Without question, many of the millions of youth who have dropped out of school have talent, ability, and aspirations for a better future and can benefit from being connected to a supported pathway to postsecondary credentials. This tremendous pool of talent and potential, if properly supported and channeled, can help close the skills gap in this country and greatly contribute to our nation’s productivity and competitiveness. These youth deserve a second chance, but our second-chance strategies must be more robust and focused on delivering to youth the set of postsecondary skills and credentials that will open the door to higher wages and career opportunities. Thus, converting this raw talent into skilled workers with the credentials and mastery for the 21st-century economy will require considerable rethinking of how our secondary, postsecondary, workforce, adult education, youth development, and youth recovery systems work in tandem to build the supports and create the pathways at some scale to bring these youth back into the education and labor market mainstream.


How horrible!

By YOAV GONEN, Education Reporter
October 14, 2008

City officials have agreed to pay for the education of hundreds of students who claim they were prevented from attending regular classes at their Brooklyn high school and otherwise encouraged to drop out, The Post has learned.

The preliminary settlement was spurred by claims from former Boys and Girls HS students that they had been assigned shortened schedules and noncredit-bearing classes or else warehoused in the auditorium of the Bedford-Stuyvesant school beginning in 2002.

Once they fell behind, some students said they were told they were cut from the school's register or pressured to pursue a General Equivalency Diploma.

"It seemed to me like they just wanted me to get out of their hands," said Darrius Spann, 20.

Now working as a security guard, Spann said he spent much of the 2003-04 school year in the school auditorium with as many as 80 students.

His classmate Roger Hutchinson, now 19, said he similarly reported to the auditorium for much of 10th grade - where he and other students spent hours filling out math worksheets under the watch of school deans.

"I was really totally discouraged - I wasn't caring about anything," said Hutchinson, who, like Spann, said he eventually dropped out in order to work.

Both are now hoping to attend Apex Tech - one of the trade schools that the city will pay for under the terms of the agreement, which could affect as many as 500 students enrolled at the school between 2002 and 2008.

The settlement of the suit, filed in 2005 by the group Advocates for Children, is expected to get final approval at a Nov. 14 hearing.

City Law Department officials said they couldn't comment until after the hearing.


JULY 21, 2008

Scapegoating appears to have become the U.S. national pastime. Despite the deaths of thousands of brown peoples on the border and despite the rise of draconian laws massive nationwide immigration sweeps that rip families apart, scoundrel politicians have been waging an intense psychological war that has managed to convince much of the nation that these invading "brown hordes" are the source of all of their problems.

Scapegoating against the most exploited sectors of society shouldn't work, save for this sophisticated war. They – whom have come here primarily to work – have been demonized and dehumanized and nowadays treated as a threat, both to national security and the American Way of Life.

The sophistication lies in the ability to create loopholes to the precept that all people are created equal. In the United States, this equality is nowadays reserved for citizens. While exceptions generally offend our moral compass, they are not new to this country. This helps to explain land theft, genocide and slavery, along with the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. It is thus not a difficult leap to condone periodic massive repatriation campaigns against millions of brown peoples.

In this psychological war, we are told that it is not brown people who are being targeted: Only the illegal ones (the ones not truly human).

What is it that permits people to spew out venomous hate and to orchestrate campaigns that call for the incarceration and repatriation of brown peoples and confuse it for law and order? For example, CNN's Lou Dobbs, commentator Pat Buchanan, Rep. Tom Tancredo and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio all share something in common; they are obsessed and have made a career of haranguing so-called "illegal aliens." If their focus were Whites, African Americans, American Indians or Jews, their careers would have rightly been over long ago. Yet, because their hate campaigns target "illegal" and "faceless" brown people, these hate-mongers convince themselves that they are not racists.

However, in this same psychological war, the words "racist" and "sexist" have also now been rendered meaningless. Some even take pride in being labeled as such. In part, this is because psychological warfare is aimed at destabilizing and subverting the meaning of the words and languages we speak. This is what permits right-wing talk-show hosts and politicians to call for what amounts to ethnic cleansing, while avoiding a negative stigma. They can do this because in their own minds, they are simply calling for the protection of the nation's borders, not advocating campaigns against legitimate human beings.

In part, they are able to get away with this precisely because they have carved out a moral exception for human decency. This is the same psychological device that continues to permit segregation and discrimination – this while continuing to proclaim that we're all the children of the same God (It is not an irony that their anti-immigrant messages are not preached anywhere in any mainstream house of worship. Quite the reverse. Neither is it an irony that their hate is closely monitored by the highly respected Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project:

The primary practitioners of psychological warfare that utilize the mis-use of language as a primary weapon are government, the military, global media giants and multi-billion dollar corporations (The president's butchering of the language does not count). Such warfare can result in the public coming to believe that wars are waged to bring about peace, that greedy and polluting corporations need to be given massive tax-breaks, that the Constitution is obsolete, that our privacy, rights and our freedoms are quaint and that the exploitation of human beings is part of a natural order.

It is what George Orwell warned about in his classic novel, 1984. Through psychological warfare, the world gets turned upside down. This is how bigots become patriots and how human rights champions become traitors. This is in full evidence everywhere, including Tucson, where Pima County Legal Defender, Isabel Garcia, is in danger of losing her job – over a piñata incident – in which she and many protestors urged Sheriff Arpaio to "get out of town." Rather than the nation's #1 racial profiler having to explain his policies, it is Garcia who is on the defensive. Phoenix Mayor, Phil Gordon, who also opposes Arpaio's racial profiling, has also been put on the defensive.

Ironically, there does not appear to be an adequate appellation for someone who does not recognize the humanity of millions. In English, there are no such words. The closest I can find is "a human Chupacabras" – a devourer of flesh, spirits and souls.


Some students wouldn't have to pass test to move to the next grade, panel proposes
By ERICKA MELLON and GARY SCHARRER Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle
Oct. 21, 2008, 11:56PM

AUSTIN — Texas public school students could face less pressure on the TAKS test under a proposal that key lawmakers unveiled Tuesday to overhaul the state's school accountability system.
Under the plan, elementary and middle school students would no longer have to pass the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test to advance to the next grade level.
Schools still would be held accountable for low test scores, but they would get credit for improvement — even if students fell short of certain targets.
While several parents and school leaders praised the proposed changes to the school grading system as being more fair, others expressed concern that Texas would be lowering its standards. The Legislature is expected to consider the idea, offered by a special House-Senate committee on school accountability, next year.
"What this proposal does is eliminate the high-stakes testing in elementary schools, and I think that's a very positive development," said Spring Branch Superintendent Duncan Klussmann.
But one prominent member of the accountability committee disagreed with some of his colleagues, worried that Texas would return to a social promotion policy that allows children to advance to the next grade level regardless of their ability.
"I don't want to go back to the days where we just hope and pray that the system will find a way to retain or promote where appropriate," said attorney Sandy Kress, who served as a senior education adviser to President Bush.
Social promotions in Texas schools were supposed to end with a 1999 law pushed by then-Gov. George Bush, but lawmakers allowed an exception if a committee made up of the student's teacher, parent and principal agreed to the promotion despite failing test scores.
"Kids who can't read or can't do math get passed on," Kress said. "We see a substantial number of kids get passed on by those committees, and those kids are failing the next class as well. It's not working very well because the loophole is so darn big."
Lessening pressure
The revamped school grading system, which would require extra help for the struggling students, also would base annual performance ratings on three years of test scores instead of a single year and would give credit for student improvement. Districts would get judged on their financial health, too.
Pasadena ISD Superintendent Kirk Lewis applauded the move to averaging scores, noting that under the current system a school could be stigmatized with a low rating if it barely missed the mark in one subject one year.
"I think it will be helpful in taking some of the pressure off the schools," Kirk said. "I believe in accountability ... but the tweaks they're making, it appears it would be a positive improvement over what we've got."
Legislative leaders concede weaknesses in the current system — which rates schools on TAKS scores, graduation rates and dropout rates — and they heard complaints from educators and parents during hearings around the state this year.
"We found that the TAKS was the main focus of a lot of our education efforts, and it's a minimal-skills test," said House Public Education Chairman Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands.
The new system would incrementally increase standards so that within a decade Texas would perform among the top 10 states nationwide in terms of college and career readiness.
Up to legislators
Eissler, who co-chaired the accountability committee with Senate Education Chairwoman Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, said he expects lawmakers will embrace the recommendations and approve a revised system after they return to session in January. Echoing parents' complaints, Eissler said the current accountability system has led to a narrowing of the curriculum, with teachers focusing on drilling students to pass the TAKS.
Katie Coughlen, who has a son at Bellaire High School in the Houston Independent School District, said she would support the state putting less emphasis on standardized tests.
"I'm not a big fan of the TAKS test," she said. "A district like HISD has so many high-risk students that you can penalize a school for some issues that really aren't in their control."
For Nancy Lomax, a parent activist in Houston, the problem is with the teaching.
"I do think it is a problem when they spend too much time doing these rote things where you prepare for the test and are not really challenging the kids to think," she said.

TAKS test passage rules may change

TAKS test passage rules may change
11:10 PM CDT on Tuesday, October 21, 2008
By TERRENCE STUTZ / The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN – Texas students in certain grades would no longer have to pass the state achievement test to be promoted under a new school accountability plan unveiled Tuesday by leaders of the House and Senate education committees.

The proposal would scuttle a requirement originally championed by former Gov. George W. Bush as a way to curtail the widespread practice of social promotion – automatically passing students regardless of achievement.

In addition, the new accountability plan would base annual school performance ratings on three years of test scores rather than the most recent year, allowing school districts and campuses to make up for a bad year of results with a couple of positive years.

Also Online
Blog: Dallas ISD
Archive: TAKS cheating cases
More education news
Those changes, presented to a special House-Senate committee on school accountability, are expected to be welcomed by school superintendents and teachers across the state, who have repeatedly complained about requiring students in three grades – 3, 5 and 8 – to pass the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.

The requirement, part of the Texas Student Success Initiative, was first pitched by Mr. Bush in his 1998 gubernatorial re-election campaign and subsequently passed by the Legislature in 1999.

Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, said school districts would be able to decide their own criteria for promotion of students, using test scores, grades and whatever else is considered appropriate. She said students who fail in the three grades would receive additional instruction.

"These decisions need to be made locally and not dictated by the state," Ms. Shapiro said, insisting the move would not undermine promotion standards. "We're not saying [these students] won't be held back. We're just saying the decision won't be based on one test."

But another member of the committee, former Bush education adviser and current education lobbyist Sandy Kress, called the proposal a "step back" in a state that still has a serious problem with social promotion.

Mr. Kress said leaving it to local school districts to decide when a student should be promoted could result in many students being pushed through the system without the skills they need.

"I think we know many students are readily promoted to the next grade when they are not ready academically," he said.

Len Phipps, a teacher at Cowart Elementary School in southwest Dallas, said most teachers don't like the idea of a single test determining whether a student moves up to the next grade.

"The test by itself is not enough to make the decision on whether a child should be promoted," Ms. Phipps said. "Other factors, like teacher input, need to be considered. There can also be extenuating circumstances for some children."

Studies indicate that the test requirement slightly raised the number of students retained in grades 3 and 5, but many students who failed the TAKS still were promoted under an exception that allows the student to move up with agreement of the teacher, principal and parent.

House Public Education Committee Chairman Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, said another big change that school districts will welcome is proposed ratings of school districts and campuses based on three-year "rolling" averages of student achievement. Test scores will be averaged over the current school year and two prior years.

"This proposes a three-year rolling average of achievement so that one snapshot will not kill accreditation" for a campus, he said, noting that schools will be evaluated based on achievement growth rather than passing percentages.

In addition, the plan envisions a new state achievement test to replace the TAKS test for elementary and middle school students. "It will measure a broader range of achievement, not just basic skills," Mr. Eissler noted.

Lawmakers have already decided to phase out the high school TAKS, replacing it with a series of 12 end-of-course tests in four subject areas. The new tests will be used beginning with incoming ninth graders in the fall of 2011.

Students will have to get an average passing score of 70 in each subject area to earn a diploma. That requirement is not changed under the plan laid out on Tuesday.


A proposed accountability plan would set new criteria for accreditation of Texas school districts and campuses. Among them:

•Performance ratings would be based on three-year rolling averages of student test scores.

•Districts would be evaluated based on growth in achievement, especially growth on target to meet standards in three years.

•New standards would apply to subgroups of students based on ethnicity and socioeconomic status.

•Standards would gradually increase, aimed at putting Texas among the top 10 states in college readiness.

SOURCE: Select Committee on Public School Accountability

Monday, October 20, 2008



Blogging politics, elections and the Capitol with the Austin bureau

September 29, 2008

Bilingual ed opinion could have major impact

A bilingual education issue headed for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott could blow up the public education budget
or force state lawmakers to decide if they want multiple bilingual education programs - or none.
And that's exactly what State Board of Education member David Bradley, R-Beaumont, had in mind when he asked
board Chairman Don McLeroy, R-Bryan, Monday to request the attorney general's opinion.
When it comes to bilingual education programs, the state of Texas only accommodates Spanish-speaking students.
But state law requires that public school districts "shall offer a bilingual education or special language program" if they
enroll at least 20 students of limited English proficiency in any language classification in the same grade level.
State education officials say dozens of foreign languages would qualify for bilingual education under a strict interpretation (1 of 2) [10/3/2008 6:44:22 PM]
of the law.
In Texas last year, more than 14,000 school children spoke Vietnamese. Other popular foreign languages included:
Urdu (national language of Pakistan), 3,627 students; Arabic, 3,594 students; Korean, 3,195 students; and
Mandarin Chinese, 2,054 students.
Last year, Texas enrolled 775,432 students considered limited English proficient - with more than 711,000 Spanish-
speaking students.
The attorney general will be asked whether Texas must adopt textbooks, assessments and teacher certification programs
to provide equal opportunity for all languages that meet the requirements of the state education code.
Bradley believes the attorney general has no choice but to produce an opinion that follows the law. And it would cost
millions of dollars to comply.
"The Legislature will have to decide - do we want to do bilingual education in Texas - because it's all or none," Bradley
said. "Do we need to develop these massive curriculums and textbooks and assessments for all foreign languages and not
be discriminating for doing it in Spanish?"
Vietnamese families could press a discrimination suit, he suggested, but they have not done so "because those parents
want their children taught in English."
Bradley speculated, "At the end of the day, I think we offer no bilingual education ... Do you want to use bilingual
education, or do you want to use immersion? The Legislature has to make a decision."
The number of limited English proficient students is growing by big numbers in Texas - jumping from 570,453 in 2000-01
to more than 775,000 last year.
"The Legislature has to determine what is the most effective route to accomplish English proficiency," said State Board
of Education member Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond.
Here is a section in the education code that Bradley wants the attorney general to address:
Continue reading "Bilingual ed opinion could have major impact"
Posted by Gary Scharrer at 05:29 PM in Public education | Comments (1) (2 of 2) [10/3/2008 6:44:22 PM]

Fall Enrollment at The University of Texas at Austin Reflects Continuing Trend Toward More Diverse Student Population

Important news for the session. -Angela

Fall Enrollment at The University of Texas at Austin Reflects Continuing Trend Toward More Diverse Student Population

September 18, 2008

AUSTIN, Texas — Enrollment for the fall 2008 semester at The University of Texas at Austin, according to a preliminary analysis, reflects a continuing trend of slight increases in the number of Hispanic, African American and Asian American students.

An enrollment report provided by Kristi Fisher, associate vice provost and director of the Office of Information Management and Analysis, shows enrollment for the semester to be 50,006 students, a decrease of 164 students (0.3 percent) from the fall 2007 semester. The 50,006 includes 37,406 undergraduates, 11,348 graduate students and 1,252 law students.

Fisher said the figures are based on 12th class day numbers. Final enrollment figures will be available in October, but there usually is little variation from the preliminary figures, she said.

The report shows the university's population includes 27,234 white, 213 American Indian, 2,194 African American, 7,540 Asian American, 7,935 Hispanic and 4,539 foreign students. There are 351 students for whom ethnicity is not known.

Enrollment increased for Hispanic students by 129 (1.7 percent increase), African American students by 87 (4.1 percent), and Asian American students by 31 (0.4 percent). It decreased for white students by 410 (1.5 percent), American Indian students by one (0.5 percent) and foreign students by 10 (0.2 percent).

Proportional representation increased for Hispanic students to 15.9 percent this fall semester compared to 15.6 percent in fall 2007, for African American students to 4.4 percent from 4.2 percent and for Asian American students to 15.1 percent from 15.0 percent. The proportional representation for white students decreased to 54.5 percent from 55.1 percent, and remained unchanged for American Indian students (0.4 percent) and foreign students (9.1 percent). The figure for students for whom ethnicity is not known (0.7 percent) also is unchanged from last year.

About 81 percent of the entering freshman students from Texas high schools were admitted under HB 588 (Top 10 Percent Law), compared to 71 percent in fall 2007.

The number of first-time freshmen this fall semester totals 6,719 students, a decrease of 760 (10.2 percent) from the 7,479 last fall semester. The decrease, according to Dr. Bruce Walker, vice provost and director of admissions, was partly a planned reduction to accommodate students' need for lab time while new facilities are built to replace a recently demolished lab building. The yield of incoming freshmen also was less this fall than had been projected.

The overall enrollment totals decreased for all ethnic groups of first-time freshmen. However, the proportional representation for first-time freshmen, according to the preliminary report, shifted slightly, with white and Hispanic students representing an increased percentage of the first-time freshman population and other ethnic/race categories representing a decreased percentage. The figures include white students 52.3 percent (an increase from the 51.3 percent last year), American Indian 0.3 percent (compared to 0.4 percent last year), African American 5.6 percent (compared to 5.8 percent), Asian American 18.6 percent (compared to 19.7 percent), Hispanic 19.9 percent (compared to 19.7 percent) and foreign 3.1 percent (compared to 3.2 percent last year). The figure for students whose ethnicity/race is unknown is 0.1 percent.

Four-year graduation rates increased from 50.9 percent to 52.5 percent, five-year graduation rates increased from 73.0 percent to 76.3 percent and six-year graduation rates increased from 77.4 percent to 77.9 percent.

For the second year, there was a slight decrease in the retention rate in the freshman to sophomore years (from 91.9 percent in fall 2006 to 90.8 percent in fall 2007). There also were decreases in sophomore to junior year retention (from 87.8 percent to 86.9 percent) and in junior to senior year retention (82.0 percent to 81.7 percent).

Undergraduate transfer enrollment decreased by 23 (-1.0 percent) to 2,228. This figure includes 600 transfer students who entered under the Coordinated Admission Program, compared to 634 in fall 2007.

Graduate enrollment (excluding law) decreased by 91 students (-0.8 percent) to 11,348. The number of new graduate students (fall and summer combined) decreased by 121 (-3.6 percent) to 3,225. Graduate continuing enrollment increased by six students (0.1 percent) and graduate re-entering enrollment increased by 24 students (14.1 percent).

School of Law enrollment decreased by 20 students (-1.6 percent) and new law school enrollment decreased by two students (-0.4 percent). There was a decrease in white law student enrollment (24 or -3.1 percent).

The report included college trends showing undergraduate enrollment increased for Communication (2.5 percent), Natural Sciences (0.5 percent), Liberal Arts (0.3 percent), Geosciences (9.1 percent), Architecture (3.2 percent) and Nursing (0.4 percent). Undergraduate enrollment in all other colleges decreased or remained stable. Graduate enrollment increased for Engineering (2.2 percent), Geosciences (14.7 percent), Public Affairs (6.2 percent), Architecture (5.3 percent) and Social Work (3.9 percent). Graduate enrollment in all other colleges decreased or remained stable.

For more information, contact: Robert D. Meckel, Office of Public Affairs, 512-475-7847.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

More than 300 arrested in immigration sweep

Agents target a chicken processing plant in South Carolina, the latest raid in a stepped-up federal enforcement effort.

By Richard Fausset
October 08, 2008 in print edition A-20

More than 300 suspected illegal immigrants were arrested Tuesday morning at a chicken processing plant near Greenville, S.C. – the latest in a stepped-up federal enforcement effort that has resulted in the deportation of thousands of illegal workers in recent months.

Tuesday’s raid was led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials and involved hundreds of agents from numerous agencies. The target was Columbia Farms, a processing plant that had been the subject of a 10-month criminal investigation.

Resident David Wynn witnessed the hubbub from down the street and applauded the news.

“The excuse that they’re taking jobs that Americans won’t do – well, that just doesn’t hold water anymore,” said Wynn, 48, the co-owner of a nearby air-conditioning wholesaler who spoke Tuesday afternoon by phone. “With the economic crisis we’ve got going on, we’ve got to put a stop to it.”

Workplace raids such as the one at Columbia Farms have become increasingly common as the Bush administration draws near its end, especially since Congress last year failed to pass an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws. Critics decry what they contend is the rough treatment of illegal immigrants, as well as the disruption to families.

On Tuesday, ICE Special Agent Kenneth A. Smith of Atlanta said the Greenville raid and others like it get to the root of the problem.

“ICE targets employers because the promise of employment draws illegal workers across our borders,” Smith said in a statement. “By holding employers accountable we are diminishing the magnet and discouraging others from breaking the law.”

Federal officials earlier this year arrested 12 supervisors at the plant. Eleven of them, all Mexican men, were illegal immigrants who were charged with aggravated identity theft and making false statements.

Seven have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

The twelfth was a human resources manager, Elaine Crump, 48. She was indicted on 20 counts of filing false federal identification forms.

Barbara Gonzalez, an ICE spokeswoman, said Tuesday that the investigation was not complete.

“We collected evidence, and we are going to go where that evidence takes us,” she said.

Officials at the poultry company could not be reached for comment.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Railroading Immigrants

Monday 06 October 2008
by: David Bacon | The Nation

Tucson - A special Federal District court convenes every day at 1 pm in Tucson. All the benches, even the jury box, are filled with young people whose brown skin, black hair and indigenous features are common in a hundred tiny towns in Oaxaca or Guatemala. Their jeans, T-shirts and cheap tennis shoes show the dirt and wear from the long trek through northern Mexico, three days walking across the desert, and nights sleeping at the immigration detention center on the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

Presiding over one court session in June, Judge Jennifer Guerin called these defendants before her in groups of eight. They walked up in tiny waddling steps, heavy chains binding their ankles and wrists to their waists, and sat. Judge Guerin recited a litany of questions, translated into Spanish through headphones. "You've been charged with illegal entry, a criminal trial you would have the subpoena power of the have certain rights," she intones. At the end she asks anyone who doesn't understand to stand up. No one does. She asks if they plead guilty. After a moment in which her question is translated, seventy voices mumble "S�."

Leaving the courtroom a young woman stumbles, eyes streaked with tears. A public defender tells the judge her feet are covered with blisters from walking through the wilderness. A boy no older than 13 or 14 searches the room with his eyes as he's led away, perhaps seeking a friend or relative. No one seems older than 30, and most are much younger. They are today's border crossers - the mostly indigenous youth of southern Mexico and Central America.

They all plead guilty to a Federal criminal charge. Sentences run from time served to six months in a Federal lockup run by Corrections Corporation of America.

According to the Spanish news agency EFE, this new court process, dubbed Operation Streamline, convicted 5187 migrants from January 14 to June 10 of this year. Isabel Garcia, who heads Derechos Humanos, a leading immigrant rights organization in southern Arizona, says the current daily quota of 70 chained defendants will soon be raised to 100 - 50 tried on one shift, and 50 on another. Twenty-one new federal prosecutors will handle the surge, with CCA detention facilities to house it.

A new bureaucracy is growing rapidly, thanks to drastic changes in immigration enforcement. In past decades, migrants were treated very differently when caught without papers. They were allowed to leave voluntarily, or deported after being found guilty of an administrative infraction, the equivalent of a parking ticket.

Today's migrants have become criminals. The features pioneered in Tucson's courtroom - serious Federal criminal charges, mass trials of defendants in chains, and incarceration - are becoming standard features of immigration raids from Postville, Iowa, to Los Angeles, California. State laws now supplement Federal statutes, and Federal, state and local authorities cooperate closely to bring a large variety of criminal charges against migrants.

Working without papers has become the most serious crime of all. The vast increase in workplace raids under the Bush administration, however, is motivated by more than a zeal for enforcing the law, or even placating the nativist wing of the Republican Party. Enforcement is part of a pressure campaign designed to win passage of immigration reform centered on guest worker programs.

In November, 2006, 1282 workers were detained by hundreds of heavily armed ICE agents in military garb at six Swift and Co. packinghouses. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff then told reporters that raids would show Congress the need for "stronger border security, effective interior enforcement and a temporary-worker program." Bush wants, he said, "a program that would allow businesses that need foreign workers, because they can't otherwise satisfy their labor needs, to be able to get those workers in a regulated program."

This spring, in a New York Times interview, Chertoff elaborated: "We are not going to be able to satisfy the American people on a legal temporary worker program until they are convinced that we will have a stick as well as a carrot." His carrot is the prospect of massive contract labor programs for business. The sticks are the chains in the Tucson courtroom.

According to Garcia, each day's defendants are less than 10 percent of those picked up on the Arizona border. "They're making an example of them to create a climate of fear," she charges. "We are a laboratory. The model they're developing in Arizona is coming everywhere."

Garcia's warnings have made her a target of rightwing talk radio hosts, who routinely urge listeners to call the county executive to get her fired from her job as a public defender. But in Postville, Iowa, where Tucson's assembly-line justice was transplanted virtually intact, her warning was accurate.

On May 12 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents swooped down on workers at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant. Twenty minutes after the shift started, Maria Rosala Mejia Marroquin saw people running past the line where she stood cutting up chicken breasts, shouting that the migra was in the plant. She ran too, and in a dark warehouse tried to squeeze between huge boxes. "Men came in with flashlights. One pointed a gun in my face, shouting 'No one will escape!'" she remembered. When she was interrogated, she told agents she had a daughter in childcare, but lied to keep them from knowing where the babysitter lived, fearing she'd be picked up as well. Agents finally strapped an electronic monitoring device onto her ankle, telling her she had to wait for a hearing.

Her brother Luz Eduardo was taken with 388 others to the National Cattle Congress, a livestock showground in Waterloo, two hours away. In a makeshift courtroom they went in chains before a judge who'd helped prosecutors design Tucson-style plea agreements five months before the raid even took place. In order to get a job at Agriprocessors, workers had given the company Social Security numbers that were either invented, or belonged to someone else. The judge and prosecutor told workers they'd be charged with aggravated identity theft, which carries a two-year prison jolt, and held without bail. If they pleaded guilty to misusing a Social Security number, however, they would serve just five months, and be deported immediately afterwards.

"They told [my brother] if he signed the papers they'd deport him, but it was a lie," Mejia says. "He didn't know he was agreeing to criminal charges, and now he's been in prison in Kansas for months." Translation into Spanish was provided, but according to Elida Tuchan, who was also arrested, about half the detainees speak only Cachiquel, an indigenous language from San Miguel Due�as, their Guatemalan hometown. "They felt terrorized, that everything was against them. They didn't understand anything about the process or their rights."

To the workers, deportation became desirable. Anacleta Tajtaj was also braceleted, while her husband was deported and three brothers went to prison. "Our family in Guatemala was eating because of us. Now they'll go hungry," she lamented. It cost them each 33,000 quetazales (about $4000) to get to the U.S., a huge sum in San Miguel Due as, requiring them to mortgage homes and farms. "Now we just want to go back. Everything here is a crime - all the normal things like working." Tajtaj and the other women can't go home yet, however. Three months after the raid they didn't even have dates for their first hearing.

"They can't work, they have no way to pay rent or buy food, their husbands or brothers are in prison or deported, and they're being held up to ostracism in this tiny town," says Luz Maria Hernandez, who heads the support network for 48 braceleted women at Postville's St. Bridget's Catholic Church. "This is a form of psychological punishment."

Ostracism has become a common element of workplace raids. Women released for so-called humanitarian reasons to care for children become isolated and dependent on friends and relatives. In Los Angeles,, women braceleted after a raid at the Micro Solutions electronics plant on February 7 were shunned by their own roommates, who left them and their children facing eviction. A challenge by the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles finally won removal of the bracelets after three months, but the support network of immigrant rights groups is not as strong in northern Iowa.

Workplace raids are sweeping the country. According to Secretary Chertoff, "arrests in worksite cases have jumped from a total of 850 in 2004 to 4,940 last year, including 863 arrests based on criminal charges." From January 1 to May 31, 2008 alone, ICE had arrested 3000 people for immigration violations, and 875 more on criminal charges.

In June among those arrested were 160 workers at Action Rags in Houston, 32 farm workers for Boss 4 Packing in Heber, California, and nine workers at water parks in Arizona. In May "cops and guns and badges and everything" were used to detain 16 workers at San Diego's French Gourmet bakery, according to Rod Coon, company vice-president. The same month, 25 construction laborers were picked up in Florida working on the Lee County Jail. April saw raids detaining 28 landscapers in El Paso, 24 construction workers in Little Rock, 63 taco makers at El Balazo restaurants in the San Francisco Bay area, 22 restaurant workers on Maui, 33 laborers on the federal courthouse project in Richmond, Virginia, 20 workers at Shipley's Do-Nuts in Texas, and 45 workers at a Mexican restaurant chain in several states.

This two-month snapshot is an incomplete count of smaller worksite enforcement actions, which go on constantly, along with frequent raids on street-corner day laborers. But in addition to Postville, large raids have also become much more frequent.

Worksite enforcement, in turn, is used to dramatize Bush reform proposals that come from some of the country's largest corporations. In 1999 a group of corporate trade associations, in industries employing large numbers of immigrant workers, formed the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition because U.S. industry, it said, faced a huge labor shortage. "Part of the solution," EWIC announced, "involves allowing companies to hire foreign workers to fill the essential worker shortages."

The group, headed by the US Chamber of Commerce, includes the American Meat Institute, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (Wal Mart, among others), the National Council of Chain Restaurants, and other industry associations. While EWIC doesn't contribute money directly to political campaigns, any politician its lobbyists visit know EWIC member industries give plenty. In the 2000 election cycle, for instance, the meat processing industry gave $1,292,877 - $145,520 to Democrats and $1,143,107 to Republicans. So far in 2008, the restaurant industry has already given $7,361,945 ($2,918,797 / $4,427,704).

In an August 2001 letter to Bush, EWIC argued for "a temporary worker framework that provides a role for such workers whose labor is needed in the US." A 2002 Cato Institute report, authored by Daniel T. Griswold, said "the experience of the bracero program demonstrates that workers prefer the legal channel." A huge temporary visa program "should be created that would allow Mexican nationals to remain in the United States to work for a limited period." EWIC and its member associations immediately greeted the report. The National Restaurant Association warned that restaurants faced "a worker shortage of 1.5 million jobs," and said the plan "would give employers greater opportunities to fill these jobs."

The Bush administration issued its own proposals a year and a half later, and they were identical to those in the report. Cato's ties to the media helped guest worker proposals achieve greater legitimacy. When the Institute asserted that industries face a tremendous labor shortage, rather than a corporate unwillingness to pay higher wages to attract workers, much of the media treated it as fact. Cato and EWIC members shared an aversion to minimum wages. Rob Rosado, director of legislative affairs for the American Meat Institute, said "We don't want the government setting wages [in guest worker programs.] The market determines wages."

EWIC's ideas were embraced by Democrats as well as Republicans. The McCain/Kennedy, Hegel/Martinez and STRIVE bills all shared a similar architecture. They established large guest worker programs, allowing corporations and contractors to recruit hundreds of thousands of workers a year outside the country, on temporary visas that would force them to leave if they became unemployed. To force workers to come only as guest workers, and to stay in the program once they were in the U.S., the bills all mandated a tighter border to make crossing without papers more difficult, and beefed-up employer sanctions to make it impossible to hold a job without a guest worker visa.

In the bracero program of the 1950s and early 1960s, many workers simply remained in the U.S., working under the table until they found a way to get a permanent visa. Many workers in current guest worker programs also stay in the country as undocumented immigrants, even though getting permanent status has become almost impossible. The enforcement provisions sought to cut off that option.

"Enforcement is not an issue you can separate from guest worker programs," says Mary Bauer, director of the Immigrant Justice Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center. An SPLC report, Close to Slavery, documents extensive abuse of workers in current programs, and the benefit to employers of a workforce with few rights, whose vulnerable status makes organizing to raise wages difficult. "Immigration enforcement is structurally necessary for these programs," she explains.

Most comprehensive bills also contained legalization provisions for currently undocumented people, but would have imposed fines and long waiting periods from 11 to 18 years, during which time applicants would be as vulnerable as ever. Employers, however, would be immune to employer sanctions for employing them, while recruiting new workers through guest worker programs.

A much more liberal immigration bill sponsored by Congress member Sheila Jackson Lee and members of the Congressional Black Caucus was dismissed as "politically unrealistic" because it contained no guest worker program. EWIC anchored an alliance with immigration lawyers, establishment civil rights organizations and several unions. John Gay, representing the National Restaurant Association in EWIC, became board chair of the National Immigration Forum, a powerful mainstream immigration lobbying group in Washington. Tamar Jacoby, former staffer at the rightwing Manhattan Institute, was one of the coalition's most prominent spokespeople. Today she has organized a new corporate lobby, ImmigrationWorks, that includes EWIC, National Council of La Raza, the National Restaurant Association, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. One key affiliate, the Federation of Employers and Workers of America, calls itself "the national voice of the existing legal guest worker programs," and represents industry associations that push for them.

After Congress failed to pass a guest worker/enforcement/legalization package, the administration began to implement its enforcement proposals through increased raids. "But we would have had raids with those bills too, because of their enforcement and funding provisions," says Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.

The administration also used the bills' failure as a pretext for relaxing restrictions on current guest worker programs. ICE Director Julie Myers told the Detroit Economic Club in April that "the administration has both streamlined the H2-A [agricultural guest worker visa] application process and has given U.S. employers more flexibility... These changes will make it easier for agricultural employers to hire foreign temporary or seasonal labor to harvest crops." It also allowed employers seeking H2-B guest workers to simply "attest" that they'd tried to find local workers, rather than have the Department of Labor certify that they'd made a real effort.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, the AFL-CIO and immigrant rights groups have bitterly opposed these changes. Employers have generally supported them. "We see employers on the Hill all the time, saying they have to have guest workers. At one hearing they had to open extra rooms to accommodate all the lobbyists," Bauer fumes. "And support is coming, not just from Republicans, but from Democrats like Barbara Mikulski, Zoe Lofgren, Ted Kennedy and even John Conyers."

Making it a crime for an undocumented person to hold a job is made possible by the Immigration Reform and Control Act, passed in 1986. Prior to that, workers could be deported for being in the U.S. without a visa, but working itself was not a crime. The then-Immigration and Naturalization Service conducted some workplace raids, but immigrants were either forced to leave the country voluntarily, or held for deportation hearings. They could make bail.

In the late 1970s, the INS and others began seeking laws to make it illegal for people without papers to work, and for employers to hire them. They argued that if people could not work legally, they would leave. The INS campaigned for passage of IRCA (then the Simpson-Mazzoli and Simpson-Rodino bills), with a wave of raids called Operation Jobs. Agents would arrest workers in a factory, and go to the local unemployment office to hold a press conference. With reporters and unemployed workers in tow, they'd return to the raided factory, claiming they'd "created" jobs. They would then demand that Congress pass sanctions.

Raids became more difficult after the INS was sued by Molders Union Local 164 and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund in the early 1980s. After the suit was won, agents had to stop their practice of locking workers in a factory, interrogating foreign-looking people about their legal status, and instead were required to have warrants naming specific individuals.

Then IRCA's passage made it a federal offense for an employer to hire someone without immigration papers, and for that person to hold a job. Job applicants now have to provide two pieces of identification to show their status, and a Social Security number. By inspecting employer hiring records, INS agents can come up with the names of workers to put on warrants for a raid.

Immigrants didn't go home, however. Defenders of sanctions ignored the ongoing displacement of people by structural adjustment programs in Mexico and other developing countries, reinforced by the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement. In the NAFTA years, over six million Mexicans came to live in the U.S. Since relatively few visas are available for legal immigration, most came without them.

Although Bush officials claim worksite enforcement hardly existed before the present administration, the current wave actually started in the Clinton era. The Social Security Administration began sending letters to employers listing employees' names and numbers that didn't match SSA records. Employers were then left free (and often encouraged) to assume that the reason for the mismatch was that the workers were undocumented. After numerous employers used the letters to fire activist workers during union campaigns, unions and immigrant advocates convinced SSA to include language in the letters warning employers not to construe a mismatch as evidence of lack of immigration status. Nevertheless, although no count has ever been made, thousands of undocumented workers have lost their jobs because of the letters.

In 1999, using Social Security numbers in Operation Vanguard, INS agents sifted through the names of 24,310 workers in 40 meatpacking plants throughout Nebraska. They then sent letters to 4,762, demanding they report to INS agents at their jobs. A thousand did, of whom 34 were arrested and deported. The rest, over 3500 people, were forced to find new jobs. One of Operation Vanguard's architects, INS Dallas District Director Mark Reed, claimed success, saying the operation was really intended to pressure Congress and employer groups to support guest worker legislation. "We depend on foreign labor," he declared. "If we don't have illegal immigration anymore, we'll have the political support for guest workers." Reed and the INS also conducted more traditional raids during those years, seizing workers for deportation at Nebraska Beef, Montfort Packing, Tyson Foods, and other plants.

Social Security grew so uncomfortable with the use of its database for immigration enforcement that after Operation Vanguard the agency refused to make it available for similar operations in other states. Today, however, ICE seems to have regained access to the files, and now uses mismatches to identify workers for raids, and to charge them with criminal offenses. Meanwhile, the money paid by undocumented workers under bad numbers reached $586 billion in 2006. Since those workers may never collect benefits based on those earnings (which go into the Earnings Suspense File), they are contributing a huge subsidy to the retirement of all Social Security recipients.

Worksite enforcement actions accelerated enormously after George W. Bush took office. Following the 9/11 attacks, raids dubbed Operation Tarmac targeted airports around the country, leading to the firing and deportation of hundreds of mostly food service workers. After the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the new Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) took over from the old Immigration and Naturalization Service, and more raids followed.

The administration used worksite enforcement actions to dramatize its call for comprehensive immigration reform (the shorthand name given by Washington groups to the bills combining guest workers, increased enforcement and legalization). On April 10, 2006, the first huge immigrant rights march took place in Los Angeles, protesting House passage of the Sensenbrenner bill (HR 4437) the previous December, which would have made undocumented status a federal felony. On April 19, 1187 workers were arrested at plants of IFCO Systems North America, Inc. in New York, Texas, Wisconsin and Massachusetts. Then in December, after the Senate passed an immigration bill more in line with administration proposals, ICE mounted probably the largest workplace raid in U.S. history, detaining 1282 workers at six Swift and Co. packinghouses.

The administration's drive was dramatized by other large-scale, highly publicized worksite sweeps. They included the arrest of 81 plastics workers at Iridium Industries in Poconos, Pennsylvania, 136 chicken workers at George's Processing in Missouri, 165 workers at Portland's Fresh Del Monte produce plant, 327 workers at the Michael Bianco leather factory in New Bedford, and 200 janitors for Rosenbaum-Cunningham International in 17 states.

Once the comprehensive reform proposals died in Congress in 2007, more major raids followed, including two at the Smithfield pork slaughterhouse in Tarheel, North Carolina, which took place in the middle of one of the country's longest and hardest-fought union organizing campaigns. In addition, 130 immigrants were arrested at Micro Solutions in Van Nuys, dozens at a Fresh Direct produce warehouse in New York City, and 161 poultry workers at Koch Foods in Ohio. Just before the Postville raid, 311 workers were detained at Pilgrim's Pride plants where they cut up chickens for KFC.

As early as the IFCO raid, some workers and low-level supervisors were charged with criminal violations, not just being in the country illegally. At Swift the administration began to shape its new strategy of substituting criminal charges for status violations. Some 65 of the workers arrested there were charged with identity theft or other criminal offenses, as were the workers picked up at Smithfield. Barbara Gonzalez, an ICE spokesperson, told reporters outside one Swift slaughterhouse that "we have been investigating a large identity theft scheme that has victimized many U.S. citizens and lawful residents." ICE head Julie Myers told other reporters in Washington, D.C. that "those who steal identities of U.S. citizens will not escape enforcement."

Dramatic identity-theft charges were intended to gain public support for the raids and the bills in Congress, but ICE was also announcing a new strategy for criminalizing work.

ICE claims that raids and sanctions protect wages against employers' use of undocumented labor. A week after the Postville raid, ICE Director Myers claimed enforcement targeted "unscrupulous criminals who use illegal workers to cut costs and gain a competitive advantage." An ICE Worksite Enforcement Advisory claims "unscrupulous employers are likely to pay illegal workers substandard wages or force them to endure intolerable working conditions. ... ICE's Worksite Enforcement Unit also helps employers improve worksite enforcement of employment regulations."

Actual enforcement of labor standards, however, is in freefall. On July 15 the Government Accountability Office charged that Department of Labor inspectors routinely fail to investigate complaints, and close half of them after short calls to employers.. From 1997 to 2007, the number of inspectors dropped from 942 to 732, and the number of cases went from 47,000 to 30,000, the lowest since World War Two. Meanwhile, the budget for the Border Patrol has climbed to $1.6 billion, while 15,000 agents make ICE the second-largest investigative agency in the Federal government.

The affidavit supporting ICE's search warrant for the Postville plant stated a source saw a supervisor "duct-tape the eyes of an undocumented Guatemalan worker shut and hit the Guatemalan with a meat hook, apparently not causing serious injuries. The Guatemalan did not want to report the incident because 'it would not do any good and could jeopardize his job.'" Although ICE would not identify the beaten worker or confirm his detention, it is probable that after the raid he was in Federal prison, while the supervisor continued working. The Iowa Labor Commissioner documented 57 cases of child labor at Agriprocessors and filed 9000 child labor charges against the company. Some of the 57 young people are now undoubtedly in prison or wearing electronic ankle bracelets. Although some may get temporary visas as witnesses, all will eventually be deported.

Despite ICE claims that raids protect labor standards, enforcement often helps employers attack efforts by undocumented workers to better conditions. The two raids at Smithfield's Tarheel, North Carolina, packinghouse created a climate of terror during the union organizing drive, according to organizers. When housekeepers at the Woodfin Suites in Emeryville, California, tried to enforce a new municipal living wage law, ICE investigated them at the request of Congressman Brian Bilbray (R-San Diego), and company president Samuel Hardage. According to Mejia, supervisors often used immigration status to threaten workers in a union drive at Agriprocessors a year before the raid. And at Pilgrim's Pride packing plants ICE and employers cooperated to arrest employees this spring.

After the first Smithfield raid in January, 2007, Mark Lauritsen, UFCW packinghouse director, said the Department of Homeland Security and the company "were worried about people organizing a union, and the government said, 'here are the tools to take care of them.'" Scott Frotman, spokesperson for the United Food and Commercial Workers, says "raids let companies drive down wages and working conditions." To NILC's Marielena Hincapie, raids show the employers' power: "Enforcement intimidates even citizens and legal residents. The employer brings in another batch of workers and continues business as usual. People who protest get targeted and deported."

Employers, while complaining about the inconvenience of raids, have been very willing to accept greater enforcement. American Meat Institute chair and Tyson Foods CEO Dick Bondhas supported the Bush plan "because it included some of the provisions that AMI and the industry really want: a path to legalization, a guest worker program and a better employee verification program."

Nan Walden, a former Democratic Congressional aide who owns a large pecan ranch near Tucson, and helped organize Arizona Employers for Immigration Reform, worries that "removing 9-12% of the workforce will be a disaster." She advocates a "humane" guest worker program, a verifiable identification system, a path to citizenship for undocumented people, and "market-based quotas" for future migration. She criticizes Arizona's sanctions law, however, for its "piecemeal approach." While she's "disturbed by the hatred stirred up by opponents of immigration," Walden warns that without a reform like the one she describes, employers will move operations out of the state and country. "Raising wages isn't the answer, because our costs are all going up, and we still have to be competitive."

Criminalizing work has helped ICE gain the involvement of state and local authorities. Last year Arizona passed bills requiring state employers to use the E-Verify system to ensure they were not hiring the undocumented. Employers must verify an applicant's immigration status with a database, that DHS said in 2006 "is still not sufficiently up to date to meet the ... requirements for accurate verification." The original bill would have punished any employer with an undocumented employee, but after employers protested, the law was changed so that they would be fined only for future hiring.

E-Verify makes undocumented workers more vulnerable. One woman employed in a Tucson bakery, who withheld her name, explained she was getting only $10/hour for tending the oven, while legal residents were getting $16 for the same job. "If I leave or get fired, how will I find another job with a bad Social Security number?" she wondered. A Tucson union organizer, also afraid to be identified, added that construction workers told her that contractors lowered wages from $18 to $10/hour after the law passed, and told them to bring their own tools to the job. She described rising unemployment, with workers leaving for other states. "It's not going to stop us from organizing the union," she said, "but it will certainly make it harder."

In March Arizona state police arrested 14 employees at a Tucson Panda Express restaurant for mismatching Social Security numbers. After the state prosecutor threatened felony identity theft charges, carrying long prison sentences, workers pleaded guilty to lesser charges and were sentenced to time served. Nevertheless, in June they were still in jail, four months after the raid. As in Postville, deportation became a desirable outcome that would free them from incarceration. Francisco Mondaca, the only one able to get bail, pleaded guilty to "impersonating a Panda worker." He says "I didn't hurt anyone. I filed W-2s and paid taxes. All I did was go to work."

After the raid Panda Express fired all its Arizona workers, according to one terminated employee, and brought in a new workforce. "The company knew we didn't have papers," he said. "Managers would talk about it." No action was taken against company management.

Over a dozen states now have some version of employer sanctions, and Colombia County in Oregon has put a local sanctions ordinance on the ballot. On March 17, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour signed SB 2988, which requires employers to use E-Verify, and gives them immunity for hiring undocumented workers if they do. An undocumented worker holding a job faces felony charges carrying one to five years in prison, and fines up to $10,000. Workers are ineligible for bail.

Then, on August 25, ICE agents raided a Howard Industries plant in Laurel, Mississippi, sending 481 workers to a privately-run detention center in Jena, Louisiana, and releasing 106 women for "humanitarian reasons," most in ankle bracelets. While workers taken to Jena weren't immediately hustled before a judge, as in Postville, they were incarcerated with no idea of where they were being held, and weren't charged or provided lawyers for days. ICE spokesperson Barbara Gonzalez declined to say how long detention would last. Federal prosecutors charged eight with felony identity theft, and Gonzalez said criminal charges might be brought against the others.

Patricia Ice, attorney for the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance (MIRA), called the raid political. "They want a mass exodus of immigrants out of the state, the kind we've seen in Arizona and Oklahoma," she declared. "The political establishment here is threatened by Mississippi's changing demographics, and what the electorate might look like in 20 years." In the last two decades, the percentage of African Americans in the state's population has increased to over 35%. Immigrants, who were statistically insignificant until recently, are expected to reach 10% in the next decade. And workers have been joining Mississippi unions in catfish and poultry plants, casinos and shipyards.

Raids and sanctions come on top of day-to-day harassment. At roadblocks near local chicken plants in Laurel, police stop workers and confiscate the cars of those who can't get drivers' licenses because they don't have papers. "They take us away in handcuffs and we have to pay over $1000 to get out of jail and get our cars back," according to one worker who asked that her name be withheld. Similar roadblocks and auto confiscations are common now in many states.

Jim Evans, state AFL-CIO staffer, leader of the legislature's Black Caucus, and MIRA board chair, says the state sanctions law and the raid serve the same objective. "They are efforts to drive a wedge between immigrants, African Americans, white people and unions - all those who want political change here."

At the same time, he says, "they make it easier to exploit workers. The people who profit from Mississippi's low wage system want to keep it the way it is." He points to the fact that while workers without papers now risk fines, prison time and deportation, Mississippi employers have hired thousands of guest workers in the state's packinghouses, shipyards and casinos. At the Signal International shipyard, workers contracted in India paid thousands of dollars for temporary visas, and were then been fired and threatened with deportation when they protested bad conditions. Guest workers are welcome in Mississippi, so long as they don't settle down with families, organize unions, or push for political change.

Two weeks before the Laurel raid Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff made the same connection. "We tried very hard last year to get a guest worker program which I continue to believe is not only necessary for the economy but it is actually a way of enabling the enforcement," he said. "There's obviously a straightforward solution to the problem of illegal work, which is you open the front door and you shut the back door...Congress wasn't willing to open the front door ... In the interim, to be honest, we're closing the back door." Closing the back door is a euphemism for immigration raids. Opening the front door means guest worker programs.

Immigrant rights organizations and unions, however, have challenged this enforcement program with demonstrations and lawsuits. In Phoenix, county sheriff Joe Arpaio became a hero to nativist groups for invading immigrant communities with deputies, busses and helicopters, picking up people on the street and holding them for ICE. But when Pruitt's Furniture Store hired off-duty deputies to arrest day laborers, and Arpaio brought in the Minutemen, huge picket lines of workers, churches and immigrant rights groups grew to over a thousand people. "Even the Phoenix Police Department came out to protect us from him," says Pablo Alvarado, director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. "The mayor called for an FBI investigation, and the governor took $1.8 million from Arpaio's budget."

The United Food and Commercial Workers organized five hearings to investigate raids, and filed a lawsuit to stop ICE from conducting the kind of mass detentions it made at Swift. The union also organized a National Commission on ICE Misconduct and Violations of Fourth Amendment Rights. "Showing up for work should not subject workers to being detained," says UFCW President Joe Hansen. "Work is not a crime. Workers are not criminals. We do not leave our constitutional rights at the plant gate."

In California the AFL-CIO, two central labor councils and one building trades council, the NILC and the ACLU filed suit in 2007 to stop ICE from issuing a new no-match regulation. Under Chertoff's proposal Social Security would have sent letters to over 160,000 employers, listing the names of at least eight million workers with mismatched numbers. Employers would have had to fire all who could not produce numbers SSA could verify. The order was blocked by U.S. District Judge Maxine Chesney, and is still on hold.

And just three days after the Mississippi raid, while many immigrants hid in their homes in fear, MIRA organizer Vicky Cintra and over a hundred raid victims and family members marched down to the Howard Industries plant in Laurel to demand withheld paychecks. When company managers called the police, who tried to arrest Cintra, immigrants began shouting "Let her go!" As news reporters arrived on the scene, the police backed off. Seventy families got paychecks to keep them eating, while their men were in immigration jail and their women were braceleted and unable to work. More protests in the following days forced the company to pay hundreds of other families as well.

Newspaper reports had highlighted an incident in which some workers applauded as immigrants were led from the plant in handcuffs during the original raid. But when Cintra and the braceleted women protested on the grass outside the gate, African American workers leaving at shift change crossed the street, embraced them, and offered to find them food and to support their protest.

Implementing its program by executive action, the administration is using immigration raids to create a large bureaucracy, with rich contracts and high-paying jobs. It hopes to give it an unstoppable political momentum that will tie the hands of any new administration.

Should John McCain be elected President, he is likely to embrace that program, and continue the quest in Congress to weld that system into place. McCain cosponsored the Kennedy-McCain bill, helping set the terms for Washington's immigration debate. As Arizona Senator he belongs to the political establishment that made his state an enforcement testing ground.

Barack Obama has the chance to stop this juggernaut. At the AFL-CIO, Anna Avenda�o, director of immigration programs, is drafting ideas for an Obama administration's first 100 days. "At the very least, it could change the regulations and terms of enforcement," she says, ending, for instance, the practice of charging undocumented immigrants with federal crimes like identity theft.

The larger question, however, is whether Obama would challenge the mushrooming enforcement bureaucracy and the raids it feeds on, advocating a more humane immigration policy. Organizations like the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights urge that instead of the enforcement/guest worker/legalization triad, Congress should legalize people without papers, and make more visas available for legal migration, without setting up guest worker programs. The AFL-CIO, the Network, and many others want much greater enforcement of labor standards and union rights, and call for repealing employer sanctions. Congress member Jackson Lee advocates combining jobs programs with legalization and organizing rights, to bring workers together instead of pitting them against each other.

If an Obama administration and a Democratic-controlled Congress move in this direction, immigration policy would no longer be the "third rail of American politics," in the words of party strategist Rahm Emmanuel. Instead, it would protect the rights and living standards of immigrants, and workers generally. - For more articles and images on immigration, see

Just out from Beacon Press: Illegal People - How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants

See also the photodocumentary on indigenous migration to the US Communities Without Borders (Cornell University/ILR Press, 2006)

See also The Children of NAFTA, Labor Wars on the U.S./Mexico Border (University of California, 2004)

Research support for this article was provided by the Puffin Foundation Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute.

21 illegal immigrants arrested in North Bay

I never get over the criminalizing language used when talking about undocumented immigrants, the phrase: "agents had already rounded up its workers" is so dehumanizing.


Henry K. Lee | SF Chronicle
September 20, 2008

Federal agents have raided three Bay Area homes and two restaurants, arresting 21 undocumented immigrants who had been working at the establishments and living in squalor, authorities said Friday.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents searched homes in Vacaville, Vallejo and Hercules on Wednesday as well as King's Buffet on Orange Drive in Vacaville and the Empire Buffet on Sonoma Boulevard in Vallejo, both Chinese restaurants.

Authorities are also investigating a second outlet of the Empire Buffet in San Pablo. That restaurant wasn't searched because it never opened Wednesday, most likely because agents had already rounded up its workers, said spokeswoman Virginia Kice of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Authorities said 13 suspected undocumented immigrants had been found at the Chinese restaurants and the other eight had been found at homes owned by people linked to the establishments. One person was released on humanitarian grounds; the rest are to appear before federal immigration judges.

The workers were crammed into small rooms or garages with makeshift walls and mattresses on the floor at the homes on Park Street in Hercules, Purple Sage Drive in Vacaville and Glacier Court in Vallejo, authorities said. The homes were infested with rodent droppings, agents said.

The owners of the Vacaville and Vallejo homes have been identified but have not been charged, Kice said. She said the investigation was continuing.

The case began in May 2006, when someone called to report suspicious activity at the Vacaville home. Neighbors reported that residents of Chinese descent were being "picked up early in the morning from the residence and not returning until late at night," immigration Special Agent Jose Ochoa wrote in an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Sacramento.

Vacaville police went to the home and found 21 mattresses, receipts from King's Buffet and evidence that 30 people had been living there, wrote Ochoa, whose agency took over the investigation.

Investigators said they found evidence that some of the restaurants' undocumented workers were being paid in cash and that their wage information had not been reported to the state Employment Development Department, as required by law.

"No business, regardless of size, type or location, is immune from complying with the law," Daniel Lane, assistant special agent in charge of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigations office in Sacramento, said in a statement. "All too often, illegal alien workers are exploited in some fashion by the businesses that hire them, and that is unacceptable."

Nine of the undocumented immigrants arrested Wednesday are from China, five from Mexico, three from Guatemala, two from Indonesia, one from Singapore and one from Honduras.

E-mail Henry K. Lee at

This article appeared on page B - 3 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Making Students More College-Ready and Colleges More Student-Ready

Here's an interesting discussion that I think adds to the previous post on college-readiness, or lack there of.

You can also check out the video of this discussion

Below is the transcript.


By Louis Soares | Center for American Progress
October 8, 2008

How successful is the United States' higher education system? Why aren't students leaving high school ready for post-secondary education? And how can we improve higher education and boost degree completion rates?

Louis Soares on higher education

How successful is the United States' higher education system?

We rank number one among developed countries for adults ages 55 to 64 with a college education. We rank only number seven for adults ages 25 to 34 with a college education. So something's happened in that 30 year interim. In fact, many things have happened. We've seen the age diversity change, the learning preparedness diversity change, and the number of people combining work and college are changing, as well. In fact, 40 percent of our undergraduates now attend two-year colleges. What's essentially happened is that college going has become more complex on a number of metrics. And we have a federal policy that's largely focused on access, which means making college more affordable. It's not that we don't need that. We need college to be more affordable. But we also need federal policies to take the next step and begin to focus on helping folks actually complete the degrees once they get started in post-secondary education.

Why aren't students leaving high school ready for post-secondary education?

Degree completion is an issue for all college goers, but we do face a particular challenge with the transition from high school to college. Our best data estimates are showing that only 50 percent of high school students are actually prepared to do college level work. And this level of preparedness, or lack of preparedness, is directly impacting their ability to complete college. Our best estimates on college completion show that only 49 of students who are required to take remedial courses in college actually finish their degree. And, when we dig a little deeper, we actually see greater societal challenges along racial and ethnic lines because Hispanics and African Americans are even less likely to be academically prepared for college. So we need to really focus on those students that are the least prepared to build bridges to them for college.

How can we improve higher education and boost degree completion rates?

We need to move to a federal policy that's an access-plus policy. We need to build on our affordability policies of grants and discounted loans and include investments that would make students more college-ready, and colleges more student-ready. Investments that will make students more college-ready include investing in more college preparation, both in high school, and beyond; making financial assistance more transparent so that individuals and their families can understand it more easily; and also, making college quality data much more available so folks can make good choices about the colleges that are best for them.

Investing in making colleges more student-ready involves investment in three core areas. The first is investing in instructional practices and new counseling techniques to help students be more successful and complete their degrees once they start. The second is to align the post-secondary system with secondary school and other with federally-funded training programs so that we have all folks targeting degree completion as a way to get their education. And third, we need to really take a look at frameworks for measuring if students are learning in college programs. Currently, we don't have that, and that will be critical to knowing if students are investing their money properly, and if we're investing the public's money properly.