Thursday, January 29, 2009

On the table

Even as families feel the economic pinch, many eligible students don't take advantage of free or low-cost breakfasts served at schools. Why?

By Ric Kahn
Globe Staff / January 4, 2009

Anisha Bates tries to shake her two oldest children out of bed at 5 a.m. to make it to school on time for the free breakfast served before classes. But it can be a chore.

They're young girls, 12 and 15. So they steal more snooze time. They dawdle. They primp their hair. They listen to "bachata," slow romantic Spanish music. At least the older one, Shaquia, does. Michaela waits around to go to school with her sister.

If they are running late, Bates, 35, feeds them cereal or knows they have money to grab something at the corner store to boost their half-hour trip, by bus and foot, from the Faneuil public housing development in Brighton to the Edison Middle School, in the same neighborhood.

Shaquia might choose the young person's breakfast of champions: chips and soda. Michaela sometimes goes the healthier route: Gatorade and chips.

Bates has been preaching to them forever that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, because she knows how they act without it. Yet she figures there are days when they miss the morning meal - and suffer for it.

"Doing school work and having gym class, they're going to be cranky and sluggish," says Bates, a quality-assurance technician at a pharmaceutical company.

The Bates sisters are not the only ones who may be skipping school breakfasts that are on the house.

The free breakfast seems to be the poor stepchild of federal nutrition programs. A recent study by Harvard researchers found that while almost 18 million low-income children nationally received free or reduced-price school lunches, only about 8 million of them also participate in the marked-down breakfast program.

Statewide, all public schools must offer free lunch to kids who qualify, but only those with the neediest student bodies - or 48 percent - have to serve free breakfast. Another 22 percent of schools choose to give it. Still, according to the antihunger organization Project Bread, only 34 percent of disadvantaged students in the Commonwealth are taking advantage of bargain school breakfasts.

In the city, according to numbers provided by Project Bread, only about half of its indigent students are eating cut-rate breakfasts in the Boston public schools, though officials say every principal or headmaster presents the option. Boston administrators say they are meeting with students to try to raise the turnout.

Beyond the schools that don't dish out the meal - with some saying they are unable to absorb the leftover costs that may not be picked up by the federal government - there are numerous barriers blocking student participation, nutrition and education advocates say.

Some parents don't know the meal program exists. Some students travel far to school and don't get there in time for the breakfast.

And then there are children who feel looked down on for taking their corn muffins, and the like, for free. Despite evidence showing that obstacles of stigma and scheduling dissolve when breakfast is served after the bell rings - often in homeroom - there are schools that won't surrender precious minutes to anything they don't feel will satisfy educational mandates.

"Nutrition hasn't historically been seen as a major school responsibility, like teaching math," says Ellen Parker, executive director of Project Bread, a group best known for its annual Walk for Hunger but that has been working for years to expand the reach of school-nutrition services.

Yet the pedagogical price of ignoring early-morning hunger pangs is enormous, the Harvard researchers say.

"In terms of producing good outcomes for kids, it's hard to find a better investment than the school breakfast program," says J. Larry Brown, visiting scholar at the Harvard School of Public Health and senior author of the November report, "Impact of School Breakfast on Children's Health and Learning."

The study cites the far-ranging benefits of having students show up for classes with their bellies full: increased attendance, standardized test scores, and grades; decreased classroom disruptions and trips to the school nurse.

"It's as close to a magic bullet as you'll see for educational preparedness," Brown says of the school breakfast program.

At the Higginson Elementary School in Roxbury, 11-year-old Estefany Fernandez knows in her gut the same thing that the Harvard researchers concluded after they analyzed more than 100 scientific articles on the relationship between undernutrition and learning: She'd be lost in class without her school's whole-grain cereal in her stomach.

"I'd sit there for 10 minutes trying to figure out the question," says the Jamaica Plain resident. "My belly would be grumbling while waiting for lunch."

Her fellow fifth-grader, Ijahleel Reid, agrees. "I'd be out of it," says the 10-year-old from Hyde Park.

The Higginson is one of 115 schools statewide in the past five years that have won $1,000 awards from Project Bread for increasing the numbers of students eating free breakfast by shifting the starting time until after classes begin.

Principal Joy Oliver made the switch when she came aboard in 2001. She'd seen firsthand how hard it was for children to be drawn into lesson plans with their heads drooping on their desks. She figured that a 15-minute breakfast served in homeroom could offer a significant jolt to learning.

"You can't be the best student you can be if you're not focused," says Oliver.

To further erase chasms between haves and have-nots, many schools with a majority of less-well-off kids - such as the Higginson - have adopted a policy of furnishing a free breakfast to every student, regardless of home income. For some, there is state funding available to cover costs not met by standard federal reimbursements.

Those who ignore the benefits of school breakfasts - designed to meet federal nutrition standards and help guard against obesity and diabetes - are incurring a heavy hidden tax, the Harvard researchers warn. They say America's annual bill for things like illness and lost productivity due to hunger is $90 billion. Of that, nearly $10 billion is related to educational troubles, according to the study. It was commissioned by the Sodexo Foundation, the charitable arm of Sodexo Inc., which provides food and facilities management to customers ranging from corporations to retirement centers to schools, including the University of Massachusetts at Boston.

Otilia Ortiz is not one of the apathetic. She has a full plate for a 16-year-old: classes, homework, and after-school and weekend activities that include working at a community-action group; fighting substance abuse with other young people; and learning the basics of medicine from health professionals to feed her desire to become a doctor. Some days she doesn't get to sleep until 1 a.m.

Yet every school day Ortiz rises from her bed at the Mary Ellen McCormack housing development in South Boston at 5:30, showers and dresses, and rides two buses so she can get to the free breakfast at Boston Latin Academy in Roxbury before 7.

"When I eat," says the sophomore, "I feel more energized. I actually do my work and stay awake."

For struggling residents who qualify - those with yearly incomes at or below $27,560 for a family of four - putting free breakfast on the menu can mean less bite out of their household budgets. Project Bread estimates that a family with two young children who eat breakfast and lunch at school can save about $1,450 a year.

Anisha Bates says the money her two oldest daughters shell out for junk food before school could be better spent on healthier items. Her three kids are asthmatics, she's a diabetic, and her bills for those medicines alone, she says, can run up to $260 a month.

Which is why she tells her children to hurry up and get to school, and quit complaining about the taste of the breakfast food there.

"Money is tight," says Bates, "and it's free."

Ric Kahn can be reached at

TEXAS LEGISLATUREImmigration gets a place on lawmakers' agenda

Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle
Jan. 4, 2009

With more than a dozen bills on the issue already filed, immigration promises to be a hot topic during this year's state legislative session. And Houston lawmakers are sure to be key players on both sides.

The battle is part of a growing effort by state legislatures across the nation to tackle contentious issues related to immigration.

"It's definitely going to be an issue," said state Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston.

But Gallegos said the proposed legislation, filed mostly by Republican lawmakers, will be scrutinized — and perhaps scrubbed — by Hispanic legislators to ensure that bills are not aimed only at Latino immigrants. The legislative session begins Jan. 13 in Austin.

"We are going to have to see what kind of wording is in these bills — that it's fair for everybody and not just targeting one ethnicity — which is what it looks like they're trying to do," Gallegos said.

Last year, 13 states passed laws related to employment of immigrants, and 16 states passed legislation relating to driver's license regulations governing illegal immigrants, according to a report by the National Conference of State Legislatures. In all, 1,305 bills related to immigration were proposed last year, and 205 were enacted.

"The economy is the No. 1 issue affecting states, but immigration remains a hot-button topic debated in many legislatures across the country," said William T. Pound, the organization's executive director.

"Coincidentally, several states commissioned studies to investigate the economic and fiscal impacts of immigration, including state remedies to recover money owed to the state by the federal government," he said.

Louise Whiteford, president of Texans for Immigration Reform, based in Houston, said tough economic times are forcing state leaders to examine closely the costs of services provided to Texas' illegal population.

"The problem has become more intense with the cost of illegal immigration to the state being so high," Whiteford said. "With the economy tanking, people are going to object more to picking up the costs."

Last month, a state survey estimated Texas and local hospital districts spent an estimated $677 million to provide health care to illegal immigrants in the fiscal year that ended August 2007.

Texas' last legislative session in 2007 was expected to be roiled by immigration-related debates. But after an attorney general ruling noted the supremacy of the federal government's role in immigration enforcement, a number of bills addressing immigration were assigned to a single legislative committee and not brought up for discussion.

Historically, anti-immigrant measures have gained little traction in Texas, a state where cultural and commercial ties with Mexico and Latin America are close and long-standing.

Wider hearing predicted

This year, the bills will get a wider hearing, say a number of anti-illegal immigration activists and legislators.

"We believe it is the No. 1 issue in Texas and one that Texans want dealt with by this legislative session," said state Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler.

Berman has filed a bill for the new session challenging the automatic citizenship conferred to those born in the U.S. and a bill to authorize an 8 percent fee on remittances sent to Mexico by undocumented workers.

He is also attempting to pass a law to repeal existing legislation granting in-state tuition rates to undocumented college students.

Berman said after legislatures in Arizona, Oklahoma and Tennessee passed laws barring employment of illegal immigrants, thousands of undocumented workers poured into Texas.

"Now, we have almost 2 million illegal aliens," Berman said.

"They are costing Texans $4 billion a year to support ... by providing them free public school, free health care, and we just happen to be incarcerating 25,000 of them in our state and county prison systems," he said.

Punishing cities, counties

Republican state Sen. Dan Patrick, whose district includes northwest Harris County, has filed two bills.

One would deny state grants to cities or counties that have "sanctuary" policies against full cooperation with immigration authorities.

"He believes it's going to be a big issue because the public has grown kind of weary of the total disregard for our border laws and for the billions of dollars in public services that go to people in this country illegally," said Court Koenning, Patrick's chief of staff.

Koenning said Patrick intends to introduce four immigration-related laws, including one that would remove the personal information of federal immigration agents from public databases.

"They've had a big problem with their agents being intimidated" by drug traffickers, Koenning said.

State Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, has proposed a bill giving Texas law officers the authority to arrest persons for trespassing on private or public property. The proposed law essentially seeks to make the federal offense of unlawful presence in the U.S. a state trespassing charge.

Danger of racial profiling

Local immigration experts say legislators will have a better chance of getting a hearing on their bills if they don't apply to law enforcement.

Because of the complexity of immigration laws, untrained officers could mistakenly detain legal residents, resulting in discrimination suits filed against cities and counties, noted Houston immigration lawyer Lawrence Rushton.

"What I've seen recently is those local law officers who are inquiring about immigration status are doing a lot of racial profiling," Rushton said. "They are stopping Hispanics who happen to be passing through their jurisdictions without having any other reason to stop them."

Nestor Rodriguez, an immigration expert and professor of sociology at the University of Texas in Austin, believes a lot of the proposed legislation is simply posturing by conservative lawmakers.

"My sense is nothing dramatic will happen," Rodriguez said. "These (bills) seem to be more symbolic, and I think the legislative representatives are trying to impress their constituents."

Outlook for issues in 81st Legislature

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Budget and taxes

Texas has been in an enviable economic position compared with other states, boasting almost $12 billion in reserves and available revenue going into the 2010-11 budget. But the double blow of the national financial collapse and Hurricane Ike has darkened the state's outlook. Budget leaders expect relatively little money to pay for new expenses. The state's revised business tax, collected for the first time in 2008, will be closely examined for its effect on small businesses and different industries. Lawmakers will be reluctant to make too many changes because it's an integral part of the 2006 deal to reduce school property taxes, and the first-year collections have been well short of projections.

Criminal justice

With the state budget tighter than tight, a primary goal will be to ensure funding for new prison treatment and diversion programs that were approved two years ago. More than half are still to be launched, with officials saying the initial programs have been successful. Look for the Texas Department of Public Safety to undergo a management makeover as part of its regular sunset review, with drivers' licensing and vehicle inspections likely to be moved to another agency. The proposed merger of the Texas Youth Commission and Texas Juvenile Probation Commission? There's a 50-50 chance, or another such effort is likely in two years. A push to allow Texans to openly pack pistols probably will produce a lively debate but might not pass.


More than a dozen bills have been filed, including ones that include incentives for homeowners and businesses to install solar panels, one calling for more monitoring of an air pollutant and one barring homeowner associations from prohibiting solar panels. Speaker-apparent Joe Straus cut his teeth last session on a successful proposal to encourage Texans to buy Energy Star appliances. With him at the House's helm, look for that program to expand and for incentives for solar power generation to get traction. Anything touching explicitly on global warming has little hope of getting on the governor's desk and even less of getting his signature. Water conservation, a big issue last session, may recede this time.


The expansion of gambling, which never really got traction two years ago, is back. The state's tight finances won't hurt because proponents are sure to promise a hefty return if the state builds casinos, allows slots at racetracks and authorizes gambling on tribal reservations. But the opposition will argue that relying on gambling revenue is a bad bet. They say gambling brings more crime and social problems than it's worth. In the end, the legislative leadership would have to be convinced that there's enough support among lawmakers to give the issue a run.

Health and human services

Expect lawmakers to debate whether to close some of the state institutions for people with mental retardation, how to continue reforming the foster care system and whether to expand Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program. Bills already filed would start a statewide workplace smoking ban, create a health insurance program for children in the child-support system, legalize needle-exchange programs, ban possession of the hallucinogen salvia and regulate laser hair-removal facilities. Abortion-related bills filed include one that would require women who seek an abortion to first get an ultrasound and another — backed by Gov. Rick Perry — that would issue a 'Choose Life' license plate.

Higher education

Several measures proposing limits on tuition increases at public universities have been filed. Prospects are uncertain; lawmakers have thus far declined to fiddle with the tuition-setting powers they ceded to the boards of regents in 2003. The University of Texas and its legislative allies will try once again to scale back a 1997 law that allows students in the top 10 percent of their Texas high school graduating class to attend any public university in the state. Also up for debate are proposals to boost funding for community colleges; establish a commission to prepare a long-range plan for higher education; designate one or more universities for flagship, or top-tier, status; increase financial aid, perhaps with more stringent merit standards; and provide health benefits for graduate students.


Though the issue seems to have lost some steam, many conservatives still expect Republicans in the Legislature to show that they're cracking down on illegal immigration. Action could still be difficult because of resistance from business groups and Democrats and the fact that immigration is primarily a federal issue. Proposals are likely to include a reverse in the law allowing undocumented residents to pay in-state college tuition and crackdowns on businesses that hire unauthorized workers. Perry will seek more funding for crime-fighting along the border.


On the griddle: How to continue the state program that is the hurricane-battered insurer of last resort for residential and commercial property along the Gulf coast. After exhausting other funding sources to pay claims, the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association last year told Texas property insurers to pony up $430 million for excess losses associated with Hurricane Ike, on top of $100 million levied earlier for damage caused by Hurricane Dolly. In the short term, the insurers can recover some of the money by taking state tax credits. In the long term, a key question is how the state continues the coverage method and whether it'll be harder for property owners to get insured.

Public education

The high-stakes Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills appears on its way out. In its place, legislators want to create a school accountability system that reduces the emphasis on a single test and focuses on a student's progress from year to year. How exactly that system would play out in the classroom is not clear.

Public information

Lawmakers may revisit legislation intended to protect journalists from revealing confidential sources and notes in certain circumstances. So-called shield laws exist in more than 30 states and the District of Columbia. In Texas, such proposals have fallen short of passage into law in six legislative sessions since 1989.


Lawmakers will consider several strategies for pumping more money into transportation, including borrowing against the state's general fund, raising the gasoline tax and putting money in a rail relocation fund.Local governments want more authority to raise local taxes and fees for transportation as well. And with authority for private toll road leases expiring Sept. 1, the Legislature must decide whether to extend the state's ability to enter such agreements.

Legislators set to tackle bills on higher ed

By Jeannie Kever - Express-News

HOUSTON — Tuition. Textbooks. Financial aid.

Mention college, and most people focus on the price tag.

“It is nuts to make the cost of college so high that working-class kids can't go unless they take out large loans,” said state Sen. John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat.

So expect lots of debate about freezing tuition when the Legislature convenes in mid-January.

But with dozens of bills dealing with higher education already filed, it won't be the only topic under consideration. Other measures look to expand financial aid, cut the cost of textbooks, make schools more accountable and help veterans attend college.

At the University of Houston, administrators will be watching legislation to increase the number of nationally ranked research universities, an elite group the school seeks to join.

Renu Khator, UH chancellor and president of its central campus, said she will travel to Austin often during the coming months to support the cause.

“Texas has such a huge need” for additional top-ranked schools, she said. “That is how we're going to be able to keep Texas at the cutting edge.”

Legislators often pay lip service to higher education, but several say this year may be the tipping point, sparked by a middle-class outcry over tuition rates, national reports blasting lack of affordability and access, and a growing acknowledgment that Texas needs more and better universities to serve its growing population.

One bill already filed would freeze tuition at public universities for two years. Another would limit tuition and fee increases to 5 percent a year.

All sound good to cash-strapped families, who saw tuition at Texas' public, four-year schools rise an average of 53 percent in the first four years after legislators allowed them to set their own rates.

But changing the status quo may not be so simple.

Legislators deregulated tuition in 2003 in exchange for cutting state higher education funding during a budget crisis. Public universities rely on a mix of state funding and money from tuition and fees for their operating costs, along with money from endowments, donations and other sources.

State spending has increased since 2003 but hasn't kept up with enrollment growth and inflation.

“It's easy to say, ‘Freeze tuition,'” said Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, chairwoman of the Senate Higher Education Subcommittee. “I don't think it would be fair to freeze tuition without raising state funding.”

Welcome Wilson Sr., chairman of the UH board of regents, said he'd love to not raise tuition. “In order to do that,” he said, “we need (state) funding at the same level as this year, plus the inflation rate for higher education.”

Wilson's main priority, however, is additional money to help UH move into the ranks of nationally recognized schools.

UH is one of seven so-called emerging research universities that are candidates to join the state's three Tier 1 schools, known as nationally competitive institutions: the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University and Rice University, which is private. (California, by comparison, has nine Tier 1 universities; New York has seven.)

State lawmakers don't decide which schools have that status. The designation is based upon such factors as how much research money a school receives and the caliber of its students and faculty. But state money will be required to help any of the contenders meet those benchmarks.

That will cost millions of dollars over a number of years. Still, many legislators say they expect something to be done this year.

“I certainly hope so,” said Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, chairman of the House Select Committee on Higher and Public Education Finance. “I think the future of the state hangs in the balance.”

More Tier 1 schools also could help with another issue: How to ease enrollment pressure at UT-Austin caused by a law allowing any student who graduates in the top 10 percent of his or her high school class to attend any public university in the state. Those students accounted for 81 percent of this year's freshman class at the Austin campus. (Top 10 percent graduates made up 46 percent of A&M's freshman class and about 18 percent of the freshmen at UH.)

Top high school graduates often want to attend a Tier 1 school, Zaffirini noted. With just two public options in Texas, thousands of the state's most promising students go elsewhere for college. Branch and state Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, have introduced legislation to limit the number of top 10 percent graduates guaranteed admission to the college of their choice.

More Tier 1 schools could be a longer-term solution. In addition to UH, the most likely contenders include Texas Tech University, the University of North Texas, UT-Dallas, UT-Arlington, UT-San Antonio and UT-El Paso.

Past efforts in the Legislature to designate one or more schools as worthy of additional state money haven't worked, because lawmakers from one part of the state didn't want to support a school in another region. No one is talking about that this time.

Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, has called for a commission to determine how the state should proceed. Zaffirini said she still is drafting legislation on the subject, aiming for a bill supported by the presidents of all seven contenders.

Branch's bill would allow schools to compete for funding, which could be used for such things as hiring faculty, upgrading facilities and increasing financial aid.

That's similar to the approach proposed by Khator and David Daniel, president of UT-Dallas, who have suggested the state match money raised by the universities.

That way, Khator said, all seven schools can compete: “Any way the Legislature can reward us for our performance, whether it's private fundraising, research grants or meeting our goals for student learning, I support it.”

Zaffirini also supports allowing all schools to aim higher, although she noted that reaching Tier 1 will take longer for some. “UTSA might take a longer time, 15 or 20 years,” she said. “It is still a worthy goal. UH might be in a better position to reach that status earlier.”

State Comptroller Susan Combs won't release the state's projected revenues until Jan. 12, the day before the Legislature convenes. Regardless of how much money is available, Zaffirini said she hopes legislators will agree on a process to help elevate the emerging research universities.

“We want to create a pathway, even if we don't have funding at this point,” she said.

Texas universities are unlikely to face the dire prospects of their counterparts in some other states, which already have cut higher education funding. Public universities in California and Florida, for example, have announced limits on enrollment, pushing students into community colleges or out of higher education altogether.

But Texas isn't immune to financial worries.

“We have to be very cautious in our spending,” Whitmire said. “Higher ed's got to compete with the highway department. Our social services are underfunded, particularly mental health. If you don't fund mental health at the proper levels, people end up in the criminal justice system.

“We've got our work cut out for us.”

NCLB restructuring: What are states doing?

Check out All Five Full Reports


A growing number of schools are entering the restructuring phase under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) but few are leaving according to the Center on Education Policy’s A Call to Restructure Restructuring: Lessons from the No Child Left Behind Act in Five States. The report points out that the five restructuring options in NCLB provide little effectiveness in turning-around these schools.

National Findings

• More than 3,500 Title I schools nationwide were in the restructuring phase in the 2007–2008 school year which accounts for about 7 percent of all Title I schools.

• The number of schools in restructuring has increased almost 50 percent between the 2006–2007 and 2007–2008 school years. In 2006–2007 just 2,302 schools—4 percent of Title I schools—were in restructuring.

• The vast majority of schools in the restructuring phase are located in urban districts in the five states studied.

• Just under one and five schools in the implementing restructuring phase made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in 2006–2007.

• Some schools within the five states studies have been in the restructuring phase for up to four years.

State-Level Findings

• Of the five restructuring options contained within NCLB, 9 in 10 districts choose the ‘any-other’ option where districts can taken any major action that would produce fundamental change in the schools’ governance. What constitutes major action varies greatly from state to state and even from school to school.

• The type of supports states offer schools in restructuring vary from:

• Sponsoring extra professional development focused on school improvement (four states).

• Providing on-site technical assistance with more intense support and monitoring to those schools in restructuring for multiple years (three states).

• Providing professional development for principals (two states).

• Providing on-site leadership coaches or facilitators (two states).

• A greater percentage of schools in restructuring in Michigan and Georgia made AYP than the other three states. However, there is no clear reason why these schools were able to exit the restructuring phase.

District-Level Findings

• Some of the common strategies used in most of the 42 schools examined:

• Using data for instructional decision making.

• Providing tutoring to struggling students.

• Employing some type of instructional or leadership coach.

• Schools that chose the ‘replacing staff’ option sometimes had negative consequences such as not being able to find qualified replacements.

• Schools that missed AYP due to a specific subgroup typically still directed resources to all students instead of concentrating on those students that did not make AYP.

Cautions about the data

Findings from these five states may not necessarily represent what other states are doing in the restructuring phase.


Since only one in five schools in restructuring are making AYP it is apparent that NCLB needs to be revised to help these schools improve. The CEP makes the following recommendations to do just that:

The federal policy options for restructuring should encourage states to create state-specific strategies.

States need to step up efforts to monitor restructuring implementation.

Policies need to be put in place to address those schools that remain in restructuring for multiple years.

Unless certain criteria are met, the ‘staff replacement’ option should not be used and states should not recommend this option.

States and districts should still provide support to those schools exiting restructuring to ensure gains in student achievement are sustained.

By incorporating these recommendations and providing more resources to educators at the district and school levels more schools will start making AYP. School board members can do their part by ensuring the resources that are available are allocated to the schools and students that need them most, while at the same time ensuring all other students are given the resources they need to succeed as well.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Getting Accountability Right

This article summarizes on of the main arguments in his recent book. For a review by FairTest of the book, see

The book is very much worth a read.

Monty Neil of FairTest

Education Week

Published Online: January 23, 2009
Published in Print: January 28, 2009

Getting Accountability Right

By Richard Rothstein

The federal No Child Left Behind Act has succeeded in highlighting the poor math and reading skills of disadvantaged children. But on balance, the law has done more harm than good because it has terribly distorted the school curriculum. Modest modifications cannot correct this distortion. Designing a better accountability policy will take time. We cannot and should not abandon school accountability, but it's time to go back to the drawing board to get accountability right.

The first step is to understand today's curricular distortion. It has arisen because No Child Left Behind holds schools accountable for only some of their many goals. When we demand adequate math and reading scores alone, educators rationally respond by transferring resources to math and reading instruction (and drill) from social studies, history, science, the arts and music, character development, citizenship education, emotional and physical health, and physical fitness.

Read rest of article here.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

State schools' success to be measured by growth

By Lindsay Kastner - Express-News

In one of the Bush administration's final education decisions, the U.S. Department of Education agreed to allow Texas to use a new method to assess public schools and districts.

Often pointed to as the administration's signature domestic policy, the No Child Left Behind Act calls for all students to reach proficiency in all subject areas by the 2013-2014 school year.

But under what is known as a “growth model” Texas will begin monitoring student progress over time, rather than determining whether a set percentage of students has passed state tests each year.

The U.S. DOE granted conditional approval of the Texas model last week, pending final approval of the TAKS-Alternate, a test for students with severe cognitive disabilities.

The federal government began a pilot of growth models in 2005, allowing all states to apply beginning in December 2007.

Including Texas, 15 states now have permission to use a growth model. The 2014 proficiency goal remains in place for those states.

Educators tend to favor growth models, but they require tracking individual student progress over time, and not all states have the capability to tackle the more complex measurements.

Texas had the technical ability to follow individual students over several years before many other states.

North East Independent School District Superintendent Richard Middleton sat on a committee that recommended Texas begin using a growth model.

“We still want accountability. We still want the tests to be rigorous and challenging,” Middleton said. “But we want to gauge how students are doing over time, to give schools credit for growth.”

He said the current system provides educators with little useful information, taking a snapshot of student performance each year without tracking progress.

“You really weren't watching the growth of those same students. So it really wasn't a fair or legitimate measure of anything,” he said.

Texas' growth model uses test scores from one year to predict performance in future years and will allow schools and districts to receive credit for students who failed state tests but are projected to pass in the future.

Called the Texas Projection Measure, it is modeled in part on a system used by the Dallas Independent School District.

If Texas had been using a growth model last year, an additional 136 school districts (11 percent) and 411 schools (5 percent) would have met federal standards, according to Texas Education Agency estimates.

David Francis, director of the Texas Institute for Measurement, Evaluation and Statistics at the University of Houston, favors the differentiated approach despite the possibility that they could be perceived as an easier route toward meeting federal standards.

“That's always a concern,” Francis said, adding, “If our real goal is to have students graduate from high school proficient ... then schools should get credit for moving students toward that goal, rather than meeting standards along the way.”

The state also plans to incorporate the Texas Projection Measure into the state accountability system, said Criss Cloudt, an associate commissioner at the Texas Education Agency.

The growth model will begin to be applied this year with the TAKS, or Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, and TAKS-Accommodated reading and math tests.

It will be added in 2010 to newer tests for students with special needs, because the state lacks sufficient data to begin earlier with those tests.

Study: Math teachers a chapter ahead of students

Important quote: "Teachers should not be blamed for out-of-field teaching, the report said. It can happen anywhere there is a teacher shortage in a particular discipline. It can also happen where there is no shortage but where school administrators have planned poorly."

Much research reveals that this is commonly the reality of many low-resourced school struggling under accountability policies.

A few other important points to mention is that Texas' definition of highly qualified is based on the following indicators:
1) must hold a high school diploma or equivalent,
2) completed at least 2 years of higher education,
3) obtained an associates degree or higher,
4) can demonstrate knowledge of and ability to assist in instructing reading, writing and mathematics or
5) assist in instruction reading readiness, writing readiness and mathematics readiness as measured through state or federal assessment.

Additionally, each year TEA will randomly audit campuses using a "yes" / "no" checklist indicating whether or not the school has met or failed to met the minimum number of qualified teachers. The minimum number for each campus is determined by the number of math and ELA courses the school has on its schedule. The number of qualified teachers in a school must be equal to the number of math and ELA courses the school is offering to students.

Some important things to consider when trying to make recommendations for reform.


Source: TEA's information on paraprofessional qualifications can be downloaded at: cs/Brochure_English_11by25.pdf

Math can be hard enough, but imagine the difficulty when a teacher is just one chapter ahead of the students. It happens, and it happens more often to poor and minority students. Those children are about twice as likely to have math teachers who don't know their subject, according to a report by the Education Trust, a children's advocacy group.


AP Education Writer

Math can be hard enough, but imagine the difficulty when a teacher is just one chapter ahead of the students. It happens, and it happens more often to poor and minority students. Those children are about twice as likely to have math teachers who don't know their subject, according to a report by the Education Trust, a children's advocacy group.

Studies show the connection between teachers' knowledge and student achievement is particularly strong in math.

"Individual teachers matter a tremendous amount in how much students learn," said Ross Wiener, who oversees policy issues at the organization.

The report looked at teachers with neither an academic major nor certification in the subjects they teach.

Among the findings, which were based on Education Department data:

-In high-poverty schools, two in five math classes have teachers without a college major or certification in math.

-In schools with a greater share of African-American and Latino children, nearly one in three math classes is taught by such a teacher.

Math is important because it is considered a "gateway" course, one that leads to greater success in college and the workplace. Kids who finish Algebra II in high school are more likely to get bachelor's degrees. And people with bachelor's degrees earn substantially more than those with high school diplomas.

The teaching problem is most acute in the middle grades, 5-8, the report said. That's a crucial time for math, said Ruth Neild, a research scientist at Johns Hopkins University.

"This is a time when kids are making a really important transition from arithmetic to mathematics," Neild said. "It takes careful instruction, and if kids can't get that, and really get it, they're not going to succeed in math in high school."

Yet it can be tougher to find qualified teachers for middle schools, especially in low-income areas, said Neild, who studied the problem in Philadelphia public schools. She did not work on the Education Trust report.

Teachers should not be blamed for out-of-field teaching, the report said. It can happen anywhere there is a teacher shortage in a particular discipline. It can also happen where there is no shortage but where school administrators have planned poorly.

Congress tried to fix the problem in the sweeping 2002 No Child Left Behind Law. The law insisted that all teachers in core academic subjects be "highly qualified" by 2006.

But the most well-known aspect of No Child Left Behind is its requirement for annual state tests in reading and math, and the penalties it imposes on schools that fail to make progress.

The teacher requirement is less well-known, and also less onerous. States were allowed to come up with their own definitions of "highly qualified." As a result, most teachers in the U.S. today are deemed highly qualified.

When it comes to out-of-field teaching, state officials may be understating the problem, the report said.

Researchers compared two different sets of Education Department data, reports from state officials and a survey of teachers themselves. Teachers said out-of-field teaching happens far more often than states reported for highly qualified purposes.

For example, in Arizona in 2004, the state said 94.4 percent of core classes were taught by highly qualified teachers. But Arizona teachers told the federal government in 2004 that 58.4 percent of core classes were taught by someone certified in the subject he or she was teaching. That was the most recent year in which the teacher data was available.

The report found a similar gap in 16 other states.

The report also called attention to places where people are trying to fix the problem.

Boston and Chicago have teacher residency programs much like medical residencies, with aspiring teachers working alongside mentor teachers before they are assigned their own classrooms.

The University of Texas at Austin, the University of North Carolina system and the university system of Georgia all are trying to develop strong teachers who will teach in local schools.

Louisiana is overhauling its teacher-preparation programs. And Denver and Guilford County, N.C., schools offer financial incentives to attract the best teachers to schools and subjects that are hard to staff.

Wiener, the Education Trust official, said teaching is the key to fulfilling the goal of No Child Left Behind - that every student will be able to read and do math on grade level by 2014.

"We cannot meet our goals for increasing student achievement unless and until we focus on improving teaching quality and the effectiveness of teachers in front of the classroom," Wiener said.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Disenfranchising the Elderly and the Minorities of Texas

For Immediate Release: January 16, 2009

Contacts: Lydia Camarillo SVREP Vice-President - 800--404-VOTE
Patricia Gonzales, WCVI Senior Vice President - 210- 922-3118

SVREP and WCVI Call on the Texas Senate to Reverse 2/3 Rule

Rule Change Made to Allow Partisans to Pass Disenfranchising Voter ID Law San Antonio, Texas - Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP) and the William C. Velasquez Institute (WCVI) call on the Texas State Senate to reverse the 2/3 rule it passed to move the Voter ID legislation. The Senate, in its first act, voted to deny the minority legislative opinion, a rule suspended only when applied to the voting of the Voter ID legislation. "The Texas State Senate is acting counter to America's principles by adjusting their voting rules," said Antonio Gonzalez, SVREP and WCVI President. "The Senate is changing its rules to blatantly disenfranchise citizens with the discriminatory Voter ID legislation and silencing minority opinions in the legislative process." The Senate majority has made its main focus of this legislature the passage of the Voter ID bill. SVREP, WCVI, and many other national and statewide civil rights organizations, oppose Voter ID laws as they create extra barriers for citizens to participate in elections, and would disproportionately affect minority voters. SVREP and WCVI further oppose the rule change as it creates dangerous precedent for future Senate deliberations. Any Texas State Senate majority could use this example to override the rules on important legislation rather than force Senators to work together, compromise, and form laws that are inclusive of more Texan representatives. "Today's action by the Texas State Senate is a mockery to democracy", said SVREP Vice President Lydia Camarillo. "The Senate sent a message to Texas and the nation that it planned to play dirty-partisan politics by voting to suspend the 2/3 rule to promote the Voter ID legislation, which dilutes the voting rights of Latino and other communities of color. SVREP calls on the Senate to reverse the rule and work towards representing all Texas citizens." SVREP is a national, nonpartisan organization committed solely to the political empowerment of Latino communities. SVREP was established in 1974 by the late Willie Velásquez to encourage civic and political participation in Latino and other underrepresented communities. Since its inception, over 2.3 million Latino voters throughout the southwest and Florida have been registered. The William C. Velásquez Institute (WCVI) is a tax-exempt, non-profit, non-partisan public policy analysis organization chartered in 1985. The purpose of WCVI is to: conduct research aimed at improving the level of political and economic participation in Latino and other underrepresented communities; To provide information to Latino leaders relevant to the needs of their constituents; To inform the Latino leadership and public about the impact of public policies on Latinos; To inform the Latino leadership and public about political opinions and behavior of Latinos.

This message was sent to by:
William C. Velasquez Institute



Garcia: State senators should tackle the real problems facing Texas


Sunday, January 18, 2009
Now that the Texas Senate has shown strength and resolve in fixing a nonexistent problem, let's see how they handle real ones.

On Wednesday, Texas senators, led — in the loosest sense of the term — by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, spent the second day of the session rearranging the rules to bulldoze through a voter identification bill. The bill died last session only to be resurrected this go-around by the hand of state Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands.

Before we go any further, let's note for the record that voter fraud is a bad thing. That's why existing statutes prohibit it. Let's also note that after spending most of a $1.4 million grant and investing two years at investigating voter fraud in Texas, Attorney General Greg Abbott and his crew came up with a whopping 26 cases of voter irregularity — 18 of them involving ballots legally cast but improperly handled.

Williams declared with all seriousness that voter fraud is a top concern of the state's voters. Maybe it's a top concern with the voters he talks to, but I'd wager that many more are worried about paying for their tickets to the economic horror show now in progress.

Some of the more visionary voters might even worry about how Texas can regain the economic vigor Gov. Rick Perry and other Republican leaders brag about if post-secondary education gets so expensive that working families can't afford it.

Education is a proven escape hatch from poverty or portal between economic classes, so broadening rather than restricting access to learning would seem to be a prudent economic development strategy. Democrats tried to amend the bill to put that concern on the same footing with voter fraud, but the Republican majority wouldn't hear it.

Voters who aren't multi-millionaires might also be concerned about their access to health care. But you only need health care if you're sick, so what's the problem?

The fact that one out of two Texas men will be diagnosed with cancer in his lifetime, according to health experts, takes a back seat to voter identification. The leading cause of death of Texas women between the ages of 35 and 74 is cancer, but that can wait. Cancer is the leading killer of Texas children ages 1 through 14 who die of a disease. But why rush to do something about that when Texas senators have this epidemic of voter fraud to wrestle to the ground?

No doubt that the last words to cross the dying lips of Texans in the final throes of cancer will express gratitude that voter fraud is now history in Texas or soon will be if House members rush to the ramparts to join their Senate colleagues in this epic battle.

According to the Republican majority in the Senate, voter fraud is more important than Texas veterans, Texas health care, higher education tuition costs or even the estimated $9 billion drop in revenue.

Given that, Texas senators may well turn their attention to prostitution — if there's any left after the state's officialdom shut down the famous Chicken Ranch in La Grange back in the 1970s.

The debate on Wednesday reminded me of Larry L. King's "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," the hit play and move inspired by that episode. When the governor is breathlessly informed that "Texas has a whorehouse in it," he springs into action to correct that stain on the state's honor.

Critics of the voter ID bill note that asking voters to present photo identification at the polling places can be used to intimidate older and minority voters, and that may be true.

But speaking as a voter who has used a driver's license to vote in all of last year's elections — I never got my voter registration card — it wasn't that big a deal. Of course, I'm not easily intimidated.

I question why senators of one of the most important states in the union spent an entire day and stepped all over a history of bipartisanship fixing a roof that the state's Republican attorney general says doesn't leak.

I asked a Republican friend of mine to explain the wisdom of this maneuver. His reply? "There is no wisdom in a stupid act."; 445-3667

Monday, January 12, 2009

English Language Learners and putting schools to the test

Quality Counts 2009 provides you with the nationwide report card on the continual push for K-12 school improvement you have come to rely on. In addition, the special focus of this year’s report is how English-language learners are putting schools to the test. Here, you may find a state-by-state analysis, as well.

Specifically, you’ll learn how:

· Immigration transforms communities challenged by changing demographic patterns, straining the capacity of school districts.
· English-learners pose a policy puzzle for states and school districts as they push to boost student achievement overall.
· The rights of ELLs and the case law and statutes to provide them quality education continue to evolve.
· And much more!

Use this sneak preview and Open House to review all of the statistics for your state, and compare them to the rest of the nation. If you would like, you can even download a PDF of your complete State Highlights Reports for the low price of $4.95. You can also purchase copies of the print report Quality Counts 2009: Portrait of a Population for $10.00.

If you would like to participate in more discussion about Quality Counts 2009: Portrait of a Population, there are three opportunities to do so over the next week. Mark your calendar now!

Jan. 8, 2 p.m. EST: Online chat on the report’s findings with EPE Research Center Director Christopher B. Swanson and Education Week Assistant Editor Mary Ann Zehr (submit questions here).

Jan. 13, 2 p.m. EST: Live Webinar on the major findings with Chris Swanson, Mary Ann Zehr, and Quality Counts Project Director Amy M. Hightower. (register here).

Jan. 15, 3 p.m. EST: Online chat with leading experts on English-language learners on the future of ELL education.

Enjoy this sneak preview and your Open House access. I look forward to our conversations on this vital topic.

Best regards,

Virginia B. Edwards
Editor and Publisher

P.S. Pass the word along about Quality Counts 2009 and the Open House to your colleagues!

Quality Counts 2009 is sponsored online by CDW-G.

Editorial Projects in Education, Inc., 6935 Arlington Road, Suite 100, Bethesda, MD 20814. EPE is the publisher of Education Week, Digital Directions, Teacher Professional Development Sourcebook,,, and Copyright © 2008 Editorial Projects in Education.

Open Letter to President-elect Obama On the 7th Anniversary of the “No Child Left Behind” Law

Open Letter to President-elect Obama [FROM FAIRTEST]
On the 7th Anniversary of the “No Child Left Behind” Law
“Keep Your Promises to Fix NCLB”

January 7, 2009

Dear President-elect Obama:

The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) congratulates you on your historic victory and endorses your message of uniting all Americans to work for positive change.

During your campaign, you spoke with power and clarity about the serious challenges facing our schools due to the flaws of the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. On the seventh anniversary of NCLB being signed into law by George W. Bush, we urge you and secretary of education nominee Arne Duncan to keep your promises to America’s children and work quickly to address NCLB’s flaws through the reauthorization process.

Today, a growing majority of Americans across the political spectrum recognize that NCLB has failed to live up to its promise to close learning gaps between racial groups and raise the performance of the nation’s schools. Most agree it has transformed too many schools into mind-numbing test-prep centers.

According to a recent Gallup/Phi Delta Kappa poll, eight in ten Americans believe that NCLB must be completely revamped in order to succeed. In addition, the federal government’s own National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) shows that student academic performance rose more rapidly before NCLB was adopted than after it went into effect.

NCLB needs a fundamental overhaul to ensure that all students learn up to their potential. That’s why FairTest initiated an alliance of 150 national civil rights, education, religious, parent, labor, children’s, and civic organizations which have signed a statement calling for a new direction for federal education policy (see list at We were heartened by your statements on the campaign trail about NCLB’s shortcomings and want to support your efforts to create a new, beneficial law.

President-elect Obama, please heed your strong statements and promises concerning NCLB as you move to make positive change in the nation’s education policy. For example, you said:

“We should not be forced to spend the academic year preparing students to fill in bubbles on standardized tests.” We agree and recommend that NCLB end its overreliance on simple-minded tests, which have dumbed down both teaching and learning in the quest for higher scores, and reduce the amount of mandated testing.

We need to use “a broader range of assessments that can evaluate higher-order skills, including students’ abilities to use technology, conduct research, engage in scientific investigation, solve problems, present and defend their ideas.” We agree and recommend that a reauthorized NLCB incorporate multiple measures of student learning and school quality that promote educational excellence. These can include real-world performance tasks, collections of student work that can be independently reviewed, evaluations by inspection teams, and standardized tests. To make this work, there needs to be a proper balance of local and state assessments.

“Labeling a school and its students as failures one day and then throwing your hands up and walking away from them the next is wrong.” We agree. Researchers have concluded that NCLB will label 70 to 100 percent of the schools in the nation as 'failures.' A new law should stop this massive over-labeling and start helping schools improve. That means providing adequate funding for a broad range of educational services and developing better assessment tools. It means giving teachers themselves ongoing opportunities to learn, as all professionals must, so they can do their jobs better. It means holding schools, districts and states accountable for meeting reasonable rates of progress and taking positive steps toward improved teaching and learning.

“Forcing our teachers, our principals, and our schools to accomplish all of this without the resources they need is wrong.” We agree. Sadly, the law was not designed to provide the resources or the help to make schools better. Instead, it requires actions that do little to strengthen teaching and learning. Some of them, such as the tutoring provision, divert resources from schools serving low-income children and give those resources to private test preparation firms, with little evidence of benefit to the tutored students. The federal government needs to fully fund the overhauled law and meet its obligations to children and communities.

Educators, parents, and students across the country trust that you will keep these important promises and that your inauguration will be a step toward bringing desperately needed change to our schools. Red state and blue state, urban and rural, rich and poor Americans all want a federal education law that actually helps children learn, instead of just testing, labeling, and punishing them. FairTest and our allies in the Forum on Educational Accountability would be honored to be among the first to support your efforts to bring such a law into being.


Jesse Mermell
Executive Director

Cc: Arne Duncan

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Paying the Price: The Impact of Immigration Raids on America's Children,

Check out this report by the NCLR on Immigration Raids and Children


A new report from the National Council of La Raza and the Urban Institute, explores how workplace raids by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), raids aimed at identifying and deporting undocumented adults, affect the children in those families and the institutions that serve those children. The report profiles three raids, in Grand Island, Nebraska; Greeley, Colorado; and New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Education Accountability Policy in the New Administration

Check out this piece titled "Education Accountability Policy in the New Administration" by Richard Rothstein and Pedro Noguera


University of Texas wants legislature to modify top 10 percent rul

University of Texas wants legislature to modify top 10 percent rule
05:56 PM CST on Wednesday, January 7, 2009
The Associated Press
AUSTIN – The University of Texas at Austin has "lost control" of its admissions policy and wants to change the law that guarantees automatic entry to students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school class, UT President William Powers said Wednesday.

Powers said a record 81 percent of the Texas freshmen entering the university this fall gained admission through the so-called "top 10 percent rule." Unless the Legislature changes the policy during its upcoming 2009 session, Powers said the state's premier university soon would have no room to admit any Texas student who does not meet that standard.

"We've lost control of our entering class because we don't have any discretion on the admissions," Powers said a legislative preview meeting hosted by the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors. Powers said the university supports some form of automatic admission based on high school grades but wants to modify existing law so that high achievers who happen to fall short of the top 10 percent can gain entry.

Powers suggested that one solution would be to adopt a more "aggressive" program allowing students to transfer to the university from community colleges.

The automatic admissions law was adopted a decade ago after a federal appeals court decision made affirmative action illegal in Texas college admissions. In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed universities to use race as one of many decision-making factors.

Efforts to change the top 10 percent law, or place a cap on the number of students being admitted under it, have fallen apart in past legislative sessions. Many Democrats have argued against modifying it, saying the law has improved ethnic and geographic diversity at major universities over the past decade.

Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, who serves on the Senate panel that oversees higher education, agreed Texas has a "capacity problem" but he said any modifications to the top 10 percent law should contain a "sunset provision" that ensures the Legislature could revisit admissions policy if it's not producing the intended results. West also said studies have shown that students admitted under the provision do better than those who aren't.

"The top ten percent (rule) is working," West said.

The 81st session of the Texas Legislature begins Tuesday at noon and runs for 140 days.

AP-WS-01-07-09 1812EST

English-Learners Pose Policy Puzzle

Some informative charts from this article:

A Distinctive Population

English-language learners of school-going age tend to be younger than members of the non-ELL population. That pattern may result from high birth rates among language-minority populations, high immigration rates among the youngest ELL youths, and the tendency to acquire proficiency with the English language over time.

SOURCE: EPE Research Center, 2009. Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (2005-2007).

Family Income and Education

The families of school-age English-language learners are consistently more socioeconomically disadvantaged than those of their peers. ELL youths are half as likely to have a parent with a two- or four-year college degree and much more likely to live in a low-income household. While two-thirds of ELL youths have a parent who holds a steady job, their parents typically earn much less than those of non-English-language learners.

SOURCE: EPE Research Center, 2009. Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (2005-2007).

Immigration Generation

Slightly more than one-third of ELL youths in the United States are foreign-born, compared with 4 percent of their non-ELL peers. Nearly half of all English-language learners are second-generation Americans, meaning they are native-born with at least one parent born outside the United States or its territories. Seventeen percent of ELLs are third-generation Americans with both parents born in the United States. Ninety-six percent of non-ELL youth are native-born.

SOURCE: EPE Research Center, 2009. Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (2005-2007).

Race and Ethnicity

Most English-language learners from the ages of 5 to 17 are Hispanic, while 14 percent are white and 13 percent are of Asian or Pacific Islander descent. The majority of the school-age non-ELL population is non-Hispanic white.

SOURCE: EPE Research Center, 2009. Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (2005-2007).

Spanning the Globe

Foreign-born English-language learners of school age hail from more than 200 countries that span every corner of the globe, according to an original analysis by the EPE Research Center. Mexico is the largest single country of origin, accounting for nearly 54 percent of all ELL youths born outside the United States or its territories. Large groups also immigrate from elsewhere in the Americas and from Asia. However, about two-thirds of all English-language learners are native-born.

SOURCE: EPE Research Center, 2009. Analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (2005-2007).


The task of ensuring that millions of children learn English—and succeed academically—is putting pressure on states and school districts as they push to boost student achievement overall.

By Mary Ann Zehr | Ed Week
January 8, 2009

New York

Here, in the nation’s largest school system, the face of the typical student is, increasingly, that of a child whose parents were born somewhere other than the United States—and, in many cases, someone who enters school speaking little or no English.

More than half of New York City’s nearly 1 million public school students have at least one foreign-born parent. This school year, 148,000 students are classified as English-language learners, or ELLs—up from 109,000 in the 1990-91 school year. By the end of this school year, about 30,000 more such students will have enrolled, the city education department projects.

Given such demographics, New York City offers a barometer of the pressures facing school systems nationally—whether urban or rural—in working to educate English-language learners amid the push for standards-based school reform.

The forecast, across the country, is cloudy at best.

Read On...

ELLs and the Law: Statutes, Precedents

This full article is a wonderful resource. The following are the cases highlighted:

Meyer v. Nebraska (1923)
Mendez v. Westminster (1947)
Bilingual Education Act (1968)
Serna v. Portales Municipal Schools (1972)
Lau v. Nichols (1974)
Equal Educational Opportunities Act (1974)
Plyler v. Doe (1982)
Flores v. Arizona (2008)

Not mentioned is the recent court case in Texas: USA and LULAC GI-Forum v. Texas (2008)

Check out the Press release and court documents


By Mark Walsh | Ed Week
January 8, 2009

Case law and statutes involving the right of English-learners to a public education—and the responsibilities of state and local governments to provide it—stretch back decades and continue to evolve. These are among the cases and laws that scholars and advocates consider landmarks in the area of the rights of language-minority and immigrant students:

Read on...

Immigration Transforms Communities

By Lesli A. Maxwell | Ed Week
January 8, 2009

Jim D. Rollins had been superintendent of the Springdale public schools in northwest Arkansas for almost a decade when the mostly white community began its dramatic transformation into a booming gateway for immigrant families and their non-English-speaking children.

In 1990, the district, with just under 8,000 students, had virtually no English-language learners, or ELLs. By last fall, its English-learner population alone stood at 7,000 children—roughly 40 percent of the total enrollment of 17,400 students. A thriving economy in and around Springdale over the past 15 years, driven mostly by job growth at Tyson Foods, the world’s largest poultry producer, and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, had attracted thousands of immigrants from Mexico, as well as a significant number of families from the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific.

Read On...

Monday, January 05, 2009

A Plan to Hire the Best Teachers

New York Times | Editorial
November 27, 2008

New York City and its teachers’ union took an important step when they agreed to abandon a rule that allowed senior teachers to transfer into any school they wished, often bumping younger teachers from their jobs. The new policy, which allows principals to reject unwanted applicants, has put an end to disruptive transfers and made it easier for schools to build coherent teams.

The new system is not perfect. It has unfortunately created an incentive for principals to pass over the most experienced teachers — who can earn $100,000 a year — in favor of new teachers who cost about half that much. The passed-over teachers, whose jobs are guaranteed under the union contract, end up in a “reserve pool,” where they typically work as substitutes, while the central administration budget pays their full salaries. The cost to the city is estimated at $74 million a year.

The city and the union have now agreed on a new initiative that should cut costs while helping the best reserve pool teachers find permanent positions. Under the new rules, schools that fill vacancies from the pool will receive a small bonus and a significant salary subsidy that holds them harmless for up to eight years.

If all goes as planned, principals will seek out the best teachers from the reserve pool, no matter how high their salaries. That still leaves a crucial question unanswered: what to do with reserve teachers whose records of poor performance make it unlikely that they will be hired.

Within a year or so, the city should know which teachers were passed over for salary reasons and which ones have languished in the reserve pool because of poor performance. Once the data is in, the city and the union will need to negotiate a plan for ushering the inadequate teachers out of the system.

Educators, academics hopeful Obama administration will make changes to NCLB

By Kimberly S. Wetzel, Contra Costa Times
Posted: 11/26/2008 05:17:19 PM PST

One of President-elect Barack Obama's big challenges next year will be to restructure the No Child Left Behind Act, a bipartisan effort launched six years ago as a way to improve America's struggling public schools.

But how and when the discussion will begin on the issue is up in the air, as Obama so far has provided skimpy details on his plans for it, and the economic crisis looks to dominate domestic policy for a while.

Still, educators and academics are eager to see how lawmakers will handle NCLB and change what many call a broken system that puts too much pressure on schools without funding to implement changes.

"No Child has helped to shine a spotlight on the problems facing the public schools; now we need a president and congress that can craft motivating remedies, supporting and not punishing local educators," said Bruce Fuller, an education professor at UC Berkeley. "What's required is a careful rethinking how Washington can play a productive role, not a punitive one."

No Child Left Behind — signed by President George W. Bush in early 2002 — is a standardized-test system for tracking achievement. The law expired in 2007 and sits idle in Congress awaiting reauthorization.

Under the law, a minimum number of students must score proficient or better in math and reading on state standardized tests. Schools that do not have enough children who meet the benchmarks and other criteria are deemed in need of improvement and placed on state and federal watch lists. Schools and school districts that fail to make "adequate yearly progress" two years in a row can face sanctions such as having money withheld or be forced to restructure.

Many educators agree that NCLB is a good start to overhauling the system, but the law should be reshaped to give schools credit for improvement and be adequately funded. Others say the mandate, which also calls for all students in the United States to be proficient in math and reading by 2014, is unrealistic and sets schools up to fail.

"Pressure and humiliation are not successful strategies to use," said Nia Rashidchi, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning in the West Contra Costa school district, where some schools have been deemed in need of improvement. "When schools and school districts don't meet all the targets but have good growth, the focus is still, 'But you did not meet the targets.' That's not a good incentive for staffs to keep doing the hard work that they are doing."

Obama has remained somewhat vague about his plans to reform the law, other than to say that fixes need to be made. He often refers to the need for a "growth model" that will give schools credit for progress, and he has stressed increased funding for things such as teacher training.

"We must fix the failures of No Child Left Behind," Obama said during a campaign rally in Ohio in September. "We must provide the funding we were promised and give our states the resources they need, and, finally, meet our commitment to special education."

When Obama might take up the issue is anyone's guess, however, as education was largely a back-burner issue in the election campaign, and Obama told CNN in late October that education was fifth among his priorities, behind the economy, energy independence, health-care and tax cuts for the middle class.

But educators and others say that America's students, continuously slipping further behind their peers in other countries, cannot wait for reform. The public largely agrees: a poll done by the Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup in August showed that 67 percent of Americans think the law should be significantly changed or scrapped.

Congressman George Miller, D-Martinez, chairman of the powerful House Education and Labor Committee and one of the chief sponsors of NCLB, said he looks forward to discussing the matter with Obama. Miller hopes to incorporate teacher performance and school dropout rates, and he wants to take the pressure off schools by "making sure they can go into school improvement without turning it upside down."

Miller said he thinks that Obama — who has stated repeatedly that education is an issue close to his heart — will make NCLB a priority upon taking office in January.

"The bottom line is, everybody envisions pretty significant changes to No Child Left Behind," Miller said.

"We've learned a lot in the last five years, we've seen a lot of things that are working, and it's very, very exciting. I think that one thing President-elect Obama has made very clear is that education is very much a part of our economy, as is a bailout for Citicorp or the automobile companies. We cannot fall behind on education just because the economy is in a downturn."

Reach Kimberly S. Wetzel at 510-262-2798 or at

$44 million to flow into system for tracking immigrant detainees

This is crazy. Check out the previous post showing the growth of the detention center industry across the U.S. Couching these expenditures under the auspices of national security should concern us all.


By Hernán Rozemberg | San Antonio Express-News
November 27, 2008

Facing increased pressure to keep an organized system for the growing number of unauthorized immigrants kept in detention, the federal government is about to pump millions into a new tracking network.

The agency responsible for the arrest, detention and deportation of unauthorized migrants, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement within the Homeland Security Department, will spend as much as $44 million over the next four years for the new program.

Tasked to develop the new Web-based detention management system is Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman, which won the contract. The tech giant, a traditional hub for military contracts, will team up with nine other companies, including Dell in Austin.

Northrop Grumman said the wireless network will allow ICE, which manages about 33,000 detainees in more than 300 prisons around the country, to keep better track of movement of detainees from one prison to another and how much bed space is available at each location. It also will be able to link the information to other databases.

The company said in a news release that the new system “will significantly increase safety and security, reduce processing time, minimize network and cellular traffic and provide a common interface for (homeland security) agents.”

The government hopes the new technology will help manage the immigration detention system, which has dramatically expanded with yearly budget increases in the wake of the post-9-11 security boost.

“Ultimately, our goal is to continue to look for improved efficiencies, and use new technologies to that end,” said Carl Rusnok, regional spokesman for ICE in Dallas.

Northrop Grumman's contract calls for $14 million for one year, with up to three annual renewals totaling more than $44 million.

Study: Immigrants drive job growth

Check out the full report "Recent Immigration to Philadelphia: Regional Change and Response".

Here are some key findings from an analysis of the growth and characteristics of the foreign-born in the Philadelphia metropolitan area between 1970 and 2006:

• Among its peers, metropolitan Philadelphia has the largest and fastest growing immigrant population, which now stands at over 500,000, comprising 9 percent of the population. Between 2000 and 2006, greater Philadelphia’s immigrant population grew by 113,000, nearly as many as had arrived in the decade of the 1990s.

• Metropolitan Philadelphia has a diverse mix of immigrants and refugees from Asia (39 percent), Latin America and the Caribbean (28 percent), Europe (23 percent) and Africa (8 percent). The 10 largest source countries are India, Mexico, China, Vietnam, Korea, Italy, Ukraine, Philippines, Jamaica, and Germany.

• Immigrant growth in suburban Philadelphia has outpaced the city’s growth, but numerically, the city has the largest population of all local jurisdictions. Outside the city, Montgomery County had the earliest post- World War II suburban settlement of the foreign born and has the largest number of immigrants among jurisdictions, while Chester County saw the fastest growth during the 1970-2006 time period.

• Nearly 60 percent of the foreign-born living in metropolitan Philadelphia arrived in the United States after 1990. Although their naturalization rates and educational levels reflect their recentness of arrival, on the whole, greater Philadelphia’s immigrants are doing well on these measures as compared with some other U.S. metropolitan immigrant populations.

• Nearly 75 percent of greater Philadelphia’s labor force growth since 2000 is attributable to immigrants. Immigrants’ contributions to the labor force are considerably higher in this period than in the 1990s, when just 36 percent of the growth was due to immigrants.


by Athena D. Merritt
Friday, November 28, 2008

About 220 businesses, employing 900 workers, occupy the six-block stretch of 52nd Street between Arch and Spruce streets in West Philadelphia.

Overwhelmingly, they are immigrant-owned, reported the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians, which hopes a study released this month will bring attention to the contributions being made by immigrants to the city’s struggling commercial corridors.

Immigrants have accounted for nearly 75 percent of the area’s labor growth since 2000 and, when compared to native born, more are employed (73 percent versus 71.5 percent) and self-employed (10.7 percent versus 7.9 percent), according to a new Brookings Institution study, “Recent Immigration to Philadelphia: Regional Change in a Re-Emerging Gateway.”

The city can’t afford to overlook the area’s immigrant population, which at more than 500,000 is the largest and fastest-growing of its peer regions, said Anne O’Callaghan, executive director of the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians.

“They go into what we would call at-risk neighborhoods that are in decline and suffer from lack of resources,” O’Callaghan said of businesses being started by immigrants. “You look at the commercial corridors over the past few years, immigrant businesses have been the base upon which the corridors have been able to survive.”

Sixty-five percent of the businesses on the six-block stretch of 52nd Street are owned by immigrants, she said. Immigrants also own 39 of the 56 businesses on Baltimore Avenue between 45th and 50th streets, 70 percent of the dozen businesses on Moore and Morris streets from Broad Street to 16th and 60 percent of the businesses on North 5th between West Summerville and West Chew avenues, according to a study by the center in 2004.

“They don’t do it because they were born entrepreneurs, often necessity is the mother of invention, they do it because they can’t find jobs,” O’Callaghan told those gathered for the release of the Brookings study this month.

The businesses are being opened by immigrants despite a number of obstacles, including language barriers, limited business training and challenges navigating resources, if they are able to access them at all, O’Callaghan said. None of the businesses from the corridors the center studied were able to procure bank loans. Nearly half owned the properties and had made improvements and planned to do more in the future. Nearly half of the businesses had also been started in properties that had been vacant or abandoned.

The presence of immigrant businesses is felt, said Audrey Singer, lead researcher on the Brookings study. “In some neighborhoods you can see places that have been declining for some time being perked up by immigrant businesses,” Singer said, pointing to West Philadelphia’s 52nd Street as an example.

The Center for New Pennsylvanians opened Welcoming Center West on 246 S. 52nd Street this year to support the corridor’s immigrant and native-born entrepreneurs. This summer, the center also launched the pilot program English for Entrepreneurs, which teaches foreign-born business owners basic English to help improve their customer service, business development and customer engagement skills.

Additionally, in September, the center became a partner with the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education in a new program that connects students to foreign-owned businesses. The students get skills in interpreting and community organizing and class credit, while the businesses get help accessing resources that language barriers have kept them from doing in the past, Fatimah Muhammad, manager of Welcoming Center West, said. The efforts only scrape the surface; more are needed, Muhammad said.

“If you want them to stay you need to remove these barriers,” she said.

Out-of-state colleges boost recruiting efforts in California

As the population of high school graduates declines nationwide, Midwest and East Coast colleges are hoping to attract California students to keep their enrollment numbers steady.

By Larry Gordon | LA Times
November 29, 2008

Dory Streett didn't beat around the bush when she spoke to students recently at a high school near downtown Los Angeles about Colby College, a liberal arts school in Maine. It's 3,000 miles from home, there's snow for long stretches and its community of Waterville has only 16,000 residents.

"It's almost as far as you can get," the recruiter told a dozen seniors at Gertz-Ressler High School. The photos she showed of Colby's bucolic campus did seem a galaxy away to many of the mainly low-income students whose school sits beside the Santa Monica Freeway.

But Streett, who also emphasized Colby's small classes and generous financial aid, urged students to consider a college outside Southern California: "It's for kids who want something different . . . who know they will be in urban areas most of their lives and want to try something different for four years."

It's a message heard more often in California these days, as East Coast and Midwest colleges face an anticipated drop in their local applicant pools and cast a wider net for prospective students.

After a decade of campus-crowding growth, the size of the nation's high school graduating class has begun to decline with this year's seniors, and is projected to drop 4.5% by 2014. Then, modest growth is expected to resume.

The change, however, is uneven across the country, with the deepest dips -- up to 20% over the next few years -- forecast for New England and Upper Midwest states, home to numerous colleges.

Schools from those regions are boosting recruiting in California and other populous states, including Texas, Florida and Arizona, and looking for more students overseas, especially from China and India.

The population trend "certainly concerns schools in the Midwest and the Northeast. And it will force many . . . to start recruiting outside of their traditional regions," said Tony Pals, a spokesman for the National Assn. of Independent Colleges and Universities.

Another trend may further reduce the collegegoing population, experts say. A growing portion of U.S. high school graduates are Latinos, who traditionally have lower rates of college attendance than whites. Unless that changes, the drop in potential freshmen may be even steeper.

Uncertainty about the economy and families' abilities to pay also is forcing colleges, especially private ones, to scramble to make sure enough qualified students apply.

"Postsecondary institutions accustomed to filling entering classes with relative ease will likely face greater competition for fewer traditional-age students," declared an influential report, "Knocking at the College Door," released this year by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.

Felema Yemane, a senior at Los Angeles' Pilgrim School, says she is nervous about applying to college but hopes the demographic decline will boost her chances.

"Just the fact that it's a little bit smaller gives us a little more chance," said Yemane, who is applying to private and public schools on the East Coast and in California.

Admissions officials say the change is unlikely to make it easier to get accepted by the most prestigious universities, such as Harvard and Princeton, which reject 90 percent of applicants. Nevertheless, those schools say they want to keep up their West Coast recruiting and let potential students know of the sweetened financial-aid deals wealthy colleges can offer.

"I think we are all very aware of the demographics and the changing nature of our applicant pool," said Janet Lavin Rapelye, dean of admissions at Princeton.

But for the next few years, students applying to colleges a notch below the top tier may find it a bit easier to land a spot.

Local high school counselors say they are hearing from more schools around the country that want to send representatives. "We are finding schools recruiting in California that we haven't seen in the past," said Helene Kunkel, a college advisor at Palisades Charter High School.

However, Kunkel said Southern Californians may not be attracted to those campuses if they are far away or lack a familiar brand name. "They do have an uphill battle with some of the kids here," she said.

Even so, this year for the first time, Central College in Iowa and Quinnipiac University in Connecticut are sending envoys to Southern California. Others, including Northeastern University in Boston and the Rochester Institute of Technology in upstate New York, have established California offices or placed full-time recruiters here.

Still others, including the University of Vermont, the University of Connecticut, Michigan's Kalamazoo College and Minnesota's College of St. Benedict-St. John's University are coming more often and visiting more schools.

Kalamazoo is boosting recruiting outside the Midwest because of demographics and because Michigan's economic decline makes it difficult for some local families to attend, said Eric Staab, dean of admissions. "It is no longer a time to be a regional college," he said.

The University of Connecticut, where a third of undergraduates are out-of-staters, has sharply increased the time its recruiters spend in California. "As we looked at that receding tide, we decided to have a strategy in place and build our name brand," said Lee Melvin, director of undergraduate admissions.

Central College in Iowa anticipates what admissions dean Carol Williamson calls "incredibly tight competition" from other Iowa schools for students. So she is sending a representative to California for two weeks this fall and again in the spring.

Williamson concedes that Iowa might be an unusual spot for a Los Angeles student, but said the school wants young people who are "willing to step outside their normal box and say, 'I want a different experience.' "

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of high school graduates in the U.S. peaked this spring with about 3.35 million "Echo Boom" youngsters, offspring of Baby Boomers. The number is projected to drop by about 18,000 next spring and continue to decline for the next five years.

New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Kansas, Montana, North Dakota, Michigan, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania are projected to have significant dips while states such as Texas, Florida and Arizona are slated for growth.

California is in a universe of its own. The "College Door" report estimates that the number of California students graduating from high school peaked at 423,615 in 2008. The state projects a slight decrease for 2009 and a nearly 7% decline by 2017.

However, California's population of young people will remain the largest by far -- about double that of Florida and New York -- and will continue to draw recruiters.

That's one reason Colby College, which enrolls half its 1,870 students from New England, sent Streett to California this fall to visit more than 40 schools in two weeks. At a college fair last month at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College, she stood shoulder-to-shoulder with representatives of other East Coast colleges, including Middlebury, Mount Holyoke and Bates.

Southern California is a good place to look for ethnic and geographic diversity, Streett told the Gertz-Ressler students, who were mainly Latino and black. "We want that," she said. "That is very attractive to us and that's why we spend a couple weeks out here."

That was good news to Carlos Ramos, a Gertz-Ressler senior who attended recent presentations by several East Coast schools and expects to apply to some of them. Ramos, 17, said he heard a clear message from the out-of-state colleges:

"They definitely want L.A. kids to be there," he said.

Gordon is a Times staff writer.

City of Immigrants Fills Jail Cells With Its Own

Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times

The Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, R.I., was built on the hope that it would revive the city’s economy.

Published: December 26, 2008

CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. — Few in this threadbare little mill town gave much thought to the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility, the maximum-security jail beside the public ball fields at the edge of town. Even when it expanded and added barbed wire, Wyatt was just the backdrop for Little League games, its name stitched on the caps of the team it sponsored.

Then people began to disappear: the leader of a prayer group at St. Matthew’s Roman Catholic Church; the father of a second grader at the public charter school; a woman who mopped floors in a Providence courthouse.

After days of searching, their families found them locked up inside Wyatt — only blocks from home, but in a separate world.

In this mostly Latino city, hardly anyone had realized that in addition to detaining the accused drug dealers and mobsters everyone heard about, the jail held hundreds of people charged with no crime — people caught in the nation’s crackdown on illegal immigration. Fewer still knew that Wyatt was a portal into an expanding network of other jails, bigger and more remote, all propelling detainees toward deportation with little chance to protest.

If anything, the people of Central Falls saw Wyatt as the economic engine that city fathers had promised, a steady source of jobs and federal money to pay for services like police and fire protection. Even that, it turns out, was an illusion.

Wyatt offers a rare look into the fastest-growing, least-examined type of incarceration in America, an industry that detains half a million people a year, up from a few thousand just 15 years ago. The system operates without the rules that protect criminal suspects, and has grown up with little oversight, often in the backyards of communities desperate for any source of money and work.

Click here for the interactive map of detention centers across the U.S.

Last spring, The New York Times set out to examine this small city of 19,000 and its big detention center as a microcosm of the nation’s new relationship with immigration detention, which is now sweeping up not just recent border-jumpers and convicted felons but foreign-born residents with strong ties to places like Central Falls. Wyatt, nationally accredited, clean and modern, seemed like one of the better jails in the system, a patchwork of county lockups, private prisons and federal detention centers where government investigations and the news media have recently documented substandard, sometimes lethal, conditions.

But last summer, a detainee died in Wyatt’s custody. Immigration authorities investigating the death removed all immigration detainees this month — along with the $101.76 a day the federal government paid the jail for each one. In Central Falls, where many families have members without papers, a state campaign against illegal immigrants spread fear that also took a toll: People went into hiding and businesses lost Latino customers in droves. Slowly, the city awoke to its role in the detention system, and to the pitfalls of the bargain it had struck.

In a sinking economy, immigration detention is a rare growth industry. Congress has doubled annual spending on it in the last four years, to $2.4 billion approved in October as part of $5.9 billion allotted for immigration enforcement through next September — even more than the Bush administration had requested.

Seeking a slice of that bounty, communities like Farmville, Va., and Pahrump, Nev., are signing up with developers of new detention centers. Jails from New England to New Mexico have already made the crackdown pay off — for the private companies that dominate the industry, for some investors and, at least in theory, for places like Central Falls, a city so strapped that the state pays for its schools.

Here, a specially created municipal corporation built the jail in the early 1990s to hold federal inmates, and last year more than doubled its size. As the City Council president, William Benson Jr., put it, “The more inmates they have, the more money we get.”

Yet in a community whose 1.3 square miles are said to be too small for secrets — “If you sneeze on Washington Street, someone on Pine Street says, ‘Gesundheit,’ ” Mr. Benson said — city officials, overwhelmingly non-Latino, seemed uninformed about who those inmates were. “Nobody knows exactly who’s down there,” he said. “I hear some are Arab terrorists.”

The mystery is in some ways understandable. Though immigration detainees made up one-third of the daily population and a majority of the 4,200 men and women who moved through Wyatt’s 722 beds in a year, most were from other states, and those from Rhode Island did not remain long: Immigration and Customs Enforcement typically transferred them within a week.

Some were legal immigrants who had served time for serious crimes. But increasingly they were the kind of people who in the past would not have been arrested — people without papers, similar to some of the people who play, cheer and live in Wyatt’s shadow. Sometimes the same people.

Anthony Ventetuolo Jr., one of Wyatt’s developers and now the jail’s chief executive, said that who the inmates were made no difference to the jail, which was run like a business, under strict standards. “I’m not interested in getting involved in the politics of immigration,” he said. “All we do is detain people that our clients tell us to detain.”

Swallowed by the System

Over 10 years, Maynor Canté, 26, hardly glanced at the jail he passed as he hurried between home, two jobs and St. Matthew’s Church, where he led a prayer group.

He was 15 when he left Guatemala in 1997, sneaking across the Mexican border to join seven older siblings, legal residents who had spent years scraping new lives out of the industrial ruins of Rhode Island’s Blackstone Valley. Caught in Texas, the teenager was quickly let go pending a hearing, like so many arrested under the “catch and release” policy that prevailed while the nation’s boom times demanded cheap immigrant labor. When he failed to show up in court, a deportation order was issued.

A decade later, Mr. Canté spoke near-fluent English, and had spent thousands of dollars trying to legalize his status. Mornings, he cleaned a factory for $8 an hour. Evenings, he worked at his nephew’s new clothing shop on Dexter Street, one of several Latino businesses that had revived a bleak stretch of vacant storefronts.

Then, early one morning in October 2007 when he headed out the door for his cleaning job, five immigration agents hustled him into a van. That night, as frightened relatives tried to find him, he was delivered to Wyatt in chains.

Inside, a plaque declares that the detention center’s mission is “to protect the public from people who pose a threat to society.” One corridor, waxed to an immaculate shine, leads to a darkened control room where correction officers watch a dozen video monitors fed by 200 cameras. A guard can scan an entire unit housing 72 detainees in two- to four-man cells; zooming in on a card game, he can see that one player is holding hearts.

The jail was built for inmates awaiting trial on federal charges — drug possession, child pornography, political corruption. But to help pay off $106 million borrowed for its recent expansion and refinancing, Wyatt was now counting on prisoners like Mr. Canté: administrative detainees not charged with a crime, but held while the government tries to deport them.

Now he found himself slated for deportation without a hearing — or even any way to make a phone call.

“I was scared,” he said, recalling how he prayed the rosary and stared out the tiny window of his cell to watch a freight train pass at 6 a.m.

Outside, his sister Emma, 33, was distraught. Since their mother’s death in 2006, she had felt more responsible for protecting Mr. Canté, a big-shouldered man who was still her little brother. “Three days passed and we didn’t know where he was,” she said.

On the fourth day, after calls to many jails, a high school friend located Mr. Canté, and members of his prayer circle flocked to Wyatt. His priest, the Rev. Otoniel J. Gomez, had never visited the jail in the eight years since he was sent to Central Falls from Colombia. He spoke to his weeping parishioner through a thick plexiglass barrier.

“I thought, ‘This is like a horror movie, talking with a criminal,’ ” he said.

Yet the priest soon realized that Mr. Canté was lucky. “Most of these people didn’t have any relatives or friends near them,” Father Gomez said, “not even a lawyer.”

The official list of free legal help was largely a dead end. Wyatt’s expensive inmate telephone service was often useless, because it took days to set up an account, and it could not be used to call cellphones. Desperate, other detainees passed Mr. Canté phone numbers on scraps of paper, begging him to ask his visitors to call and tell where they were.

Out of Sight, Out of Reach

Plucked from communities from Maine to New York, some had already been transferred through several jails; many would soon be moved again, as the federal immigration agency improvised to make space for detainees from new roundups.

“It’s like having a room with five bathtubs and water coming in and out of each one to maintain an equilibrium,” explained Todd Thurlow, acting deputy director of the Boston field office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which contracts for about 1,000 beds in dozens of jails across New England.

Wyatt had a reputation as one of the most professionally run. But for newcomers without help, it could be rough.

One complaint, echoed by former jail employees, was that detainees in pain from illness or injury often went without adequate treatment. Other detainees spoke of going hungry, like Edgar Bocce, 25, a Guatemalan cleaner who said two muscular inmates took away his first dinner tray — rice, beans and spaghetti — while guards did nothing. Spartan meals could be supplemented with food from the jail’s commissary, but only if relatives sent money, or detainees stayed long enough to earn some; on the cleaning crew that kept the jail so spotless, starting pay was 40 cents a day.

Though officials said detainees were housed according to their history of violence, only one unit was dedicated to immigration detainees, and the rest were mixed in with criminal suspects and convicts.

Perhaps the greatest frustration, inmates said, was their inability to make sense of what was happening to them.

“Why am I here in jail?” asked one, a Central Falls mechanic who had been seized at immigration headquarters in Providence when he went to check why his green card application was taking so long. Wyatt guards had no answers. “They tell me, ‘Sorry, guys, but we’re not Immigration.’ ”

Mr. Canté’s sisters borrowed money and hired him a lawyer. But a day after the lawyer’s first visit, their brother was gone — transferred to a Boston jail. That week, he was shackled and bused with 60 other men to detention in York, Pa., then put on a government plane with 300 chained immigrants.

He ended up one of 2,000 detainees packed into a windowless tent city that had sprung up only a year earlier in Raymondville, Tex. — the nation’s largest immigration prison camp, run for profit and still growing.

For weeks after his lawyer reopened his case for a hearing in Boston, she could not locate him. He was on the verge of deportation by the time she managed to persuade the government to fly him back from Texas, two days before last Christmas.

Mr. Canté finally appeared before an immigration judge on Jan. 2, after three months in the detention maze. Because his case fell under the more lenient laws in force before 1997, he not only was released on bond, but allowed to work until his immigration hearing in December 2009. He is now trying to pay back thousands of dollars in loans and legal fees.

A Market for Inmates

Mr. Canté, whose time in detention cost federal taxpayers about $10,000, was part of what many call an “immigrant gold rush” that turned the private prison industry from bust to boom.

Across the country, starting in Texas in the 1980s, prison companies built jail cells on speculation as they rushed to cash in on the war on drugs. They overbuilt; abuse scandals and escapes soured many states on private prisons, and by the late 1990s, as competition for inmates increased, the companies’ stock was suffering.

Yet given the lure of easy financing and big fees for constructing deals, developers of prison space did not hold back on growth. Instead, big companies like the Corrections Corporation of America, the GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut) and the Cornell Companies added more beds and lobbied harder at the source of the most lucrative inmates, the federal government.

The payoff came after 9/11 in an accelerating stream of new detainees: foreigners swept up by the nation’s rising furor over illegal immigration.

Central Falls was similar, in its poverty, to more remote communities that had hitched their hopes to jails. Set in the river valley where America’s industrial revolution was born, its textile mills had hired large immigrant families — French Canadians and Poles, followed by Syrians and Portuguese — and squeezed them into triple-decker tenements. Even after the work moved away, the mills’ cheap housing continued to draw immigrants, mostly from Latin America.

The city was nearly bankrupt in 1990 when developers made a proposition: Build a profit-making jail for two or three hundred nonviolent federal detainees, and guarantee a steady stream of money and jobs for Central Falls.

But the deal that emerged, like many elsewhere, proved better at paying private investors than generating public revenue. The municipal corporation borrowed $30 million through a state bond issue to build Wyatt, and hired the Cornell company to run it. Six years later, the municipal body borrowed $38 million to refinance, buying back most of the bonds at a premium that gave the original bondholders a lump-sum return of 28.5 percent on their investment in addition to 9 percent annual interest.

And from its opening party in November 1993, Wyatt ran into the same problem as its competitors: finding enough inmates. For a time it imported murderers and rapists by the busload from North Carolina’s crowded prisons. When city residents objected, they learned that Central Falls had no control over who was housed at Wyatt and would get no money unless it was full.

At best, Wyatt paid Central Falls $2 to $3 a day for each detainee — less than $400,000 in the good years — to offset its use of city services. At times when the flow of inmates faltered, payments slowed to a trickle. Yet, following the strange logic of prison growth, Cornell and Wyatt officials were soon pushing to refinance yet again and expand.

Thomas Lazieh, the mayor who had championed the deal that built Wyatt, defended it as the best the city could get. His successor, Lee Matthews, took a darker view and sued to stop the expansion. “The city was sold a bill of goods,” he said.

Wyatt doubled in size anyway, with the backing of the current mayor, Charles D. Moreau. Convinced that it could wrest more revenue from the jail as immigration enforcement boomed, the municipal corporation took full control in August 2007. The budget it approved late that year included $6,000 a month for a Washington lobbyist to seek more detainees at higher rates.

A Recession, and Raids

By then, as in many parts of the country, people in Rhode Island were looking at Latino immigrants as prime suspects in a dismal economy. A polarizing immigration debate had converged with a huge state budget deficit and high unemployment. As this year began, resentment flared.

The catalyst was an ordinary New Year’s feature in The Providence Journal about the first baby born in Rhode Island in 2008. Mother and newborn were still in the hospital when federal agents, spurred by the publicity, raided their apartment in Providence and took away the father on immigration violations. Afterward, the police said, the mother discovered that a roommate from Guatemala had hanged himself behind his locked bedroom door, apparently during the raid.

The baby’s father, initially held in secret at Wyatt, was eventually deported. A Guatemalan landscaper with two misdemeanor convictions, he had been ordered to leave the country in August 2007, but stayed, his lawyer said, because his fiancée, a United States citizen, was pregnant with their second child.

To some, the case illustrated how illegal immigrants, who make up less than 4 percent of Rhode Island’s population, drained public services.

“Rhode Island taxpayers are the real victims!” declared Alice Losasso of West Warwick, in a letter to The Journal. “I’m tired of paying for interpreters so that immigrants can take their driver’s test in whatever language they speak. I’m tired of finding that their girlfriends and children are on welfare.”

Her words echoed a major theme of the governor, Donald L. Carcieri, a Republican. In March, he issued an executive order directing the State Police to help federal authorities round up illegal immigrants, saying that they depressed wages and strained services.

Public approval for that order reached 75 percent in one poll after an illegal immigrant from Guatemala was charged with carjacking and raping a woman outside a mall. He had been arrested twice before by the Providence police, and already had an outstanding order of deportation. The governor appeared on the Bill O’Reilly program to accuse the Providence mayor of sheltering criminals.

In Central Falls, the crackdown sowed panic. At the public charter school two blocks from Wyatt, parents, already afraid to be photographed at school events, were now reluctant to drive to meetings, said Sarah Friedman, a founder of the school.

An 8-year-old girl, one of the school’s high-scoring students, stopped speaking in class when her father disappeared into detention, the girl’s mother said. Without his income, mother and daughter, United States citizens, were almost evicted from their apartment.

At Central Falls High School, some students stopped coming to class because their families had gone into hiding, said Margie Cruz, a school-home liaison: “The child was born here, the child is legal. But the family has to hide because the father will be deported.

“I’ve seen students stopped for a traffic violation and the whole family got deported,” she added. “Children that were here for years. I watched them grow up.”

One longtime Little League mother said she used to worry that child molesters could be watching from the jail windows. Now, she said, she worried that her sister’s children would end up inside — the niece who had just graduated from high school with no path to legal status; the nephew who had been taught that local Quakers hid fugitive slaves, and asked his aunt to hide him if his parents were detained.

They were part of a generation of Central Falls teenagers born abroad who were coming of age as outlaws in their own town. Some had already lost relatives, like the 14-year-old whose older brother had made a left turn on red and ended up in a detention odyssey that led to deportation.

“My mother’s afraid the same thing that happened to my brother could happen to me, because I play soccer, I’m out there,” he said.

A few blocks from Wyatt, Police Chief Joseph P. Moran III praised the jail as “a great neighbor — it keeps things under control.” But he went on to tell about the difficulty of investigating the killing of a Dominican cabdriver, because witnesses had not come forward for fear of deportation. He talked of the blurring line between police work and immigration enforcement.

One domestic violence call by a husband illustrated the new reality. After a routine computer check, both he and his wife were taken into police custody, and her 8-month-old baby was handed to a friend. The man had an outstanding bench warrant; his wife had a deportation warrant issued by immigration authorities — something not included in the police database a few years ago.

“We work hand in hand with ICE,” Chief Moran said. At the same time, he added: “I have friends from Honduras, Ecuador. My kids went to school here. It makes it very, very difficult.”

Profit and Loss

For defenders of the jail, the bottom line has always been the bottom line: Wyatt’s growth meant more federal money for the city.

“They’re going to detain them somewhere,” said the manager of Mr. Williams True Styles Barbershop, on the struggling Dexter Street commercial strip. “It’s a billion-dollar business. Unless we’re going to free them, what difference does it make?”

But at least in Central Falls, the incarceration economy was not delivering on its promise.

In late June, Mayor Moreau, a big man with a florid face and a police siren in his car, offered up a budget that laid off firefighters — and told angry city employees to get used to it.

“We’re at the end of the financial rope for Central Falls,” he told the City Council, citing more than 200 boarded-up homes, foreclosures at the rate of 25 a week, and cuts in state and federal aid that required a 4 percent property tax increase and an 8 percent spending cut in the new $17.4 million budget.

Outside, past the defunct factory where Hasbro once made G. I. Joe, beyond the rusty hulk of the downsized Sylvania plant, the summer twilight gleamed on Wyatt’s new facade.

What had happened to the windfall of money and jobs it had offered?

The jail’s annual revenue had almost doubled in a year, to $21 million, mainly from increasing immigration detention. But the city budget projected revenue of only $525,000 from Wyatt, which is exempt from taxes.

That was not even enough to cover its share of city services, according to an estimate by the city’s finance department. It was certainly nothing like the $2 million a year that Mr. Benson, the City Council president, had mentioned to a reporter in April. The mayor, he said, predicted the city would get that much in profits formerly reaped by the Cornell Companies, now that the local board had taken over. Neither the mayor nor the board members, unpaid mayoral appointees, would talk about Wyatt.

As for jobs, only 10 of about 200 Wyatt employees lived in Central Falls. The jail’s board was even declining to make the $1,500 donations to local groups it once supported, like a scholarship fund and youth football.

Mr. Ventetuolo, the Wyatt chief executive, would not say how much had been saved by dispensing with Cornell’s for-profit services, maintaining that it had all gone toward keeping prices low for the federal government. Wyatt was still in transition, he said, striving to fill new beds to meet soaring payments to bondholders, now up to $8.4 million yearly from $2.7 million under the terms of the latest refinancing.

Yet Mr. Ventetuolo’s consulting company had won a raise, to $230,000 from $156,000. And as the number of detainees increased, so did revenue from surcharges on their collect calls to relatives, under a contract with Global Tel Link that gave Wyatt a cut of about $564,000 a year. That arrangement had survived a state ban on phone surcharges at prisons, thanks to lobbying that gave Wyatt a loophole.

Other large fees went to lawyers and financiers, as Mr. Matthews, the former mayor, pointed out. “There just happens to be a lot of money made by folks other than the people of the City of Central Falls,” he said.

Out in the Open

City officials in Central Falls — mostly descendants of earlier immigrants — were mindful that they presided over a community at least 60 percent Latino, where fear of the immigration crackdown was widespread.

At the same time, the city had built its hopes for economic stability on a jail that was helping to make that crackdown possible. The combination created a local immigration politics that sometimes verged on denial.

But last summer, Wyatt itself was suddenly caught in the glare of the state’s crackdown.

On the evening of July 15, a dozen State Police officers and 50 immigration agents swept into six courthouses across the state. They arrested 31 cleaners on suspicion of immigration violations, people paid $7.40 an hour to vacuum floors and scrub toilets in Rhode Island’s halls of justice. All worked for two large state contractors, one owned by the brother of a state legislator allied with Governor Carcieri.

In the uproar that followed, experiences that had been private in cases like Mr. Canté’s were put on public display: the difficulty of locating those in custody; the distress of relatives, many of them legal residents or citizens; the absence of basic legal protections familiar to anyone who watches “Law & Order.” Advocates eventually located most of the cleaners. Four were at Wyatt, including a 29-year-old single mother detained in its new women’s unit.

Two days after the raids, as city officials raised the Colombian flag over City Hall to honor that nation’s Independence Day, Mayor Moreau criticized the roundup, and chided Governor Carcieri for spending law enforcement resources on it.

“We have better things to do,” he said, “than chasing the lady that cleans the attorney general’s office.”

A reporter asked how he squared that criticism with Wyatt’s role in holding illegal immigrants, including the cleaning woman locked up there.

“One has nothing to do with the other,” he retorted. “It has nothing to do with the City of Central Falls.”

Soon, a case that drew national attention made that distinction harder to maintain.

On Aug. 6, Hiu Lui Ng, 34, a Chinese computer engineer from New York who had overstayed a visa, died in Wyatt’s custody after a year in various detention centers and months in pain.

The Times reported a week later that despite his repeated pleas for help, his fractured spine and extensive cancer had gone undiagnosed until shortly before his death. Officials at Wyatt, where he spent his last month, said he had received plenty of medical attention, and immigration authorities started an internal investigation. But local pastors and Latino advocacy groups gathered outside Wyatt on Aug. 15 to demand an independent inquiry.

A guard who watched the demonstration, who asked that his name not be published for fear of losing his job, voiced the ambivalence toward Wyatt that seems to shape the attitudes of many in Central Falls.

He spoke with sympathy of “good, hard-working people” detained there, and with distaste of the rookie guards — a result of low pay and high turnover — “who talk to people with no respect, like they’re dogs.”

But he added: “Immigration and all that, that has nothing to do with us. We’re just the prison.”

Even in the Latino population, the new awareness of Wyatt stirred little resistance.

“If the Spanish were all registered to vote they could take the city in one election,” observed Councilman Benson. “A lot of them don’t vote because they don’t trust the government, and a lot of them are illegal, so they can’t.”

In contrast, Mr. Canté, who finally had proper papers, said he felt like part of Central Falls for the first time.

“In all these years I’ve been here illegally, everywhere I went, everything I used to do, I used to feel like a reject,” he said. “Now I feel like I’ve been accepted for the community. I don’t feel afraid anymore. I feel, like, free.”

Just how closely Central Falls was entwined in the business of locking up people like Mr. Canté became more obvious this month, when Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, citing their continuing investigation into Mr. Ng’s death, abruptly removed all immigration detainees from Wyatt, scattering them to other jails in New England, Texas and Louisiana.

With Wyatt’s solvency, if not its survival, uncertain, the mayor lobbied the state’s Congressional delegation to get back a share of the growing market in immigration detainees. Meanwhile, jail officials hunted for deals like the one they narrowly lost last spring, to house 80 Vermont inmates judged criminally insane for crimes like murder and rape.

Mr. Lazieh, the former mayor who first championed Wyatt, called the government’s immigration policies immoral, arguing that “the system has gone overboard — we’ve turned to criminalizing all immigrants.”

But he had no regrets about his city’s part. “If it’s not in Central Falls,” he said, “then this facility would be someplace else.”