Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Larger class sizes ahead as teachers collect pink slips

Larger class sizes ahead as teachers collect pink slips
Effect on students may be minimal as the academic benefits of small class sizes remain unclear

Larger class sizes ahead as teachers collect pink slips

Effect on students may be minimal as the academic benefits of small class sizes remain unclear

By Lisa Black, Noreen Ahmed-Ullah and Lolly Bowean, Tribune reporters

March 28, 2010

As thousands of Illinois teachers receive pink slips in this spring's brutal budget season, parents can do the math: Fewer teachers equals higher class sizes.

Administrators have assured them that the modest increases being proposed at many schools won't make a significant difference — and research largely backs them up. Still, parents across the region are venting frustration at school board meetings and pleading for teachers to negotiate lower salaries to save jobs.

Case in point: In Highland Park, school officials thought they could trim $300,000 off a growing deficit by adding one or two students to elementary classrooms. They quickly backed off the proposal after running into a storm of opposition.

"I really feel class size is an issue," Linda Karmin of Highland Park told her school board. Her daughter was in a first-grade class of 24 with a solid, respected teacher, and yet, "the teacher didn't even know her. She was too busy focusing on discipline rather than teaching," she said.

North Shore School District 112 was fortunate to have other options and will maintain its traditionally low class sizes — which in 2009 averaged 19 in elementary grades and 21 in middle school. But other districts will see class sizes rise as they carry out painful cuts for the 2010-11 school year.

The cuts vary by district, but most call for firing teachers, classroom aides and support workers in response to the recession's toll on state funding and property taxes. With 70 to 80 percent of their budget committed to personnel costs, districts say, they must cut staff in order to reap a significant savings.

While it might seem obvious that large class sizes put greater demands on teachers, and thus detract from learning, research over the past 35 years offers little evidence to support the sentiment. Studies do show that small class sizes bring small academic gains in kindergarten and first grade, with some reports maintaining that those early educational benefits carry through eighth grade.

But there are no "optimal" class sizes by grade level, and even if there were, those numbers would vary by the type of students, the level of teachers' skill and other factors, according to Brian Stecher, associate director of RAND Education, a Santa Monica, Calif. -based research group.

David Figlio, professor of education and social policy at Northwestern University, summarized it this way: "There's very little evidence that a class size of 22 is that much better than a class size of 25 or 27. But just try to increase class sizes from 22 to 27, and parents will scream bloody murder."

Smaller class sizes do allow teachers to spend more time with individual students and parents, but the quality of the teacher is a better predictor of academic success, experts say.

"It's much better to have a large class with a good teacher than a small class with a mediocre teacher," said Eric Hanushek, education researcher at Stanford University, who said research even took into account classes as large as 37.

Yet research "is not saying that all classes should be large," he said. For instance, smaller class sizes might benefit low-income, minority students, but only if the teacher changes instructional methods and procedures.

Regardless of the research, parents instinctively grow alarmed at the thought of their child getting less attention. They draw on their personal experience of supervising groups of children, and worry that in an ever more competitive world, any educational compromise could harm their child's chances of getting into the right college.

They also are aware that students with behavioral problems, special needs or limited English skills are increasingly integrated into the mainstream classrooms and demand more of the teachers' time.

"I'm more worried about middle-of-the-road students getting lost," said Stephanie Powell. Her district, Wheaton Warrenville School District 200, has proposed eliminating up to 71 teachers next year, part of $6.4 million in cuts.

"Without aides, teachers won't be able to give one-on-one time to these students," Powell said. "As long as they're quiet and not disruptive, they're not going to get noticed at all."

In Highland Park, parents persuaded school officials to back off its proposal that called for increasing class sizes by an average of one or two.

"I think the learning experience of the kids would really suffer," said parent Michael Cohn, 43, who has children in first and fifth grades. "I know that in a lot of districts and the city, there are more kids, but the bottom line is — a lot of people move to the North Shore because of the schools."

Instead, the District 112 board is considering a smorgasbord of cuts that include dismissing five newly hired technology coaches who help teachers use recently installed interactive white boards and high-resolution digital cameras.

Volunteers will be asked to replace library aides who usually help with clerical and circulation chores.

The district encompasses affluent Highland Park but also includes lower-income pockets of immigrants and military families based at Fort Sheridan, with 19 percent of its 4,400 students receiving free or reduced lunches.

Its problems seem minor compared with the Chicago Public Schools, which is preparing for a $700 million deficit next year, according to district chief Ron Huberman.

Huberman recently told principals that if there are no pension changes or restoration in state cuts, class sizes could balloon to 37 students from about 30 now. That grim scenario suggested layoffs of up to 3,200 teachers and 600 nonteaching staff.

The state's second largest district, Elgin's U-46, announced this month it will lay off nearly 1,100 employees, including 732 teachers as well as guidance counselors, librarians and special education supervisors. Elgin officials approved $30 million of budget cuts toward a $44 million deficit.

"Without these people in our elementary schools, we will not be able to address the individual needs of all the children including academic, athletics and emotional," said Mary Fedor, a teacher at McKinley Elementary in Elgin.

Although many administrators counsel parents not to worry about modest changes in class sizes, teachers often say the opposite — adding to the dissonance around the issue.

Val Dranias, union president for teachers in Indian Prairie School District 204, said large class sizes make it harder for teachers to target low-achieving or high-achieving students for individual help. The district, which includes parts of Naperville and Aurora, may increase class sizes to 31 students per teacher, Dranias said.

"It will be much more difficult to differentiate learning in a classroom," Dranias said.

Some districts will see class sizes grow in high school, but officials say the effect will be minimal since classes there are already specialized, and thus smaller.

Barrington Community Unit School District 220, for instance, announced that it will lay off about 15 teachers, all in their first, second or third year of teaching. Most will come from Barrington High School, where some class sizes will rise to 30 students per class next fall.

The average class size will remain about 25, which is "still within what our board considers to be an acceptable range," district spokesman Jeffrey Arnett said. "Across the district, there are only 6 percent of classrooms that will exceed what our Board of Education believes is optimal."

As school officials put their budget cuts in final form within the next few weeks, some must take into account contractual agreements with teacher unions that cap class sizes.

"Right now it is a terrifying time for teachers and education support professionals, and for parents who have kids in school," said Charles McBarron, spokesman for the Illinois Education Association, based in Springfield. "The things that make school special are all at risk."

Officials also must adhere to federal laws regarding special education programs, where students have legal recourse if school districts fail to meet their needs. Special education advocates are already hearing complaints about districts that are laying off classroom aides who help modify curriculum and assist students with physical tasks.

Special education aides "make a huge difference to help kids function," said Matthew Cohen, a Chicago-based lawyer who represents families who fight for services.

If stretched too thin, teachers will be forced to attend only to the neediest students, he said.

"There is a matter of fairness to the teacher and the kids without a disability, too," he said. "It makes it harder for everybody."

Tribune reporter Azam Ahmed and freelance reporters Amanda Marrazzo and Jack McCarthy contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2010, Chicago Tribune

History a Flash Point as States Debate Standards

Published Online: March 25, 2010
History a Flash Point as States Debate Standards

By Erik W. Robelen

As debate continues around the development and adoption of common standards in English and mathematics, several states are independently wrestling with rewrites of standards in a content area largely absent from that national discussion—social studies—and encountering their own shares of controversy.

Flash points in the social studies debates tend to occur in the teaching of history, from what should be taught to when and how much.

Read on here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Undocumented and Unafraid

by Isaac | Solidarity webzine

To kick off a national “Coming Out of the Shadows” week, more than one thousand Chicago immigrant youth and allies, crowding behind a banner with the words UNDOCUMENTED AND UNAFRAID, chanted “Without Papers, Without Fear – Immigrants are Marching Here!”

Four years after a historic march here began the tidal wave of mobilization that defeated James Sensenbrenner’s anti-immigrant bill HR4437, today’s action – while it had significantly lower turnout – was a new step in youth leadership. The veteran activists of the original March 10 committee assisted with organizing, but the initiation, collection of endorsements, publicity, planning, and media work was led by a new generation of organizers, many from the Immigrant Youth Justice League. IYJL itself has a short history, having formed in late 2009 by activists who’d successfully campaigned to prevent the deportation of an undocumented student, Rigo Padilla.

Despite intimidations by Department of Homeland Security (who parked several trucks at the rally point) and the City of Chicago’s attempt to disrupt the permit process, delegations of students from high schools, colleges and universities turned out from around the city.

But the most daring and politically powerful moment came at a short rally in Federal Plaza – the Coming Out – consciously modeled on the practice developed in the gay liberation movement. “This is a place” – said David, in English, and Ireri, in Spanish – “that’s not safe for people like us. There are people in that building whose job is to detain and deport us. But today we are going to make it ours!”

Eight activists shared their stories of migration to the US and of growing up without documentation. In these stories, the crowd heard in moving detail the pain, anger, and determination of living with second-class status. Not being able to obtain everything from a library card, to a drivers license, to a college education. Denial of heath care. Watching a mother die of cancer from a low-paying sweatshop job. And fear, constant fear and frustration.

Each ended by declaring their name and status: “My name is Tania. I am undocumented, and I am not afraid!”

“My name is Hugo. I am undocumented, and I am not afraid!… My name is Ireri. I am undocumented, and I am not afraid!… My name is Nico. I am undocumented, and I am not afraid!… My name is Uriel. I am undocumented, and I am not afraid!… My name is Reyna. I am undocumented, and I am not afraid!… My name is David. I am undocumented, and I am not afraid!”

Organizing for March 21 and beyond

Unlike many rallies which are spoken to, the decision to keep the program simple and personal connected deeply with the crowd of undocumented immigrant youth, their friends, families and classmates; in the words of one speaker, “We can’t advocate for ourselves in the third person anymore. This is about us.”

Carrying on the theme of a personal, organizing-centered march, the speakers invited the crowd to gather in small groups of five or ten people and share who they were, why they had come, and what they would do next to continue the struggle. For many, the next step is a March 21 demonstration in Washington, DC to demand that immigration reform be recognized as a national priority. IYJL organizers hope to fill two buses out of the total goal of 200 buses from Illinois.

For more information or to get involved visit

Chiefs Press Education Secretary on ESEA Issues

Really interesting discussion here on how urban-centered reforms undermine the realities of the rural (and non-urban) contexts. What's also interesting is how the option for states to partner K-12 and higher education in devising college-readiness standards is an eligible alternative route that can be taken if they choose not to adopt the CCSSO's standards. Doesn't the former just make more sense if a state wants their students to be prepared for their respective, public institutions of higher ed?


By Lesli A. Maxwell | Ed Week

Even as they posed tough questions about government flexibility on overhauling low-performing schools and the disadvantages of having to compete for federal dollars, the states’ top education officials today expressed general support for how the Obama administration aims to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

“I think we’re off to a very compatible start,” said Joseph Morton, Alabama’s state superintendent at the annual legislative conference of the Council of Chief State School Officers. “When we get down to details is when we’ll know for sure how compatible we are.”

But the chiefs weren’t focused only on the details of reauthorizing the ESEA, which is now known as the No Child Left Behind Act, even as they were set to release recommendations to Congress on what an overhauled federal law ought to include. They also offered U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan specific recommendations—and made specific requests—in a wide-ranging, hourlong session.

Among the topics: the $4 billion Race to the Top competition, states’ momentum toward adoption of common academic standards, and the challenges for rural states in turning around their lowest-performing schools through methods mandated as a condition of receiving billions of dollars in Title I school improvement grants.

The needs of rural states prompted especially lively discussion.

Read on


By David Bacon
New America Media, 3/18/10

TULARE, CA -- As the March for California's Future heads up the San Joaquin Valley towards Sacramento, participants are coming up hard against the reality of the economic crisis in rural California. The march began in Bakersfield, the day after widespread protests swept through the state's schools and universities on March 4. It is a protest against the impact of state budget cuts on education and social services, and marchers are finding that Valley communities are among those that feel their effects most strongly.
"Watsonville has a 27% unemployment rate," says Jenn Laskin, a teacher at Renaissance Continuation High School there. "It's the strawberry capital of the world, and strawberries are a luxury. In a recession, people stop buying them, so workers no longer have a job in the fields. I have many students who have both parents out of work, who grow food in our school garden for their families."
But in the Central Valley, she thinks, things seem worse. "The towns we've been passing through feel a lot more desolate," Laskin explains. Those include the small farm worker communities of Shafter, McFarland, Delano, Pixley and Tulare. "I see a lot of fields with nothing planted at all. I was in a Mexican restaurant in Pixley and there was not a Mexican in sight. The problems I see in Watsonville might even be sharper here. I see more need here, and I'm guessing probably fewer services."
She's not far off. The official unemployment rate in December in Kern County was 16%. Since Bakersfield, a major urban area, has a lower rate, towns like Shafter and McFarland have even more jobless. Crossing into Kings and Tulare Counties, unemployment jumps to over 17% in each.
The march's call to restore the promise of public education is the motivator keeping Laskin, and the march's other Watsonville participant, Emmanuelle Ballesteros, walking from one town to the next. As the youngest marcher at 21, Ballesteros says he's doing it especially for the youth and students of his community. "In Watsonville they're overcrowding classes," he charges. "Fewer classes, with more students, discourage youth because they need the help. Now there's none."
Ballesteros suffered from that himself. "He was pushed out of the system," Laskin charges. "I feel like Manny is the reason we're marching. He is a child of immigrants, with as much right to the California dream as anybody. He gives credibility to this march."
In Delano the marchers saw the four prisons that have replaced farm labor as the community's major source of employment. Seeing watchtowers and walls topped by razor wire brought the contradictions home for Ballesteros. "Delano and Watsonville are puro Latino," he explains. "The families are poor, doing farm labor. Now they're building more prisons in California than schools, and there are more Blacks and Mexicans inside those prisons. For young people like me, instead of being able to get a job, and achieving our goals, they tell you, 'You're not going to make it.'"
What Ballesteros sees as he walks makes him angry. "But I'm turning it into something positive. This march might make a little bit of change here."
Laskin says education cuts have reduced the number of school nurses in Watsonville to seven, for 19,000 students, and eliminated school psychologists and counselors, music and art. "Sports have become pay to play," she says, "which means that students who are talented and don't have the money lose the opportunity." Next year K-2 classes will have 28 students. "One child in kindergarten told me, 'we can't even fit on the rug anymore.'"
The legal limit of 20 students for K-3 grade classes was modified in the legislature's recent budget deals. "In our district, it's cheaper to raise the class size and pay the penalty than to keep class sizes small," she laments. "And combined with the emphasis on test scores, it all affects children's ability to learn. We have second grade students who don't even know how to use scissors, because they've been taught to the test. They can bubble in letters and numbers, but they can't cut a circle in a piece of paper."
In the San Joaquin Valley Laskin sees the same crisis. "We've talked with many teachers who have received pink slips," she says. "I spoke with one teacher who worked three jobs to put herself through school. She's in her second year, which means that on the first day of next year she'd have tenure and couldn't be laid off. So she's being laid off this year. Her family's lived in McFarland for five generations, and her father has been a custodian for the district there for 23 years. Without a job there won't be anything to keep her in the community where she grew up. The closest place to look for work is Bakersfield, where they just issued 200 pink slips, and many highly qualified teachers are fighting for the same job."
The march's goals include rebuilding a government and economy that works for all Californians, and enacting a fair tax system to fund it. After marchers had been walking for a week, they spent a day in front of Loews Hardware, the 99¢ Store and Wal-Mart in Tulare. There they asked people to sign petitions to qualify a ballot initiative that would remove the requirement that two-thirds of the legislature approve any budget.
Even though urban Democrats have had a majority for years in both the State Senate and the Assembly, a solid Republican block can prevent a vote to adopt a budget until legislators agree to slash spending. Cuts in spending produce pink slips for teachers, and fewer social services. Small San Joaquin Valley towns are among those electing politicians who demand budget cuts and oppose tax increases, which also require a two-thirds majority.
Dozens of the workers who care for aged and sick family members in the towns along the route are walking too. One of them, Doug Moore, heads United Domestic Workers Local 3930. "The budget cuts on the table in Sacramento could even lead to the elimination of home care itself," he says. "Statewide there are 127,000 nursing home beds, but only 20,000 available. So where are people going to go? And what will happen to the jobs of those who care for them?"
Nevertheless, "many people are not making the connection that legislators elected here in the Valley are among those using the two-thirds requirement to slash services," Laskin charges. "It's a long conversation. This whole system was put into place so that the average person can't understand what's going on." The march creates opportunities to talk with people - part of an education process she believes is needed.
Town hall meetings are planned in three larger towns on the route. And as they go, marchers are registering voters, getting petitions signed, and collecting people's ideas on little yellow 'I Have a Dream for California' cards. "We'll be delivering thousands of them to Sacramento when we arrive on the steps of the capitol," Laskin predicts. That's set to happen April 21. "I think it was right to choose the Central Valley for this march."

By Maria Salgado, as told to David Bacon
New America Media, 3/18/10

The March for California's Future began in Bakersfield, where hundreds of teachers and education activists rallied to condemn the impact of budget cuts and fee increases on students. As the march now winds it way up California's San Joaquin Valley, Maria Salgado, an immigrant student in Bakersfield, told her story to David Bacon of the way fee increases are denying her the education she's struggled for years to get.

I was born in Oaxaca, Mexico, in a family of 11. To survive, all of us had to help grow corn and beans, and take care of goats and cows. There was not enough money to continue with our education, so all nine children only finished the sixth grade. We just learned to read and write. Those economic hardships meant that I could not continue my education there.
In 1998, when I was seventeen, I came to this country with my younger sister, looking for a better future. I began by working in a Mexican restaurant, but after two months I had a car accident on our way home from a picnic that left me paraplegic. With no education or other work skills, I stayed home for a year, reflecting on what to do with my life. I did not speak any English, so I decided to go back to school.
I started taking English as a Second Language classes at the Bakersfield Adult School. To get to school, I rode two buses. I had to take morning and evening classes to get the 200 credits required for a diploma. The outcome - a 4.00 GPA. On June 6, 2003, I received my high school diploma with honors, and was one of three guest speakers. Then I volunteered as a math tutor to help other students. At the same time, I also took classes for a receptionist certificate, so that I could begin to support myself.
At first, it was very difficult being a full-time student, but I always tried to be positive and committed. I have physical disabilities and am confined to a wheelchair, but I will not let it be an obstacle to achieving a higher education.
Then in August 2003 I started attending Bakersfield College. I managed to borrow or buy used books to keep up with assignments. It took five years, but I took all the classes needed for an Associate of Arts degree in mathematics and business administration. The math department even made me a Department Award Recipient, and recognized me for outstanding student achievement in mathematics. It is challenging to reach a high GPA, but with dedication and perseverance I earned a 3.39.
After graduating, I got to share my passion for math by helping others to become successful at it also. In the summer of 2008, I volunteered as a math tutor at the Mathematics, Engineering, Science, Achievement (MESA) program at Bakersfield College.
I believe it is very important to do community service because giving is an excellent opportunity to understand other people's needs. This is why I have volunteered in the Saint Joseph Church youth group since 2000 and as a catechist since 2004. I give at least six hours a week to both activities. That's also why I became a volunteer for the Unidad Popular Benito Juarez (UPBJ) Organization. I am now its secretary. Our mission is to educate and protect Oaxacan indigenous people in California. We also organize events to preserve our indigenous culture.
On February a year ago I was admitted to Cal State University in Bakersfield. I've been living in California for more than a decade, but I still don't qualify for any type of financial aid. This has been true for my whole academic career, but once again, I have to overcome this obstacle. Graduating from CSUB is one of the last steps to achieve my goal - to become a math professor at an adult school. With a bachelor's degree in mathematics, I will be the first in my family to achieve a higher education. As a math teacher, I plan to encourage others to improve their academic skills, and become professionals to improve the quality of life for their families.
I'm proud of my achievements, and my contributions to my community. I'm glad I went back to school to bring my dreams closer to reality. But now they seem in danger because of the pressure of education cuts and the lack of immigration reform.
I still haven't been able to raise the funds to pay for tuition and books at CSUB, so I'm not going to school this winter. Tuition has become extremely high, and I can't afford it. Each quarter I must pay at least $1,700 tuition as a full time student. Books are also expensive and transportation is an issue too.
My parents still live in Oaxaca, and I live with my older brother. My dad has always been a farmer in our hometown in Oaxaca, Mexico, and because of him my brother learned to love farm work. He started working in California as a field worker. Now he's a foreman, and works really hard to support us. His wife works in a factory, where she makes minimum wage.
They have been like my parents here in Bakersfield, and I have lived with them since I came here. But they have five children, so it's hard to pay for school supplies and tuition. Two of his sons already graduated from CSUB, and two of his daughters are still attending school. My brother makes enough money to give us all a home and food. He's worked very hard to help all of us with our education. But now he can't pay for our tuition.
A group of friends from Bakersfield College and CSUB are trying to raise money to pay for it. Before Christmas we had our first fund raiser, a tamale sale. To all of us it's very important to continue our education, and we're trying to plan our next event. As an immigrant, I have to pay higher tuition, and I get no financial aid. So we are also working to get Congress to pass immigration reform, to make sure all people are treated equally. If Congress passes a real immigration reform, we can help the economy grow and share our academic skills. Each one of us wants to provide service to our community, and to keep growing as an individual.
If the budget cuts stop and tuition costs go down, and if we can get immigration reform and equal treatment, we will make a contribution that will make our whole community proud.

For more articles and images, see

For a Press TV interview about racism, globalization and illegality, see

See also Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press, 2008)
Recipient: C.L.R. James Award, best book of 2007-2008

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

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

David Bacon, Photographs and Stories



Dr. Carlos Muñoz, Jr.
Professor Emeritus
Department of Ethnic Studies
"Life is struggle and struggle is life,
but be mindful that Victory is in the Struggle"
- Carlos Muñoz, Jr.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

from President Barack Obama...

This is pretty awesome! -Angela

For the first time in our nation's history, Congress has passed comprehensive health care reform. America waited a hundred years and fought for decades to reach this moment. Tonight, thanks to you, we are finally here.

Consider the staggering scope of what you have just accomplished:

Because of you, every American will finally be guaranteed high quality, affordable health care coverage.

Every American will be covered under the toughest patient protections in history. Arbitrary premium hikes, insurance cancellations, and discrimination against pre-existing conditions will now be gone forever.

And we'll finally start reducing the cost of care -- creating millions of jobs, preventing families and businesses from plunging into bankruptcy, and removing over a trillion dollars of debt from the backs of our children.

But the victory that matters most tonight goes beyond the laws and far past the numbers.

It is the peace of mind enjoyed by every American, no longer one injury or illness away from catastrophe.

It is the workers and entrepreneurs who are now freed to pursue their slice of the American dream without fear of losing coverage or facing a crippling bill.

And it is the immeasurable joy of families in every part of this great nation, living happier, healthier lives together because they can finally receive the vital care they need.

This is what change looks like.

My gratitude tonight is profound. I am thankful for those in past generations whose heroic efforts brought this great goal within reach for our times. I am thankful for the members of Congress whose months of effort and brave votes made it possible to take this final step. But most of all, I am thankful for you.

This day is not the end of this journey. Much hard work remains, and we have a solemn responsibility to do it right. But we can face that work together with the confidence of those who have moved mountains.

Our journey began three years ago, driven by a shared belief that fundamental change is indeed still possible. We have worked hard together every day since to deliver on that belief.

We have shared moments of tremendous hope, and we've faced setbacks and doubt. We have all been forced to ask if our politics had simply become too polarized and too short-sighted to meet the pressing challenges of our time. This struggle became a test of whether the American people could still rally together when the cause was right -- and actually create the change we believe in.

Tonight, thanks to your mighty efforts, the answer is indisputable: Yes we can.

Thank you,

President Barack Obama

20 Principles for Successful Community Organizing

20 Principles for Successful Community Organizing

Kahn's new book, "Creative Community Organizing: a Guide for Rabble-Rousers, Activists and Quiet Lovers of Justice," is a manifesto for the politically active.

March 20, 2010 |

I’ve been a rabble-rouser and social activist for 45 of my almost 66 years, and have made my living as a professional civil rights, labor, and community organizer, as well as a performer. In my new political memoir, Creative Community Organizing: A Guide for Rabble-Rousers, Activists, and Quiet Lovers of Justice (Berrett-Koehler, 2010), I relate stories from some of the great social reform campaigns in recent American history, of which I’ve been privileged to play a part--including the Southern Civil Rights Movement, the Harlan County coal miner’s strike, and the fight to abolish for-profit prisons and immigrant family detention. The book has lessons that I hope will inspire and motivate a new generation of community organizers and young activists--and anyone else who seeks to make an impact in their communities, from musicians and soccer moms, to teachers and politicians.

What follows is a list of take-away lessons and principles, a sort of manifesto for today’s community organizers.

“Freedom, freedom is a hard won thing, and every generation has to win it again.”

1. Most people are motivated primarily by self-interest. As a creative community organizer, you are always trying to figure out people’s common self-interest, the glue that binds political organizations and movements.

2. Institutions and people that hold power over others are rarely as united as they first appear. If you can’t get a person or institution to support you, you want to do everything in your power to convince them that it’s in their best self-interest to stay out of the fight.

3. Start the process of strategy development by imagining that instant just before victory. Then, working backwards, do your best to figure out the steps that will lead to that moment.

4. It is generally useful, as a part of any creative community organizing campaign, to advocate for a positive as well as to oppose a negative.

5. The more complicated a strategy or tactic, the harder it is to carry out, and the less likely that it will be successful. You can ask a few people to do a lot of things, particularly if they’re committed activists. If you want hundreds or thousands of people to participate in a campaign, you need to ask the great majority of them to do one thing, and only one.

6. You need to believe that human beings, no matter how much they may hate each other, can somehow find some common connection. To do that, leave your stereotypes at the door.

7. In real life and in actual campaigns for justice, the people are always partly united, partly divided. It’s up to you to reinforce unity and to compensate for the divisions among the people with whom you work.

8. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that demonstrations were only effective in the 1960s--that in the twenty-first century, we need to find other, less confrontational ways to make our voices heard.

9. Be absolutely certain that the people you work with truly understand the risks they’re taking, the things that could go wrong, the losses they might suffer, before they make the decision to act, individually or together.

10. One of the greatest skills an organizer can have is the ability to frame and ask questions in ways that make people not only want to answer them, but also to think deeply, and in unexpected ways, about what the answers might be.

11. Laughter really is therapeutic, and hope does heal. Be cheerful in the face of adversity, and help others feel that way.

12. The more sure you are of yourself, of your experiences in other communities and campaigns, the more you have to struggle to avoid the arrogance of thinking you know what’s right for other people.

13. When an institution that has a responsibility to everyday people fails to do its job, one option is to build another organization to challenge the first one and force it to do the right thing. The other option is not only to build an alternative organization, but to use it as the base for a campaign to take over the original one.

14. When those who have been without power gain it, there is no guarantee that they will exercise it more democratically than those who have had it before.

15. The power of culture can be an antidote to people’s inability to see beyond their “own people” or situation. Culture can transform consciousness and make social change transformative rather than merely instrumental.

16. Organizers are often unjustly accused by those in power of inciting violence. That’s a lie, and it needs to be put to rest. It’s just a tactic the opposition uses to discredit your organization. To shut down a prison; to drive an exploitative enterprise out of business; to make sure a sexual harasser is fired--that is not violence. It’s justice.

17. Go not only with what you know, but with whom you know. Even in the Internet age, personal relationships still count, especially when you’re asking people to do something. When recruiting volunteers, give them a specific list of campaign needs from which they can choose.

18. It’s quite easy to slide from helping organize a community to becoming its leader and spokesperson--even though you’re not really a member of that community.

19. We can never truly predict what human beings working together can accomplish, and therefore we can never compromise with injustice.

20. The beloved community of which Dr. King spoke, rather than something we reach some day in the future, may be something we experience a little bit every day while, as creative community organizers, we walk and work towards it.

Bilingual education still a big puzzle

March 10, 2010 2:01 PM
Deborah Martinez
The Monitor

Bilingual education is just one of those issues.

It sparks debates.

It stumps lawmakers.

It challenges educators.

It simply has yet to be figured out.

And for a border region like ours, that is just downright scary.

Considering that the first instance of bilingual education in the United States is said to go back to the 1600s - when bilingual schools began offering subjects taught in English and Polish to serve the Polish immigrant commu-nity - it’s dumbfounding to see how little we’ve mastered the concept.

Yet, our modern-day system is not only struggling to get immigrant students to learn the English language, it hasn’t even committed itself to any one form of bilingual education since Congress first mandated it in 1968.

Since then, five different forms of bilingual education programs have been established:

Transitional bilingual education, in which teaching is done in a child’s native language, typically for no more than three years. The goal is to help students transition to mainstream, English-only classrooms as quickly as pos-sible, at the expense of a child’s native language. This is the most popular form.

Maintenance bilingual education, similar to a transitional program but offered to a student learning English for a longer period of time, up to six years. The child’s native language is not sacrificed.

Dual language immersion, in which half of the students are native speakers of English and half of the students are native speakers of a minority language such as Spanish. This program – noted for aiding the long-term per-formance of English learners – is gaining in popularity because not only are Native English speakers benefitting by learning a second language, English language learners are not segregated from their peers.

Sheltered English, focusing on teaching academics in just English throughout the day, based on physical gestures and visual cues. All this is done at the expense of the child’s native language.
Pullout ESL. Similar to the sheltered English program, but interpersonal communication skills are emphasized, as opposed to academic. Students in this program typically only spend about half of each school day in this setting.
Seeing how varied the programs are, even from campus to campus within a given school district, it’s no wonder we are still grappling with producing proficient English speakers.

Given that research says it takes four to seven years for students who have received instruction in their native language to master a new language, it certainly makes sense that many of our local children coming with no formal education from Mexico are struggling to learn English and pass the Texas Assessment of Knowledge & Skills (TAKS).

Throw in loopholes in our state laws, and teachers and students certainly have their work cut out for them. The most glaring loophole, I’ve learned, is how state rules classify recent immigrants as exempt from taking the TAKS or receiving any linguistic accommodations when taking it.

Generally speaking, once a student is enrolled in a U.S. school for two years, they must take the TAKS like any other student, in English and with no modification for their language.

Forget that two full years don’t seem like enough time for a recent immigrant, in say the seventh grade, to be on par with the child who has been in U.S. schools since kindergarten.

Two years, according to state law, can include one week in the first grade and three months in the fourth grade. That means a child could’ve just been here for a total of three months and one week in two different school years, and spent all the other time in a Mexican school - or not in school at all - and still be considered a third-year stu-dent with no need for linguistic accommodations.

How’s that for a fair education system? Imagine the recent immigrant student who is also facing a learning dis-ability.

While many of our schools still do exceptionally well, how much of it as at the expense of students who simply drop out because they feel marginalized or that all the odds have been stacked against them?

You’re going to have those who say we don’t need bilingual education, and “dagummit, this is the United States, nothing should be done in any language but English.”

But the stark reality is that these children who drop out or graduate with only basic communication skills and limited academic ability are here to stay. They make up a country we love and we hope can continue to globally compete for generations to come - against countries, we must not forget, that have mastered their own bilingual education systems.

It’s time for our lawmakers and educational leaders to figure out ours.

Deborah Martinez grew up in Mission and worked for 10 years as a journalist and political press aide throughout Texas and the Northeast. She began teaching in the PSJA school district last year and is pursuing her masters’ degree in educational psychology at UTPA.

UC Swindle: California’s Apartheid Schoolhouse

UC Swindle: California’s Apartheid Schoolhouse

by Sikivu Hutchinson
From Progressive LA
Wednesday, 17 March 2010

On March 4th, as the University of California San Diego continued to roil with the fallout from the so-called Compton Cookout, thousands of students and faculty participated in statewide protests against a budget that has cut a bloody swath into California’s public universities. UC and Cal State student activists across the state are calling for an end to the “privatization” of public higher education. Activists charge that university officials are increasingly siphoning funding for instruction to research and development through byzantine private investment schemes.

In addition, there is a growing trend to give preference to out-of-state students who pay higher admission fees. The majority of these students are not from historically underrepresented African American and Latino communities. This strategy essentially constitutes creaming, ultimately reducing spots for working class students of color who are far more likely to rely on financial aid.

While UC chancellor Mark Yudoff recently boasted of an $800,000 salary and perks to star faculty, “grunt” faculty and staff were laid off or forced to take furlough days, classes were cancelled, program funding was curtailed and a draconian 32% tuition hike was proposed. Yudoff’s king’s ransom was garnered on the backs of California students of color who will be denied access to a system that is nationally regarded as the “Rolls Royce” of public higher education.

For those experienced with the business of white supremacist higher education politics, the UCSD administration’s pro forma soul searching, public denunciations, and earnest pledges to discipline the “Cookout” offenders are all tiresomely familiar. In 2005, a Black female student at the private California Institute of the Arts found vulgar anti-Black epithets scrawled in her dorm room and degrading anti-Black graffiti had been written on an artwork in the Institute’s gallery. In response to the incidents, the campus’s’ Black Student Union organized protests and meetings with the administration which yielded few commitments to long-term change.

The school’s miniscule Black and Latino population was imperiled by scant financial aid, invisibility in the Eurocentric curriculum, and the paucity of faculty mentors of color. White faculty fiercely defended their liberal/progressive credentials with showy claims of multiculti “down-ness.” The college president publicly invoked his appreciation for Martin Luther King and deplored the hate crime as an isolated incident.

When I was hired in 2006 to teach Cal Arts’ first Women of Color in the U.S. course, the campus was still festering with resentment and racial unrest. Pushing for campus climate change in a group of faculty and student advocates, I presented at endless meetings in which the administration stonewalled on redressing institutional bias through professional development training. The perpetrators of the hate crime were given a slap on the wrist, and it was business as usual in the “liberal” “inclusive” world of arts education that privileges the canon of the white avant garde.

During an interview on CNN UCSD Ethnic Studies professor Sara Clark Kaplan outlined the crux of the problem with scapegoating individuals in the midst of a systemic crisis. It’s simply not acceptable to blame the university’s egregious disregard for the needs of students of color on the bigoted acts of ignorant white or “minority” students. UCSD’s gross underrepresentation of Black students reflects the UC system’s institutional neglect of recruitment and outreach to African American high schools.

The devastating impact of Proposition 209 (which prohibited California public universities from using affirmative action admissions criteria) has been a convenient smokescreen for maintaining segregation in the UC system. When I taught at UCLA in 2001 at the Graduate School of Education, I had only one African American student in my course on culturally relevant pedagogy. Black students had gone from having a vibrantly visible presence during my stint as a student there during the late 80s and early 90s to barely registering. In some instances it was more difficult for accomplished African American seniors from highly regarded predominantly Black Los Angeles high schools like King-Drew Medical Magnet to get into UCLA than Ivy League colleges.

At slightly more than 1%, UCSD’s Black student enrollment is yet another indictment of the UC’s disgraceful wholesale complicity with the spirit of 209. As part of its demands to administration, UCSD’s Black Student Union has called on the university to step up its recruitment and retention efforts for underrepresented students. They have also pressed for more recruitment of diverse faculty and granting of tenure to faculty of color.

Recruitment, retention, and tenure are important goals. Yet the deeper question of the lack of cultural responsiveness and racism of the faculty and administration is a thornier issue. The ghettoization of ethnic studies and other so-called “minority-oriented” interdisciplinary departments contributes to a segregation of cultural knowledge in which the historical foundations of racial apartheid are obscured. Racism is viewed as a series of misguided individual acts rather than as an integral part of American national identity, power and authority.

At core, the UCSD events are merely another manifestation of the post-racial fallacy that plays out every day in California’s first world apartheid classrooms.
Sikivu Hutchinson

Sikivu Hutchinson is the editor of and the author of the forthcoming Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics and Secular America.

Tens of thousands rally for immigration reform in D.C.

Tens of thousands rally for immigration reform in D.C.
By N.C. Aizenman
Washington Post (March 21, 2010)

Tens of thousands of immigrants and their supporters from across the United States packed the National Mall Sunday in a last-ditch effort to spur Congress and the White House to overhaul the nation's immigration system and offer the nation's 10.8 million illegal immigrants a path to citizenship this year.

Under a glorious blue sky, the festive crowd beat drums and waved American flags and placards reading "Change takes Courage," and "Obama Don't Forget Your Promise!"

City officials do not give official crowd estimates, so it is difficult to determine whether turnout reached the more than 200,000 estimated by organizers. However, the demonstration stretched from 7th street to 12th street in a dense carpet of humanity--the movement's largest show of strength since 2006, when a series of mass rallies in favor of the legalization plan erupted in cities across the country.

Most of the participants, as with prior rallies, appear to be Latino, and their are regular chants, in Spanish, of slogans such as "Si se puede!"--Yes, we can.

But there was a concerted effort this year to broaden the movement's reach.

Ben Jealous, executive director of the NAACP was among the first to speak, underscoring recent widespread efforts by Latino leaders to reach out to a constituency often concerned that Latino immigrants take jobs from low-income black workers.

Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, a longtime supporter of legalization plans, was joined by evangelical leaders such as Bishop Darlingston Johnson of Bethel World Outreach Ministries. The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the largest group of Latino evangelicals signed on to the effort, as well as the National Association of Evangelicals, which counts 450,000 churches.

Organizers are already touting several results this week: On Thursday Sens. Charles E. Shumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) published an editorial in the Washington Post laying out blueprint for an overhaul bill. President Obama immediately endorsed the plan, and promised to help "forge a bipartisan consensus" around the issue this year. And Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) promised floor time if the bill comes out of the Judiciary committee.

Yet with unemployment at 10 percent and time running short before this fall's midterm election, the odds against passing an immigration overhaul this year would appear to be growing insurmountable.

The march comes as much of official Washington's attention remains riveted on the floor debate over the decisive healthcare vote in the House of Representatives. If, as expected, Democrats enact the measure using procedures that bypass Republican votes, many Republicans, including Graham have vowed not to cooperate on immigration legislation.

Really cool science article

My niece, a budding scientist, shared this really cool article with me. -Angela

The world's only immortal animal
By Bryan Nelson, Mother Nature Network
Posted Tue Mar 16, 2010 9:57am PDT

The turritopsis nutricula species of jellyfish may be the only animal in the world to have truly discovered the fountain of youth.

Since it is capable of cycling from a mature adult stage to an immature polyp stage and back again, there may be no natural limit to its life span. Scientists say the hydrozoan jellyfish is the only known animal that can repeatedly turn back the hands of time and revert to its polyp state (its first stage of life).

The key lies in a process called transdifferentiation, where one type of cell is transformed into another type of cell. Some animals can undergo limited transdifferentiation and regenerate organs, such as salamanders, which can regrow limbs. Turritopsi nutricula, on the other hand, can regenerate its entire body over and over again. Researchers are studying the jellyfish to discover how it is able to reverse its aging process.

Because they are able to bypass death, the number of individuals is spiking. They're now found in oceans around the globe rather than just in their native Caribbean waters. "We are looking at a worldwide silent invasion," says Dr. Maria Miglietta of the Smithsonian Tropical Marine Institute.

Bryan Nelson is a regular contributor to Mother Nature Network, where a version of this post originally appeared.

Blacklisting the word 'capitalism'? How un-American

Commentary: Blacklisting the word 'capitalism'? How un-American
Rewriting the books reads like revisionist history to me.


John Kelso

Published: 8:28 p.m. Thursday, March 18, 2010
It's becoming obvious that the Texas State Board of Education needs to get one.

In a state as red as Santa's pants, the board has come out against capitalism. That's right. These allegedly Glenn Beck lovin', Sarah Palin worshippin', cap and trade dissin', health care plan hatin' folks want to wipe this nation's beloved economic system off the blackboard.

The board gave preliminary approval last week to replacing the word "capitalism" with "free enterprise" in the textbooks used by Texas school kids. So the board has proclaimed capitalism a dirty word — much like "liberal," a slur uttered by conservatives these days in the same guttural tone used for "slut."

Replacing "capitalism" in textbooks: That's just wrong. Capitalism is America's true religion. It is the essence of who we are. I keep expecting the Statue of Liberty to become the Statue of Liberty Mutual. What are these education board members thinking? In a nation where just about every stadium is named after a kind of orange juice, a bank or a ketchup, you want to kick capitalism out of the bar?

Ken Mercer, a conservative board member from San Antonio and a former state representative, says the board is pushing the change because capitalism has a negative connotation. It's the old "capitalist pig" thing. I called Mercer for a comment, but he didn't return my calls.

I find this sort of rewrite silly, a desperate attempt to pretty things up. But that sort of stuff is big these days. Remember when a problem, or, if you will, a "real mess," wasn't an "issue"? I have an issue with "issue." When my computer eats my notes, don't tell me I have an "issue." Hold the Melba toast, OK?

There are a couple of ironies here. Irony No. 1: On a Web site for Mercer, he says he's all about "U.S History that honors our American founders, traditions and values (political and historical revisionists — Adios!)"

I'd say whiting out "capitalism" is fairly revisionist. Honoring our American founders by messing with "capitalism," huh? I didn't realize the Pilgrims came here to start the Wheatsville Co-Op.

Irony No. 2: Part of the newspaper story I read about this switch appeared next to a big ad for a 50 percent off rug sale. So the expression "free enterprise" is wishful thinking. You know that big ad wasn't "free."

Changing the name of "capitalism" because it sounds ugly in a no-ugly zone, huh? Next thing you know, the Chinese will be switching "communism" to "sharing." Doesn't the board of education have something better to do, like, say, cleaning the blackboard erasers?

John Kelso's column appears on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Contact him at 445-3606 or

College-Ready... and Then?

The critique here of higher education, I fear, will lead us down the same slippery slope of standards-based reform but at the higher education level. -Angela

College-Ready... and Then?
By Rick Hess on March 18, 2010 9:47 AM

For all my concerns about No Child Left Behind's grandiose ambitions and misguided hyper-prescriptiveness, its profound contribution was the wealth of information that's now available on graduation rates and student achievement. Given that, it's striking that Uncle Sam spends vastly more on higher education than K-12 but that higher ed now desperately lags when it comes to even minimal, user-friendly transparency.

Read on here at:

This article refers to a report titled, "Rising to the Challenge Hispanic College Graduation Rates as a National Priority [pdf]."

Professional Development for Teachers of English Language Learners II

Might want to fast forward to the Ruiz & Lozano article if you're interested in checking out an evaluation instrument (TEELS) that evaluates teacher adequacy to work with bilingual learners. But the whole issue sounds worth getting.


Fwd from: NCELA List ncela@GWU.EDU
The National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition

NCELA Newsletter: AccELLerate! 2.3
Professional Development for Teachers of English Language Learners II
Spring 2010

NCELA is pleased to announce the publication of a new edition of its quarterly newsletter AccELLerate! in which we continue to explore the challenge of providing high-quality professional development to teachers of English-language learners. We are pleased to bring you more articles on professional development written by researchers and educators from all over the country, including recipients of the Office of English Language Acquisition's National Professional Development Program grants.

There are a number of topics that this theme embraces: accountability in the preparation of teachers, collaboration among teaching professionals from all levels to create effective PD, reconceptualizing the curriculum to integrate ESOL content into education courses across all licensure programs, creating a feasible ESL licensure program for teachers in rural communities, mainstream teachers’ need and readiness for PD programs that support the integration of content and ESL instruction, and examples of good practice. By collecting these contributions--united in theme but individual in approach--we wish to showcase the varied ideas and methods energizing current developments in PD, and hope to further the synergy between research and practice in the field of preparing teachers to work with ELLs.

In this issue:

Ruiz & Lozano: The TEELS: A Project-Developed Method for Increasing Accountability in the Preparation of Teachers to Work with ELLs

Gomez-Zwiep & Straits: Elementary Teachers’ Perspectives on the Integration of English as a Second Language and Science Instruction

Hansen-Thomas & Casey: Accelerating ELL Learning

Castañeda, Fisher-Young, & Perry: English for Speakers of Other Languages Mentoring Initiative for Academics and Methods Infusion (ESOL MIAMI) Project: An Overview

Rodríguez & Manner: Professional Development in Eastern North Carolina

Shin, Edmonds, & Browder: Collaboration is the Key to Successful Professional Development: The UMBC STEP T for ELLs Program in Maryland
Wilde: What Have We Learned?

Education Secretary Arne Duncan credits basketball with life assist

By Erik Brady, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — Arne Duncan loves basketball. And why wouldn't he?
It helped him get to Harvard.

It's how he found his wife.

It even played a role in his becoming Secretary of Education.

"So much of what I've learned in life, I learned on a basketball court," he says. "It helped shape me. And it's been formative. It's been a love for a long, long time. It's something I still love."

Duncan, 45, was honorable mention all-Ivy League at Harvard in the mid-1980s. He played professionally in Australia, where he met his future wife. And he became good friends with Craig Robinson on the playground courts of Chicago.

It was through Robinson and Robinson's sister, Michelle, that Duncan came to know Barack Obama, who selected Duncan for his team — not only as a member of his cabinet, but often in Washington pickup games that put the power in power forward.

Read on here.

Remarks of Dr. Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana to the National Association for Bilingual Education

U.S. Department of Education
Press Releases

Remarks of Dr. Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana to the National Association for Bilingual Education

February 3, 2010
Thank you for inviting me to address this group of valued colleagues and champions—it is wonderful to be here among so many people committed to guaranteeing an excellent education for every child in America.

And, congratulations to NABE on this important milestone! For going on 40 years, your leadership has ranged from providing professional development for educators, to conducting grassroots advocacy for English language learners, to serving as a national voice for educational achievement and equity.

You represent more than 20,000 members and speak for millions of students. I know because I too, as a teacher and administrator, was a member of NABE. I know personally how hard all of you are working on behalf of America's growing community of bilingual, multilingual and English language learners, as well as the families, educators and advocates that support them.

I understand firsthand your challenges, your dedication, and the great good you are doing. In my home district of Pomona, just over 40% of our students are English Learners, and an additional 24% are Fluent-English-Proficient. I, too, am a bilingual learner, and I assure you that I am bringing all of this experience to my role in Washington.

Last year, I left the Superintendent's office determined to help represent the local school district perspective in the groundbreaking efforts that are now taking place at the U.S. Department of Education, and across the country.

Today, I want to speak about your work within the context of this powerful drive for education reform in the United States.

As a nation, we have made great strides. But we have yet to realize the goal of equal educational opportunity in America. As the President reminded us last Wednesday night, "In the 21st century, the best anti-poverty program around is a world-class education."

No matter their race, creed, zip code, or first language, every child in this nation is entitled to a quality public education. It's the one and only way to place the promise of the American dream within reach of everyone.

I feel blessed to have had a career serving children in public education. In each position I've held—whether as a teacher, principal, superintendent, or now, as an Assistant Secretary—my guiding principle has been the same. I am focused on what will improve teaching and learning to help ensure the success of all our children. For me this is more than a moral argument, or a sound professional philosophy—it is rooted in the events of my own life.

I went to kindergarten at Fremont Elementary School in Montebello, California—right near Los Angeles. I am the daughter of Mexican immigrants, and we spoke Spanish, my first language, at home. I remember my first day of school wasn't easy. It was difficult to communicate with my classmates and my teacher.

But one teacher, Mrs. Silverman, didn't see this as a problem. She saw it is an opportunity. She took it upon herself to find a way to teach me.

Mrs. Silverman always made sure I knew what was happening in class, giving me attention and encouragement whenever I needed extra help.

From that first day, Mrs. Silverman believed that I could succeed and took steps to make sure I did.

So I know what it means to benefit from high expectations. But I also know how hard it is overcome low expectations.

When I was in high school, I went to meet with my guidance counselor. I asked her if she thought I should apply to UCLA. "No way. Absolutely not," she said.

She had not even looked at the file on her desk with my SAT scores and grades. All she knew about me was my last name. She assumed I community college was perfect for me. Now two year schools are fine places, but that was not my dream. My dream was to attend UCLA.

Consequently, it would take me longer to get there. I began at a Cal State school. But there, once again I was fortunate to have a teacher who had high expectations of me.

One day, after a long test, I visited my political science professor. He taught at both the Cal State and at UCLA. So I repeated the question I posed 2 years earlier: Could I make it at UCLA?

His answer was as quick and as definitive as my guidance counselor's—except shorter. "Absolutely," he said.

And he was right. UCLA accepted me based on the same high school grades and college admissions scores that sat unopened on my guidance counselor's desk.

I did graduate from UCLA, and went on to earn my doctorate at USC.

Experience has taught me that education equalizes differences in background, culture and privilege, and gives every child a fair chance.

My story speaks to the importance of high expectations, great teaching, and access to and success in higher education. My story also speaks to the dangers of low expectations, uninspired teaching, and inequitable access—especially for historically underserved groups.

Sadly, the dangers in my story are the reality of too many of our school children today. Where I was able to rise, today, too many don't. I am honored and passionate about working on their behalf, and helping to ensure their success. It's the best way I know of to repay Mrs. Silverman and all the others like her who helped me, and to carry on the noblest traditions of the teaching profession. It's also, quite simply, the right thing to do.

Both President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan believe that access to a quality education is the civil rights issue of our time. I know that's a conviction shared by everyone in this room.

This administration's commitment to delivering a quality education for every student could not be a clearer or higher priority—as you heard in the State of the Union address, and as you see in the President's 2011 budget proposal.

We're setting our sights on preparing all Americans to compete in the global economy, and to succeed in the challenging and fulfilling jobs of the 21st century. We are placing our bets for the future on education, because we know that education—more than anything else—is the foundation for continued prosperity.

A few statistics show the challenges we're facing:

Today, 27% of America's young people drop out of high school. Almost half of our Latino and African-American students drop out of high school. And too often, not enough is done to prepare those who stay in school for college, career and engaged citizenship.
For years, roughly 5,000 schools in the country have failed to meet expectations. This includes some 2,000 high schools that produce about half of our nation's dropouts, and three-quarters of our minority dropouts.
We know that, by 2016, just seven years from now, four out of every 10 new jobs will require some advanced education or training. Thirty of the fastest growing fields will require a minimum of a bachelor's degree.
Yet today, just 40% of our young people earn a two-year or four-year college degree. And, enrollment rates are unequal: studies show that 61% of qualified white high school graduates enter 4-year colleges, compared to just 44% of similarly qualified Latino graduates, and 29% of similarly qualified African American graduates.
A generation ago, our educational system was the envy of the world. Today, we are slipping behind. The US now ranks 10th in the world in the rate of college completion for 25- to 34-year-olds. The global achievement gap is growing.
Change is needed, both to ensure our children's success and to maintain our standing in the world. Now, let's also take a closer look at America's English learners, and why their success is so crucial to the success of our nation.

Approximately one in ten students in the United States is an English learner. And of course, that percentage is dramatically higher in states like Texas or my home state of California.
English learners are our fastest-growing student population. This group is also one of our most diverse. There's a huge misconception that English learners are all immigrant students. In fact, over 78% of ELLs are U.S. born.
We also tend to think about English learners as new to the classroom, or as starting out in the very early grade levels. But this is not the case. Rather, between 68% and 80% of English Learners in California and Texas are considered long-term English learners. In places like Los Angeles, it's definitely more like 80%. Growth among secondary ELLs is 64%, compared to 46% growth at the elementary school level.
These students are also very diverse with over 400 languages spoken by ELLs. Diversity in background also include students with interrupted formal education.
So, yes, we must transform our schools, and dramatically improve teaching and learning for all of our students. But at the same time, we must find and implement those specific strategies that are proving effective for the wide variety of needs and abilities represented by our English language learners.

The President and the Secretary are acting decisively to meet these challenges. I'm proud to be a member of their team. President Obama has set two clear goals for all of us to focus on.

First, by 2020, America will again have the most competitive workforce in the world, with the highest proportion of college graduates of any country.

Second, we will close the achievement gap, so that all students—whatever their family income, wherever they grow up, whatever the color of their skin, and whichever language or languages they speak at home—all students graduate from high school ready to succeed in college and careers.

The President's goals are the driving force behind the administration's vision for "cradle-to-career" reform. America's education pipeline must begin with strong services for our youngest learners, transition them seamlessly through an effective elementary and secondary system, and culminate at the college and career end of the spectrum in a host of high-quality, affordable options for postsecondary education and workforce skills training.

To help us achieve this, Secretary Duncan has outlined four major areas where American education falls short—four obstacles to meeting those 2020 goals—as well as the broad solutions that will direct our investments and efforts where they can have the greatest impact.

Let's look at each one of these reform areas, and discuss how each relates to English language or bilingual learners.

As leaders, we all know the importance of high expectations on the performance of students in our districts and schools. Our public school students need the same high bar set before them. If our students aren't being prepared for success when they graduate, we owe it to them to raise our standards. So the first area for reform is to set standards and assessments that truly prepare students for college and career success.

And, with regard to English language learners, we must encourage states in developing ELP standards and assessment that prepare ELLs to succeed. That means linking ELP assessments and standards with ELA standards in order to obtain real information about their progress and achievement.

Second, we know that teacher talent is probably the single most important factor in the success or failure of our students. In fact, research shows that if minority students learn from an excellent teacher for three consecutive years, we could eliminate the achievement gap. But great teachers don't exist in a vacuum. Effective leaders attract and cultivate effective teachers, and great leaders are a catalyst for school growth. So we must find ways to recruit, train, and reward outstanding teachers—and leaders.

Our teachers and school leaders need to know how to help English learners develop academic skills and language proficiency. They need to ensure that these students have meaningful access to the proper grade-level content—while at the same time providing all the necessary and appropriate supports.

Similarly, in order to build teacher and principal leadership in regard to English language learners, we must focus on capacity-building and professional development. Teachers and school leaders need assistance with the assessments and instructional models that work best for such learners, and they need to understand the diversity within the English language learner population so that they can truly tailor instruction to specific needs and strengths.

Experts in this field have also called for better tools to show how socioeconomic status, literacy levels in the first and second language, and developmental differences may also affect learning among this wide array of students.

Now, the third major reform area is the need to collect data to track students' progress, identify the teachers having the biggest impact on achievement, and even link teachers back to their schools of education. Our data systems must do this carefully for all children, so that we learn how to best develop teachers and prepare students for success.

Data collection structures are also an important challenge for people doing research and working with English learners. Experts are urging that we monitor accountability requirements more efficiently and more meaningfully within the ELLs subgroups, in order to ensure effective services and chart progress for these students. We need an accountability system that measures and records how individual students are progressing throughout their entire careers—among other reasons, so that we can follow former English learners who have been reclassified, but who may still need targeted support. Otherwise, once they've been reclassified, there's a risk that these students may become invisible, and even that their learning may plateau or regress.

We must be aware of their status and their needs, and offer the types of assistance that will ensure continued gains in academics and language fluency.

Finally, moving on to the fourth reform area, we need to turn around our lowest performing schools. We need to transform "dropout factories" into vibrant learning communities where our children's great potential is realized.

We also need to target investments for services to English learners if schools are to hire appropriately trained teachers, implement research-based curricula, and support these students as they gain proficiency in English and achieve high academic standards. We can do much to improve our schools and reduce the drop-out rate by making sure that all of our districts incorporate the best approaches for serving our bilingual students.

Targeting these four key areas—both in general and as they apply to English language learners—will help concentrate our energy, policies and investments on the areas where improvements are most needed. It will also help move the U.S. Department of Education away from its traditional role as a compliance monitor, toward a new role as an engine of innovation—recognizing success and scaling up best practices.

The speed and the scope of the Department's actions in the past year should tell you something about how seriously we take this charge. More importantly, at the state and local level, we've seen hundreds of thousands of jobs saved, new policies created, creative approaches adopted, legal barriers to reform cleared away. Let me stress how impressed I am with those I work with at the Department of Education, but especially with the countless Americans I've had the privilege of meeting in my role as Assistant Secretary.

The President believes that education is the way to secure our country's economic future. He's investing heavily in college access, K-12 reform, and early learning.

His fiscal 2011 budget includes proposals that address the needs of students of all ages and at all educational levels—including English language learners.

It includes $156 billion for student aid—enough to provide federal assistance for 3 out of every 5 students enrolled in higher education. This includes increasing the size of Pell Grants—which are an economic lifeline to so many students who are struggling to pay for college. It also includes efforts to make it easier for graduates to repay their student loans through the income-based repayment program. The budget reduces the percentage of their income they are required to pay and shortens the number of years they need to make payments. After 20 years of reduced payments, borrowers' debts will be forgiven.

In K-12 education, the budget includes a $4 billion increase. Much of this increase will go to several new funds addressing key areas:

Producing excellent teachers and leaders,
Creating new funds to ensure students receive a well-rounded education—addressing literacy, science and mathematics, as well as history, the arts, civics, and other elements of a rich curriculum.
Starting a new fund that encourages integrated services for students.
The budget also expands the president's commitment to driving reform by adding $1.35 billion to the Race to the Top fund and $500 million to the Investing in Innovation Fund—and making both of those competitive funds permanent.

And, this budget requests $800 million for the English Learning Education program. Our goals for this program include:

English language proficiency to ensure opportunity for academic success;
Proficiency in content to ensure full range of academic options; and
Encourage bi-literacy to strengthen our global competitiveness.
The president has also promised to request an extra $1 billion for K-12 education, provided that Congress reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. We have a tremendous opportunity to further our reform goals by reauthorizing the ESEA. At the Department of Education we are working hard to incorporate the best lessons and ideas from the field into a proposal that we will soon share with lawmakers.

To this end, last year, in an eight-month ESEA Listening and Learning Tour, Secretary Duncan and his senior staff traveled to all 50 states, and hundreds of schools. We heard from thousands of students, parents and educators about the strengths and weakness of the current law. They suggested changes and new directions aimed at dramatically improving teaching and learning in this country.

We all learned so much from these discussions, and I was always impressed by the insight, care and dedication of the participants. Experience has taught me that education equalizes differences in background, culture and privilege, and gives every child a fair chance—and it was evident from the tour that Americans everywhere share this common belief in education as our economic salvation. ESEA dates back to 1965 and it has undergone a lot of changes over the years, but few have been as dramatic and controversial as the 2002 version known as No Child Left Behind.

Most give credit to NCLB for using student outcomes as measure of success. NCLB helped expand the accountability movement. The law helped expose the achievement gap, by requiring test score reporting on each subgroup of students.

From my vantage point as a former superintendent, this was a needed and meaningful change. We were able to identify and track the progress of those students who needed the most support, and could better hold ourselves accountable. I saw schools change their behavior and respond more urgently to the needs of all their students. We will always want schools to gauge their impact by the success of all—rather than just some—of their students.

But, we must be sure that our assessments fully measure what our children need to know in order to succeed. We must develop better ways to gauge the breadth and depth of our students' knowledge.

I'm also concerned that our present state standards communicate far too varied expectations, and yield inconsistent student learning, growth and achievement.

We now have 48 states who have signed on to clearer, fewer and higher college and career-ready standards. With the upcoming $350 million dollar set-aside from Race to Top dedicated to developing assessments aligned to these standards, we have the potential to make a real break-through. We know we need assessments that better measure the breadth and depth of our student's knowledge, especially for our second language users and other diverse learners.

To my mind, NCLB's accountability was unfair. It put too much emphasis on testing and did not provide enough money to help struggling schools. It unfairly labeled schools when they fell short, and then told them what to do when they missed AYP, regardless of whether they missed the goals by a little, or a lot.

As a superintendent, it was dispiriting to watch schools apply the same interventions, especially when the circumstances did not fully warrant it. A new ESEA can also do more to reward schools that take the right steps to improve.

In all, we envision an ESEA that is tight on goals and loose on how to achieve them. Greater flexibility, further supports and incentives, better assessments and higher standards—these are the principles that we see forming the core of a new ESEA.

Now, what are the specific ways we see this new ESEA responding to the needs of English language learners? Let me share our policy thinking with you, and I think you'll hear how clearly these priorities align with both the research on what's effective and what's needed for these populations, and with the four reforms outlined by the Secretary.

We need to fund innovative approaches, evaluate promising practices, and take proven models to scale, so they are available to more students. Moving forward, the following beliefs guide our thinking.

First, we want to ensure that ESEA includes more specific and more rigorous standards for English Language learners. Our ELs must have access to content continuously, throughout their educational career

Second, we won't back down on accountability—In fact we want to do one better. We want our schools to have the tools to recognize the diversity of their EL populations and better differentiate their support of these students. We want our assessments and performance requirements to bring ELs into the mainstream accountability system—ensuring that their progress, needs and achievements are explicitly measured.

Third, we need to more clearly define and raise the qualifications of those who teach English learners, and then to design the systems that will track their effectiveness. Teachers, Paraprofessionals, Principals, and Administrators must be better skilled at teaching and supporting ELs.

Fourth, we need to focus on data—not just data about the EL population, but to disaggregate data within the EL population, to truly capture the diversity of this group and to assess, for example, the needs of older vs. younger students, and investigate the acquisition of content knowledge as well as language development.

Fifth, we need to invest in innovation and best practices. Again, the great diversity of English learners requires a range of instructional arrangements and supports. We need to help states and districts develop more specific and nuanced instructional approaches for these students. In particular we want to encourage dual language programs. The cognitive benefits are clear, and they can help prepare our students for future success in globally competitive world.

During our listening and learning sessions on ESEA and diverse learners, I heard the point made that English language acquisition takes time, and that it must be developed in the context of age-appropriate content. But we don't tend to teach it that way—like my very own first grade teacher, who had me recite the alphabet again and again on the grounds that by doing so, I was learning English, and learning to read! What our schools often try to do is to address English acquisition needs first and then build in content areas. We need models that will move us away from such practices and toward more successful ones.

In our new version of ESEA, we want to ensure that we are holding America's diverse learners to high standards, while providing them with the opportunities and supports they need to be successful.

I can recall a young girl—a new American—who came to this country and to my district without English language skills. Yet by the time she graduated from high school, she was her school's valedictorian and had been accepted at UCLA.

Above all, a new ESEA must encourage this type of work and increase this type of outcome. It must encourage great teaching and learning in our classrooms, and encourage greater progress for our diverse learners—so that they all have educational careers like hers. Secretary Duncan has called on us all to build an education law that is worthy of our country—a law that future generations can point to as the moment when Americans came together and laid the foundation for a new era of innovation, growth and prosperity.

That's what's at stake with the reauthorization of ESEA, and I want to thank you in advance for doing all you can to help make the most of this vital opportunity.

I hope I've shared with you my sense of urgency, but also my confidence that now truly is the time for us to join together and achieve significant and lasting improvements for our English learners and bilingual students. I believe we can accomplish this, not only because we recognize that it is just and right to do for them, but because we realize that it will be good for our nation.

In most countries, bilingualism or multilingualism is the norm—it is just expected. It is built into the school system and is a life-long process. This continuous language learning model is something America needs to explore.

No doubt many of you have heard the saying, "El que habla dos lenguas vale por dos"—roughly translated, that means, a person who speaks two languages counts as two people. To me, it suggests that someone who has mastered two languages is able to serve as an interpreter, a reconciler, and a mediator between the rich cultures, values and traditions that those languages represent. Such people are especially needed today. With deep roots in more than one world, they can form living bridges between individuals and communities.

Long before being elected President, then-Senator Obama spoke in favor of nurturing new generations of Americans who are fluent in multiple languages. He said, "We should have every child speaking more than one language."

More and more of our children must do this, if our nation is to continue to lead in the global economy; if we are going to help bring security and stability to the world; and if we are going to foster understanding and build ever-stronger and more productive ties with our neighbors. Your work is vital to this effort.

And at precisely the moment when the ESEA faces its most crucial overhaul ever, and when education is receiving its biggest investments ever, this President and this Secretary of Education chose a Latina superintendent from a predominantly Latino, low-income, and EL district to be Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education.

I think that sends a powerful message. And I promise you, I take the responsibility that accompanies this honor to heart. So, I ask for your support—now and in the future. Together we can build an outstanding American education system for the 21st century. We can bring about the change that our children and our communities deserve.

And as the late Cesar Chavez stated, "We need to help students and parents cherish and preserve the ethnic and cultural diversity that nourishes and strengthens this community and this nation."

Thank you, and now I'll be glad to take your questions.

Does NCLB Promote Monolingualism?

Education Week Commentary
Published Online: March 15, 2010

By Rosemary Salomone

Rosemary Salomone critiques NCLB squarely, arguing that perverse incentives--supported by research--is the setting aside non-English-language instruction so that children can learn English quickly.

Check out a National Survey Report titled "Foreign language Teaching in U.S. Schools" on languages cited within.

• The research found that federal law’s emphasis on reading and math has subtracted resources from language programs.

•It did find that the offering of Spanish has risen, but mostly within the private school sector.

•Not surprisingly, it also found that higher SES schools also had more language programs overall. [After all, speaking another language has alway been the gem of the upper class in our society.]

•Tragically, in the U.S., 15 percent of public elementary school students were enrolled in a foreign-language class. [Were these mostly dual language classes, I ask? In any case, this is wasteful since children are sponges and ripe for language learning.]

Great quote from Salomone:

You cannot deeply “know” the values of a people or a nation’s politics unless you can directly access its art, literature, news media, government documents, and policy reports. Relying solely on English as the language of global communication, we risk the world’s taling over our heads as we become more culturally trapped.

Also, check out the earlier post on Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education Thelma Melendez' speech before bilingual educators

U.S. Education Department Announces Civil Rights Review of English Learner Students In Los Angeles

I am wondering if the Federal government will abide by federal law that gives students a right to instruction that is comprehensible to them—i.e., bilingual education—or whether state law that eliminates bilingual education is the yardstick.


March 10, 2010 Contact: Justin Hamilton or Jim Bradshaw

LOS ANGELES -- Two days after Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced plans to step up enforcement of civil rights law on behalf of students in a speech in Selma, Ala., the U.S. Department of Education announced its first formal civil rights enforcement action. The department will examine the academic opportunities and access of English Learner (EL) students in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to assess whether they are being denied equal educational opportunities.

The Los Angeles compliance review is one of a series of activities that a reinvigorated Office for Civil Rights (OCR) will be undertaking in coming months. L.A. School Superintendent Ramon Cortines is cooperating with the department’s review.

Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali said, “We welcome his support and applaud his readiness to better serve EL students. We all understand that when one group of students is struggling, we are morally and legally obliged to take action.” Ali said that only three percent of EL students in LAUSD high schools are proficient in math and English, and the district’s programs have not undergone a civil rights compliance review for more than a decade.

OCR will assess whether LAUSD provides EL students with an effective program of English language development and meaningful access to core curricular content. The review will also examine whether the district regularly evaluates the implementation and effectiveness of the EL program and communicates effectively with parents of EL students.

“At this time, we have reached no conclusion as to whether any violations of federal law exist,” Assistant Secretary Ali emphasizes. “But the number of EL students and children of color in Los Angeles is large. It is critical that all students in the district receive equal access to a quality education. If civil rights violations are found, we will seek to put an end to them promptly.”

Ali will discuss the new compliance review in three forums in Los Angeles on March 10, including a stakeholders forum at 1:30 p.m. at the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce; a press conference at the Chamber at 3:15 p.m. with Superintendent Cortines; and a special town hall event from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Saint Anne’s Conference Center.

“I am looking forward to learning about Los Angeles’ programs for EL learners,” says Ali. “In today’s information age, America has to both raise the bar for student learning and close the achievement gap -- anything less is economically unsustainable and morally unacceptable.”


CAMPAIGN TO INCREASE THE AFRO-LATIN@ COUNT IN THE 2010 CENSUS by afro-latin@ forum (March 8, 2010) (New York, NY) In an effort to achieve an accurate count of Afro-Latinos in the United States Census, the nonprofit afrolatin@ forum has produced a series of public service videos that call on Latinos of African descent to identify as both Hispanic and Black on the 2010 form. By proclaiming "Check Both!/¡Chequea las dos!" the bilingual spots highlight the importance for Latin@s of African descent to self-identify as such on the Census. The count has far-reaching implications, determining how $400 billion in federal funds are distributed to local governments each year. Over 10 years, a community could lose a projected $1.2 million of federal funding for housing, health and education programs for every 100 persons that are not counted, according to the NAACP. Studies have established that despite a higher educational level, Black Latin@s are more likely to live below the poverty level than other Latin@s and have the highest unemployment rate. The videos - "Yo Soy," "Y tu abuela?" and "Afro-Latin@ facts" - depict the true range of diversity within the U.S. Latino community. And they are designed to appeal to an array of viewers who might think of themselves as Afro-Latin@s for different reasons. Some may choose to "Check Both" to honor their heritage. Others may "Check Both" because of how they look, or because of how others see them. Still others may want to identify with the culture they have grown up with. In "Yo Soy," four Afro-Latin@s deliver a self-affirming message about their backgrounds and why they plan to "Check Both" on the Census. While acknowledging their particularities, ultimately, they choose to recognize the most salient aspects of their identity by checking both Black and Latin@ on the 2010 form.
"¿"Y tu abuela?" dramatizes an encounter between a Spanish-speaking youth whose grandmother rejects his friends because she assumes (incorrectly) that they are African Americans. The PSA highlights the ethnocentrism that exists among Latin@s and the fact that Afro-Latin@s are frequently taken for African Americans and, along with other Blacks, share the ramifications of racism. "Afro-Latin@ facts" sheds light on how Afro-Latin@s have been undercounted in previous census drives. Such an undercount not only denies the African aspect of Latin@ identity. It deprives organizations of resources they need to improve the lives of this community. To view the PSA's, view the following web addresses:

To view the PSA’s, click here:

· Yo Soy:

· Y tu abuela:

· Afro-Latino Facts: