Saturday, March 31, 2012

Intellectual Incest By Rodolfo F. Acuna

Intellectual Incest
By Rodolfo F. Acuna

30 March 2012

It has always been difficult to convince Anglo-Americans that they should know more about Latinos. It did not seem to matter to Anglos that their ignorance spawned stereotypes that damaged Mexican American children.

Even after World War II and the Korean Wars when Mexican American proportionately received more Medal of Honors than any other group, just convincing Anglos that Mexican Americans were entitled to veterans benefits was difficult. This rejection forced Mexican Americans to form the American GI Forum and other organizations to demand equal rights.

 I remember that as late as the 1970s when Mexican Americans students began to enter graduate schools, counselors would refer them to the foreign student office.

Mexican Americans had to sue and convince judges that they were an identifiable minority who had been historical discriminated against and consequently entitled to equal protection. This right was not clarified until Cisneros v. Corpus Christi Independent School District (1970).

It was a frustrating experience for those struggling for fairness and equality. We tried to explain the consequences of benign neglect of a group. Mexican Americans were disadvantaged because of poverty, unequal schools, racism, and a society that did not care – not because of their genes.
The problem was exacerbated during the War on Poverty in the 1960s when many some whites tried to play blacks against browns, trying to frame the Civil Rights Movement in Black-White terms. When this did not work, they brought up arguments such as “If we give it to Mexicans, how about Asians and Native Americans?”

The majority society could not overcome its tunnel vision. They could not get it that it was not solely a matter of color. It was about human rights; it was justice rather than “just us.”

Liberals could not understand that the best way to insure fairness and correct problems was to know about people. Not all Mexicans played a guitar and not all blacks tap danced. Not all Mexicans craved jalapenos and not all blacks liked watermelon.

Mexican American (AKA Chicano Studies) came about because of the failure of the educational establishment to deal with systemic problems such as high school drop outs. Chicana/o Studies proposed improving the education of Mexican Americans (who by 1970 were 22 percent of the LA Schools) by increasing knowledge about them.

It was not just about Mexican Americans knowing about themselves but about others knowing about them. Very really in 1969 many white people could drive to and from work without seeing a Mexican American. The only white people Mexicans saw in the barrios were teachers, cops and some merchants.

In the San Fernando Valley, neighborhoods were neatly separated. It was the land of the Valley girl and San Fernando/Pacoima was like foreign colony – a gated community within a gated community.
When the upheaval began at San Fernando Valley State in 1968, Mexican Americans were fortunate that there were enough faculty members on campus who knew what a black American was and knew enough history to realize that blacks were oppressed.

At SFVSC and on other campuses there was not overwhelming support for outreach to Mexican American high school students. This lack of support should not be confused with the black-white syndrome –seeing every issue in terms of black and white. It was more a matter of Mexicans being invisible – an issue that I addressed more fully in my book Anything But Mexican (Verso 1996).
When I arrived at Valley State in the spring of 1969 to set up a Mexican American Studies Department there was resistance. Some faculty members could understand that African Americans had a corpus of knowledge and a history of oppression. However, they did not have the same awareness about Mexicans in the United States. I would venture to say that most did not even have a Cliff Note level background on the Mexican American War, remembering only the movie versions of the Alamo.

 I soon found that you could not equate their ignorance to ideology. Many were good liberals –against the Vietnam War and in support of civil rights for blacks. These people were color blind to the extreme. They failed to see a lack of equality in having an institution with 18,000 students with only fifty students Mexican Americas. They had a harder time with demands for a Mexican American Studies program.

While blacks were begrudgingly acknowledged as Americans, it was up to Mexicans to earn this right. It was not a matter of citizenship. At the time, most Mexican Americans were born in this country, and many of their fathers were veterans.

The ignorance was systemic. For example, when I was doing my teacher training at Los Angeles State College very few of my education professors were from the southwest; fewer had taught in Mexican American schools; but they were there to teach us how to teach Mexican students.
When I expressed my desire to go into higher education, I was advised to go to the East Coast because California universities were reluctant to hire PhDs from local universities. They wanted to avoid intellectual incest which is when where too many people in a group all think alike. They rationalized that intellectual incest would “exclude legitimate diverse viewpoints.”

Outside of academe, this principle has fallen apart with the growing popularity of fads such as home-schooling where it is taken to a ridiculous end.

Cal State Northridge has the largest Chicana/o Studies Department in the nation, offering 166 sections per semester, which is larger than some small colleges. Over 11,000 students are Latino; however, over 75 percent of the academic departments do not have a single person of Mexican descent. Why?

It is not because of color blindness but an adherence to it. Most conservative and liberal professors want to select people that look like them. They tend to repeat the ideas of their professors.
While I believe that the notion of intellectual incest in the first instance was wrong, it goes on all the time in life.

Take the Supreme Court. Most justices in this and the past century have come from three law schools, Harvard, Yale and Columbia. This term is no exception. Most of these justices are from upper middle-class families and worked for large firms representing corporate interests. Their friends are from the corporate world and some even receive honorariums to speak before the one percent. Is it being divisive to point this out as an example of intellectual incest?

Bill Clinton nominated my friend and former student Samuel Paz to the U.S. District Court. Sam did even make it out of committee. Many Republican and Democratic senators said he could not be fair and objective. Sam had been president of the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties chapter and he did not practice the right kind of law, representing the poor against police brutality. Sam also did not go to the right law school – the University of Southern California.

Can we accept the logic that Clarence Thomas and his gaggle can be fair?

This brings me back to Tucson, which as you all know has been on my mind. Right now the issues are being played out in the courts where the state courts punctuated by intellectual light weights are beholding to politicians beholding to the same special interests as those influencing the Supreme Court.

Red flags went up when United States District Judge, David C. Bury, held “This Court finds that discontinuance of the MASD courses during the remainder of the USP’s life expectancy will not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution by intentionally segregating or discriminating against student’s based on race or ethnic group.” The issue with many of us was the enforcement of the law, which Arizona has avoided with impunity since Brown v. The Board of Education.
Bury acted on the recommendation of Special Master Willis Hawley who on paper has a good record in supporting progressive education. But most of his experience is with African Americans in Maryland and he has had little exposure to Latinos and even less with Arizona politics. The decision alarmed many of us since we have seen the decimation of Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies program and the retaliation against teachers through retaliatory, disparate, and discriminatory practices.

At this very moment the Tucson Unified School District is refusing to renew the contract of Sean Arce, the coordinator of its highly successful Mexican American Studies program – his crime, he defended the community.

Thus far, Hawley has chosen to consult with TUSD leadership rather than Mexican American educators who know the needs of the Mexican American students. At this point, it does not appear that Hawley or Judge Bury are considering fifty years of non-compliance as well as the manipulation of the appointment of school board members. Intellectual incest has a way of distorting reality.
It is a scary process not only for Mexican Americans but society in general. I don’t want to be a pessimist but consider, “Would you want to be judged or taught by someone home schooled by Rick Santorum?”

Monday, March 26, 2012

Students, teachers cram for debut of STAAR testing

By Maria Luisa Cesar | San Antonio Express-News
Saturday, March 24, 2012

After months of anxiety and planning, students statewide will finally take a new test, the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, starting this week.

Teachers have been scrambling to prepare students for the STAAR, which is designed to replace, in phases, the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, or TAKS, test.

Grades 3-9 will take the STAAR starting this week. High school sophomores, juniors and seniors will continue to take TAKS.

Plagued by concerns that last year's cuts to public school funding would hamper a smooth transition to the more rigorous test, administrators expect to see thousands of additional students sent to summer school based on “benchmark” tests, a dry run that showed high failure rates in many districts.

But some educators aren't allowing the benchmark tests — which some say were made purposefully harder than the actual STAAR test — to spook students. Across San Antonio, educators spent last week working to help students ward off pre-test jitters and hosting a series of pep rallies and practice sessions.

The test has even inspired a slew of YouTube videos, many of them parodying the movie Star Wars and some taking comical shots at the Texas Education Agency.

At El Dorado Elementary School, teachers created a music video called “We'll Pass the STAAR, We Know It,” overdubbing motivational lyrics to the pop song “Sexy and I Know It.” The video, featuring students rapping and a dance move that should be called the “pencil sharpen boogie,” is meant to calm nerves and instill confidence, said principal Susan Peery. Featuring North East Independent School District Superintendent Brian Gottardy, it's received thousands of hits online.

“The theme this year (is) ... you'll pass the STAAR, I know it,” Peery said. “We try to get that running through kids' heads and not that inner voice saying ‘I'm scared, I can't do it.' We try to minimize the stress and maximize the motivation and the confidence.”

Henry Steubing Elementary School principal Beverly Pantuso said students there have “buddied up” to send test-takers encouraging notes.

“It's not just third-, fourth- and fifth-graders taking the test. It's the whole school and we all pull for each other,” Pantuso said. “I think by trying to help the kids be calm about things and put (the test) in perspective, they'll do better.”

Test changes

The STAAR will be a high-stakes test — but not as high this year.

Starting next school year, the STAAR end-of-course score will count toward 15 percent of a high school student's course grade, affecting grade-point averages and class rank. The TEA agreed to waive the 15 percent provision this year for districts that apply by May 1, and more than 450 school districts had done so as of Thursday. Most Bexar County districts are expected to opt out.

Because of the transition, the state won't require that fifth- and eighth-graders pass the test to advance a grade. State accountability ratings will also be suspended.

One big unknown is what students need to score on the STAAR to pass, which TEA officials said they hope to establish by mid-April for high school students and by late fall for grades 3-8.

Some educators are miffed that high school students, who will need to pass the tests in order to receive graduation credits, won't know the passing standards until after they take the test.

And while educators have been told the test will include more open-ended questions and be more rigorous, their biggest concern may be that test-taking will now be timed. STAAR tests will be limited to four-hour periods. Previous standardized tests gave students as much time as they needed to finish.

“This is the first time ever that they've given us a timed test. That's a concern for the little ones,” Pantuso said, adding that while students will be given a break for lunch, bathroom breaks will have to be taken on the clock. “I'm not sure what the legislators think they're going to gain by doing this but they don't always ask our opinion.”

Pizza and practice

On Monday, ninth-grade students will take end-of-course STAAR writing exams for English I and English III. Starting Tuesday, the week also will offer math, writing and reading tests for grades 4, 5, 7 and 8.

Third-grade testing will begin April 24, and students in grades 3-8 will continue to take tests in math, reading, science, writing and social studies. Ninth-graders, however, will take end-of-course exams based specifically on their classes.

On the eve of the test, Judson ISD's Wagner High School offered a Saturday “EOC camp,” which focused on English language arts, Monday's test. As incentives, school officials offered free bus transportation, breakfast tacos and pizza.

School officials expected about 200 to attend the half-day camp. Channel Rodgers, the English Department chair at Wagner, said it was designed to be a review but also a reminder.

“Students are prepared. They're more prepared than probably what they believe,” Rodgers said. “We're just trying to put ourselves in a position that when they sit down that day, it looks familiar to them.”

Study: Only 1 in 5 Texas 8th-graders earns any degree within 6 years after high school

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Dropout rates, graduation rates, retention rates, passing rates for standardized tests — the education arena is flush with statistics.

Now, a private foundation in Houston is seeking to cut through the noise and focus attention in Texas on what it considers the single most valuable measure of educational effectiveness: the percentage of eighth-graders at public schools who go on to earn a postsecondary degree or certificate within six years of their expected high school graduation date.

A study commissioned by the foundation, the Houston Endowment, found that only about 1 in 5 eighth-graders earns such a credential.

"My reaction was, ‘This can't be right.' But it is right," said Larry Faulkner, a former president of the University of Texas who retired last month after six years as president and CEO of the endowment.

The study didn't take a position on what the credential-earning rate should be, other than to say it should be "much larger." But it warned that low rates for some minority groups are especially troubling.

"White students' rates of earning a college credential are two to two and a half times higher than those of Hispanics and blacks," the report said. "Given the state's growing Hispanic population, this means that it will be impossible for Texas to contribute its share in reaching national attainment goals without improving Hispanic college-going and graduation rates."

The study was conducted for the Houston Endowment by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, a private nonprofit based in Boulder, Colo. Using data from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and other sources, researchers tracked the educational trajectory of all 883,260 public school students in Texas who started eighth grade in 1996, 1997 and 1998.

After 11 years, 19.9 percent had earned a bachelor's degree, associate degree or certificate. There is leakage throughout the education pipeline, as students drop out of high school or college.

Thus far, the study said, only one other state has generated comparable data: Florida, where 17.2 percent of eighth-graders earned a credential. A national study conducted 10 years ago came up with an estimate of 29.3 percent.

Credential-earning rates in Texas varied considerably among racial and ethnic groups, with Asian Americans at 41.3 percent, whites at 27.6 percent, Native Americans at 14.1 percent, Hispanics at 11.6 percent and blacks at 11.4 percent. Higher education specialists say such disparities arise from various factors.

"Three overarching predictors are level of a parent's education, the rigor of the high school years and family income," said George Grainger, director of planning and research for the Houston Endowment.

The study also found disparities by gender, with female students earning a credential at the rate of 23.9 percent and male students at the rate of 16.1 percent. The breakdown ranged from 7.7 percent for black males to 46.5 percent for Asian American females.

The data do not account for so-called interstate mobility: Some students moved and earned a credential in another state. Researchers estimated that this adds 2 percentage points, for an overall credential-earning rate of 21.9 percent.

Texas has taken a number of steps in recent years in an effort to improve its public schools and higher education institutions, including adoption of various accountability measures for the former and a "Closing the Gaps by 2015" plan for the latter.

But progress has been slow on a number of fronts, such as getting the best leaders and teachers into the schools with the most students at risk of academic failure, Grainger said. And many higher education institutions don't take developmental, or remedial, education very seriously, Faulkner said.

Moreover, there is an overarching question of resources for addressing the issue: The state Legislature last year cut funding sharply for public schools, higher education and student financial aid even as enrollment is surging.

Sixteen educational, charitable and business organizations have endorsed the Houston Endowment-commissioned study as both accurate and significant in highlighting a key measure of educational effectiveness.

The findings are "disturbing," said Bill Hammond, president and CEO of the Texas Association of Business. "The report confirms what we know: The public education system across the board is not producing results necessary for Texas to remain competitive, whether it's (kindergarten to 12th grade) or community colleges and beyond."

John Fitzpatrick, executive director of Educate Texas, an initiative of the Dallas-based Communities Foundation of Texas, said he found the credential-earning rates surprisingly low. He noted that public school and higher education officials often point fingers of blame at each other but that this study, by covering the continuum of education, shows the overarching challenge facing the state.

The coordinating board has done a similar analysis for a number of years that tracks seventh-grade students, said Dominic Chavez, a spokesman for the agency.

Houston Endowment officials said many states don't start collecting the relevant data until the eighth grade. They said the organization is committed to issuing an annual report "for the foreseeable future," perhaps broadening it to include other states as their information becomes available.

Education cuts protested at Capitol rally

March 24, 2012

Sherry Dana's reason for joining a rally protesting cuts in public education spending was summed up by a quote from the Italian poet Dante on a cloth bag slung over her shoulder:
"The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality."

As far as the retired Austin teacher is concerned, this is no time for neutrality.
"We want kids to be educated," she said. "It makes this a better country."

Leaders of the Save Texas Schools coalition said more than 4,500 teachers, administrators, students and parents from across the state participated in Saturday's rally at the Capitol and march leading up to it. Capitol police estimated the turnout at 1,000. Either way, the crowd was energetic and peaceful under mostly blue, sunny skies.

A coalition rally last spring drew thousands more because of heightened interest during one of the Legislature's regular sessions, which take place in odd-numbered years. But the Republican-led Legislature, grappling with a gaping budget hole, wasn't dissuaded from reducing by $4 billion the amount owed to school districts in the two-year budget.

Lawmakers sliced an additional $1.3 billion from grant programs, including full-day pre-kindergarten and help for students struggling to pass high-stakes standardized tests.
Speakers and attendees at Saturday's rally said the way to turn things around is by voting out the budget-cutters. They stopped short of endorsements but occasionally criticized Republicans in general and GOP Gov. Rick Perry in particular.

"Cutting school funds is a Perry bad idea," read one sign.

The cuts have forced many school districts, including Austin's, to trim payrolls. Statewide, districts have 25,286 fewer employees this year than last year, including 10,717 fewer teachers, said Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency.

Hundreds of districts have sued the state, challenging the constitutionality of the school finance system.

The Save Texas Schools coalition wants lawmakers to restore funding and limit what it considers excessive standardized testing. The coalition also wants funding restored for higher education, which saw a reduction of nearly $1 billion.

"We just have to get them to do the right thing," said Carolyn Bruton, a librarian in San Antonio. "The right thing is to make sure each child has an equal education with the right funding."

State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, said it's important to send a message "to those in control of the state" that many middle-class people believe "Texas can do better."

One of those in control, the governor, told the American-Statesman last month that the state is spending plenty on public education. "The issue is, are we spending enough money in the right places? Are we getting a good return on our investment?" Perry said.

Proponents of limited government spending said Texas should stay in belt-tightened mode.

"I'm confident that further cuts can be made without adversely affecting student performance or without adversely impacting students or teachers," said Peggy Venable, Texas director of Americans for Prosperity.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Interactive: STAAR exam sample questions

Check out this Interactive link to STAAR exam sample questions.

You can also visit the TEA website for the released test questions for Grades 3–8 English, Grades 3–5 Spanish, and the EOCs.


Students taking the new, more rigorous STAAR exams Monday

The first of many articles I'm sure we'll see as we near D-day.


By Melissa B. Taboada and Laura Heinauer | AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Sunday, March 25, 2012

Monday will be the first time students take the new State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness which by all accounts are tougher and harder to fake your way through than the old achievement tests.

A requirement that fifth- and eighth-grade students pass the exams to be promoted to the next grade is being waived this year.

Those students, as well as fourth- and seventh-graders, will take the STAAR later this week.

High-schoolers will have to pass the tests — in subjects including English, algebra and U.S. history — to graduate, but the STAAR is being phased in. Only ninth-graders in English I classes will tackle the new writing test today.

Upperclassmen will continue taking the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.
Those who have seen or helped craft the new exam say there is a lot of similarity between the STAAR high school so-called end-of-course exam and college entrance exams.

"We put higher stakes for these tests," said Round Rock Superintendent Jesús Chávez, who was selected to be part of the accountability policy that made recommendations on the rules and standards of the STAAR.

"There's no question that these tests are more rigorous," Chávez said. "They have been related to college testing. Part of it is the requirement that the test indicate whether students are college-ready or not."

Texas Education Agency spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe agreed that the STAAR is harder, with fewer multiple choice questions and two types of essays on the writing tests. Also, the
STAAR, unlike the TAKS, will be timed.

Chávez and Ratcliffe said the high school tests are similar in rigor and style to college exams.

"We think that the way it's written, it's going to be much harder to teach to the test," Ratcliffe said, comparing the STAAR to Advanced Placement exams, which students can take for credit for college courses. "They really need to teach the curriculum. I just don't think that the drill-and-kill methods will be effective."

The education agency has not set what scores will be needed to pass each of the tests.

Elementary and middle school students were previously required to pass the TAKS to be promoted, so the STAAR deferral should ease anxiety, state officials said.
"If anything, the pressure should be less this year at those grade levels," Ratcliffe said.

"Really, they're essentially taking it for a test drive."

For the most part, test results will be categorized as unsatisfactory (failing), satisfactory and advanced.

Overall performance on the high school exams will be considered, so a student could fail one or more of the 12 high school-level STAAR exams and do well enough on the others to graduate, Ratcliffe said.

The number of correct questions needed to earn satisfactory and advanced marks on high school tests probably won't be available before April, state officials said last week. STAAR 
scores could also indicate whether students need to take remedial courses in college.
As is the case now, students will have several opportunities to retest, Ratcliffe said.
Also, the state education commissioner has decided that — for now — districts may defer implementation of a requirement to include the STAAR as part of a high school student's grade. The grading requirement, another difference from the TAKS, will be enforced in the 2012-13 school year.

As of Friday, about 487 of the state's 1,215 districts or charter schools had requested waivers. Districts have until May 1 to request a waiver.

One example of the new rigor of the state's achievement exam is that seventh-graders, for the first time, must write both narrative and expository — or explanatory — essays. The TAKS did not test expository writing.

Another difference: The TAKS would simply ask students to correct a mistake — insert a missing comma in the correct place in a sentence, for example. The STAAR requires students to correctly revise whole sentences.

Amy Margulies is language arts department chairwoman and a teacher at Deerpark Middle School in the Round Rock school district.

To prepare her students for the exams, she has spent weeks in writing sessions in which students read their essays aloud, and their peers and teacher provide constructive feedback.

Before spring break, additional teachers also stood in as literacy coaches and worked one-on-one with students.

Ana Garcia, a Deerpark seventh-grader, was among those preparing for the exam last week.
"I'm nervous about the test, because we've never taken it before, and it's going to follow us all the way to high school," Garcia, 12, said. "But I think I'm ready for it."

Thane Flores, 13, also a seventh-grader at Deerpark, echoed Garcia's sentiment.
"I'm nervous because it's a new test and it's timed, but I know I'll be ready for it," he said. "I know what a good story is and what's a really great story. A good story is you have what you need in the story and you know what to write about. A really great story is going outside the box and doing it better, using more experiences or phrases people said."
Margulies said she hasn't seen the new test but is excited about the increased difficulty.
Her students "are so ready for this that they should not be worried at all, and they should show what they know," Margulies said. "I'm pleased that the State of Texas believes in our kids that much. I know they can do it."

School district leaders throughout Central Texas said confident students often score better. To relieve some anxiety, the Leander district is among several that have made dozens of presentations to parents, students and teachers about the new exam.

Debbie Sommers, Leander's director of assessment and accountability, said students there have been most concerned about the new four-hour time limit. Sommers said the vast majority of students finished the TAKS exams well before four hours.

Some school districts are concerned that because the STAAR tests students by subject instead of by grade level, as the TAKS did, the number of students scoring at commended levels will drop.

With the old system, an eighth-grader taking a high school math course would still take the eighth-grade exam.

With the STAAR, eighth-graders taking algebra courses will take the algebra test.
"It could very well have an effect on our upper end," Sommers said.

"When the general public starts looking at the results, they may not understand that. But I think it's the right thing to do, and I'm excited to see what that group of kids does.

"If we teach the knowledge and skills at the level we're supposed to be teaching, they're going to be fine," she said.

Contact Melissa B. Taboada at 445-3620; contact Laura Heinauer at 445-3694.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

How Yale's Singapore Venture Imperils Liberal Education

The "us" in this piece is a very complicated statement and is reduced/reducible to what Sleeper terms, "the Republic."  That said, the university seems to have reached a tipping point in its mythical self construction as a liberal (as opposed to neoliberal) institution.  Though high sounding and ostensibly erudite, this statement by Professor Richard Levin sounds politically naive to me:  

"But in political philosophy there's a living, unwritten constitution: Yale is really what we do -- our research, teaching, and conferences. Without that, there is no Yale to take abroad or anywhere else. The faculty are the collegium" -- a company of scholars that, to do its work well, has to stand somewhat apart from both markets and states."  

You can't have it both ways.  That is, stand apart AND allow for a governance structure (the Yale Corporation) to do whatever the heck it wants when it wants.  Not with a strong faculty that can checkmate corporatist schemes and agendas.  If Levin and Sleeper are all about "deliberative democracy" and universities as the spaces for the cultivation of a "deep civic faith," why did governance at the highest levels fall out of the parameters of that mode of praxis or inquiry?  

Why was it that academic freedom in this realm of inquiry was stifled or repressed (e.g., make note of the "a profile in timidity" below, suggesting a trend)?  And particularly so, one might say in this specific case, by political scientists like Levin.  Rather than lamenting the tragic compromising of the "remonstrants and guardians of the republic," Yale faculty, including Levin, should look inwardly and ask themselves what is it about their praxis (their action or inaction) that led the university to this place to begin with?  

Even without the "free-agent super-stars" problem of flagship institutions like Yale, their ivory tower mentality was a compromise waiting to happen.  When our faculty are "above" certain kinds of non-esoteric, political action of putting their work to work, a vacuum in leadership is created that gets happily exploited by  the architects and purveyors of "the retail-store university."  

I'm not picking on Yale faculty, here, by the way.  Liberal education, in general, has succumbed to this corporatist path, albeit to different degrees.  I nevertheless feel that these pronouncements are themselves vapid and disingenuous.  They reflect the very conundrum that our liberal institutions and liberals, in general, have put us all in.  Not that it didn't take guts for Levin to say what he said.  It just seems to be too little, too late.


You could have heard a pin drop among the 150 professors -- three times more than usual -- in attendance at a closed-door, March 1 meeting of the Yale College Faculty as one of them told president Richard Levin something he didn't want to hear. The message was that his administration shouldn't have collaborated with an authoritarian, corporate city-state to establish a new college -- "Yale-National University of Singapore" -- without most of the Yale faculty's knowing of it until the basic commitments had already been signed and sealed.
"You are this university's highest executive officer, and we're grateful for what you and the Yale Corporation do," the professor said. "But in political philosophy there's a living, unwritten constitution: Yale is really what we do -- our research, teaching, and conferences. Without that, there is no Yale to take abroad or anywhere else. The faculty are the collegium" -- a company of scholars that, to do its work well, has to stand somewhat apart from both markets and states.
Liberal education probably couldn't survive without markets and states, but Levin was being reminded, in effect, that in a liberal capitalist republic like ours, markets and states can't survive without liberal education because they have to rely on citizens' upholding certain public virtues and beliefs that -- as you may have noticed lately -- neither markets nor the state can do much to nourish or defend.
A liberal state, after all, isn't supposed to judge between one way of life and another, which makes it hard to distinguish bold entrepreneurs from sleazy free-riders. And markets certainly can't draw that distinction, because their genius lies precisely in approaching consumers and investors only as narrowly self-interested actors
That leaves only good journalists and good colleges to nourish our public prospects. Which is why, even though the Yale Corporation -- a small, self-perpetuating governing body, with only a few members elected by alumni -- can do whatever it wants, the professor was right about the "living" part of a university's constitution.
In 2006, for example, Harvard's governing corporation, which is like Yale's, understood that its faculty's loss of confidence in President Lawrence Summers made his administration untenable. Now Yale's faculty is challenging not Levin's presidency but one of his emblematic projects. A resolution demanding that Singapore respect, protect, and further political freedom, on-campus and off, will debated at the faculty's April 5 meeting.
This measure's proponents will surely be portrayed as leftist malcontents by conservative commentators who said the same thing about Harvard's critics of Summers. But neither controversy fits the panicky caricatures of politically correct professors or deans who'd rather denounce capitalism and chase post-modernist moonbeams than prepare their students to serve markets and the state. Nor is the Yale dispute really only about the rush by American universities to emulate multi-national business corporations by expanding abroad.
The greatest danger in such ventures -- and in Harvard's recent embarrassing entanglements with some of its faculty members' dubious dealings in Russia or Libya -- is that no university can remain what the political philosopher Allan Bloom called "a publicly respectable place... for scholars and students to be unhindered in their use of reason" if those scholars are treated (and behave) as employees of a corporation -- or, in public universities, as political appointees. More properly, they're a "company" in the old-fashioned sense of a body whose principals determine and care its mission.
The university as a business corporation helps them do that by keeping the lights on, as it were, and by defending their freedom where possible against market and political constraints. It shouldn't get involved in trying to export its university's "brand name" and expand its market share abroad, or in transforming the home college into a career-networking center and cultural galleria for a "diverse" global elite that answers to no polity or moral code.
Unfortunately, some members of Yale's corporation are doing even more than that. And, unfortunately, enough Yale faculty have come to depend on or aspire to administrative funding or preferments -- or have become self-marketing free agents in their own right -- that even some who oppose the Singapore deal express their view only with arched eyebrows and significant silences.
But the packed faculty meeting this month reflected rising concern that Levin, a very nice man and an economist of the neoliberal, "world is flat" sort, has joined with corporation members to commit Yale's name and some hand-picked members of its faculty to a venture that sidelines the collegium from any real deliberation about its educational mission.
Too much more of this, and the company of scholars becomes a corporate team.
It's not only faculty self-governance that's fading under market imperatives and seductions. So is liberal education, which, in American colleges, has often succeeded in inducting future citizen-leaders of the republic into what the conservative political philosopher Michael Oakeshott called the humanities' "great conversation" across the ages about eternal challenges to politics and the spirit. Markets and states skirt such challenges, but free people since Socrates have risked a lot to meet them, and they've always been a republic's greatest strength, not only in high places but in local communities.
The old colleges struggled to temper students' training for Wealth-making and Power-wielding with humanist Truth-seeking. Yes, that made those students who took that effort seriously somewhat adversarial to conventional wisdom; Allan Bloom considered that the colleges' glory. Yet today's globalization of capital and culture, which Yale's Singapore venture reflects, makes it hard for would-be defenders of the old colleges to reconcile their yearning for an American republican liberty with their knee-jerk, algorithmic obeisance to whims and riptides of casino-financing that's dissolving American sovereignty.
Conservatives are trying to straddle this yawning contradiction between their patriotism and their "free market" ideology by conscripting liberal education into national-security and "grand-strategy" agendas, in lavishly funded college programs that they think will rescue liberal education from the few feckless liberals and Marxists whom the noise machine blames for subverting what conservatives themselves are destroying.
Yale recently established a $50 million dollar Jackson Institute for Global Studies that, along with the $17.5 million-endowed Brady-Johnson "Studies in Grand Strategy" program and, the Johnson Center for the Study of American Diplomacy. These have soft spots for "professor-practitioners" such as Stanley McChrystal (hired fresh off his firing by Obama), John Negroponte (the former Bush National Intelligence Director), and Tony Blair -- "generals" who can overawe undergraduates by fighting the last wars. To teach Thucydides' account of the Pelopponesian War as if it were a guide for Davos men, American grand strategists, and military commanders debase them all.
Even President Levin, who gave George W. Bush an honorary doctorate just before 9/11, later served on Bush's commission to evaluate 9/11 intelligence failures, bringing along several Yale students to produce a report that the New York Times called "a profile in timidity." Whether or not the Times was right, Yale emerges from such ventures looking less like a bulldog than like a kitten that purrs when stroked and that darts under a sofa when threatened. And you have to wonder: If this is how the university's leaders deal with the government in our "free" society, can we expect them to stand up to Singapore's?
In fairness, Levin and other neo-liberals, buffeted by conservative ranters, donors with agendas, and daunting market undertows, would really rather bring liberal education to Asia than be parties to its conscription and debasement at home. But in fact Yale is doing both, and for reasons that remain unclear.
The university's insistence that it's spending nothing on the Singapore venture only reinforces the perception that who pays the piper calls the tune, and there's no consolation in the fact that three present or recent members of the Yale Corporation -- among them the venture capitalist G. Leonard Baker, Jr., who recently led a 5-year "Yale Tomorrow" capital campaign that raised $3.881 billion, thereby placing the university's administration in his debt -- are now or have also been directors, advisors, and investment officers of the Singapore Investment Corporation Pte Ltd. (GIC), which is chaired by the country's prime minister and manages at least $100 billion of assets.
(The other two Yale Corporation members who've been involved in this Charles Ellis, who is married to Linda Lorimar, the Secretary of Yale University, and Charles Waterhouse Goodyear, the former CEO of another Singaporian government investment company, Temasek, in 2009.)
Whether or not Yale-NUS is some a business deal, it's an instance of the business corporatization of universities. "Is Yale U. Starting to Run More Like Yale, Inc.?" asked a 2009 story in the student-run, independent Yale Daily News, noting that university vice presidents who've been imported from business corporations were referring to students as "customers."
Some students and their lawyered-up parents readily accept that designation and demand the services they think they've paid for. That accelerates a superficially pleasing drift from civic-republican rigor to posh campus amenities, but it also leaves the colleges handling students' real intellectual and intimate crises with the soulless, self-protective legalism of corporations worried only about liability and market share.
Fortunately, some conscientious (and somebrilliantly irreverent) student reporters and editorial writers have kept the deeper questions alive on campus even when most faculty seemed too apathetic or intimidated to raise them. It was a Yale Daily News editorial last year, "Keep Yale Out of Singapore," that awakened some faculty
The sea changes in capital and in state efficacy contributed to the recent loss of compass and ebbing of faith in liberal education. But there are other causes, too. In his forthcoming (and already much ballyhooed) College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be, tColumbia English professor Andrew Delbanco echoes Yale's former law school dean Anthony Kronman, whose Education's End blames the loss of faith less on markets or conservative grand strategists than on universities' much-older commitment to scientific (or, one might say, "scientistic") research.
The criticism here is not of science per se but of some liberal educators' pretensions to be scientific in their explorations of the eternal challenges to politics and the spirit mentioned earlier. "When political science is severed from its ancient rootage in the humanities and 'enriched' by the wisdom of sociologists, psychologists, and anthropologists," warned Reinhold Niebuhr more than half a century ago, "the result is frequently a preoccupation with minutiae which obscures the grand and tragic outlines of contemporary history and offers vapid solutions to profound problems."
Neibuhr's solutions were Christian, and while Delbanco invokes America's Puritan wellsprings, he offers only a secular-humanist reliance on the humanities to shape citizens for a republic or an embryonic global public sphere.
Kronman -- who worked on the early stages of Yale's Singapore plan and also helped New York University develop its campus in Abu Dahbi -- takes justified swipes at "politically correct" derision of the works of dead white men. So does Delbanco, a survivor of culture wars in Columbia's English Department, but, as Margaret Soltan shows hilariously in her "University Diaries" blog at Inside Higher Education, Delbanco generally is more than a little too cautious, expressing himself too often through "quote after quote after quote" from others. (Soltan coins a nice new term for the malady: quoterrhoea!)
The challenge Delbanco and Kronman don't quite face is that, like Christianity and free markets, liberal education has many more noisy claimants and celebrants than it has true friends, The false friends are funding the lavish campus institutes and centers I mentioned, and even student organizations and faux-populist movements, to save liberal education from the liberals by mining the classic texts for guidance in navigating riptides of global capital and of resistance to it abroad and at home: "You need a 360-degree perspective," Yale's Diplomat-in-Residence and Reagan State Department veteran Charles Hill told a student interviewer in 2003. "Your approach can't be just military and diplomatic, it also has to involve such things as economics, personnel, rhetoric, and morale. And you can't just look outward, because somewhere in some basement or in the Holland Tunnel, something is going wrong. You can't neglect anything."
Liberal education requires a lot more adult grace and restraint than that, as well a much deeper sort of conviction and inter-generational commitment. Hill's is not the way to show 18-years-olds, fresh off thousands of hours on the internet and in shopping malls, that freedom isn't about consumer choice and self-marketing; it relies on the mastery of those public virtues -- the arts and disciplines of democratic deliberation -- that are grounded in mutual respect and rational dialogue.
A liberal education disposes a student to keep words and deeds from parting company, as Hannah Arendt put it, until, the words become empty and the deeds become brutal, as indeed they're becoming in our investment banks and election campaigns.
No wonder that harried administrators such as Levin and other university presidents, struggling to balance what former Harvard College dean Harry Lewis calls "the retail-store university" in his Education Without a Soul, find themselves shorn of the authority and wisdom to distinguish one student's quiet civic passion from another's busy public emptiness, let alone address them.
No wonder that some administrators are indulging or even conducting what leftists think is a coup d'etat against faculty self-governance. It's not quite that, but it's a consequence of the desperate effort to ride market and political currents and to open conservative alumnae hearts and wallets to provide more loyal crews and tighter rigging for their commercial and military cruises.
No wonder, too, that some professors have become part of the problem, behaving not as members of the collegium but as free-agent super-stars who leave the humanist conversation and its soul-sick student aspirants to the ministrations of university bureaucrats and health counselors.

No one warned against all this more tellingly than Bloom, who conservatives often invoke. He urged the university to resist "whatever is most powerful" and "the worship of vulgar success." He especially disdained professors who try to become counselors to the king but forget that "the intellectual, who attempts to influence... ends up in the power of the would-be influenced."

The ultimate irony, again, is that the conservatives' own market and nationalist strategies have begun to work against one another, with disastrous consequences that they finesse by shifting the blame to feckless liberals.
In 1941, when TIME magazine co-founder Henry Luce (Yale Class of 1920), a son of American Protestant missionaries to China, proclaimed The American Century, the two horses of American national-security and of global capital pulled more or less together, in harness to the American republic. But by the time George W. Bush (Yale, 1968) and Dick Cheney (Yale drop-out, 1961), took that rig on a full gallop in 2003, they couldn't avoid crashing into what the conservative political scientist Samuel Huntington had seen coming in 1994: The hard reality is that the horse of global capital no longer pulls alongside the horse of American nationalism.

Huntington noticed that Aetna, Ford, and other conglomerates were no longer American companies. After 9/11, Cheney's own Halliburton moved its world headquarters from the Bushes' Houston to Abu Dahbi, and Post-America, a book by Fareed Zakaria (Yale, 1986, now a Yale Corporation member), announced that the global capitalist horse had broken loose from its old harness. This time, it's not Henry Luce's Yale that's paying for missions abroad; it's the government of Singapore, for a mission that Yale's own faculty has had little a role in shaping.

The old colleges weren't always noble and independent. They produced herds of dray horses of the financial and legal establishments; the legions of mountebanks, blowhards, and bounders at the Council on Foreign Relations; and the CIA, which was invented at Yale soon after Luce proclaimed the American Century. But they also produced or provoked a Dwight Macdonald, William Sloane Coffin, Jr., William F. Buckley, Jr., John Lindsay, Garry Trudeau, John Kerry, Howard Dean, and thousands of other remonstrants and guardians of the republic, most unsung, whose works, including their inspiration of others, have been among its greatest strengths.

Today's neoliberal riders of national-security and global currents justify themselves morally by waving the pennants of "diversity," but its advances couldn't have been won without tough, old civic-republican virtues that sustained the early Civil Rights movement and, yes, the old colleges themselves: At its 1964 Commencement Yale presented an honorary doctorate to Martin Luther King, Jr., who, fresh out of jail, wasn't yet popular with most white Americans (including conservative Yale alumni of that time.). The college helped open the hearts of northern WASPs and Jews whose own Puritan ancestors had made history of the same Exodus myth that King was invoking in the South.

Has that myth expired, except as a cartoon in the mind of a Rick Santorum? Conservatives and neoliberals like Levin, struggling to pilot our liberal arts colleges through the sea-changes sketched here, will have to demonstrate the courage of liberal education's best convictions. Conservatives of Henry Luce's stripe, especially, will have to test the best of their old Puritan faith against what John Winthrop called the "carnall lures" of wealth.
There's a reason to hope that their faculty critics can help them or their institutions to do that. It's precisely -- and ironically -- that the old colleges weren't so noble all the time but that they never stopped trying. At the dawn of the 18th century, Yale was founded to stop Harvard's diversion of the holy Puritan mission toward decadent wealth-making, in a world increasingly connected but flattened by commerce. The world isn't flat, Yale's founders insisted. It has abysses, and students need a faith that's powerful enough to plumb them, face the demons in them, and even defy the powers that be in the name of better ones.

Yale President A. Whitney Griswold, a descendant of Puritan governors of Connecticut, demonstrated that faith when, not long after the Bay of Pigs, one of the many foreign-policy fiascos that Yale grand strategists have brought us, he dismantled the Institute of International Affairs, a "Good Shepherd" predecessor of the dubious Jackson Institute and Grand Strategy programs at today's Yale.
Griswold's successor Kingman Brewster, Jr. a descendant of the minister on the Mayflower, sustained those reforms because, as he told my entering Class of 1969 on September 13, 1965, "To a remarkable extent, this place has detected and rejected the very few who wear the colors of high purpose falsely. This has not been done by administrative edict or official regulation. It has been done by a pervasive ethic of student and faculty loyalty and responsibility and mutual regard which lies deep in our origins and traditions."

It's tempting these days to dismiss an admonition like Brewster's as little more than a snob's boast about an in-crowd. But he really wanted Yale students to plumb the old depths in order to know true leaders from false. He may even have been channeling a spiritual forebear, the Puritan minister Richard Mather, who wrote in 1657 that, "Imposters have but seldom got in and set up among us, and when they have done so, they have made a short blaze and gone out in a snuff."

The old tensions between religious and humanist Truth-seeking, between authoritarian and republican Power-wielding, and between all of them and capitalist or Wealth-making run all the way back into the old colleges' taproots. When those Connecticut Puritans founded their college to counter Harvard's lapses, even they turned for funding and books to a governor of a multi-national corporation, the East India Company, Elihu Yale, and named their college after him.

It's enough to give the righteous critics of Levin's venture in Singapore some pause. Or maybe it gives even more precedent for criticizing it! Conservatives, meanwhile, so hot to rescue liberal education from liberals, might take pause, too, as they remember the old Puritan willingness to defy worldly power as well as to court it. And neoliberals who still think the world flat had better start looking into its abysses with something more accelerators and multiple-regression analyses.
For all of us, Truth emerges not from esoteric doctrines, radical-left pronouncements of Rousseau's General Will, nationalist grand strategies, or even the latest scientific paradigms, let alone from commercial and technological breakthroughs that raise the ante but don't end the game. Truth develops only provisionally from the trust-building process of deliberative democracy, and the point of this essay is that that requires a deep civic faith that's kindled or reinforced in college -- or, fatefully, that isn't.

"Anyone who is himself willing to listen deserves to be listened to," Brewster wrote. "If he is unwilling to open his mind to persuasion, he forfeits his claim on the audience of others." Universities can't demonstrate this in places like Singapore unless they're proving it daily in their own companies of scholars. If they try to harness liberal education to strategies driven by the lust for money, power, and public relations, they'll lose not only liberal education but the republic.
But let me give the last word to former student of mine, who, as a senior at Yale in 2004, wrote that "a set of practices, habits, customs and beliefs must be considered basic to a functioning democracy... Unlike the Constitution, though, such subtle understandings and habits cannot be codified. The ethos of a republic is at once its most inscrutable and important attribute." We have to hope that liberal arts colleges' faculty and students will vindicate this "living constitution" in the nick of time.
This post has been updated since its original publication.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

No Funds Left Behind

Another excellent piece by Abby Rapoport on how philanthropy is driving policy. -Angela

Last spring, as the Texas Legislature debated massive cuts to public schools—one of many desperate measures to close a $27 billion biennial budget deficit—10,000 protesters massed in Austin for a “Save Our Schools” rally. In the end, the damage to the state’s already-underfunded schools added up to $5.4 billion, forcing districts to lay off tens of thousands of teachers and staffers. In the city of Austin, public schools with rapidly growing enrollment found themselves facing a 5.5 percent cut in the 2011–2012 school year and 8.5 percent the next year. The quandary was far from extraordinary—37 states spent less on education in 2011 compared to 2010. Neither was one of the Austin schools’ solutions: seeking grant money from the world’s largest philanthropic organization, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

One of Gates’s latest education projects is called the District-Charter Collaboration Compact. When school districts sign a pledge to collaborate and share resources with local charter schools, Gates awards the districts—14 so far—$100,000. These districts also get a shot at another $40 million worth of grants. Last fall, the Austin school board signed such a pledge with local charters. The agreement, Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said, would make Austin eligible for grants “from people and places that otherwise would not have given us the time of day.” A month later, the city again became a venue for protests—smaller, but equally vociferous—arguing against a new partnership. Austin already had 25 charter schools, but all operated independently of the district. Now the board wanted to take collaboration to the next level, letting a private charter-school operator take over an elementary school and a high school as “in--district charters.” While some argued that the charter schools could serve students whose needs weren’t being met in traditional schools, many parents and teachers (as well as three board members) worried that the charters would take good students out of traditional schools and questioned the track record of the charters. When the board debated the in-district charters in December, protesters chanted outside; inside the packed hearing room, arguments for the charter arrangement were hissed and booed. The board still voted yes (After this story was published in print, the Gates Foundation awarded Austin ISD $100,000 for its charter compact, which also makes the district eligible to compete for millions more in grant dollars).

It’s a story being repeated across the country. With most states cutting school funding, Gates and other private foundations are wielding outsize influence over public education, using their much-sought-after millions to fund and shape a top-down reform agenda. Like the other major (but smaller) players, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation, Gates uses its funds to encourage public schools to adopt a more corporate approach. The three foundations, which in 2009 gave around $560 million in education-related grants, support creating charters to foster competition between local schools, rewarding or punishing teachers for their students’ performance on standardized tests, and replacing local curricula with national standards.

“The danger is that philanthropic investments will drive education policy to a greater degree than might be healthy or democratic,” says Aaron Dorfman of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, which recently commissioned a study on how philanthropies can be more effective in improving public schools.

Gates and Walton have invested heavily in charter schools—and in advocacy groups that push state lawmakers to remove limits on the number of charters. “Before you can fund the charter school, you have to fund an advocacy organization that can create a climate for the charter school to exist,” says Debbie Robinson, a spokesperson for the Gates Foundation’s education efforts. The organizations also advocate for school choice—letting parents decide where their children go to school rather than letting zip codes dictate, as supporters of neighborhood schools prefer. They have pushed to make schools run more like businesses; Broad funds two programs that turn business executives into school administrators. And all three foundations encourage performance-based pay for teachers, arguing that this rewards the best.
The foundations’ push to base teacher pay on students’ test results has put them at odds with teachers’ groups. “No other industry or profession is treated in this kind of disrespectful, simplistic way,” says Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “Nobody would do this to doctors and say ‘if all your patients don’t get well, we’re going to fire you.’” Weingarten has worked with Gates on creating different types of evaluation systems and says its emphasis on testing has softened slightly. But, she notes, more qualitative evaluation systems cost more money than a simple test—another problem in an era of austerity.

It’s easy to see why the money is tempting; since 2009, state budgets, the primary source of education funding, have been ravaged. Compared with the pre-recession funding levels of 2008, 30 states now provide less money to public education, according to an October report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). California spends $1,400 less per student; South Carolina has cut school funding by a whopping 24 percent. As the CBPP report notes, the loss of dollars has led many school districts to abandon locally based attempts at reform. But many are still willing to adopt the policies and approaches promoted by foundations like Gates, Broad, and Walton. 

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Standardized tests with high stakes are bad for learning, studies show

"We spent nearly a decade reviewing the evidence as it accumulated...Our conclusion in our report to Congress and the public was sobering: There are little to no positive effects of these systems overall on student learning and educational progress, and there is widespread teaching to the test and gaming of the systems that reflects a wasteful use of resources and leads to inaccurate or inflated measures of performance."

This exemplifies the politics of whose knowledge counts. It wasn't enough for researchers to publish peer-reviewed articles on the harms of testing for the past decade, we needed to be pump money into an analysis of this literature to confirm that it is happening.

What we can expect from STAAR should NOT be termed "unintended" effects. We have known for years what these systems do to children and youth.

STAAR and its projected harms are not just about the 15% rule. This component just happens to be one that now impacts non-traditional communities, many of whom did not bat an eye when these systems were disproportionately impacting poor, minority, and ELL students.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Standardized achievement tests have long been a routine part of our efforts to measure the educational progress of students. In the distant past, testing days came and went with little notice or fanfare for students, parents and teachers alike. And in those days and times, the tests probably provided fairly accurate assessments of students' progress in learning from one year to the next.

But those days of relatively relaxed test-taking for students and limited stakes for school districts and teachers are long gone. Test-based accountability systems that attach weighty consequences to student test results for school district staff, teachers, students and public officials are becoming increasingly institutionalized in the education system. There are probably few other places where the stakes attached to these tests are as high as they are in Texas.

There is a clear rationale for tying incentives for educational improvement to student achievement tests. We know from a variety of economic, psychological and management studies that people are highly responsive to incentives, even those that do not necessarily have individual rewards or sanctions linked to them or that may merely accord some form of public recognition (or shame) based on the results. Unfortunately, what the research has also definitively shown is that people will respond to these incentives in both intended and unintended ways, and the less control they feel they have over the measured outcomes and the more stringent the targets or performance tests, the more likely they are to respond perversely.

We have observed these patterns of unconstructive responses to performance incentives across a number of domains — health, workforce training, public assistance programs and more — but the evidence of serious problems has piled up faster in public education than in any other policy arena.

I was part of a National Academies of Science committee that was asked to carefully review the nature and implications of America's test-based accountability systems, including school improvement programs under the No Child Left Behind Act, high school exit exams, test-based teacher incentive-pay systems, pay-for-scores initiatives and other uses of test scores to evaluate student and school performance and determine policy based on them. We spent nearly a decade reviewing the evidence as it accumulated, focusing on the most rigorous and credible studies of incentives in educational testing and sifting through the results to uncover the key lessons for education policymakers and the public.

Our conclusion in our report to Congress and the public was sobering: There are little to no positive effects of these systems overall on student learning and educational progress, and there is widespread teaching to the test and gaming of the systems that reflects a wasteful use of resources and leads to inaccurate or inflated measures of performance.

Before high stakes are attached to a particular performance measure, such as math scores, it may very well correlate well with positive student outcomes that we are trying to encourage and build up. Indeed, the National Assessment of Educational Progress test is often used as a gauge for actual student performance specifically because it is a low-stakes test. But once a measure of performance is activated in a system that attaches significant consequences to its attainment, individuals are motivated to pursue all possible ways to raise measured performance, including those that do not contribute to the genuine goals of the system — goals such as increasing student knowledge and learning capabilities.

Studies published in the best economics and education journals have shown unequivocal evidence of excessive teaching to the test and drilling that produces inflated measures of students' growth in learning; cheating on tests that includes erasing incorrect answers or filling in missing responses; shifting of students out of classrooms or other efforts to exclude anticipated poor performers from testing, or alternatively, concentrating classroom teaching efforts on those students most likely to increase their test scores above a particular target, and other even more subtle strategies for increasing testing averages.

This type of behavior, which narrows the focus of classroom education and frequently diverts time and resources from more innovative and interactive approaches to teaching, has been characterized in academic literature and policy circles alike as "hitting the target and missing the point."

What we have come to understand to date about test-based accountability does not bode well for the new policy introduced by the Texas Legislature that will make the new STAAR student achievement tests count toward 15 percent of a student's course grade. After a wave of objections, state Education Commissioner Robert Scott announced last month that school districts may wait until a year from now to begin applying the 15 percent rule. If and when it kicks in, these are very high stakes to attach to a test, and this will undoubtedly have implications for how teachers and students spend their time in the classroom.

I am a parent of a freshman in an Austin public high school who is already fretting about what she understands to be very serious and formidable consequences of this new policy for her future. She found the questions on a practice exam to be largely unrelated to what she was learning in the classroom, and this was reflected in the scores she attained. How can she continue to spend five to six hours a night working on her regular schoolwork and preparing for exams created by her teachers and also find time to prepare for taking a separate set of tests that will count toward 15 percent of her course grade?

The empirical research again speaks to the unintended effects this policy is likely to generate: fear, reduced student motivation, increased withdrawals and lower graduation rates are examples of well-documented negative effects that this type of high-stakes testing induces.

In an assembly of parents, teachers, school staff and district officials, a presentation was made showing how the district will be working to improve the students' test-taking skills. The example suggested that if students do not know the meaning of a particular word in a test item, they would be taught to replace it with an "X" and focus instead on grasping the logic of the question phrasing that will give them a better chance of selecting the correct answer. In other words, if you do not understand the content, you can still improve your "guessing" skills through these efforts to help you become a better test-taker. Is this the way we want our children to spend their time in the classroom?

Maybe we should shift to the model widely used in some Asian countries where, in addition to classroom time spent on test-taking, the students spend 10-hour days on the weekends and their holiday breaks in test preparation classes that drill them in precisely this way. As a university professor, I have seen the results of this extreme focus on test-taking: These students score at the highest levels on tests that are reported in their admissions applications, but they score considerably lower on writing assessments, and most importantly, their performance in the classroom does not measure up to the test scores.

Incentivizing this type of intensive focus on improving test-taking capabilities is not going to help produce the better educated, more highly skilled and innovative workforce that business leaders and other employers assert is essential to competing effectively in the global economy.

Texas should be applauded for its tireless efforts to develop new policies that will increase educational effectiveness and to set high achievement goals for its students. But the latest rendition to incentivize better student performance in the form of a policy that ties 15 percent of a student's course grade to these tests is a step backward, not forward. It ignores a now broad base of evidence that these policies produce minimal or no positive effects on student learning and are likely to induce costly, negative responses in and beyond the classroom. I hope that the deferral of its requirement will give the state the time needed to revisit and retract this step in the wrong direction.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Wall by Rodolfo F. Acuña

The Wall


Rodolfo F. Acuña

I received an interesting email in response to an electronic conversation titled “The Trip.” One of the highest ranking Latino veterans responded to me. It was a courteous rejoinder although it was meant to be a subtle put down. The vet contended that he had never had trouble in this country because among other things his parents tutored him and made sure his grades were high. He never called himself a Mexican American but an American of Mexican descent.

The writer had spent much of his life as a high ranking officer in the army air force and was proud of his service.

As is my custom, I thought about what he was saying and tried to understand why our views were so different. I have always been interested in epistemology that studies knowledge (although a stint at Loyola University nearly suffocated this fascination).

I decided that the difference between me and the writer rested on how we acquired our knowledge. From googling him, I realized that he relied heavily on absolutes. My approach to knowledge because of my academic training has always been more active and more adaptive.

Just from the thumbnail narrative I could see similarities and differences in how we looked at life. Although I was not poor, my father was a master tailor; I never had the luxury of either parent helping me with my homework. My mother did not complete the first grade and my father had a fourth grade education – killed the English language.

Moreover, location had formed our views of this country. My maternal family with whom I was raised were border people whereas his family came from way under, from a state with secessionist pretensions.

What we did in the armed forces also conditioned our views. I doubt whether he ever ate with the plebes, or met what we at the time called hillbillies. The two years that I spent in the service were marred by race riots – if you were on leave you went to the black, white or Puerto Rican joints. Fights between the races were common.

These experiences informed the way I looked at life.  When I was an undergrad the education professors were always talking about people building walls around themselves. The finger was pointed at Mexican-Americans who hyphenated their identity.

My friend, the American of Mexican descent, bought into this notion. He told me “[t]he Chinese, French, Germans and other races that have become American Citizens do not deem to need special Studies,” which is just not the case. But again I have studied the history of immigration.  My stint in the army and teaching at a barrio school showed me firsthand the warts in American education.

I came to realize that Mexicans and blacks were not building the walls but society was. There was something in American culture that built walls around those who are different. 

Symbolic of our walled society is the Berlin Wall (Berliner Mauer) that was constructed beginning in 1961. It was guarded by towers and armed men. Those who built the wall claimed that the wall was built to keep the people from fascist elements in West Germany. That it was built to stop the massive emigration and defection that caused a massive brain drain on East Germany.

Our side condemned the Berlin Wall and referred to it as the "Wall of Shame.” It came over time to symbolize the "Iron Curtain" that separated the Western and Eastern Blocs.

The Berlin Wall

Ironically those pointing fingers at Iron Curtain view the walls constructed to keep Mexicans out through another prism. Instead of a wall they call it a border fence.  They rationalize that it is to check the flow of the “illegal Movement” into the United States.

The walls have been built in stages, mostly during three large "Operations:" Operation Gatekeeper in California, Operation Hold-the-Line in Texas and Operation Safeguard in Arizona. The latter is the most insidious with the migration of people and drugs purposely funneled through this corridor. The strategy is that if the wall does not get them: the desert, the heat or a lynch mob of vigilantes will.
More than a billion dollars has been spent in building and maintaining the wall. While the reasons are a violation of American sovereignty and the War on Drugs, the result is keeping poor people for whom hunger has no boundaries out.

It has insidiously been called the Great Wall of Mexico. It is reinforced by the most modern detection devices.

Most Americans are complicit. A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll indicates that the American people favor the building of the wall by a 51-to-37 percent margin.

The causes of the migration are obvious. In 2005, the per-capita income differential between the US and Mexican workers was $30,000 to $4,000 annually. No doubt, conditions in Mexico have worsened as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the U.S. War of Drugs. 

At the end of the day, a select group of people are profiting from the construction and maintenance of the Wall as well as the incarceration of thousands of people. It has also provided scores of politicos with hot button hate issues.

Physically the Berlin and Arizona Walls resemble each other.

The U.S. Wall

Cal State Northridge Students at the Wall

The reactions of Americans to the Walls, however, are markedly different. In the summer of 1963, President Kennedy visited Berlin and told the world "Let Them Come to Berlin” if they wanted to understand:

"There are many people in the world who really don't understand, or say they don't, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin. There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin. And there are some who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin. And there are even a few who say that it is true that communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress. Lass'sie nach Berlin kommen. Let them come to Berlin."

The Berlin Wall became was a symbol of the free movement of people.

On May 18, 1987 President Ronald Reagan shouted at General Secretary Gorbachev, ”if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”           

Historical accounts of the Berlin Wall estimate that over 200 people died attempting to cross the concrete and barbed wire barrier into West Germany. However, after investigation the figure, scholars have revised this figure down. Seventy-one  “people were killed or died attempting to escape at the Berlin Wall between August 13, 1961 and November 9, 1989.”

Meanwhile, the Arizona Wall has become a symbol of American sovereignty on this side. It has been made a campaign issue with Senator John McCaine who once dismissed the effectiveness of building a wall, trying to emulate Reagan, saying in 2010 "Complete the danged fence."

On the Mexican side, Mexican President Felipe Calderon compared the proposed US border fence to the Berlin Wall. In 2010–2011, 183 Mexicans died on the Arizona border corridor, 2009–2010, 253 died and in 2004–2005, 282 perished.

Neo-liberals promote the free flow of goods and capital but not the free flow of people. My friend the general may not agree with me, but walls are walls.

What Makes a Student College Ready?

This is an important read in light of the current national conversation on college readiness.


What Makes a Student College Ready?
David T. Conley
A study of 38 exemplary high schools provides guidelines for ensuring that students are prepared for postsecondary success.

Preparing students for college has become a higher priority in many schools as parents, business leaders, and politicians emphasize the importance of a highly educated workforce and citizenry. But what steps do schools need to take to ensure that more students are ready?

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Secretary of Education to discuss college affordability here

PLEASE NOTE: The summit is open to the public but requires advance registration. To register, visit


By Jennifer R. Lloyd | San Antonio Express-News
Wednesday, March 7, 2012

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will visit San Antonio tonight and Friday to discuss college affordability and the role Hispanic students could play in boosting college completion rates, officials said.

After speaking in Austin today, Duncan will travel to San Antonio for a “college affordability and Hispanic community town hall” tonight with Mayor Julián Castro. The meeting will be at 6:10 p.m. at Café College, 131 El Paso St., a U.S. Department of Education news release states.

Duncan will discuss “the importance of college and the key role that Latinos play to help the nation meet the president's goal to lead the world in college completion by 2020,” according to the release.

The invitation-only event is mostly for students and parents and is already full, but NOWCastSA will webcast the event live, and Café College will open a classroom for 120 people to view the webcast at the site, said Eyra Perez, executive director of the San Antonio Education Partnership.

At 9 a.m. Friday, Duncan will speak at the White House Hispanic Community Action Summit at Fox Tech High School, 637 N. Main Ave.

At the day-long summit, a long list of administration officials and about 300 community members will discuss education, job creation, health care and immigration, according to an itinerary released by the White House.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

The Demographic Dividend: Why the success of Latino faculty and students is critical

The Demographic Dividend: Why the success of Latino faculty and students is critical

In 2010, Maria Hernandez Ferrier was inaugurated as the first president of the new Texas A&M University campus in San Antonio. To celebrate the inauguration of a Latina college president, one of the few in the nation, a group of Latinas, including many local professors, took part in the formal procession. This group of women received special recognition, both during the ceremony and in the media. The city’s main newspaper, the San Antonio Express News, noted, “About 60 local Latina women who hold doctorates attended the ceremony in full academic regalia to support Ferrier and to show their numbers in the academic community.”

Latina faculty are rarely visible in this way. Only 4 percent of tenured or tenure-track female faculty members in the United States are Latina (78 percent are white, 7 percent are African American, and 7 percent are Asian American), and only 3 percent of female full professors are Latina. The gathering of Latina faculty at Ferrier’s inauguration illustrated the potential for a critical mass of Latinas to come together in one place to support one another in the academy. Dressed in full academic regalia, they represented the possibility of access to privileged positions in the professoriate. Indeed, some wide-eyed passersby who saw them lining up in the procession asked, “So, are you all really professors?” They were proof that Latinas, and Latinos more generally, can and do make it to the academy, despite their generally limited access to higher education opportunities, particularly baccalaureate and postbaccalaureate degrees.

Demographic Transformation

Although Latino enrollment in higher education has increased as the US Latino population has grown (Latinos now outnumber African Americans), more often than not Latinos begin their college education in community colleges or less selective four-year institutions—institutional types with lower persistence and completion rates in general. Moreover, the broader political, economic, and social climate in the United States has become increasingly hostile for Latinos as new policies opposed to immigrant rights, affirmative action, and ethnic studies programs have emerged. After the Arizona legislature passed a law (currently being challenged by the federal government) to broaden the capacity of state personnel to detain and request identification from any person perceived to be an illegal immigrant, several more states, including Alabama, launched initiatives to increase surveillance of immigrants and deny them public services, including K–12 and higher education. Affirmative action policies have been banned in some key states where Latinos are concentrated, leading to drops in application and enrollment rates at flagship and selective public universities.
Even when they are accepted to a university, Latinos are often denied opportunities to connect with their cultural backgrounds and to communicate in Spanish. Ethnic studies programs and courses, including Chicano studies, sometimes struggle for support and legitimacy. Arizona’s legislature has gone so far as to ban the teaching of ethnic studies in K–12 schools. This challenge to ethnic studies has been particularly targeted at Chicano studies, despite evidence that Latino students who participate in these programs actually have higher educational achievement than those who do not and high school graduation rates on par with those of their white counterparts.

Although educational research suggests that dual-language K–12 programs are effective in helping English learner (EL) students—defined as students who do not speak English well enough yet to be considered proficient—to learn languages and to improve in broader content areas such as math, these programs have been effectively prohibited in Arizona, California, and Massachusetts. Even when Latino EL students enter college, they often must enroll in remedial courses and struggle to achieve full literacy and academic success.

It is not surprising, then, that according to a recent Pew Hispanic Center survey, two-thirds of Latinos report that discrimination against Latinos in schools is a major social problem. Latinos mention schools more often than workplaces or other public places as sites of discrimination. A Pew Research Center survey suggests that Americans from all racial and ethnic groups currently believe that Latinos are the group that experiences the most social discrimination. Unfortunately, much research has shown that, as it has for African Americans, such discrimination can negatively affect Latinos’ academic achievement, engagement, and sense of belonging in K–12 and higher education.

Demographic Dividend

Although the number of Latino students in US higher education has increased in recent decades, and Latinos have now surpassed African Americans as the largest minority group in US higher education (currently constituting 22 percent of total enrollment), Latinos as a group still have the lowest educational attainment of any racial or ethnic group. According to Pew Hispanic Center data, only about 13 percent of Latinos age twenty-five and over hold college degrees (compared with 18 percent of African Americans, 31 percent of whites, and 50 percent of Asian Americans). Latinos consequently tend to work in low-skill occupations. Pew data show that only about half as many Latinos (19 percent) as whites (39 percent) are employed in management, science, engineering, law, education, entertainment, the arts, and health care.

This is sobering news, considering that by 2050, Latinos will represent the main source of population growth and are projected to make up 30 percent of the US population. Moreover, Latinos are overrepresented in the youth population: about 17 percent of Latinos, compared with 10 percent of non-Latino whites, are under the age of eighteen. In California and Texas, Latinos represent half of all public K–12 students.

Sociologist Marta Tienda contends that the increasing Latino youth population could offer this country a “demographic dividend,” contributing to future economic productivity as the overall US population ages. President Obama, sensitive to this issue, highlighted the importance of supporting Latinos when he authorized funding for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics in 2010: “This is not just a Latino problem, this is an American problem.”
Education scholars Patricia Gandara and Frances Contreras, in the title of their 2009 book, coined the term “Latino education crisis.” During the past two decades, they and other pioneering higher education researchers—including Estela Bensimon, Sylvia Hurtado, Amaury Nora, Michael Olivas, Laura Rendon, and Daniel Solorzano—have documented the many barriers to postsecondary educational attainment for Latinos: limited academic preparation, difficulty navigating the college environment, financial concerns, exclusionary college climates. Latino college students tend to come from high schools with few resources to prepare students for college. Many are the first in their families to attend college, so they are sometimes unfamiliar with strategies for managing college responsibilities. Latino students also often are reluctant to take on loans, in part because of the financial and familial responsibilities they already have during college. They are more likely than other students to be employed and to work full time to finance their college education, so they may have less time to devote to their studies.

The broader political climate can also make it difficult for Latino students to find a sense of belonging in their college communities. Vulnerability to stereotypes about Latinos, such as those that are increasingly depicted in the media, can have a negative effect on Latino students’ academic achievement in college as well as their college completion rates.

Improving the Campus Climate

Although Latinos constitute about one in six Americans and more than one-fifth of the undergraduate students enrolled in US higher education, they make up less than 5 percent of the professoriate. Latino college students tend to complete bachelor’s degrees at lower rates than members of other racial and ethnic groups, leading to lower rates of graduate degree enrollment, doctoral degree completion, and faculty employment. Latino faculty will continue to be largely invisible unless universities make concerted efforts to recruit and retain them. At least two decades of research on diversity in higher education indicate that increasing the presence of Latino faculty in higher education is critical to promoting Latino students’ educational attainment. Latino faculty understand the cultural backgrounds of Latino students and can serve as role models for them.
However, increasing the numbers of Latino faculty and students in the academy (as well as members of other historically underrepresented groups) is not enough to ensure their success or build a community. Intentional efforts must also be made to maximize the benefits of diversity. As Daryl Smith notes in her 2009 book Diversity’s Promise for Higher Education: Making It Work, efforts to build a diverse faculty often focus on the recruitment of faculty members from historically underrepresented groups but underemphasize the importance of retaining and promoting them.

The Dual Challenge for Latinas

The research of higher education scholar Caroline Turner and others explores the dual challenges of being women and being Latina in the academy. As Joya Misra, Jennifer Hickes Lundquist, Elissa Holmes, and Stephanie Agiomavritis documented in a recent Academe article on service work, women often face institutionalized sexism and are expected to take on additional professional responsibilities, such as uncompensated university service, that impede their ability to advance from the junior to the senior faculty ranks. Because of their dual status as women and as members of an underrepresented group, Latinas are more likely to encounter racism, stereotyping, lack of mentoring, tokenism, uneven promotion, and inequitable salaries when entering the academy. Research has documented the stereotypes that Latina faculty often encounter: some are told by colleagues that they are particularly articulate, or that they speak English well, implying that this is atypical, while others have described instances where students, other faculty members, or staff members have assumed that they are service workers or anything but professors.

These experiences send the message that Latinas do not belong in the academy. Moreover, although crossgender and cross-race mentoring can be extremely beneficial, the dearth of senior Latina faculty means that junior faculty are less likely than others to find role models who can give them guidance about how to navigate these specific challenges.

Our Strategy for Supporting Latinas

When we began our first faculty positions in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Texas at San Antonio, a Hispanic-serving institution whose enrollment is 45 percent Latino, we found that only seven out of fifty-seven, or just 12 percent, of the female professors in our school of education were tenured Latinas. Similarly, while just under one-quarter of undergraduates in Texas’s public institutions are Latino, only 6 percent of tenured faculty members at these same institutions come from Latino backgrounds. Our school’s figures exceed the 2.8 percent national figure for Latina tenured faculty representation among female professors, but it is nonetheless a remarkably low figure, considering the racial and ethnic makeup of our university and our city, the latter of which has a majority (63 percent) Latino population.

Since beginning our faculty positions, we have been part of a group of junior Latina faculty in the school of education called Research for the Education and Advancement of Latinos (REAL). Members of REAL, which was established in 2005, share research interests in broadening opportunities for Latinos at all stages of education. Members come from different disciplines and study topics ranging from early childhood education to higher education. We meet regularly to discuss our experiences and to share strategies for managing our careers and other responsibilities, including how to assemble promotion and tenure files and how to choose service commitments. We also talk about gender roles and balancing familial caretaking responsibilities.

Sometimes we simply meet over lunch to catch up on one another’s personal and professional lives. Other times, we travel to a formal retreat center, a rented house, or a group member’s house to spend a weekend writing and socializing. At a typical retreat, REAL faculty members will scatter around the space, each taking up a room or a corner with her laptop, working on manuscripts until the late afternoon. Retreat evenings are spent socializing.

In addition to this peer mentoring, we have several senior Latina faculty members who are the organization’s madrinas (godmothers). They have helped clarify the requirements and expectations for promotion and tenure at our institution and have offered advice on how to handle our varied duties as faculty members.

As part of this effort, we now have subgroups that pursue common research agendas. The associated research and writing projects have resulted in the publication of peer-reviewed articles on a wide range of topics. For example, one pair in the group has edited a special issue of a journal that addresses P–20 (prekindergarten through graduate school) partnerships, bridging scholarship of two distinct sectors of education that typically are not coordinated. Another pair has advanced scholarship on how K–12 school leaders can target the needs of EL students through initiatives such as dual-language programs. These experiences have allowed us to work across disciplines and connect diverse bodies of scholarship.

We have also collected and analyzed data about our experiences in the group for journal articles and national conferences. Our articles address Latina faculty members’ experiences of belonging and marginalization in the academy, the development of a Chicana perspective on peer mentoring, pedagogical strategies in Hispanic-serving institutions, and other topics.

Our initiative offers a sense of community for Latina scholars. Moreover, several of us have received tenure while being part of this group; the majority of our group now consists of tenured faculty members who have navigated the tenure process together. All but one of our members have stayed at the institution, and the one who left eventually returned, saying she valued the supportive climate of our university and of REAL.

We have been asked many times about how we have built this supportive academic space. We would offer the following advice to faculty members interested in forming organizations like ours:
  • Find a group of like-minded individuals and meet in ways that do not require extensive time commitments (such as brown-bag lunches).
  • Identify lead organizers (having two or three individuals in this role may help distribute the efforts involved).
  • Determine common research goals.
  • Find an institutional home (for REAL, this was the university’s Women’s Studies Institute).
  • Investigate the possibility of internal grant funding (we secured a university grant to conduct our first retreat).
  • Find other creative ways to share or obtain resources to support the organization’s efforts (for example, we have sometimes shared our own homes as retreat spaces or have been given access to retreat spaces by senior faculty madrinas).
  • Get the “buy-in” of senior faculty and administrators.

A Collective Responsibility

In her 2011 keynote speech at the annual meeting of the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education, Rachel Moran, dean of the School of Law at the University of California, Los Angeles, described overhearing an elementary school teacher say about her as a young Mexican American child, “Such a bright girl. Too bad there’s no future for her.”

Moran’s success indicates that the future for Latinos in the academy is bright if and when they are afforded the appropriate opportunities. Echoing many other leading scholars and advocates for the educational advancement of Latinos, Moran emphasized the need for political will to advance Latino success in higher education in the face of significant economic, social, and political barriers.
In mobilizing this political will, Latino faculty cannot undertake the tasks of building more inclusive campus climates or promoting Latino postsecondary attainment alone. While we encourage Latino faculty and others from historically underrepresented groups to form support systems such as the one we have described, we recognize that Latinos at most other institutions do not have the significant presence they have at our university. 

Efforts at recruiting Latino faculty and students must be coordinated with initiatives to involve college leadership. Because Latino faculty and administrators tend to be underrepresented in leadership roles, high-level administrators from all backgrounds must share the responsibility for creating institutional support systems for Latino faculty and students. As the work of Sylvia Hurtado, Daryl Smith, Caroline Turner, and others demonstrates, maximizing the benefits of a diverse faculty and student body must be a clearly articulated goal aligned with concrete strategies across different units. Institutional leaders can provide a variety of resources to support an active community of scholars of color. Developing and sustaining systems of senior faculty and peer mentoring can help make the promotion and tenure process, as well as the dynamics of institutional culture, more transparent for incoming junior faculty. In addition, as Sylvia Hurtado and Jessica Sharkness noted in their article in the September–October 2008 issue of Academe, implementing a reward system that recognizes faculty members’ service to the broader community can provide affirmation and incentives for this kind of work.

Several Hispanic-serving institutions, including our own, have been successful at graduating large numbers of Latino students, as well as large numbers of Latinos in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Scholars from the University of Southern California’s Center for Urban Education and other institutions currently are conducting research to identify what productive Hispanic-serving institutions are doing to promote Latino education in the sciences. Faculty members and administrators in other institutions can learn from what these institutions are doing to promote degree completion, particularly in the STEM fields.

A senior Latino professor who has been with our institution for more than thirty years recently said to us, “I wish I was going to be around to see what happens as Latinos continue to grow in the population. I won’t be around to see it, but you will. You are lucky that you will be able to.”
While concerns about Latino educational access may not be of interest to everyone in this anti-immigrant climate, the positive economic implications of promoting Latino educational advancement are clear. The Latino educational crisis can be transformed into an opportunity to make an investment in the educational fate of Latinos, which is inextricably tied with the future of this country. The academy can play an important role in this effort.

Anne-Marie Nuñez is assistant professor of higher education at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Her research explores the individual and institutional factors that affect college access and completion, particularly for students from Latino, first-generation, and migrant backgrounds. Her e-mail address is

Elizabeth Murakami-Ramalho is associate professor of educational leadership at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Her research agenda includes successful leadership for Latino populations and urban and international issues in educational leadership. 

Her e-mail address is
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