Saturday, February 28, 2015

Grit and Non-Cognitive Skills – Framing the Narrative

More on the subject of so-called grit that is appropriately critical of this diversionary discourse. -Angela

by María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, Ph.D., and Hector Bojorquez

growing chorus of academics, administrators and policymakers are
steering educational research, money and the public’s imagination to
conversations around resiliency and non-cognitive skills. Words like
grit are now consistently being used to describe a student’s ability to
persevere, to face challenges and to overcome failure.

One reason for looking into these non-cognitive skills may be rooted
in a search for why – after years of high-stakes testing, standards
reform and progressive pedagogy – flat academic results persist. It is,
of course, necessary to reassess decades-long efforts. Maybe, the voices
behind non-cognitive research say, we now need to look at
social-emotional factors that contribute to success. Maybe, just as we
teach addition, subtraction, decoding and writing, we need to identify
non-academic skills that are necessary for success.

These may be fruitful paths. Too often though, questions are being
framed in ways that yield little but negative attitudes, defeatism and
deficit practices in the education of young people.

The research dealing with non-cognitive skills concentrates on the
importance of resiliency, an umbrella term for a person’s ability to
persevere and overcome obstacles. Grittiness, goal-setting,
self-discipline and motivation are non-cognitive skills that
increasingly are the focus of current research, with resiliency as the
unifying factor.

Tools, surveys and questionnaires, such as Duckworth’s Grit Scale,
are being used as a way of predicting a student’s ability to persevere.
The logic is as follows: Intelligence and talents may be important
markers of success, but one’s ability to shake off failure and try again
– on a test, a challenge, a class – may be more important.

Unfortunately, this logic and the hypotheses that follow from it may
not frame things in a manner that is relevant to educational practices.

Students’ apparent intellectual or socio-emotional characteristics
cannot be the basis for questions as to how schools and educational
systems categorize, teach and assess our youth. From the outset,
indicators of these characteristics have not been practically nor
conceptually shown to be valid.

Also, the questions surrounding either one of these issues
concentrates on what student’s “lack.” Metrics of student strengths or
school effectiveness are rarely considered.

Almost by definition, concentrating on student characteristics yields
a list of “skills” they must possess in order to succeed. Nowhere is
this more evident than with the field of non-cognitive skills. After
all, non-cognitive skills, such as perseverance and resiliency, border
on being defined as psychological traits that are popularly viewed as

You either have grit or you don’t. And what is a school to do with that idea?

Simply stated, the basic framing around these socio-psychological
traits in education concentrate on students lacking certain attributes
rather than the school’s role in shaping experiences that leverage
student strengths instead of blaming perceived weaknesses. Regrettably,
school administrators and researchers around the country are thinking
only about assessing students’ grit and resilience. They are already
assuming that students are lacking, rather than exploring how schools
must change.

There are, however, voices out there that are questioning the wisdom behind these new inquiries. In 2012, the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) published, Teaching
Adolescents to Become Learners – The Role of Noncognitive Factors in
Shaping School Performance: A Critical Literature Review
. The CCSR
review of the literature and research found that studies concentrating
on grit and resiliency, viewed as psychosocial traits, show little
conclusive evidence of being malleable.

For example, studies on grit have been limited because they (1)
concentrate on “high achieving” students as a means of defining this
trait among (2) populations like West Point cadets. Unfortunately, this
has steered the conversation into how students in high-need groups must
lack the traits found in high achieving cadets from West Point.

This not only presents a research problem but also casts high-need
students as fundamentally lacking psychological traits needed to
succeed. The CCSR report explicitly sees this as a problem because it
views high-need students as “broken” and leaves schools with no actual
approaches to strengthen non-cognitive skills.

They conclude that research must address the role of schools in
developing resiliency. IDRA is currently framing empirical and
experiential paths that will assist schools to find their role in
creating school environments that, themselves, are resilient and
encourage resiliency.


Duckworth, A.L., & P.D. Quinn. “Development and Validation of the Short Grit Scale (grit-s),” Journal of Personality Assessment (2009) 91, 166-174.

Farrington, C.A., & M. Roderick, E. Allensworth, J. Nagaoka, T.S. Keyes, D.W. Johnson, N.O. Beechum. Teaching
Adolescents to Become Learners – The Role of Noncognitive Factors in
Shaping School Performance: A Critical Literature Review
 (Chicago: University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research, 2012).

María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, Ph.D., is IDRA’s president &
CEO. Hector Bojorquez is director of IDRA’s Student Access Success
Department. Comments and question maybe directed to them via email at

[©2015, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the January 2015 IDRA Newsletter
by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Every effort has
been made to maintain the content in its original form. However,
accompanying charts and graphs may not be provided here. To receive a
copy of the original article by mail or fax, please fill out our
information request and feedback form.
Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is
reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the


Friday, February 27, 2015

The Poverty Trap: Slack, Not Grit, Creates Achievement

Excellent read.  This piece articulates well just how wrong-headed the discourse on "grit" in education is. -Angela

by P. L. Thomas, Furman University

Poverty is a trap children are born into:

No child has ever chosen to be poor. Children have never caused the poverty that defines their lives, and their education.
Yet, the adults with political, corporate, and educational wealth and power—who demand “no excuses” from schools and teachers serving the new majority of impoverished children in public schools and “grit” from children living in poverty and attending increasingly segregated schools that offer primarily test-prep—embrace a very odd stance themselves: Their “no excuses” and “grit” mottos stand on an excuse that there is nothing they can do about out-of-school factors such as poverty.
Living in poverty is a bear trap (and it is), and education is a race, a 100-meter dash.
“No excuses” advocates calling for grit, then, are facing this fact:
Children in poverty line up at the starting line with a bear trap on one leg; middle-class children start at the 20-, 30-, and 40-meter marks; and the affluent stand at the 70-, 80-, and 90-meter marks.
And while gazing at education as a stratified sprint, “no excuses” reformers shout to the children in poverty: “Run twice as fast! Ignore the bear trap! And if you have real grit, gnaw off your foot, and run twice as fast with one leg!”
These “no excuses” advocates turn to the public and shrug, “There’s nothing we can do about the trap, sorry.”
What is also revealed in this staggered 100-meter race is that all the children living and learning in relative affluence are afforded slack by the accidents of their birth: “Slack” is the term identified by Mullainathan and Shafir as the space created by abundance that allows any person access to more of her/his cognitive and emotional resources.
In the race to the top that public education has become, affluent children starting at the 90-meter line can jog, walk, lie down, and even quit before the finish line. They have the slack necessary to fail, to quit, and to try again—the sort of slack all children deserve.
Children in relative affluence do not have to wrestle with hunger, worry about where they’ll sleep, feel shame for needing medical treatment when they know their family has no insurance and a tight budget, or watch their families live every moment of their lives in the grip of poverty’s trap.
As Mullainathan and Shafir explain: “Scarcity captures the mind.” And thus, children in poverty do not have such slack, and as a result, their cognitive and emotional resources are drained, preoccupied.
The ugly little secret behind calls for “no excuses” and “grit” is that achievement is the result of slack, not grit.
Children living and learning in abundance are not inherently smarter and they do not work harder than children living and learning in poverty. Again, abundance and slack actually allow children to work slower, to make more mistakes, to quit, and to start again (and again).
Quite possibly, an even uglier secret behind the “no excuses” claim that there is nothing the rich and powerful can do about poverty is that this excuses is also a lie.
David Berliner (2013) carefully details, “To those who say that poverty will always exist, it is important to remember that many Northern European countries such as Norway and Finland have virtually wiped out childhood poverty” (p. 208).
More children are being born into the trap of poverty in the U.S., and as a result, public schools are now serving impoverished students as the typical student.
The “no excuses” and “grit” mantras driving the accountability era have been exposed as ineffective, but have yet to be acknowledged as dehumanizing.
Instead of allowing some children to remain in lives they didn’t choose or create and then condemning them also to schools unlike the schools affluent children enjoy, our first obligation as free people must be to remove the trap of poverty from every leg of every child.
David C. Berliner (2013) Inequality, Poverty, and the Socialization of America’s Youth for the Responsibilities of Citizenship, Theory Into Practice, 52:3, 203-209, DOI: 10.1080/00405841.2013.804314

Thursday, February 26, 2015

High-Stakes Accountability in Texas Reconsidered Policy Memorandum by Valenzuela et al. 2015

Dear Students, Friends, and Colleagues:

I write to share this policy memorandum titled, “High-Stakes Accountability in Texas Reconsidered [pdf],” co-authored by Dr. Angela Valenzuela, Wei-Ling Sun, Michael Barnes, and Emily Germain. It is a version of a memorandum presented at the Texas State Capitol on Nov. 18, 2014 in the context of the University of Texas at Austin Texas Center for Education Policy (TCEP) Graduate Seminar. 
The TCEP Graduate Seminar was instituted in the 2014-2015 academic year, to allow professors and graduate students to collaborate on policy briefs and memos related to critical issues facing Texas that get debated and considered in the Texas State Legislature.  I am pleased to say that our brief was in fact taken into consideration months ago as the bill proposal leading to what is now SB 149 was getting developed.  

As my earlier post to the blog this evening on Senate Bill 149 suggests, high-stakes testing and accountability are very much under consideration this legislative session in Texas.  There ARE ways out of this terrible testing conundrum that we have sewn ourselves into.

This memorandum lends some clarity to the policy options before us as a state.  
Additionally, we are working with Education Austin (i.e., the teacher’s union that is AFT and NEA combined) and State Rep. Mary González (D-El Paso), who was recently appointed to the Texas House Public Education Committee.  This involves the development of legislation that calls for a study which could effect a significant shift in assessment in Texas—that is, from a high-stakes to an informational framework in a consortium of schools within select school districts statewide. As a statewide initiative, this legislation would create a "consortia of consortium high schools," if you will, that collectively reflect Texas' demographics statewide.  More specific details shall be forthcoming.

This initiative would first lay the groundwork for a new system of authentic assessments in "study schools" and thereafter lead to the development and implementation of a research-based framework of authentic—including project-based assessment—systems, modeled after the New York Performance Standards Consortium schools.  In a similar vein, we also draw inspiration from a similar effort in certain districts in Kentucky (

 Once it comes out of the Texas Legislative Council (they're a bunch of attorneys that draft bill proposals into bill language) and we have a bill number, we plan to have a press conference at the Texas State Capitol and will post an announcement of that event to this blog.  Fingers crossed that this happens soon.

Special thanks to Texas AFT for their generous sponsorship of our inaugural TCEP Seminar that produced that attached policy memo. Thanks to Ken Zarifis and Montse Garibay of Education Austin for their leadership, as well as Principal Pete Price, head of the AISD

Principal Association.  I am very proud of all of the hard work that we have done on this bill proposal.

Should you have any further questions, ideas, or concerns, feel free to post to this blog.  In the meantime, contact your state representatives and urge them to end high-stakes testing in the state of Texas.  This link tells helps you find who represents you:


Dr. Angela Valenzuela, Director

Texas Center for Education Policy
University of Texas at Austin

"Education is the point at which we  decide whether we love the world enough to  assume responsibility for it."   -Hannah Arendt

Bill would ease testing requirements for Texas high school seniors

By Kiah Collier - American-Statesman Staff
Amid an ongoing backlash against high-stakes testing, Texas high school seniors facing new graduation requirements might get the chance to walk the stage this spring despite failing one or more required state exams.

State Sen. Kel Seliger’s Senate Bill 149 would allow thousands of high school seniors who have failed one or more of five end-of-course tests more than once to receive their diplomas anyway as long as a special panel — made up of their parents, principals, counselors and teachers — unanimously determines they should be able to. The students still would have to pass all their classes and maintain a 2.0 grade point average.
The Amarillo Republican said Thursday the legislation is urgently needed given the sheer number of high school seniors who are at risk of not graduating this May because they have failed one of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, exams that now are required for graduation, warning that if they do not get their diplomas they’ll likely drop out.

“Without a high school diploma, these students cannot attend college, join the military or qualify for many jobs,” Seliger said at the beginning of the Senate Education Committee’s first meeting of the legislative session as the panel heard public testimony on his bill.

With the onset last year of the more difficult end-of-course exams, more than 28,100 current high school seniors — about 10 percent — have failed at least one test, according to the Texas Education Agency. That compares with about 9,000 seniors who didn’t receive diplomas last year because they failed the easier Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test.

The class of 2015 has one final chance to pass exams in May — the same month graduates will walk the stage.

Emphasizing the urgency, Seliger informed the committee Thursday he intends to try to circumvent a ban on considering legislation within the first 60 days of a legislative session so his bill could take effect as soon as possible. That would require a four-fifths majority vote in both chambers of the Legislature.

After the hearing, Seliger expressed strong confidence that his bill would clear that rarely attempted high bar.

And the committee seemed mostly to support the measure Thursday, while educators gave it a ringing endorsement.

However, Seliger also faced tough questions from some Republican committee members, while receiving praise from nearly every Democrat.

Republican Sens. Donna Campbell and Lois Kolkhorst both cast doubt on the measure with Campbell of New Braunfels asking whether the legislation would create a “disincentive” for students to not perform well on the exams and Kolkhorst of Brenham questioning the need for the tests at all if students can simply bypass them.

Seliger’s effort comes two years after state lawmakers unanimously voted to reduce the number of required state tests from 15 to five, responding to similar fears about the impact on graduation rates. By law, students now must pass five end-of-course exams to graduate: English I, English II, Biology, U.S. History and Algebra I. The tests are administered three times a year.

Those who testified in favor of Seliger’s bill Thursday expressed a lack of confidence in the ability of the new STAAR exams — or exams in general — to adequately determine whether a student should be able to graduate.

Elgin school district Superintendent Jodi Duron, who thanked Seliger for his bill, said the new testing system “was poorly executed from its inception.” Most of the 40 seniors at Elgin High School who are at risk of not graduating likely would receive diplomas if the legislation passes, Duran said.
Officials from other Austin-area school districts, including Pflugerville and Hays, told the American-Statesman they also support the legislation.

Wanda Bamberg, superintendent of the Houston-area Aldine school district, estimated that at least 300 of the 390 seniors in her district who still need to pass an exam would graduate if the measure becomes law, although she suggested it should be a temporary program — applicable only to current seniors for whom graduation requirements have changed “mid-stream” to provide an adjustment period. She also gave several examples of students, including one who had been accepted to Prairie View A&M University, who won’t graduate if they don’t pass the May exam.

The influential Austin-based group Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment — often credited for single-handedly getting the 2013 legislation passed that reduced the number of state exams — also testified in favor of the legislation, with President Dineen Majcher saying “the issues encompassed by SB 149 are critical priority issues to” the group.

Business groups, however, including the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and the powerful Texas Association of Business, told the committee the bill’s mechanism isn’t the best way to accomplish its intended goal.

Drew Scheberle, the Austin chamber’s senior vice president for education, suggested that the so-called “graduation committees” the bill would create would inevitably end up approving students for graduation even when they haven’t earned it.

Asked about that criticism, Seliger told the Statesman that “if there’s a bias, there’s a bias toward educators,” emphasizing that the panels would have to reach unanimous consensus for the student to graduate.

The bill was left pending at the end of the hearing rather than being put to a vote, but committee Chairman Larry Taylor said he intends to fast-track it to the Senate floor.

“It’s heart-wrenching, and it’s also insanity when you see the level of achievement these kids are already doing, and yet they can’t even pass this test,” the Friendswood Republican said during the hearing.

Additional material from staff writer Melissa Taboada.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The wealthy are walling themselves off in cities increasingly segregated by class

We here in Austin need to re-double our efforts in our struggle for economic justice.  Not that this isn't already a major issue, but rather that elitist agendas and politics, by inference, are further unmasked, making it harder for the 1% to rationalize these savage inequalities.

All of our institutions need to exercise a stronger role in addressing them.


Florida and Mellander created an index of economic segregation that takes into account how we're divided across metro areas by income, but also by occupation and education, two other pillars of what we often think of as socioeconomic status. Among the largest metros in the country, Austin ranks as the place where wealthy, college-educated professionals and less-educated, blue-collar workers are least likely to share the same neighborhoods:
Notably, that top-10 list has four Texas metros. The Washington metro area comes in just behind these big cities, as the 26th most economically segregated in the country, out of 359 U.S. metros. Orlando, Portland, Ore., and Minneapolis, meanwhile, are the least economically segregated among the metros with at least a million people.
Before calculating their combined index, Florida and Mellander also looked at separate measures of segregation by income, education and occupation, and an interesting pattern arises across all three. Within a given region, such as Washington, we can think about income segregation, for example, in at least two ways: To what degree are the wealthy isolated from everyone else? Or to what degree are the poor concentrated in just a few parts of town? The wealthy can be highly segregated in a metro area (occupying just a few neighborhoods), even while the poor are pretty evenly dispersed (with low segregation).
The interesting pattern: By income, the wealthy (households making more than $200,000 a year) are more segregated than the poor (families living under the federal poverty line). By education, people with college degrees are more segregated than people with less than a high school diploma. By occupation, the group that Florida has coined the "creative class" is more segregated than the working class.
[Mapped: How the ‘creative class’ is dividing U.S. cities]
The problem of economic segregation, in other words, isn't simply about poor people pushed into already-poor neighborhoods — it's even more so about the well-off choosing to live in places where everyone else is well-off, too. In fact, of all the different forms of segregation that Mellander and Florida examined, the segregation of the wealthy was the most severe. As they write:
While there have always been affluent neighborhoods, gated enclaves, and fabled bastions of wealth like Newport, East Hampton, Palm Beach, Beverly Hills, and Grosse Pointe, the people who cut the lawns, cooked and served the meals, and fixed the plumbing in their big houses used to live nearby—close enough to vote for the same councilors, judges, aldermen, and members of the board of education. That is less and less the case today.
And in their data, these patterns were particularly strong in the largest metros. The larger and more densely populated a metro area, they found, the greater the economic segregation there:
New York, San Francisco and Boston may attract diverse populations: people working in high tech and low-wage retail, workers with master's degrees and GEDs, parents pulling in six figures and minimum wages. But in these cities, mounting evidence suggests those people aren't living anywhere near each other. Which is to say that they may be experiencing the very same city in very different ways.
What happens when housing for the poor is remodeled as luxury studios
Emily Badger is a reporter for Wonkblog covering urban policy. She was previously a staff writer at The Atlantic Cities.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Growing your own teachers worth the wait

This is such an inspiring story.   It is about an important policy intervention in Illinois called "Grow Your Own Illinois." Hats off to Dean  Maureen Gillette for her leadership  and also to NEIU trustee Marvin Garcia who leads his fellow trustees in supporting this.  This effort involves resources from the Illinois State Legislature that have been cut over time,  unfortunately. I am very moved by not only the passion and determination of this one student, but also the characterization of other students like her that similarly struggle but are determined.
The Latino community is indeed very undereducated.  An unfortunate stereotype exists out there that this community does not value education. This story offers a different perspective that is linked  not to dysfunctional values, but rather to systemic, structural,  and policy-relevant issues  that fail to prioritize students' access to  both financial aid and guidance and counseling that also cost money.   None of us are automatically born knowing how to decode  are complex system. Most of us do not have these "navigational tools" by fate of birth.   This so-called "know-how" is an artifact of one's income, class position,  relative racial/ethnic isolation  in schools and neighborhoods,  school funding equity (or lack there of)—and in the best of worlds, also related to legislative and policy priorities like Grow Your Own Illinois that make a difference in so many young people's lives with multiplicative impacts on the economy and thusly, the future of our nation.
 What is wonderful about GYO teachers is that  not only are they very well prepared in places like NEIU and other universities—like Cal State University Sacramento, for example, that has been doing this for decades and very successfully—they also get prepared to offer instruction with the skills, knowledge, and dispositions that prepare them well to offer instruction to an increasingly diverse student body and world.  Such programs have very strong connections and attachments to their communities and local environments that allow them to  pretty much guarantee  a teaching position  to every person that graduates from the program.   Their quality is undisputed,  and neither is there "value added" given that these teachers have a different kind of investment from regular teachers that do not come from these communities from which GYO teachers emanate, and toward which they are prepared.    Additionally,  the investment  pays off with respect to the proverbial "retention issue" that all but disappears with GYO teachers.
Research shows that teachers like Idalia Vazquez  featured in the story below last longer in the teaching profession than their counterparts that view teaching more as a pass-through then as a destination. The "pass-through teachers" (my term) are actually doing enormous harm to education because teaching is not quite their calling. Or if it seemed to be their "calling" for awhile, they get overwhelmed with the demands of the profession toward which so many are inadequately prepared (thinking here especially of TFA teachers).  
GYO is the way to go and I have only begun to articulate the reasons why.  This story offers additional insight.

February 4, 2015

Teacher Idalia Vasquez
Teacher Idalia Vasquez
Grow Your Own Teachers helps low-income people of color who have the desire to become teachers earn a bachelor’s degree in education—a goal that would otherwise be almost impossible for them to achieve. Yet a recent news report fell short by viewing the program as a conveyor belt, and failing to capture what I and many other graduates felt by becoming the first person in our family to graduate from a university and get a job as a CPS teacher.
It also fails to capture how important it is for children in my classroom to have a teacher who looks like them and who shares their life experience. (“Illinois falls short in $20 million effort to develop 1,000 teachers,” Chicago Tribune.)
I am a Hispanic female, born to Mexican immigrant, working parents. I was born and raised in Chicago, one of five siblings. I attended four different CPS elementary schools and, given the bad timing of my parents’ divorce, graduated with a very low GPA from a low-performing, low-income high school on the Northwest Side. I can count on one hand how many of my fellow high school graduates went on to complete a bachelor’s degree. With a lot of struggle, I earned an associate’s degree from a community college, and at the age of 19, seven months before receiving that degree, I gave birth to my first child.
While growing up, my parents constantly reminded me of the hardships and poverty they endured in their small village in Guerrero, Mexico. My mom is the oldest of eight siblings and completed school through 6th grade. My father had to help my grandfather work the land and attended school only up to 3rd grade. My parents would always tell me and my siblings how important it was for us to take advantage of the opportunities of this great country. Unfortunately, I was missing two of the most important factors that impact college attendance: financial support and, most importantly, informed guidance. I knew I was going to graduate from a university one day but I had no idea how to make that a reality.
Crucial support to overcome hurdles
That’s where Grow Your Own Teachers comes into play. By the age of 31, I had gone back to school at Northeastern Illinois University. I was a part-time student and a stay-at-home mother of two, studying for a degree in elementary education. But it was a constant struggle, especially when it came to math. Pre-algebra, for instance, was one of three math courses that I had to pass before I was eligible to take college math--but it would not earn me any credits toward graduation. I also struggled to pay for books since my loan did not cover them and my husband’s income was barely enough to cover the family expenses.
That same year, I was a parent volunteer at my son’s CPS preschool. An assistant preschool teacher there told me about a program called Grow Your Own Teachers that could help me. The program was for parent volunteers and school paraprofessionals who wanted to get a degree in elementary education at Northeastern Illinois, where I was already enrolled. I applied and got in.
I became a full-time student, attending year-round. During the summer, I took four classes—the maximum number of classes allowed. That was difficult because my husband worked and my children were out of school. On some occasions, my children would wait for me outside of my classroom in the study area. The professor knew I was a mom and did not object to my frequent breaks to check on my children. Other times, Grow Your Own Teachers provided child care and I was able to focus in the classroom.
Another hurdle was passing the Basic Skills Test. Now known as TAP or the Test of Academic Proficiency, it is one of three state tests that teachers have to pass before they can earn a teaching license. Grow Your Own Teachers provided me with a math tutor and test workshops. I finally passed the five-hour test on the second try.
Those were just a few of the many hurdles that Grow Your Own Teachers helped me to overcome.
After three and a half years, I graduated with honors from Northeastern Illinois University. One of the best moments in my life was having my mom watch me walk across the stage to receive my degree.
Understanding heritage, inspiring students
Today, I am proud to say that I am a kindergarten teacher at a low-income CPS school. Every day I go to my classroom ready to inspire my students. Most of them are amazed that my background is similar to theirs. For example, no one in our families has a college degree, our parents do not speak English and they were born in another country. The children get a kick out of the fact that I also secretly ate hot Cheetos for breakfast when I was young because my parents left early for work and they didn’t have time to make breakfast.
During the 12 years that I attended CPS, I encountered very few minority teachers and no teachers with a Mexican background like me. I always wished for one. I felt that a teacher who shared my background would understand my heritage and would inspire me. Now, I can be that teacher who has a positive influence on the children I teach. Our common background provides me with tools and references that facilitate making connections. The other day, I read Gary Soto’s “Too Many Tamales” to my students and they were excited to learn that my family also makes tamales for Christmas.
The hurdles that I had to overcome to earn my degree were few compared to my fellow Grow Your Own members. Some of them are working full-time or part-time and have been in the program and attending classes part-time for more than five years. One woman told me how she had to leave school temporarily to take care of a sick, elderly parent. Some have to cut back on their own studies so they can earn extra money to pay tuition for children who are starting college. I admire their resilience. Most participants stick with the program, working and studying hard and knowing that they will achieve their goal one day. To them I say, “Keep trying, because earning a college degree is worth it.”
So many people around me now see me as a role model—my children, my family, my fellow Grow Your Own members, my students, my students’ parents, my para-professional colleagues. I am only one of the many graduates who can inspire others like me.
It reminds me of a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “Even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American Dream.”
Idalia Vasquez is a 2013 graduate of the Grow Your Own program and a CPS teacher.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Grandkids of Latino immigrants are less educated than their parents. Blame assimilation.

Important read on the problems that many of us scholars know to exist with respect to this grand ol' experiment of assimilation.

As a family settles in the United States over a generation or two, it gets more assimilated. That's just as true for immigrants today as it was for immigrants a century ago (if not more so).
But assimilation has a dark side. These charts from the Urban Institute show that while second-generation Latinos (the children of immigrants) are more educated than their parents, third-generation Latinos (the grandchildren of immigrants) are less educated than their parents:
latino youth education 1
(Urban Institute)
latino youth education 2
(Urban Institute)
It's not just education, either. The Urban Institute's 2014 report on immigrant youth points out that this Latino "U-turn" is a broad problem:
After progress from first to second generation, there are retreats in outcomes, such as voter participation, school attendance, educational attainment, trust in institutions, trust and interchanges with neighbors, and disconnectedness from work and school.[...] Most third-generation youth who identify as Latino are doing poorly in many indicators of well-being compared with nonimmigrants and second-generation Latinos.
Other research shows that the dark side of assimilation persists across ethnicities. According to a 2013 study in the journal Crime and Delinquency as explained on the Pew Research Center's blog, second-generation immigrants (the best-educated generation of Latinos in the Urban study) are much more likely to commit crimes than their parents. While foreign-born Americans have a strikingly low crime rate, their children — second-generation immigrants — just regress toward the mean.
latinos crime
(Pew Research Center)
That chart makes it clear that becoming more "American" isn't always a good thing. It's important to think about the society that immigrants are being assimilated into. As the Urban report notes, in an unequal America, lower-income immigrants (especially lower-income Latino immigrants) are being assimilated into what researchers have called the "urban underclass" — where their children are at a disadvantage.
But there's an interesting possibility which might explain some of the "U-turn" in the Urban report: not all third-generation immigrants still identify as Latino at all. It's possible that more-successful third-generation children are more likely to identify as white, while less-successful ones are more likely to consider themselves Latino. The question of how or whether Latinos will fully assimilate is key as the community continues to grow and establish itself as a force in American politics and society — and if Latino identity becomes something that only the least successful Latinos hold on to, that could pose a real threat to the group's growing electoral and social power.
Card 2 of 21 Launch cards

Who are the immigrants currently in the United States?

As of 2011, roughly 40 million immigrants lived in the United States, according to the American Community Survey. The survey defines immigrant as any US resident who was born in another country.
Of that group, 36 percent were naturalized citizens, 32 percent were legal permanent residents, 4.2 percent were on nonimmigrant visas (including work and student visas), and 27 percent were unauthorized immigrants. That's according to research from the Migration Policy Institute and the Pew Hispanic Trends Project.
A little more than one-quarter of all current US immigrants come from Mexico. Another one-quarter come from South and East Asia. The Caribbean, Central America, and South America each contribute between 5 to 10 percent of the US immigrant population.