This blog on Texas education contains posts on accountability, testing, K-12 education, postsecondary educational attainment, dropouts, bilingual education, immigration, school finance, environmental issues, Ethnic Studies at state and national levels. It also represents my digital footprint, of life and career, as a community-engaged scholar in the College of Education at the University of Texas at Austin.
My husband, Emilio Zamora
and I, are very humbled and deeply honored to be this year's recipients
of the Cesar Chavez award given out annually by P.O.D.E.R., People
Organized in Defense of Earth and her Resources. The Cesar E. Chavez
“Si Se Puede!” Award is presented to individuals that Demonstrate
Leadership that is Changing Lives and Transforming Communities. We invite you to participate in the Cesar Chavez – “Si Se Puede!” March
on Saturday, March 26th, at 10:30 AM. The March begins at Terrazas
Library, 1105 E. Cesar Chavez and ends at Mariposa Centro Cultural, 4926
E. Cesar Chavez Street. Susana Almanza, gracias, for the nomination!
-Angela Valenzuela c/s
UT College of Education Professor Nominated for ‘Si, Se Puede’ Award
Feb. 19, 2016
professor of Educational Policy and Planning and Cultural Studies in
Education programs, has been nominated to receive the Cesar E. Chavez –
“Si, Se Puede” Award from the People Organized in Defense of Earth and her Resources
(PODER). The distinction is given to individuals who demonstrate
community leadership and whose work honors the legacy of Chavez’ civil
rights and labor activism.
PODER, a grassroots organization devoted to addressing environmental
issues, seeks to frame those issues as matters of social and economic
justice. The organization is specifically focused on increasing
participation of communities of color in corporate and government
A reception in honor of the award and its recipients will be held
Saturday, March 26, at the Emma Barrientos Mexican American Culture
Center in Austin.
Over the last several decades the
making of educational policy has been hijacked by unelected and unaccountable
individuals and organizations that advance a corporate reform model based on a
neoliberal philosophy emphasizing markets, privatization, individualism, and
competition. Hursh provides evidence for the corporate takeover in the form of
increasing influence of philanthropists, nongovernmental organizations, hedge
fund managers, and corporations. As exemplars, he focuses on the influence of
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Foundation’s satellite
nongovernmental organizations, Teach for America, and Pearson Education. He
suggests that these organizations have gained control over policy making
through the formation of tight networks in which neoliberal organizations
cooperate in funding and promoting desired reforms. Because these
organizations work through one another often outside of the traditional
political process, their efforts are often hidden from the public. In response,
Hursh calls for a concerted effort to uncover and document the influence of
neoliberal organizations, and the harmful effect their policies have on
education, including the teaching profession and student learning. He
ends on an optimistic note by citing evidence of the growing resistance
in New York among parents, students, teachers, and community members.
This is how things are going in Arizona right now with its immigration-related politics:
“It’s tough to propose new illegal immigration bills in Arizona,” one state senator told the New York Times
this week, “because we’ve pretty much done them all.” Unexhausted by
the effort, the Arizona legislature is putting forward a new bill aimed
at immigrants in the country illegally, with provisions to crack down on
so-called “sanctuary cities” and change the way some immigrants are
sentenced for crimes. Specifically, the fill calls for unauthorized
immigrants to receive the maximum sentence for any crime they are
convicted of, stripping judges of discretion in those cases."
And the people suffer. And the people have a long history of suffering.
— When Doug Ducey ran for governor of this border state, he accused
President Obama of “dithering far too long” on immigration and vowed to
“fight back” against illegal border crossers, pledging to use every
resource at his command: “fencing, satellites, guardsmen, more police
in his second year as the governor of Arizona — a state at the
forefront of immigration and border issues, with a growing Latino
population — Mr. Ducey, a Republican, has done none of that. He has
avoided pressures from his party’s presidential candidates even after
one of them, Donald J. Trump, twice visited the state to promote the “big” and “beautiful” wall he said he would build to keep illegal immigrants away if he was elected.
want this state to be known for what it is, the land of opportunity,”
Mr. Ducey said in an interview. “So our main focus is our economy and
our education system.”
he may soon have to wade into the divisive immigration debate, which is
again coloring Arizona’s legislative session and bringing angry crowds
of protesters to the Capitol’s lawn and hearing rooms.
bill would punish communities that offer sanctuary to unauthorized
immigrants facing deportation; those communities’ share of state
revenues would be withheld. Another measure would require judges to
sentence undocumented immigrants to the fullest possible term in prison
for whatever crime they committed. A Senate committee approved both on
Feb. 3 in party-line votes.
third bill, which would impose citizenship and legal residency
requirements for municipal identification cards, cleared three Senate
committees in three weeks with blanket support from Republican
lawmakers, underscoring their priorities here in an election year.
tough to propose new illegal immigration bills in Arizona, because
we’ve pretty much done them all,” said State Senator John Kavanagh, a
retired Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police officer who
found a second calling as a leading conservative in Arizona.
the state has one of the nation’s toughest stances on illegal
immigration. It has battled in state and federal courts to deny driver’s
licenses and in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants who were
granted deferred deportation by Mr. Obama. It is home to Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, who made a name for himself as an unapologetic pursuer of unauthorized migrants. And it ushered in a harsh new wave of immigration enforcement
when it gave the police broad powers to question anyone suspected of
being in the country illegally — passing the “show me your papers” law
Kavanagh was among the crucial supporters of the measure, which Mr.
Ducey’s predecessor, Jan Brewer, approved. The legislation divided a
state already scarred by years of targeted enforcement against Latinos,
who make up one-third of the population.
municipal identification bill, which Mr. Kavanagh also sponsored, “is
primarily to protect the integrity of government ID cards,” he said,
“but it does have an impact on illegal immigration, because it prevents
illegal immigrants from getting one of those cards.”
Ducey has not said a word about this or the other immigration bills.
But people on both sides of the immigration debate are eagerly awaiting
any action he might take on the measures. They could serve as a litmus
test for his positions on the subject, which, as governor, he has deftly
If the bills hit Mr. Ducey’s desk, “will he sign them?” asked State Senator Martín J. Quezada,
a Democratic leader in the Republican-controlled Legislature, whose
district includes the Maryvale section of Phoenix, where three in four
residents are Latino. “Remember, just because he can, it doesn’t mean
that he should.”
Mr. Ducey is “focused on the priorities he laid out in his State of the State address”
on Jan. 11, said his spokesman, Daniel Scarpinato. They include
overhauling Arizona’s beleaguered foster care system and opening a
corrections center to offer intensive drug treatment and other services
to certain inmates in Maricopa County, the state’s most populous.
also proposed spending $31.5 million to send 200 state troopers after
drug smugglers along the border, the only border-related program he has
championed so far. The scope of the effort is a far cry from the $800
million that Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, also a Republican, secured from
his state’s Legislature last year to extend indefinitely the deployment
of National Guard troops and air and ground surveillance along the Rio
Grande Valley, which has faced questions over its cost and results.
goal, because of limited resources, was going after what was most
hurtful, and that was why we went after the drug cartels,” Mr. Ducey
said in the interview, drawing a distinction between his and Mr.
And while Mr. Abbott explained his plan as necessary to counter the federal government’s “apathetic response to border security,”
Mr. Ducey characterized his plan for state troopers to target drug
smugglers as “adding state muscle” to the 4,000 federal Border Patrol
agents in Arizona.
there’s an opportunity to work together to get results for the citizens
of the state of Arizona, to increase public safety,” he said, “I think
that’s my responsibility as governor to take advantage.”
Ducey had the Customs and Border Protection commissioner, R. Gil
Kerlikowske, an Obama appointee, by his side when he announced the
border program from the State Capitol in November. That was a clear
departure from Ms. Brewer, who is still well remembered for wagging a
finger at Mr. Obama on an airport tarmac.
an interview, Ms. Brewer said her successor should use his bully pulpit
to “tell the federal government to secure our border, then we can deal
with all the other problems that are upon us as a country.”
He has been handing out olive branches instead.
Mr. Ducey met Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson early last year,
he said by way of introduction, “This is a new administration, and I’d
like a fresh start.” In June, Mr. Ducey led a trade mission to Mexico
City, the first Arizona governor to do so in a decade, then traveled to
Sonora, Mexico, three months later to attend the inauguration of his
counterpart across the border.
Immigration advocates have been cautiously watching from the sidelines, unsure what to make of him just yet.
least he isn’t using the hate speech we heard so often from Governor
Brewer,” said Viridiana González, who leads a coalition of community
groups opposing Mr. Kavanagh’s bill, after a protest of the legislation
Representative Bruce Wheeler, a Democrat from Tucson who is assistant
minority whip, said in an interview, “I don’t know if what we’re
witnessing is a change in substance or a change of style, but I’m
willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.”
Ducey made no mention of illegal immigrants as he outlined his border
proposal, which he carefully framed around the heavy toll heroin
addiction has exacted in Arizona.
“This is not Arizona’s problem,” Mr. Ducey said. “This is America’s problem.”
A group of undocumented Mexican national
ex-offenders enter Mexico at the US-Mexico border crossing at
Brownsville/Matamoros after being deported from the United States on
Nov. 4, 2015.
Texas Tribune is taking a yearlong look at the issues of border
security and immigration, reporting on the reality and rhetoric around
these topics. Sign up to get story alerts.
Juan Francisco de Luna Vasquez passed through the Webb County jail at
least four times on more than a half dozen charges before allegedly
beating his wife to death with a hammer last year in Laredo. Victor Reyes had already spent three months in the Hidalgo County Jail, four
months in state custody and six years in federal prison for multiple
felony offenses by the time he went on a random shooting spree in
Houston, killing two people and injuring three more in January 2015.
And before Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez allegedly shot Kate Steinle
to death on Pier 14 in San Francisco last summer, authorities say he had
racked up a criminal record including seven felonies, mostly drug
related, and a 1997 arrest for assault.
There are peculiarities to each case, but they have something in
common: all three men were thrown out of the country multiple times by
federal immigration authorities but returned illegally — through the
Texas-Mexico border — before committing new crimes in the United States,
records obtained by The Texas Tribune show.
Their crimes put them at the center of a red-hot political debate
about illegal immigration, the revolving door at the southern border and
controversial immigrant catch-and-release policies that pit
deportation-fixated conservatives against liberal immigrant advocates.
A Texas Tribune analysis found that undocumented immigrants make up a
smaller share of those imprisoned in Texas — including on Death Row —
than of the general population. However, a veil of government secrecy
and inconsistent record-keeping make it difficult to accurately
determine how many criminal immigrants are in the country or how many
crimes they have committed. Fear, outrage and political jockeying have
largely filled the information void.
If you don’t know about your past, you lack a blueprint for the
future. And a new study suggests just that. Research in California
found that high school students who were exposed to classes on race and
ethnicity experienced better attendance and academic achievement.
The study, which was conducted by researchers at Stanford University,
revealed that an ethnic studies pilot program at three San Francisco
high schools reaped benefits for at-risk ninth graders, as the Guardian
reported. Interestingly, those teens who enrolled in the class had
substantially better outcomes than those who did not. For example,
attendance improved by 21 percent, grade-point averages jumped 1.4
points, and credits earned increased by 23 for those who participated in
“These surprisingly large effects are consistent with the hypothesis
that the course reduced dropout rates and suggest that culturally
relevant teaching, when implemented in a supportive, high-fidelity
context, can provide effective support to at-risk students,” according
to the authors.
Approximately 1,400 students took part in the pilot program.
Enrollment in the class was voluntary for students with a GPA above 2.0
but mandatory for those with a GPA below 2.0. The ethnic studies course
covers the experiences and identities of minority groups, and employs
cultural references with the goal to increase social and political
awareness among the students. In one example of a lesson in the class,
students are instructed to examine the role of advertising in
encouraging cultural stereotypes, and the notion that some people and
values are “normal” or otherwise.
“Culturally relevant pedagogy embeds several features of
interventions designed to reduce stereotype threat, such as explaining
stereotypes and identifying external forces that contribute to academic
challenges,” said Thomas S. Dee, a professor at the Stanford Graduate
School of Education and director at the Stanford Center for Education
Policy Analysis. Dee, who authored the report along with Emily Penner
at Stanford, told the Guardian he was surprised such a course could have such dramatic effects on the academic outcomes of at-risk students.
“Ethnic studies may be effective because it is an unusually intensive
and at-scale social-psychological intervention,” Dee added.
Further, although there were positive outcomes across gender and
race/ethnicity (Asian and Latino), most of the improvements were found
among boys and Latinos. The sample size of Black and white students was
too small to gauge the results. In addition, there were significant
GPA improvements in math and science, and to a lesser extent in English
and language arts.
This research lends credence to the idea that ethnic studies should
assume a much larger role in the education process and become an
integrated part of school curricula. Meanwhile, California Gov. Jerry
Brown vetoed a statewide ethnic studies curriculum plan last year.
Cities such as Oakland, Los Angeles and Portland have witnessed moves
towards ethnic studies offerings, while states such as Arizona enacted
laws to ban ethnic studies instruction.
Texas — whose state board of education is dominated by right-wing
white conservatives — has rewritten history by revising the textbooks.
These books, in a state school system dominated by Brown and Black
children, have erased the achievements of African-Americans, Latinos and
others, removing references to slavery, the civil rights movement and
other historical events of a racially charged nature.
And it is no accident that the ethnic studies movement grew out of
the civil rights movement of the 1960s on college campuses across the
nation. This was about changing the narrative and struggling for one’s
rights, a fight for empowerment that took place in voting booths, buses
and at lunch counters but which also takes place in books and in the
They say that history is told from the perspective of the
conquerors. And in this country, the history of white people has been
rendered standardized and normalized — and the only interpretation of
history. How can those children who fail to see their own culture or
people reflected in the history books develop high self-esteem?
Moreover, how can those whose history is reflected exclusively in the
classroom setting learn to appreciate and respect those who are excluded
This is why the Stanford study is significant. However, we should
not merely stop with at-risk students — all students need this type of
learning. And we need to divest ourselves of a colonial system of
education that excludes and degrades people of a darker hue. Knowledge
is power, and we must ensure that all of our children have access to
Great piece by my colleague, Dr. Bentley-Edwards in Educational Psychology, at UT. It appears in the latest issue of Time Magazine. I like the view expressed herein that to NOT address African American's prior history is to be indifferent to them.
The inclusive, more comprehensive treatment of history that she calls for carries over well into all area studies curriculum.
If you see my last post on the prison-curriculum project out of California, we may similarly infer just how dehumanizing our assimilationist educational systems are, on the one hand, and the potential of curriculum, on the other, to illuminate extant hierarchies of power as much as by what is taught, as by what is systematically not taught.
After all, you cannot defeat a people with a history and therein derives the motivation, the civilizational racism, the unexamined assumptions that are the motors of racist ideologies that keep our current system "working"—not to liberate, but to domesticate—and to do so through the subjugation of specific kinds of knowledge itself.
School children, as well as
adults, should understand the breadth of black heritage. When we study
any other group, we recognize the fullness of their humanity. Just as we
should never forget the pain of the Holocaust when we talk about Jewish
history, we do not often begin discussions with that horrific event.
When you recognize a group’s humanity, you understand that these
historical moments were preceded by their own socio-historical contexts.
Well before the rise of European
imperialism, the peoples of Africa had their own empires and political
systems. In West Africa, the fall of the Songhai Empire and ensuing
civil wars left its people vulnerable for colonial exploitation and
enslavement. Points in history are also related to events that occur
years later and influence current perceptions and policies. Stereotypes
of African American men as strong but not smart and women as hypersexual
can be traced to common perceptions of enslaved Africans.
I am not suggesting that people
should know the vast history of Africans just for knowledge’s sake or
for a sense of cultural pride, although each is important. People should
learn this history because everyone should know that my black ancestors
were humans, not slaves. These Africans were kidnapped and later
Enslaved Africans brought
culture and norms with them that impacted their language, diet and
spirituality. When enslaved Africans are described as slaves instead of
as humans, the harms they suffered are diminished. Take, for example,
Scholastic’s unfortunate decision to publish a children’s book called “A
Birthday Cake for George Washington” just in time for Black History
Month. It shows the pervasive misunderstanding of the African American
This modern-day slave book,
which was recently rescinded by the publisher, portrays the life of
Hercules, George Washington’s enslaved master chef. I don’t know whether
it is ironic or blatant indifference to write a book about Hercules having so much pride in baking a grand
birthday cake for George Washington while omitting that he escaped
bondage on a subsequent birthday. It should be understood that people
can have pride in their work, or even a privileged position within the
hierarchy of slavery, yet still know they are oppressed and still seek
their freedom. If Hercules’ humanity were accepted, then the authors and
publishers would understand that a skewed depiction of happy slaves is
neither refreshing nor new.
I vividly remember that my
elementary history book included depictions of grinning enslaved
Africans playing the fiddle, couples dancing and babies toddling about
in its two-page section on slavery. I remember being uncomfortable then,
and it disturbs me that these or similar images continue to be the
introduction to black history for so many people.
Which leads to this point: The ways in which we teach black history need improvement.
Incessantly reciting lists of
black inventions and firsts without discussing the contexts of the
accomplishments provides only a shell of what Carter G. Woodson intended
when he initiated our annual celebration of black people. For example,
Benjamin Banneker, who was a freeman and prolific scientist, is most
often recognized for being a key surveyor of Washington, D.C. What is
not typically discussed is that he gained much of his scientific
knowledge from his formerly enslaved father, who was from a learned
Wolof family. The Wolof people (in present day Senegal) are an ethnic
group that was once part of the Songhai Empire — known for its cultural
and intellectual hubs. This context provides insight about how Banneker,
with little formal education, would become a scientist and surveyor,
among other accomplishments.
When the telling or teaching of
African Americans’ history begins with slavery, it ignores their
humanity now, just as their humanity was denied in the past. When the
profound contributions of African Americans before, during and after
their enslavement are recognized, then their humanity — and therefore my humanity — is undeniable, and black lives would, in fact, matter.
This is so incredibly moving. I was contemplating today on how many of our youth are infantilized by a curriculum that is "dumbed-down" ostensibly for them at the same time that many of them are old enough to get tried as adults and get sent behind bars. Glad to read about this wonderful initiative that breathes life, identity, and soul into these sterile, forbidding spaces.
February 01, 2016
Curriculum Goes Behind Bars
By Whitney Frasier
When a group of California State University San Marcos (CSUSM)
students started sending curriculum to a seven-student cohort in prisons
throughout Southern California, they never thought their program would
grow to more than 200 active students behind bars across the United
Homie UP, short for Homie Universidad Popular, is a program that
offers American history from a Chicano/Latino perspective free of charge
to incarcerated individuals. The initiative started after community
members participating in a similar curriculum known as Universidad
Popular, or People’s University, expressed interest in presenting the
information they were learning to their incarcerated loved ones.
“The program was initially intended for those serving a life
sentence, but then we received so many requests, we felt compelled to
make it accessible to all incarcerated individuals regardless of
sentence length,” said Flor Alvarez, a Homie UP coordinator and National
Latino Research Center (NLRC) Research Assistant.
As the popularity of the program increases, the program coordinators
are beginning to feel some growing pains as their staff and funding
remains the same.
“We have spent countless hours creating the Homie UP curriculum and
reviewing assignments— sometimes we work overnight or even on the
weekends,” said Alvarez. “It’s all on a volunteer basis, so many times
we pay out of pocket to send assignments. When we are fortunate, some
family members will contribute stamps, paper and envelopes.”
When the program was at its infancy, all the students were of Latino
decent. Now, Homie UP’s student base is very diverse and includes both
male and female inmates of all ethnicities convicted of a variety of
offenses. The team’s future plan is to offer an increased variety of
classes, and not just from a Latino perspective.
“This project has really catapulted us into this national discussion
that’s going on around incarceration,” said NLRC Research Director
Arcela Nuñez-Alvárez. “Our project is very much aligned to issues that
happening nationally and at the state level and locally.”
A $10,000 grant from California Humanities has allowed the team to tell the story further through a documentary titled, Homie UP: Stories of Love and Redemption.
The grant supports documentary films, radio and new media productions
that enhance the community’s understanding of California and its
cultures, peoples and histories.
The team had a one-year turnaround time to create the film and worked
with filmmaker Jennifer Myhre, as well as an advisory group consisting
of CSUSM professors David Avalos, Bonnie Bade, Marisol Clark-Ibáñez and
Charles “Chuck” Allen.
The hour-long documentary recently received accolades and was
presented with a Silver Award by the Spotlight Documentary Film Awards
in December 2015.
So far the award-winning film has hosted 10 screenings throughout
California from San Diego to San Francisco. The documentary features
real students who have been released from prison, and family members.
Screenings are usually accompanied with an art exhibit displaying the
work of Homie UP students, as well as a panel discussion about how the
prison system affects the entire community.
According to Nuñez-Alvárez, there is still a lot of discussion to
be had concerning families, inmates and the so-called school-to-prison
pipeline, a systematic process by which students, primarily African
Americans and Latinos, are pushed out of the mainstream educational
system and channeled into the criminal system.
“This happens through harsh and discriminatory school discipline
policies,” said Nuñez-Alvárez. “Research shows that students of color
receive harsher punishments. Incidents at school tend to be the first
encounter with law enforcement and thus begin the pathway to jail or
The documentary is now being used as an educational tool for the
community. An expansion of the documentary, which looks at why certain
populations are over represented in prisons and in jail, is already in
the planning stages.
“There is finally a shift of dialogue,” said Lilian Serrano, CSUSM
alumnus and NLRC research coordinator. “Everyone can talk about the
numbers, but the film gives faces to mass incarceration. For every
person that is in prison, there is a mother, a father, a sibling or even
children. I think that is a contribution to the discussion that no one
else is making and that’s what makes this project unique.”
To learn more about Homie UP or to view an upcoming screening of Homie UP: Stories of Love and Redemption contact NLRC at 760-750-3500.
I am happy to announce this volume, Growing Critically Conscious Teachers: A Social Justice Curriculum for Educators of Latino/a Youth. The expected publication date is April, 2016.
All of the royalties will go to the National Latino/a Education Research and Policy Project (NLERAP) in order to help the organization's efforts with respect to its Grow Your Own Teacher Education Institutes (GYO-TEI) initiative that is fully described in this volume. You can also learn about the initiative here.