Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Research Finds that High School GPAs Are Stronger Predictors of College Graduation than ACT Scores

So why aren't we using students' GPAs instead of standardized test scores?

Believe me, if it were the other way around and Latinos and African Americans systematically performed better than Anglos and Asians on the ACT, the test would have gotten dropped a long time ago in a heart beat. 

Check out this piece that recently appeared in EdWeek titled, "The Dangerous Narrative That Lurks Under the 'Achievement Gap," that extends the analysis of privilege by underscoring how being a "good school" and a "White school" are synonymous.

These logics are deeply embedded and the testing system itself—that aligns to awards, privileges, race/ethnicity, and a false sense of entitlement—is squarely implicated.  For a deeper sense of how and why the system works, I encourage you to read Professors Altwerger and Strauss' classic published article titled, "The Business Behind Testing."  It shows how this is a very specific, elitist, neoliberal agenda that seeks to monetize everything education—for profit, of course.  And yes, at the expense of our children and society.  It's great reading for the college classroom.

A more valid policy framework would rely on students' grade point averages as better indicators of students' academic achievement and potential.  For all we spend on these standardized tests, we could instead be providing much more significant funding and teaching quality to public education.  We've known this.  I've blogged on this.  We must collectively work to change these policy structures at all levels.

-Angela Valenzuela

For Immediate Release: January 28, 2020
Tony Pals,
(202) 238-3235, (202) 288-9333 (cell)
Research Finds that High School GPAs Are Stronger Predictors of College Graduation than ACT Scores
WASHINGTON, D.C., January 28, 2020—Students’ high school grade point averages are five times stronger than their ACT scores at predicting college graduation, according to a new published today in Educational Researcher, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association.
The authors of the new study, Elaine M. Allensworth and Kallie Clark, both of the University of Chicago, also found that the predictive power of GPAs is consistent across high schools. The relationship between ACT scores and college graduation depends on which high school a student attends; at many high schools there is no connection between students’ ACT scores and eventual college graduation.
“It was surprising not only to see that there was no relationship between ACT scores and college graduation at some high schools, but also to see that at many high schools the relationship was negative among students with the highest test scores,” said Allensworth, who is the director of the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research. 
Across all high schools in the study, each incremental increase in GPA is associated with an increase in the odds of graduating college. The chance of graduating from college ranges from 20 percent for students with high school GPAs under 1.5 to about 80 percent for those with GPAs of 3.75 or higher, after controlling for student backgrounds and college characteristics.
“While people often think the value of GPAs is inconsistent across high schools, and that standardized test scores, like the ACT, are neutral indicators of college readiness because they are taken by everyone under the same conditions, our findings indicate otherwise,” Allensworth said. “The bottom line is that high school grades are powerful tools for gauging students’ readiness for college, regardless of which high school a student attends, while ACT scores are not.”
According to the authors, their study confirms prior research that finds high school GPAs are more predictive than SAT and ACT scores of college freshman GPA and college graduation. This study is the first to explicitly test whether standardized assessments are comparable across high schools as measures of college readiness. 
The study examined 55,084 students who graduated from the Chicago public school district between 2006 and 2009 and immediately enrolled in a four-year college. The Chicago district contains schools with varying academic profiles, ranging from extremely high-achieving, selective schools to schools with very low average test scores. At the time the study students were in high school, all students in Illinois took the ACT in the spring of 11th grade.
In the authors’ view, the fact that high school GPAs are based on many factors—including effort over an entire semester in many different types of classes, demonstration of academic skills through multiple formats, and different teacher expectations—might be why GPAs are strong indicators of college readiness. 
“GPAs measure a very wide variety of skills and behaviors that are needed for success in college, where students will encounter widely varying content and expectations,” said Allensworth. “In contrast, standardized tests measure only a small set of the skills that students need to succeed in college, and students can prepare for these tests in narrow ways that may not translate into better preparation to succeed in college.”
“Extensive time spent preparing for standardized tests will have much less pay-off for postsecondary success than effort put into coursework, as reflected in students’ grades,” said Clark, a doctoral student at the University of Chicago. “The more that middle and high school educators can support strong engagement in school—helping students overcome barriers to engagement in class, helping them succeed at different types of academic tasks, so that they earn strong grades—the better these educators are supporting academic skills broadly and preparing students for college.”
The authors also note that most states and districts in the United States rely heavily on standardized test scores in their accountability systems as indicators of whether students are meeting state college readiness goals. Because the relationship of test scores with college graduation is not strong or consistent, states and districts that choose this metric may misestimate the effects of policies and school practices on students’ college readiness. The authors suggest that measures of students’ actual performance in college would provide better information. 
Above and beyond students’ individual achievement on high school coursework and the ACT, Allensworth and Clark found that students are more likely to graduate college if they come from some high schools rather than others. These school effects may be the result of more rigorous academic programs at some high schools, different non-academic supports for preparing students for college, or simply a tendency of families with more resources for college to send their students to particular high schools.
“There are large high school effects on college graduation that are not explained by students’ high school GPA, their individual ACT scores, or the two of them combined,” Clark said. “Understanding why students from some high schools succeed in college more than students at other schools is an important next step for better supporting all students’ ability to earn a college degree.”
Funding note: This research was supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
About AERA
The  (AERA) is the largest national interdisciplinary research association devoted to the scientific study of education and learning. Founded in 1916, AERA advances knowledge about education, encourages scholarly inquiry related to education, and promotes the use of research to improve education and serve the public good. Find AERA on , and .
This release can be found online.

Parents separated from their kids in 2018 finally reunited on judge’s orders. It's 18 months too late.

This piece is tragic and devastating.  One key quote:
According to the Los Angeles Times, more than 4,000 children have been taken from their parents as part of the "zero tolerance" policy implemented by the Trump administration in the spring of 2018. 
This occurred in the spring of 2018 alone.  According to the website, a staggering number of more than 69,000 migrant children are currently locked away in U.S. detention centers!  

I bet most Americans don't know that we have this many children in jail.  I didn't.  But I do see it growing.  The size of this group is only growing as a population and not getting smaller.  Never declining.  Very worrisome.

This is slavery, the colonial, for-profit, war machine, turned on children and families.  We will look back at some point and realize in significant and many ways just how injurious and impactful this moment was toward peoples native to this continent.  The U.S. policy of "Indian Removal" continues.  This, despite our tenacity and the extraordinary contributions that we are poised to make as Indigenous peoples at this critical juncture of history.  

Yes, I am Indigenous and re-Indigenizing. So we speak Spanish and we call ourselves "Mexican," "Mexican American," "Latina," or "Latinx," but we are the descendants of peoples native to this continent—as Indigenous and Afro-Indigenous peoples alike. San Diego State University Professor Dr. Margarita Machado-Casas is currently researching Afro-Indigeneity in Mexico, Nicaragua, and other places in Central America.  This area of research promotes bridge-building across our African American and Latinx communities in an urgent moment in our collective histories.

I think that most people with a pulse would agree that the U.S. government's actions are  "unforgivably cruel," as expressed herein.  Those precious little lives need us.  Their parents, families, and communities cry for justice.  This 69,000 figure needs to stop growing immediately, period, lest there be no real policy limit for innocent people sentenced to enduring trauma. What could be more urgent?!

Let's all support organizations like Raices, Border Angels/Angeles de la Frontera, and EveryLastOne that are on the front lines of this struggle.  And let's all be sure to register to vote and then to get out and actually vote these soulless people that are behind these policies, out of office.

-Angela Valenzuela

#FreeTheChildren #FamiliesBelongTogether #FamiliesTornApart

David Xol hadn't been able to hug his son Byron in a year and a half. When they were finally reunited last week in Los Angeles, on orders from a federal judge, Xol dropped to his knees and tearfully held his son for three minutes straight. Byron, now 9 years old, beamed.
The father and son had arrived together on U.S. soil in 2018 and Xol. Charged with illegal entry, Xol signed a document that border agents told him would allow him and Byron to be deported together. But then they took Byron away anyway and deported Xol to Guatemala alone.
Byron, age 7 at the time, was held in government facilities for 11 months, until the family's lawyer convinced a federal court to force the U.S. to let Byron go live with a foster family in Texas. Holly and Matthew Sewell took him in last May.
According to the Los Angeles Times, more than 4,000 children have been taken from their parents as part of the "zero tolerance" policy implemented by the Trump administration in the spring of 2018. From teens to infants, children who have already been through hardship were subjected to further trauma at the hands of the U.S. government. And make no mistake, being separated from parents in a foreign land with no idea where they've gone or when you'll see them again is, by definition, trauma.

RELATED: The trauma will be long-lasting for kids separated at the border. Here's what you need to know.

Research has proven this over and over, but every parent knows it on a gut level. I still remember the terror on my son's face the time he thought he'd lost us in public once, and that was only for a few minutes. Children can endure all kinds of challenges when they are secure in their parents' care. Taking away that security without necessity isn't just wrong—it's unforgivably cruel.
"People want to make this a heartwarming story, but it's not. It's devastating," Holly Sewell, Byron's foster mother, told the LA Times. "There is just no good reason why we had to do this to this child and this family. And he symbolizes thousands of others who have been put in this exact same position."
Xol was one of nine parents who arrived in Los Angeles to be reunited with their children last week after a federal judge found that the U.S. government had illegally prevented them from seeking asylum. Let's repeat that for those who are inevitably going to show up in the comments of this article saying, "They should go through the process legally!" The U.S. government broke the law here.
According to the law, one has to be on U.S. soil or at a port of entry in order to request asylum; it can't be done from an embassy or consulate in another country. And one's immigration status, by law, has no bearing on whether or not they can request asylum. Here's the actual wording from the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services website:
"To obtain asylum through the affirmative asylum process you must be physically present in the United States. You may apply for asylum status regardless of how you arrived in the United States or your current immigration status."
In addition, at the time these parents arrived, no other country they may have passed through on their way to the U.S. had "safe third country" status, meaning asylum-seekers didn't have to request asylum in those countries. For many asylum-seekers, the U.S. is the only safe option, and for those with family already in the U.S., the option that makes the most logistical sense as well. Legally, these parents were allowed to request asylum and had the right to go through that process.
Even if you have an issue with someone entering the country illegally and then legally requesting asylum, taking their children away from them is a punishment that does not fit the crime (which is technically a misdemeanor on first offense). Family separation is cruel and unusual, both to the parents and to the children. And when you add on the reported depraved conditions of detention facilities and the fact that children have died in them on our watch, it's even worse.
However, one bright spot in this whole scenario is the humanity it has uncovered, as thousands have rallied behind these families to provide them legal protection and representation. The fact that ordinary Americans have to pool our own resources to protect vulnerable people from our own government is enough to make your head spin, but that's where we are.

RELATED: This group raised $1 million in just 9 hours to help kids at the border. Here's how.

Together Rising is one organization who has made an ongoing push to keep families together.
"Although it is a travesty that the administration of this country tore these families apart, Together Rising is committed to representing the heartbroken, angry women of this nation who are standing up to bring these families back together," says Glennon Doyle, founder and president of Together Rising, a grassroots fundraising organization. "Together, we have raised more than $8.5 Million — including $80,000 in 90 minutes this week — to equip boots on the ground warriors, like the heroes at Al Otro Lado, who are finding and reunifying these families, and supporting, and advocating for detained children."

The combined efforts of various non-profit, advocacy, and legal aid organizations to defend the rights of these parents and children are making a difference one family at a time, and bravo to all of them. But how frustrating is it that the U.S. government isn't solving the problems it caused itself? How is it possible that they didn't keep meticulous records of what parents and children were separated, or where they were sent after these separations? Why are we having to raise money and voices and red flags and scramble together lawyers in order to reunite the families our government unjustly tore apart?
There are simply some lines we all have to agree not to cross, no matter what. Cruelty to innocent children is one of those lines. Our country has committed this injustice on our watch, and if we don't speak out and do something to remedy it, then who and what are we? 

Why can’t UT-Austin hire, keep Latino faculty? [Houston Chronicle Editorial]

The report of the Independent Equity Committee at the University of Texas at Austin, comprised of Latino full professors, is still getting much-needed attention.  Here is the latest by the editors of the Houston Chronicle.  Click here to download the entire report which is in the public domain.

-Angela Valenzuela

Why can’t UT-Austin hire, keep Latino faculty? [Editorial]

In a message posted on the University of Texas at Austin website, President Gregory Fenves touts the institution’s commitment to diversity.
“Our history of exclusion and segregation gives us a responsibility to stand as champions of the educational benefits of diversity,” the statement says.
It is a worthy goal — one backed by research showing that all students benefit from a diverse learning environment. Unfortunately, UT’s pledge doesn’t always translate into reality.
A recent 188-page “Hispanic Equity Report” found “gross disparities” and “discrimination” for Latino faculty at the state’s flagship university.

History professor Alberto Martinez, chair of the committee that produced the report, described the inequities to the editorial board in three words: Flabbergasting. Demoralizing. Heartbreaking. We’ll add another: Unacceptable.
Consider these findings:
Latino professors are paid less than their white peers, ranging from a difference of $10,000 for associate professors to $25,000 for full professors. The pay gap is even wider for Latinas.
Latinos are virtually shut out of leadership positions. Among the 130 dean positions, only 7.7 percent are Latino and none are held by a Hispanic female. In Texas, Latinas are 20 percent of the population. Some departments, such as the 130-year-old history department, have never been chaired by a person of color.
The Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies, named after an Hispanic alumna who endowed it with $15 million, has had no Latino directors since it was founded in 1940.
Only 62.5 percent of Latino applicants received tenure from 2010-18, compared with 85 percent of white applicants.
The report recounts the experience of a Latino professor who was denied tenure despite having a resume that includes three single-author books, two edited volumes, more than 30 scholarly articles and book chapters in print, and others in the works. “Very few candidates in the humanities have such extensive scholarly publications when they receive tenure,” the report noted.
Denials despite professional achievement are common, Martinez says. Qualifications aren’t the issue. The problem, he says, stems from a lack of Latino representation on committees that determine hiring, promotion and salaries.

UT-Austin has fought successfully at the U.S. Supreme Court to include race as part of its holistic student admission criteria, arguing that a diverse student body “brings with it educational benefits for all students.”
That idea must extend to the university’s faculty, as Fenves himself noted after the 2016 court ruling.
It’s especially critical on a campus where 23 percent of undergraduate students are Latino, and in a state where nearly 45 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds are Latino. At UT, only 7 percent of tenure and tenure-track professors are Latino. Compare that with Texas A&M, where 22 percent of students and 16 percent of the faculty are Latino.
The disparity means that many Latino students never have a Latino professor during their time at UT, missing out on mentoring opportunities — or simply the connection to a faculty member who shares the same cultural background. Studies show that Latino and black students perform better with teachers of color who serve as role models.
The obstacles to advancement and inequities in pay lead to a high turnover rate and to frustration among those who stay, Martinez said. From 2013-2018, the report found, 60 percent of Latino assistant professors on tenure track left the school.
In a statement, UT officials said the university is working to address issues of faculty equity. Provost Maurie McInnis has “committed the university to understanding the source of the disparities. The provost has also asked the deans to review and report their processes and outcomes in leadership selection, to improve transparency into these processes, and [make sure] equity is considered in the selection of leadership.”
That is encouraging. School officials should also follow recommendations outlined in the report, including hiring more Latino professors, especially those who are Tejano and who are originally from disadvantaged groups, raising the salaries of Latino faculty already on staff to achieve equity with white faculty, and creating a rotation that allows all faculty to serve in leadership positions in university and departmental governance.
The university’s promise to embrace “diversity in many forms” should include fair pay and opportunity for the Latino professors and other faculty responsible for educating our leaders of tomorrow.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

I Was ‘Too Much’ for Boarding School. But I Had the Garcia Sisters.

This story helps explain why Ethnic Studies is such a potentially life-saving intervention. If we could only systematize this, schools, boarding schools, colleges, and universities would be more welcoming places.  Thanks to Dr. Tony Baez for sharing.

-Angela Valenzuela

I Was ‘Too Much’ for Boarding School. But I Had the Garcia Sisters.

Reading books by Latina writers taught me 

our stories were worthy of being told.

Credit...Meryl Meisler

Ms. Mártir is a novelist.
I grew up in Bushwick, Brooklyn, in the 1980s, in what felt like a forgotten neighborhood. Abandoned buildings loomed over piles of garbage and rubble. Playgrounds were overrun by drug dealers. But for me, Bushwick was a place imbued with my culture. There were piragua carts with multicolored umbrellas selling shaved ice on every corner. The bodeguero Miguel gave my mother credit when our food stamps ran out. The Puerto Rican flag hung from almost every window.
My mother migrated from Honduras to New York in 1971. When I was 2 years old my mother met and fell in love with another woman, Millie, which was then widely considered taboo. Two years later we all moved into a two-bedroom railroad-style apartment. The paint cracked and peeled off the walls, but we always had food on the table, even if it was white rice, fried eggs and canned corned beef. I spent most of my time then in our backyard, climbing the plum tree and telling myself stories.
My life took a turn at 13 when my social studies teacher saw promise in me and suggested I take part in A Better Chance, a program that places low-income minority students in top schools around the country. I applied and was offered a four-year scholarship to attend a boarding-school-type program at Wellesley High School in Massachusetts.
Millie’s brother drove me to school in a beat-up blue Pentecostal church van. I remember gazing out the window in awe as gorgeous mansions with perfect manicured lawns came into view. I moved into a four-story house with other students complete with a study and fireplace. It felt like I was living in an episode of The Facts of Life.
But I soon realized that I was different. My guidance counselor would often pull me aside and tell me I was “too loud” and “too much.” My classmates would chant “Tawk, Rosie, tawk!” as I’d walk down the hallways, my eyes glued to the ground. Rosie Perez as Tina in the 1989 film “Do The Right Thing” was the only exposure to a Latina many of my classmates had ever had.
Growing up, I’d read the “Sweet Valley High" series, Encyclopedia Brown mysteries and all the Judy Blume books. The characters in them didn’t look like me, but I was too young to understand the difference or know it could matter. One day in my junior year, I was reading on the mezzanine overlooking the cafeteria, when my English professor, Mr. Goddard, approached me. “You should read this,” he said and handed me “How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents.” My eyes stopped at the writer’s name, Julia Alvarez. “That’s a Spanish name,” I thought.
I saw myself reflected in the story of the Garcia sisters, who had fled to the United States from the Dominican Republic with their parents. They went to boarding school and, like me, had trouble fitting in. It began to dawn on me that there must be other writers like Ms. Alvarez out there. I asked teachers for recommendations and dug through the library shelves on campus.
Later I would discover the work of Gloria AnzaldúaCherríe MoragaSandra Cisneros. What was missing for me was the narrative of the Latina who left the ’hood to pursue an education only to find that she no longer fit in anywhere. I was too loud at boarding school and a sellout in the place I had once called home.
For years I’d chronicle my joys and heartbreaks in journals and scribble down poems on napkins at bars. On weekends I’d go to the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. I was in awe of the poets who read their work aloud. I longed to be that brave. I was the only one of my siblings to graduate from college. That distinction came with the expectation that I’d get a job that offered a steady paycheck and a 401(k).

When I learned I was pregnant in 2003, something inside me shifted. I wanted my daughter to learn by watching her mamá that she could live out her dreams. I dusted off my journals and wrote throughout my pregnancy. My first novel, “A Woman’s Cry,” was published in 2007, three years after she was born. After my novel was published I sought out other writers of color. At last I found a place where I felt I belonged.

My mother still lives in the same apartment in Bushwick. The neighborhood is no longer reminiscent of a war zone. Children and families gather in the parks we had never dared to step into. The piragueros are all but gone. The Puerto Rican flag isn’t as prominent as it used to be. The neighborhood I knew has mostly faded out of view.

Reading books by Latina writers helped me recapture a pride in my culture that goes beyond my old neighborhood. They taught me that these gritty corners of the world can be beautiful. That our stories are worthy of being told.

I buy my daughter, who is now 15 years old, books by writers like Elizabeth AcevedoJacqueline Woodson and Gabby Rivera. I teach writing in neighborhoods like the one I grew up in. I know from experience that when children see positive images of themselves reflected in front of the classroom, in books and on the big screen, it can make all the difference. This is how change happens, and it’s how we create a country in which all of us feel we belongOne story at a time.

Vanessa Mártir (@Vanessa_LaLoba), a writer and educator, is the founder of the Writing Our Lives Workshop.
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