Language Barrier a ‘Risk Factor’ for Hispanics

A new Associated Press-Univision nationwide poll of Latino families illuminated some surprising effects the language barrier has on education. According to the AP:

  • Just 20% of mainly Spanish-speaking parents say they were able to communicate “extremely well” with their child’s school, compared with 35% of Hispanics who speak English fluently.
  • About 42% of the Spanish speakers said it was easy for them to help with their children’s schoolwork, compared with 59% of the Hispanics who speak English well.
  • Children of Spanish-dominant parents were less likely to seek help with homework from their families. Fifty-seven% of those parents said their children came to them with school questions. That’s compared with 80% for mainly English-speaking Hispanic parents, who also were more likely to send their children to relatives or friends for answers.
  • With Hispanic enrollment surging in schools, many Spanish-speaking parents are having trouble helping their children with homework or communicating with U.S. teachers as English-immersion classes proliferate in K-12.
  • The vast majority of Hispanics — 78% — had children enrolled in K-12 classes that were taught mostly in English, compared with 3% in Spanish.

The AP also reports that approximately 1 in 5 people in the U.S. speaks a language other than English at home, with Hispanics representing the largest share, according to 2009 census data. Hispanics also now make up one-fourth of the nation’s kindergartners, part of a historic trend in which minorities are projected to become the new U.S. majority by midcentury. Still, Hispanics are nearly three times as likely than the general U.S. population to drop out of high school, and half as likely to earn a bachelor’s degree.

“The language barrier is still a serious risk factor for Hispanics,” said Michael Kirst, a Stanford University professor emeritus of education who helped analyze the survey. Even with many schools replacing Spanish with English in classrooms, for a student evaluated as learning English, “the odds of completing high school, and particularly college, significantly drops.”

Study Shows Progress on Closing Achievement Gap Stalled

The Educational Testing Service has released a new report showing that after a long period of progress in narrowing the educational attainment and achievement gaps between African-American and white students, that progress has stalled. The report, The Black-White Achievement Gap: When Progress Stopped, includes unsettling research that indicates reaching equality could take 50 to 100 years if current patterns continue.

The report examines three time periods. Beginning with the 1970s and 80s,  the gaps in reading and math NAEP scores narrowed substantially. But since the late 1980s, there has been a sustained period of stagnation. Things changed at the beginning of the 20th century:  the gap in educational attainment levels first started to narrow.

The authors of the report describe several factors that could be implicated in blocking continued progress, such as inadequate care in early childhood, the decline of communities and neighborhoods, the increase of single-parent families, the employment plight of African-American males, and stalled inter-generational mobility out of disadvantaged neighborhoods. The effect of the lack of movement of succeeding generations becomes cumulative for successive generations. In ETS’s press release, the study’s authors said:

The data show that many Black people have been stuck in neighborhoods deprived of social and economic capital for several generations. Although only 5% of White children born between 1955 and 1970 grew up in highly-disadvantaged neighborhoods, 84% of Black children did so. Approaches to restart progress will require addressing this problem on multiple levels. Entire neighborhoods may have to be uplifted in terms of their economic capital, school quality, safety and health structures.

For more information:

Update: Mass. Adopts Common Core

The Boston Globe reports that the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education unanimously voted this morning to adopt the national Common Core standards. Read the full story here. Massachusetts is now the 28th state to adopt Common Core.

Statement from Governor Patrick:

Massachusetts leads the nation in public education. Our children perform in the top tier, not just in the country but in the world. I want to keep it that way. That means we have to continue to raise the bar. That’s why we passed the education reform bill, to close the achievement gap once and for all. And that’s why I support the Board’s decision to sign on to the national Common Core standards. These standards will be as strong as the ones we already have in place, and in some cases will be stronger. And they are consistent with our MCAS, which has been and will continue to be a key element of our progress. Common Core will enhance the Commonwealth’s already rigorous standards.

UPDATE:

  • Release from the MA Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
  • Statement from Boston Public School Superintendent Carol Johnson
  • Statement from Lt. Governor Tim Murray
  • NECN coverage: Mass. board unanimously approves national education standards
  • AP story: Mass. board approves education curriculum change
  • ASCD blog post: Critical Mass. for Common Core
  • Boston Herald story:  Mass. ed board votes to adopt fed standards

UPDATE–July 22 coverage:

  • Boston Globe op/ed: The education carrot
  • Boston Globe “Rock the Schoolhouse” blog post: Let’s celebrate: We have national standards
  • Boston Globe story: State panel adopts US academic standards
  • Boston Herald story: Critics: Education test standards too Common
  • Education Week story: Mass. adopts Common Core amid fiery debate
  • Fox25 Boston coverage: What new education standards mean for MA
  • Fox News story: Massachusetts raises concern by swapping state curriculum for national standards
  • National Review story: The Common Core curriculum
  • NECN coverage: Mixed reaction to Common Core decision
  • Quincy Patriot Ledger story: New educational standards comes as surprise for parents
  • WBUR coverage: New ed. standards stress public speaking, probability
  • Worcester Telegram & Gazette story: State adopts new academic standards

Mass. Standards Versus Common Core

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute released a new study, The State of State Standards–and the Common Core–in 2010, which offers a state-by-state comparison of Common Core vs. states’ existing academic standards. The study’s central findings are:

  • Based on our criteria, the Common Core standards are clearly superior to those currently in use in 39 states in math and 37 states in English. For 33 states, the Common Core is superior in both math and reading.
  • Three jurisdictions boast ELA standards that are clearly superior to the Common Core: California, the District of Columbia, and Indiana. Another 11 states have ELA standards that are in the same league as the Common Core (or “too close to call”).
  • Eleven states plus the District of Columbia have math standards in the “too close to call” category, meaning that, overall, they are at least as clear and rigorous as the Common Core standards.

How did Massachusetts fare? The study deemed both ELA and math standards “too close to call.” A full analysis of Massachusetts is available here.

Fordham’s president Chester Finn described the study’s results on WBUR’s Morning Edition today; listen to the story here. The Massachusetts Board of Education is expected to vote on adopting the Common Core standards today.

On Twitter: Follow WBUR @WBUR; follow the Fordham Institute @EducationGadfly; follow the Massachusetts Secretary of Education, Paul Reville, @MassEducation

The Economic Benefits of Reducing Dropout Rates

The Alliance for Excellent Education released a study estimating the benefits of reducing the dropout rate among students of color in the country’s 50 largest cities. According to the study, the most recent estimate shows that high school graduation rates for African American, Latino, and American Indian students is slightly higher than 50%. This is more than 20 percentage points lower than that of their white peers.

If the dropout rate in Boston–estimated at 10,400 students in the class of 2008– were cut in half, the study estimates that this single class of new graduates would likely earn the following amounts of combined income in an average year:

  • African American: $6.9 million
  • Latino: $9.5 million
  • American Indian: $200,000
  • Asian American: $5.7 million

As a result of their increased wages and higher levels of spending, state and local taxes in Boston would likely grow by as much as $2.3 million in an average year. The country would benefit as a whole as well; the study says that if half of the nation’s 600,000 dropouts graduated, the benefits would likely include:

  • increased earnings of $2.3 billion in an average year;
  • increased home sales of an additional $5.9 billion in mortgage capacity over what they would spend without a diploma;
  • an additional 17,450 jobs from the increased spending in their local areas;
  • an increase in the gross regional product by as much as $3.1 billion;
  • an additional $1.6 billion spent and an additional $636.6 million invested each year;
  • an additional $158.6 million spent on vehicle purchases; and
  • increased tax revenues of $249.7 million.

Follow the Alliance for Excellent Education on Twitter: @All4Ed

TED Talk: Radical Innovation in Education

Charles Leadbeater, a researcher from the London thank tank Demos, delivers an interesting global perspective on the need for radical innovation in education in this engaging TED talk. Rather than developed urban neighborhoods, Leadbeater concentrated on transformational new forms of education and schooling that have emerged in the slums in Brazil and Africa. He acknowledges that especially important in these settings for schools, families, and communities to work together.

TED, which stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design, is a California-based nonprofit that brings together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and challenges them to give the “talk of their lives” in 18 minutes.

5 Ways to Improve Literacy Among Massachusetts Students

A new report out of the Boston-based Strategies for Children called Turning the Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for School Success says that efforts to increase literacy and produce strong readers need to be stepped up for children birth through age 9. According to data on their website,  31% of third graders in Boston are proficient on the MCAS reading test–that’s a full 26% lower than the state average of 57%. Taking a deeper look, the study also shows that two-thirds of low-income students and one-third of students who are not poor do not read at grade level.

With third-grade reading level a critical predictor of later success, the report, written by Nonie Lesaux, PhD, of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, recommends five avenues for improvement:

  1. Reallocate funds and alter policy to ensure programs are delivered effectively and with sufficient intensity.
  2. Conduct early and ongoing assessment of children’s language and reading and of the quality of services and supports.
  3. Increase adults’ capacity to assess and support children’s language and reading development.
  4. Bring language-rich, rigorous, and engaging reading curricula into early education and care settings, as well as pre-kindergarten to third grade classrooms.
  5. Expand and strengthen work with families across learning settings and within communities.

To promote reading among Boston’s students, Read Boston, one of City Connects’ community partners, provides students with free books and creates classroom libraries in elementary schools that allow students to take books home to read with their families. What effective reading programs are in place in your community?

New National Numbers on High-poverty Schools

The National Center for Education Statistics has just released its 2010 Condition of Education report, an in-depth examination of 49 indicators on the state of education across the country. This year’s report includes a special section devoted to profiling high-poverty public schools and their students, staff, and outcomes.

Lunch

The report used the percentage of students who were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (FRPL) through the National School Lunch Program to determine school poverty status. High-poverty schools had 76 to 100% of students eligible for FRPL and low-poverty schools had up to 25% of students eligible.

How does this compare to Boston? According to the most recent data from the Boston Foundation’s Indicators project, approximately 71% of Boston Public School students–roughly 40,000 students–qualify for FRPL. Nationally, there were 16,122 schools that were considered high-poverty, which shows a 5% increase over the past decade (12% of schools in 1999-2000 versus 17 percent in 2007-08).

The report says that for both elementary and secondary schools, there was little difference between the distribution of school support staff between  high- and low-poverty schools. At high-poverty elementary schools, 62% of all staff were professional instructional staff, 5% were student services professional staff, 16%  were aides, and 17% were other staff. The numbers at low-poverty elementary schools were very similar.

Despite the staffing levels being nearly identical, the report reiterated the outcomes of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assessments in reading, mathematics, music, and art, where students from high-poverty schools did not perform as well as students from low-poverty schools.

  • The full report is available here.
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