Unprepared in SAT prep class

A straight A student in Los Angeles schools, Andrea Lopez went to a SAT prep workshop and realized she was way behind students from other high schools. Will my best be good enough? she asks in LA Youth. She couldn’t do a single math problem. Other students knew vocabulary that she’d never learned, such as “spurious” and “cogent.” After years of being the best student in class, she felt stupid.

Her advisory teacher at Social Justice Humanitas, an academy within a larger high school, explained that her fears were reasonable.

Most of our parents, he pointed out, can’t help us with school because they didn’t finish high school or don’t speak English. Or they have to work all day to put food on the table. He was right. My parents stopped helping me with homework around fourth grade.

. . . “Most of those kids will have it easier than you guys because their parents are able to provide them with what they need,” he said.

“Wouldn’t it be better to know that you put in a strong effort to get to that dream college?” he continued. “That you made it work because you were determined and you understood everything you learned in school and you didn’t just wing it?”

Later, Lopez talked to Social Justice Humanitas graduates at UC Irvine, UC San Diego and San Diego State, who said they’d taken community college classes in high school, performed community service and joined clubs “to show colleges that they were well rounded.”

“I know we can make it if we are determined to work our hardest,” Lopez concludes.

With straight A’s, she’ll make it to state universities, but she’ll need reading, writing and some math skills to earn a degree. I’m a big fan of hard work, but I’d feel better about her chances if she’d talked to her high school math teacher about how to solve those math (advanced algebra?) problems. What can she do to learn it so she’ll have options in college? And her English teacher may be able to help too.

This girl has met every expectation in school. Now, with one year of high school to go, she learns the expectations were too low. She got a pep talk. She needs a study plan.

Foreign-born students vie for civics honors

Top civics students will compete in the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution National Finals in Washington, D.C. this weekend. Randallston High’s team will represent Maryland, reports the Baltimore Sun. Eleven of 13 team members were born in Nigeria, Liberia, Grenada and Egypt.

“Most of them have this great interest because it was starkly different from what they experienced. They have the appreciation for the Constitution and U.S. Bill of Rights that you wish the natural-born citizens would,” said Richard Weitkamp, whose entire Advanced Placement U.S. Government class at the Baltimore County school is taking part in the competition.

Students portray experts testifying on selected constitutional issues in a simulated congressional hearing. They must answer questions from a panel of judges that includes Supreme Court justices, historians, attorneys and political scientists.

Team members are top students who’ve taken gifted and AP classes together for years. Six come from Nigeria. Nearly all are female.

Christiana Ilufoye, a 17-year-old whose parents left Nigeria when she was 9 so that she and her siblings could get a better education, wants to become a lawyer, so she was eager to study the Constitution.

. . . Oluchukwu Agu, who came from Nigeria to Randallstown in 10th grade, is still trying to adjust. “The values and the culture are so different. In Nigeria, education comes first. … No one here is going to take a D home,” he said.

“We have some bonds because we all have a purpose here,” Ilufoye said of the competition. “We all know why we take this seriously.”

It’s inspiring and depressing at the same time.

Character = behavior

Character = behavior, writes Sioban Curious. In teaching her students about characterization, she also taught them what classroom behaviors will make it possible for her to write a favorable reference letter and what behaviors will not.

Also on Community College Spotlight“Pablo” never attended school until he enrolled in community college, writes his developmental English instructor on The Two-Year Track, a new community college blog. If Pablo can learn to read and write in English, he can train as an air-conditioning repairman.

The ‘immigrant paradox’

The first generation comes to America and struggles, but their children do better and the third generation does even better. That’s how it’s supposed to work.  But scholars are trying to understand the “immigrant paradox,” reports Education Week. The Americanized children of immigrants often do worse in school than the foreign-born generation, despite fewer English problems.  American-born children have more health problems and are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs and act violently.

(Brown Professor Cynthia Garcia Coll) noted that the more acculturated students speak better English but do less homework. In addition, she said, “they are starting to buy in to the notion of minorities here [in the United States], that even if you work hard and play hard, discrimination is going to get at you.”

Reading scores improve for Mexican-American children from the first to the third generation as English skills improve, but math scores decline.

Asian-heritage students tend to excel in school, but some groups show “a slight drop in academic success” between first- and second-generation students. Chinese- and Korean-American students are exceptions.

In (UCLA Professor Min Zhou’s) research, she’s found that the Chinese-immigrant community in Los Angeles has been very effective in using ethnic after-school programs to bolster academic success. She said that in addition to teaching the Chinese language, those programs provide previews and reviews of school lessons.

Chinese parents are reluctant to send their children to public after-school programs, Ms. Zhou said, because they have a stereotype that “bad children” go to them, which she interprets to mean the children are “too Americanized.”

The New York Times wrote about a Maryland high school where immigrant students do well academically, but don’t interact much with native-born students.

I met many students from Mexican immigrant families at Downtown College Prep, when I was reporting for Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea and the Charter School that Beat the Odds.  The kids expected to work hard to make it in life; once they harnessed that work ethic to school work, they started to catch up academically.

Foreign-born students, some of them here illegally, finished college in four years at a higher rate than American-born students. Those who got no state or federal aid worked harder to get through quickly. The “immigrant paradox” is the result of immigrant hustle.