Is the Dream over?

Luis E. Juarez-Trevino, a fifth grade bilingual teacher in Dallas, is “DACAmented.”

President Obama’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) order make it possible for undocumented immigrants to work legally without fear of deportation. Teach for America has placed 146 “DACAmented” teachers — also known as “Dreamers” — in classrooms, reports Education Week. Will they stay or will they go?

In a 60 Minutes interview, Trump said he’ll prioritize deporting criminal immigrants before deciding about people who’ve broken only the immigration laws. (His estimate of two to three million “bad hombres” is very high.)

Deporting Dreamers makes little sense, says Stephen Legomsky, former chief counsel at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. To qualify for DACA, they’re supposed to be in school or working and have clean records. “As a practical matter, it seems like these folks would be the lowest priority of all,” he said.

Will Trump let people who arrived as children continue to get work permits?

‘Spanish Learners’ struggle in Mexico


Anthony David Martinez raises his hand in class at the Escuela 20 Noviembre school in Tijuana, Mexico. Photo: Sandy Huffaker/NPR

When Mexican immigrants return to their homeland, their U.S.-born children struggle in Mexican schools, reports Claudio Sanchez for NPR.

Most were labeled English Language Learners in U.S. schools because they don’t read or write proficiently in English. But they’re not literate in Spanish either.

In the last eight years, nearly 500,000 children — 90 percent American born — have returned to Mexico with their families, estimates UCLA’s Civil Rights Project. Some immigrants left because of the economic downturn. Others were deported.

Patricia Gandara, co-chair of the Civil Rights Project, thinks Mexican educators should learn from the U.S. experience with English-only and bilingual education.

In Mexican schools, the goal is to transition children as quickly as possible to Spanish fluency — because it’s the only language that matters. We’ve tried to estimate the percentage of classroom teachers in Mexico who speak English at a level that they can communicate with these [U.S.-born] kids, and found that fewer than 5 percent in public schools across [Mexico] can communicate with these children.

U.S. educators build on children’s “primary language,” says Gandara. She wants Mexican schools to assess U.S. returnees in their primary language, English.

In the U.S., these students were treated as though Spanish was their primary language.

The children of poorly educated parents often lack well-developed skills and vocabulary in any language; they’re also weak on general knowledge about the world. No es el lenguaje estúpido.  You can figure out what that means because you’re educated readers.

Educating migrant workers’ kids

Nina Alvarez’s Fields of Promise follows Mireya and her family from California, to Oregon. While her Mexican immigrant parents pick berries, Mireya attends bilingual preschool at Migrant Head Start.

From Somalia to St. Cloud

Students in St. Cloud, Minn.
Somali students study together at a St. Cloud school.

How does a small city in Minnesota cope with an influx of Somali immigrants? Tonight, PBS NewsHour looks at St. Cloud, Minnesota schools, which are trying help Somali students learn English and adapt to a new culture (and climate) while creating a welcoming and tolerant school climate.

The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations filed a federal civil rights complaint against the St. Cloud school district in 2011, alleging widespread and frequent harassment of Somali Muslim students, reports Education Week.

The costs of opportunity

San Jose is the land of opportunity — or used to be, writes Alana Semuels in The Atlantic‘s City Lab. “A child born in the early 1980s into a low-income family in San Jose had a 12.9 percent chance of becoming a high earner as an adult,” according to a 2014 study by economist Raj Chetty. That’s the best upward mobility in the country.

“Children in the 25th percentile of income at birth in San Jose ended up, on average, in the 45th percentile as adults, while kids in Charlotte who started out in the 25th percentile of income only ended up in the 36th percentile as adults,” she writes.

But do today’s poor kids have the same chance to thrive in Silicon Valley?

The percentage chance that a child born in the early ‘80s in the bottom quintile of income made it to the top quintile in selected cities across the country (Datawrapper / Equality of Opportunity Project)

The percentage chance that a child born in the early ‘80s in the bottom quintile of income made it to the top quintile in selected cities.(Datawrapper / Equality of Opportunity Project)

“San Jose used to have a happy mix of a number of factors—cheap housing, proximity to a burgeoning industry, tightly-knit immigrant communities—that together opened up the possibility of prosperity for even its poorest residents,” she writes. “But in recent years, housing prices have skyrocketed, the region’s rich and poor have segregated, and middle-class jobs have disappeared.”

San Jose is a city of immigrants — 38 percent of the city’s population is foreign-born, writes Semuels. Researchers found “a low prevalence of children growing up in single-parent families, and a low level of concentrated poverty.”

Tri Tran and his brother fled Vietnam on a boat in 1986. Tran was 11. They moved in with an aunt and uncle, a semiconductor factory tech and a data entry worker who earned enough to buy a small home.

A refugee from Vietnam, Tri Tran is now a millionaire entrepreneur.

A refugee from Vietnam, Tri Tran is now a millionaire entrepreneur.

Their uncle, who knew highly educated engineers at work, urged the boys to go to MIT. Tran founded the food-delivery start-up Munchery, which is valued at $300 million. “I think that in this land, if you are really determined and focused, you can go pretty far,” he told her. His brother is an engineering professor at Johns Hopkins.

Many of San Jose’s low-income families in the 1980’s were Vietnamese refugees who valued education highly and pushed their children to work hard in school. Others were Mexican immigrants with a strong work ethic. In San Jose, the poor are very likely to be working poor.

I don’t think middle-income jobs are disappearing in Silicon Valley, as Semuels suggests. There are lots of jobs — and not enough housing. A couple with middle-income jobs can’t afford to live here — unless their parents can loan them money to get into the inflated housing market. The median price for a Silicon Valley home is $875,000. The poor are being pushed farther away from the jobs.

A perfect score


Cedrick Argueta, right, is congratulated by his calculus teacher, Anthony Yom, left. Photo: Al Seib, Los Angeles Times

Of 302,531 students who took the Advanced Placement Calculus exam last year, only twelve earned a perfect score, reports the Los Angeles Times. Cedrick Argueta, the son of a Salvadoran maintenance worker and a Filipina vocational nurse, was one of them.

At Lincoln High in a heavily Latino neighborhood of Los Angeles, students shouted, “Ced-rick! Ced-rick!” when Principal Jose Torres announced his score, reports the Times.

Math has always just made sense to him, he said. He appreciates the creativity of it, the different methods you can take to solve a problem.

“There’s also some beauty in it being absolute,” Cedrick said. “There’s always a right answer.”

He credits “everybody else that helped me along the way.”

Both parents are immigrants. His father, Marcos, never attended high school. His mother, Lilian, said that she told Cedrick and his younger sister to finish their homework and to “read, read, read.”

His math teacher, Anthony Yom, says all of his AP Calculus students have passed the exam for three years running. Last year, 17 of 21 earned a 5, the highest score.

Yom, 35, said he treats his students like a sports team. They’d stay after school, practicing problem solving for three or four extra hours, and they’d come on weekends. On test day, they wore matching blue T-shirts sporting their names, “like they’re wearing jerseys to the game,” Yom said.

Cedrick also earned perfect scores on the science and math sections of the ACT, he said. He’s taking four more AP exams this year, including Calculus BC.

He hopes to earn a scholarship to Cal Tech to study engineering.

NYC schools skip Regents exam, raise grad rates 

Graduation rates have soared at New York City schools that don’t require students to take Regents exams, reports the New York Post.

Ten percent of the city’s high schools are allowed to use alternatives to the state exam. Many are “international” schools that cater to immigrants who aren’t fluent in English.

Science students at Pan American International High in Queens.

Science students at Pan American International High in Queens.

Students qualify for graduation by writing essays, doing oral presentations and other projects that are graded by their own teachers.

The graduation rate at Pan American International HS in Queens went from 50 percent in 2014 to 76 percent in 2015, “leap-frogging past even the citywide average of 70 percent,” reports the Post.

Lyons Community School in Brooklyn raised its graduation rate from 46 percent to 65 percent, “while the International Community HS in The Bronx and International HS at Union Square in Manhattan both produced 18 percent spikes.”

Will these students be prepared for success in college or the workforce? Will the district track them to find out?

Ed Next’s top stories of 2015

Starting in pre–K, children at Hoover School talk, sing, chant, move, explore, experiment, and play in language-rich, text-rich, and information-rich environments. Children who aren't proficient in English can learn well in English or their native language -- if they're taught well.

Children at Hoover School in Redwood City, California talk, sing, chant, move, explore, experiment, and play in language-rich, text-rich, and information-rich environments. Good teaching is more important than the language of instruction.

Learning English, my story on how “accountability, Common Core and the college-for-all movement are transforming instruction” of students from immigrant families, ranks 10th in Ed Next’s list of the top 20 Education Next Articles of 2015.

That’s not bad considering it didn’t come out till late November.

Overall, readers went for stories on poverty and inequality, say editors. “Five of the articles in the top 20 are from a special issue . .  . on the 50th Anniversary of the Moynihan Report which examined the rise in the number of children growing up in single-parent families.”

A  school for newcomers


PBS Newshour is airing a two part series on how schools are trying to educate immigrant and refugee students.

Las Americas Newcomer School in Houston enrolls newly arrived students who speak nearly 30 languages.  It takes a year or two to understand the language and the culture, says Principal Marie Moreno.

German schools improve — for low achievers


Immigrant children learn German in a “welcome” class at a Berlin school. Credit: Fabrizio Bensch, Reuters

Germany has increased test scores while decreasing inequality, writes Carly Berwick in The Atlantic.

“PISA shock” hit Germany in 2000, when students scored below the international average (and below the U.S.)  in all three tested subjects.

Among the OECD countries,German schools posted the largest gap between top and bottom quartile students. Students with immigrant parents were much less likely to qualify for the college-prep track.

Germany’s reform efforts included the creation of national standards and standards-based tests for students in grades three and eight, which sounds much like the U.S. approach. But unlike the U.S., Germany doesn’t penalize schools for poor performance, nor does it publicize school-level test scores. Experts say its focus instead on providing school-based support, and monitoring and targeting the most disadvantaged students has allowed it to improve performance.

By 2012, German students scored above the OECD average, in part due to “dramatic increases” in math scores for disadvantaged students.

Some parts of Germany are phasing out the lowest high school track, which led only to low-wage jobs.

While Germany has reduced inequality, it’s done little for its high achievers, write Fordham’s Checker Finn and Brandon Wright.

Since 2009, “the percentage of German top scorers has dropped in every math and science measure across age groups—fourth grade, eighth grade, and age 15—as well as fourth grade reading.”