Chicago schools debut Latino studies

Kindergarteners will learn about the Mayan counting system.

Kindergarteners will learn about the Mayan counting system.

Chicago Public Schools will teach an interdisciplinary Latino and Latin American Studies curriculum to all K-10 students, Melissa Sanchez reports for Catalyst Chicago.

“Kindergartners can learn about the Mayan counting system while they’re learning numbers, and fifth-graders can learn about African influences on South American percussion during music class,” she writes.

“The history of Chicago cannot be written without celebrating the contributions of immigrants from Central America, South America and the Caribbean,” CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said in a district news release.

More than 45 percent of CPS students are Latino.

On The White Rhino, a Chicago English teacher named Ray Salazar called the curriculum well-intentioned but over-simplified.

Chicago already is piloting an African and African American studies curriculum that was released last year.

Educating migrants

Macarena Vicente Morales
Macarena Vicente Morales, 18, with her U.S.-born son, Jacob, goes to high school in rural Delaware.

Nearly 70,000 unaccompanied children crossed the border last year fleeing poverty and violence in Central America, reports Al Jazeera America. Schools are struggling to educate immigrant children with “different levels of education and English skills, and in many cases, fragmented families, histories of trauma and very uncertain futures.”

Macarena Vicente Morales was 17 years old and nearly eight months pregnant when she swam across the Rio Grande last spring, marking the end of her childhood in Guatemala and the beginning of a new life in the United States.

But Morales said she wasn’t escaping violence; she came to provide a better life for her son. During her three-month stay at a Texas refugee shelter, Morales gave birth to Jacob. And in July, the new mother and baby moved in with Morales’ older sister in Georgetown, Delaware – home to one of the highest concentrations of Guatemalans in the United States.

Under federal law, unaccompanied minors from countries that don’t border the U.S. can stay while they await deportation proceedings.

Migrant workers have been coming to Sussex County, Delaware, since the early 1990s, seeking work in agriculture and poultry plants. Back then, just 2 percent of Georgetown’s population was Latin American. By 2013, that number had soared to 43 percent.

But few were prepared for this new wave of young migrants. Donald Hattier, who’s on the school board of the Indian River School District in Sussex County, said the arrival of nearly 70 migrant children in one school year blindsided his district.

The high school created a special program for the new students. “Reading and writing is definitely a struggle for them, because they don’t read and write in the first language,” teacher Lori Ott said. Some come from Indian communities and don’t speak Spanish or English.

Via This Week in Education.

After the story tale ending …

Spare Parts, which tells the true story of an underdog robotics team of Mexican immigrants, is inspirational and nearly waylaid by cliches, writes the Arizona Republic.

In 2004, Arizona high school boys — all undocumented immigrants — beat well-funded teams from around the country — including a team from MIT — in an underwater robotics competition. Joshua Davis’ Wired article and book inspired a documentary, Underwater Dreams.

When the movie ends, the boys’ future seems to be bright, writes Joshua Davis in a New York Times op-ed. But, because they were undocumented, only one earned a bachelor’s degree and none work in robotics.

One works as a cook, another as a janitor, according to Davis. A third is unemployed. He dropped out of Arizona State when voters passed Proposition 300, which banned state aid or in-state tuition for undocumented students.

 Oscar Vazquez . . . also had a scholarship to A.S.U., and after working menial jobs for a year, was able to attend. He was a sophomore when Proposition 300 passed, and managed to stay in school only by piecing together more scholarships, all while leading the university’s robotics team to regional championships. He graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering in 2009 and applied for legal residency.

Not only was his application denied, but he was also summarily banned from the United States for 10 years for living here without a visa. He ended up working on an assembly line in Mexico.

After a year, his ban was reversed when Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, interceded on his behalf. Mr. Vazquez returned, enlisted in the Army, and served a tour of combat duty in Afghanistan. He is finally a citizen, and repairs trains in Montana for the railroad company BNSF.

Deporting talented young people who’ve grown up in the U.S. is “a startling rebuke to the American dream,” concludes Davis, who argues for President Obama’s executive action granting work permits to undocumented immigrants like the robotics team.

Immigrant brothers go Ivy

Brothers Edgar and Cesar Garcia Lopez immigrated to the United States from Mexico as children, graduated from Watsonville High School and are finding
Brothers Edgar and Cesar Garcia Lopez wear their college sweatshirts.

Born in Mexico and raised in a California farm town, brothers Edgar and Cesar Garcia Lopez are at home in the Ivy League, reports the San Jose Mercury News Cesar, 17, is in his first year at Yale. Edgar, 20, is a junior at Brown.

“It’s not about being smart,” Edgar said. “It’s about being driven.”

Edgar was 9, Cesar, 6, when their parents, Juan Garcia and Patricia Lopez Garcia, immigrated to the U.S. to ensure their children received the education they were denied. Settling in Watsonville, they went to work at Dole, Juan as a forklift driver, Patricia as a box-maker.

In Watsonville schools, Edgar and Cesar learned English and flourished. Cesar . . . skipped first grade and was among the first students to attend Ceiba College Preparatory Academy, a Pajaro Valley charter school that stresses higher education.

Edgar, winner of a Gates Millennium Scholarship, is studying bioengineering. He’s already got a place in Brown’s medical school and is leaning toward a specialty in orthopedic surgery.

Cesar, who now feels “at home” at Yale, plans to major in ecology and evolutionary biology.

Edgar said having a vision is critical, as is setting goals and working hard to achieve them. He recalled joining track and cross-country teams as a freshman at Watsonville.

“I wasn’t the fastest, but I saw other people running out there, and I wanted to go out there and be like them,” he said. By his junior year, he was the Monterey Bay League champion.

Others may reject you, Edgar said. Never reject yourself.

Dual immersion revives bilingual ed

Bilingual education is making a come back, writes Sarah Garland on Slate. “Dual-language” programs that teach in both English and (usually) Spanish appeal to Hispanics and to middle- and upper-middle-class English speakers who want their kids to be bilingual.

One afternoon last fall, I watched as a group of young Hispanic students trained to become the best Spanish-language spellers in America. Their thick practice packet for the fourth annual National Spanish Spelling Bee began with examples of the easiest words students might expect to encounter in the bee’s first round, like esperar (to wait for), cuidar (to take care of), and peluca (wig); it extended to much harder 20th-round samples, like fisioterapeuta (physical therapist), otorrinolaringologo (ear, nose, and throat specialist), and nenufar (water lily).

Until recently, many Hispanic parents wanted their children to learn English quickly, writes Garland. “Hispanic parents haven’t lost sight of the stigma and obstacles faced by non-English speakers, but they may feel more confident embracing their native language.”

“A growing body of research suggests that dual language education does not hinder a non-native speaker’s progress in English and may actually accelerate it over time if the programs are designed well,” she writes.

 Dual-immersion programs aren’t prone to water down academic content because they include advantaged students whose parents wouldn’t stand for it. That’s a huge advantage over traditional bilingual ed.

A New Mexico student at the state Spanish Spelling Bee in April 2011.A New Mexico student at the state Spanish Spelling Bee in April 2011.

In secondary school, non-fluent students often are taught academic subjects in “sheltered English” classes. “Sheltered” students think they’re stupid, according to a new study. The stigma is strongest for long-time English Learners, weakest for recent immigrants.

That makes sense. Students who’ve gone to U.S. schools since kindergarten and don’t test as proficient in English are less capable than those who’ve left English Learner status behind. Recent immigrants’ lack of English fluency doesn’t say anything about their intelligence.

Most ‘English Learners’ are born in U.S.

Most English Learners — students who aren’t proficient in English — were born in the U.S., notes the Education Writers Association. While 4.7 percent of students were born abroad, 9.1 percent are classified as English Learners.

The category includes many who speak “playground English” but test below grade level in the subject. It’s assumed they lack “academic English” proficiency.

Image of In U.S., Students Struggling with English Outnumber Kids Born Abroad

‘I learn America’

In I Learn America, five immigrant students at International High School in Brooklyn try to learn English and build a future.

Libros for los ninos

In the San Jose neighborhood where Cesar Chavez got his start, immigrants’ children struggle with reading, reports National Journal.

A group called Somos Mayfair has organized parents — poorly educated, Spanish-speaking gardeners, cleaners and restaurant workers — to share children’s books. This month the En Nuestras Manos (In Our Hands) campaign organized reading circles at a local park and in someone’s driveway.

“Cesar Chavez Elementary School is among the lowest-performing schools in California,” according to National Journal. This is untrue. On the state’s most recent Academic Performance Index, the school’s scores are slightly above average — way above average compared to schools with similar demographics.

Mayfair is in the Alum Rock elementary district, which has a number of high-performing charter and district schools. It’s the most-improved district in Silicon Valley.

Texas educates ‘Generation One’

In Texas, one in three children has a parent who’s an immigrant — or they’re immigrants themselves, reports KERA News in Generation One.

‘Fairness’ means excluding poor Asians

Making New York City’s elite exam schools “fair” means excluding lower-income Asian immigrants, writes Dennis Saffran in the New York Post. The beneficiaries are likely to be children of the professional classes.

In 2004, 7-year-old Ting Shi arrived in New York from China, speaking almost no English. For two years, he shared a bedroom in a Chinatown apartment with his grandparents — a cook and a factory worker — and a young cousin, while his parents put in 12-hour days at a small laundromat they had purchased on the Upper East Side.

Ting mastered English and eventually set his sights on getting into Stuyvesant High School, the crown jewel of New York City’s eight “specialized high schools.”

When he was in sixth grade, he took the subway downtown from his parents’ small apartment to the bustling high school to pick up prep books for its eighth-grade entrance exam. He prepared for the test over the next two years, working through the prep books and taking classes at one of the city’s free tutoring programs.

Ting got into Stuyvesant, earned a diploma and will start at New York University in the fall.

White, black and Latino enrollment in the exam schools has fallen as Asian-American newcomers — disproportionately poor and working-class — “have aced the exam in overwhelming numbers,” writes Saffran. “White enrollment at Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech has plummeted . . . dropping from 79 percent, 81 percent and 77 percent, respectively, in 1971 to just 22 percent, 23 percent and 20 percent today.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s call for “holistic” and subjective admissions criteria, such as extracurriculars and community service, will penalize students like Ting, who works after school in the family laundromat. His family can’t afford a”service” trip to Nicaragua.

“Subjective evaluation measures like interviews and portfolio reviews” open the door to unconscious bias, writes Saffran. Interviewers favor people like themselves.

Sure, the decision makers will do their best to admit a few more black and Latino kids (especially those from the same upper-middle-class backgrounds), but the primary beneficiaries will be affluent white students who didn’t study hard enough to perform really well on the test but seem more “well-rounded” than those who did.

Compared to the exam schools, the city’s “screened” high schools that use “multiple criteria” for admissions admit fewer Asian-American and lower-income students, Saffran writes. Citywide, the exam schools are 13 percent black and Hispanic, 24 percent white and 60 percent Asian. The top screened schools are 27 percent black and Hispanic, 46 percent white and only 26 percent Asian. Half the exam-school students qualify for a lunch subsidy compared to 37 percent at the screened schools.