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.

White ethnic studies teacher faces protests

Community and church leaders in Fresno are protesting the hiring of a white teacher to teach three classes in African-American, Latino and Southeast Asian studies at a new middle school, reports the Fresno Bee.

Peter Beck has years of experience teaching “cultural studies” at another Fresno school and has led the Men’s Alliance, a leadership class for at-risk teens.

“We still are at these racial fault lines, and we want someone who will be able to think critically about those racial fault lines and how do we help heal,” said the Rev. Karen Crozier.

Beck is “highly intelligent,” said Rev. Paul McCoy of New Light for New Life Church of God. However, McCoy believes teachers who look like their students will be more sensitive  about topics related to race.

“We’re all faced today with so much dysfunction and violence from young people, and that violence is simply because they don’t know who they are, they don’t know where they come from,” McCoy said at a news event. “They don’t know the responsibility and accountability it takes to become a vital citizen in this country.”

Presumably, Fresno would have to hire three teachers  — unless a tri-ethnic teacher is available.

A nearby high school is 58 percent Latino, 18 percent black, 13 percent Asian-American and 9 percent white.

Separate and gifted?

Eliminate gifted tracks in New York City, argue Halley Potter of the Century Foundation and David Tipson of New York Appleseed in the New York Times Room for Debate blog.

Seventy percent of the city’s gifted and talented (G&T) kindergarteners are white and Asian, while 70 percent of students are black and Latino, they write.

“Segregation” harms the education of low-income students. they argue. “At the same time, affluent white and Asian students in the city’s separate G&T classrooms are also denied the cognitive and social benefits that socioeconomically and racially diverse classrooms offer.”

Gifted children won’t “be fine” in mixed-ability classes, responds Rick Hess.

. . . we’re putting much at risk when we simply hope that overburdened classroom teachers can provide the teaching and learning that gifted children need. Anyone who has watched a teacher labor to “differentiate” instruction in a classroom that encompasses both math prodigies and English language learners knows it’s unreasonable to expect most teachers to do this well.

Students do best in classrooms with students of similar ability, researcher Bruce Sacerdote writes. “We know from data, from theory and, most important, from decades of experience that ability grouping or tracking can have a big payoff. . . . High-ability students benefit the most from high-ability peers.

Reading, ‘riting and English immersion

After years of bilingual education, most Latino third graders in New Britain, Connecticut schools haven’t learned to read, reports John Tulenko in The Language War in New Britain on PBS tonight. Kelt Cooper, the district’s new superintendent, is switching to English immersion. “While initial results seem promising, opponents say students are being shortchanged,” reports Learning Matters.

Here’s the district’s explanation of the new English Language Development program.

Study: Teachers go soft on minority students’ work

After reading a poorly written essay, teachers offered comments and advice. Those who thought the writer was black or Latino provided more praise and less criticism, according to a Rutgers study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology (JEP), reports Science Daily.

(The study) involved 113 white middle school and high school teachers in two public school districts located in the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut tri-state area, one middle class and white, and the other more working class and racially mixed.

“Many minority students might not be getting input from instructors that stimulates intellectual growth and fosters achievement,” said Kent Harber, Rutgers-Newark psychology professor.

George W. Bush called it “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”

Graduation + transfer = new success rate

Community college success rates will rise, under a new definition that includes transfer students who go on to a four-year institution before earning an associate degree.

Nearly 80 percent of male black and Latino college students in California enroll in community college. Six years later, 80 percent have failed to complete a certificate or degree or transfer to a university. Women do somewhat better.

Libertad de la educacion

Libertad de la Educacion, a new Lexington Institute report, looks at “School Choice Solutions for Closing the Latino Achievement Gap.” Latino children are excelling in charter schools in Chicago and voucher schools in Milwaukee,   the report finds.

Lexington also recommends using virtual educational technology to revolutionize online and hybrid classrooms and providing scholarships for special-needs children.

Patricia Gándara of UCLA takes a different approach in The Latino Education Crisis: Rescuing the American Dream. Latinos have made almost no progress in college completion rates during the last three decades, Gándara writes.

Community college is Latinos' first step

Enior Jiminez left high school at 16 to marry his pregnant girlfriend. In a few weeks, he’ll complete a community college degree in neuroscience. His next step is Columbia University, then medical school. Read all about it in Community College Spotlight.

Latino toddlers lag in cognitive growth

Low-income Mexican-American babies are just as healthy as white babies, a Berkeley study finds. But Latino toddlers fall behind in language and cognitive skills by the age of two or three.

Basic cognition proficiencies for infants at 9 to 15 months of age – such as comprehending their mother’s speech and beginning to use their own words and gestures -were found to be statistically equal between Latino and white children, said Fuller. But by 24- to 36-months of age, Mexican-American toddlers lag their white counterparts by up to a half-year in terms of word comprehension, speaking with varying complexity and working with their mothers on simple learning tasks as assessed in English or Spanish, the researchers found.

The Latino mothers had much less education than the white mothers in the study.

. . . “The great majority of young Latino children benefit from two warm and caring parents at home,” (Education Professor Bruce) Fuller said. “But the reading activities, educational games, and performing the ABCs for Grandma, so often witnessed in middle-class homes, are less consistently seen in poor Latino households.”

I’d love to see a Sesame Street-type show aimed at mothers and aired in both Spanish and English. Parents who haven’t grown up with books and learning games need models.

Order, discipline, success

Illinois is giving $98 million to open more UNO K-8 charter schools in Chicago, reports Education Week in Nurturing ‘School Minds’. United Neighborhood Organization, or UNO, a Latino advocacy group, runs eight charter schools — seven in Chicago, one in New Orleans — educating primarily low-income students.

Juan Rangel, the chief executive officer of the organization, preaches the value of a disciplined school climate. He came to appreciate the strong discipline of his traditional Mexican-American family and the Roman Catholic high school he attended in Chicago.

UNO leadership imparts that philosophy to students and staff, along with other goals it sets for the schools, from the top down.

The schools, which cater largely to Latino students, are expected to “assimilate” their populations into American society. In part, they do so by using an English-immersion approach rather than bilingual education for English-language learners.

UNO’s goal is 1½ years’ growth for every year a student is enrolled. Students consistently outscore Chicago public school students, and do much better than other Latinos and English Language Learners, concludes a study by the Illinois Policy Institute and the Lexington Institute.

Administrators at UNO headquarters handle the budgeting and manage the buildings so the directors—principals—are free to focus on academics. The curriculum is the same across the network, as is testing. For the past two school years, all network schools have been assessing students three times a year with benchmark tests to identify students’ strengths and weaknesses; teachers receive training on how to use the test data to improve instruction.

Staffers help graduating eighth graders get into good high schools so they can continue preparing for college.