Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Texas Endorsement System Threatens to Track Poor and Minority Students

IDRA Calls on Texas State Board of Education to Ensure All Students Have Access to High Quality Curriculum November 20, 2013 Dr. Albert Cortez, IDRA Director of Policy, presented testimony today to the Texas State Board of Education at its hearing on HB5 and high school graduation requirements. Below are his remarks. IDRA”s full written testimony is available online. At IDRA, our goal is to assure educational opportunity for every child. We are deeply concerned about the state’s move to dilute curriculum for many students. Couched in the language of giving students choices and helping struggling students at least get a minimum diploma, the new system weakens high school curriculum and further institutes tracking of students. It encourages placing students in different paths toward graduation, some college bound and some bound for labor. IDRA recently released a policy note, “Tracking, Endorsements and Differentiated Diplomas – When ‘Different’ Really is Less,” that gives an overview of the recent policy changes for curriculum, tracking and graduation plans for Texas schools. I have provided copies for you and it is online as well. As members of the Texas State Board of Education, you can take steps to make sure Texas does its job of providing an excellent education to all students across the state. IDRA has three key recommendations. 1. Continue to require Algebra II for all students. For those who later choose to apply for college, this is critical in part because the SAT and ACT require knowledge of Algebra II. Removing the requirement, will mean many students will find out too late that college options have been closed for some, limited for many. 2. Make sure the endorsements do not become a dead-end for students, particularly those who are poor or minority. While the discussions about Algebra II have gotten much attention, it is really just a glimpse of a much larger picture. The state’s drift toward connect-the-dot, diluted science and mathematics instead of rigorous courses moves us even further away from ensuring economic competitiveness and universally high expectations and college preparation for all students. 3. Set up triggers to be able to take action if the data show disproportionate routing of poor and minority students into non rigorous endorsements and courses, or that indicate that students in “career options” are performing below levels of college bound students. The state also should be monitoring performance on end-of-course exams and other assessments by students in regular vs. applied courses and by differing endorsements. Applied courses not producing comparable performance outcomes as college focused courses should be identified and eliminated early in the endorsement selection process. Families must have clarity about which paths and which courses within those endorsements will best prepare students for college. Texas is poised to have many students not being prepared for college, and many more who will need remediation when they enroll in college after taking these watered-down courses. Less is not better. Weaker is not better. It is not elitist to expect our state to do its job and take responsibility for the academic success of all students, including Latino and poor students who are now the majority of students in Texas schools. A vital state must have educational parity for all students and not parcel out one set of opportunities for some and minimal expectations for others. The research and decades of experience behind IDRA’s Quality School Action Framework™ show that a high-quality curriculum is essential to success for all students for them to reach a true level of college readiness. Children have shown that they will rise to the level of expectation that is created for them and to the level of challenge and support that is provided to them. Schools have shown that they can be highly successful by embracing high expectations for all rather than sorting some students into college and others into job training. It is worth noting that before the changes adopted by HB5, 80 percent of all graduating seniors were enrolled in the recommended 4-by-4 program. Why fix what is not broken? Policymakers and schools should not make pre-college decisions on behalf of students or track them into low-level courses that limit career options. To create true opportunities for all of our children, we must commit to high quality curriculum for all students and full, equitable funding of all our schools, especially those neighborhood public schools in our neediest communities. Our state can do better, our students deserve better, and our future depends on better.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Texas Latino Education Coalition Supports Inclusion of Algebra II in All Endorsement Tracks The Texas Latino Education Coalition applauds the State Board of Education’s efforts to ensure that all students, regardless of endorsement selection, have the best available options for college and career upon graduation, by including Algebra II in each endorsement track. Algebra II is not only a gateway course for college readiness and a key component in preparing students for postsecondary workforce options, it also is a requirement for eligibility for automatic college admissions through the Texas Top Ten Percent Plan. When the state passed House Bill 5, it left undefined whether Algebra II, a non-negotiable prerequisite for automatic admissions eligibility, would be required under each endorsement. As expressed during the legislative session and at the recent SBOE public hearing, the Coalition remains vigorously opposed to any endorsement plan that fails to meet TTP eligibility. The Coalition was at the center of advocating in favor of keeping the 4x4 curriculum intact and promoting high expectations for all students as an important civil rights issue. The Coalition is pleased that the draft rules, as offered by the SBOE, would require students to complete Algebra II in each of the endorsement plans. The proposed default “Foundation plus Endorsement” plan must emphasize requirements that set all Texas students – the majority of whom are Latino – on a pathway to college success, regardless of whether a student will ultimately choose that path. Some stakeholders in Texas oppose the Algebra II requirement, because they do not find the course a necessary component of a Texas public education and argue for less rigor and that students need more “curricular flexibility.” However, a review of research clearly indicates that Algebra II is a vetted indicator of college success and a key component of college-readiness tests like the SAT/ACT. Regardless of whether one believes that Algebra II is fundamental, the fact remains that the course is a determining factor for automatic admissions, and removing it from the “default” reduces opportunities for students after high school. Colleges and universities (both inside and outside of Texas) will continue to use students’ transcript reviews and college entrance exam scores as key determinates for admission and scholarships. The Coalition also has concerns that variance in the availability of the five endorsements across school districts in Texas will largely mirror the tremendous differences in school districts’ available resources, a critical issue currently being litigated in Texas. Thus, in addition to requiring Algebra II, the SBOE should consider using its authority to equalize these endorsements to the greatest extent possible. The SBOE has an important duty to work with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) to make sure that classes considered “advanced” under House Bill 5’s new curriculum scheme are truly recognized as advanced by institutions of higher education. The SBOE must also collaborate with THECB and others to ensure that courses classified as “applied” under the state’s revised curriculum plan truly reflect admission requirements set by institutions of higher education. Regardless of endorsement(s) a school offers or which endorsement a student chooses upon registering for high school, students must be guaranteed an education that prepares them for college and career success. Texas cannot afford to exacerbate the already striking disparities that currently exist between property-poor and property-wealthy school districts. ************************ The Texas Latino Education Coalition includes groups such as the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), Texas League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), Mexican American School Board Association (MASBA), Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA), Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce (TAMACC), Texas Hispanics Organized for Political Education (HOPE), Texas Association for Bilingual Education (TABE), Texas Association for Chicanos in Higher Education (TACHE), the Cesar E. Chavez Legacy and Educational Foundation, and the Hector P. Garcia G.I. Forum.
“Tracking, Endorsements and Differentiated Diplomas – When ‘Different’ Really is Less” – Updated IDRA Policy Brief Reflects Recent Policy Changes Message from Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, IDRA President & CEO October 10, 2013 – IDRA today is releasing its updated policy note, “Tracking, Endorsements and Differentiated Diplomas – When ‘Different’ Really is Less.” The policy note presents an overview of the recent policy changes for curriculum, tracking and graduation plans for Texas schools. Certain interests have succeeded in convincing the majority of Texas policymakers that schools should not be required to provide a high quality education to all students. While Texas returned to tracking policies in recent years, the legislature made it much worse this year. The curriculum no longer requires the 4-by-4 (16 high quality core curriculum courses – four years in English, math, science and social studies). Reducing the 4-by-4 requirements will result in students not being prepared for college, and many more students will need remediation when they enroll in college after taking these watered-down courses. Couched in the language of giving students choices and helping struggling students at least get a minimum diploma, the new system weakens high school curriculum and further institutes tracking of students. The system encourages placing students in different paths toward graduation, some college bound and some bound for labor. This is bad educational policy and practice. Our state legislature appears to firmly believe that all children can learn – except for those “other ones.” But our state must take responsibility for the academic success of all students, including those “other ones.” Latino and poor students are now the majority of students in Texas schools. A vital state must have educational parity for all students and not parcel out one set of opportunities for some and minimal expectations for others. The state’s drift toward connect-the-dot, diluted science and mathematics instead of rigorous courses moves us even further away from ensuring economic competitiveness and universally high expectations for all students. The research and decades of experience behind IDRA’s Quality School Action Framework™ show that a high-quality curriculum is essential to success for all students for them to reach a true level of college readiness. Children have shown that they will rise to the level of expectation that is set for them and to the level of challenge and support that is provided for them. Schools have shown that they can be highly successful by embracing high expectations for all rather than sorting some students into college and others into job training. Policymakers and schools should not make pre-college decisions on behalf of students or track them into low-level courses that limit career options. To create true opportunities for all of our children, we must commit to high quality curriculum for all students and full, equitable funding of all our schools, especially those neighborhood public schools in our neediest communities. It’s time for Texas to step up, not step back.

SHAME ON TEXAS PTA FOR SUPPORTING LOWER EXPECTATIONS FOR STUDENTS

SHAME ON TEXAS PTA FOR SUPPORTING LOWER EXPECTATIONS FOR STUDENTS Parent-teacher associations have served an important role in Texas public schools for over 100 years, helping to raise funds, connecting children and parents to teachers and administrators, providing educational information to its members, and advocating for the “well-being of every child.” So why has the Texas PTA now called on its members to enter a highly contentious battle of whether all Texas public high school students should continue to take Algebra II prior to graduating? Next week, the Texas State Board of Education will decide the course content of the Legislature’s newly adopted graduation plans, specifically, the five potential “endorsement” tracks a student must choose upon registering for high school – STEM, Business & Industry, Public Services, Arts and Humanities, and a Multidisciplinary track. The Texas PTA stated in an online petition that the SBOE’s proposed rules requiring Algebra II for all five tracks limits students’ curricular choices. It seems unclear how continuing to require that course has a significant impact on a student’s or a school district’s flexibility. In fact, since completion of Algebra II remains a requirement for eligibility for automatic admissions under the Texas Top Ten Percent Plan, removing the course from the default curriculum actually provides less flexibility and opportunity for students after high school. During the legislative session, the Texas Latino Education Coalition (TLEC), a group comprised of civil rights, grassroots and business organizations, stood against any watering down of the high school default curriculum and against the notion that some students were “college material,” while others were not. Neither students’ zip codes nor the wealth of their school district should determine the State’s expectations of them or the opportunities it provides to them. Not surprisingly, many in the higher education and business communities have also spoken out against lowering expectations for students. They know what it takes to succeed in college and stand ready to enter an ever-advancing global economic workforce. The experts know that Algebra II acts a key component of college readiness exams like the ACT/SAT and as a vetted predictor of college success. They know that the course encompasses important problem-solving skills relevant to a wide range of professions. In the past, some have criticized the Texas PTA for its lack of representation and for being removed from the communities it purportedly serves. Some members of TLEC have worked closely with local PTAs in heavily-Latino and low-income areas. Those local PTAs work hard to stay informed and they refuse to settle for a second-class education for their kids or for policies that would reduce the chances that their students graduate prepared to succeed in college. We do not know if the voices of these PTAs were ignored or simply unsolicited by the Texas PTA. In any case, the Coalition calls on local PTAs to make their voices heard and demand that its statewide organization reverse its position supporting lower expectations. ES UNA PENA QUE LA ASOCIACION DE PADRES Y MAESTROS APOYE EXPECTATIVAS BAJAS PARA LOS ESTUDIANTES Las Asociación de Padres y Maestros (PTA) han cumplido un papel importante en las escuelas públicas de Texas por más de 100 años, ayudando a recaudar fondos, conectando a niños y a padres con los maestros y administradores, proporcionando información educativa a sus participantes, y abogando por el “bienestar de cada niño”. Entonces porque la Asociación de Padres y Maestros de Texas ha llamado a sus participantes entrar en una batalla muy polémica si todos los estudiantes de escuelas secundarias públicas de Texas deberán continuar tomando Algebra II antes de graduarse? Para la próxima semana, la Junta Estatal de Educación decidirá el contenido de los cursos sobre los planes de graduación recientemente adoptadas por la Legislatura. En concreto las cinco posibles vías o carriles que el estudiante debe elegir al registrarse para la escuela secundaria – Ciencia/Tecnología/Ingeniería/Matemática (STEM), Negocios e Industria, Servicios Públicos, Artes y Humanidades, y una pista multidisciplinaria. El PTA de Texas declaró en una petición en línea que las normas propuestas por el SBOE que requieran Algebra II para las cinco pistas, limitan las opciones curriculares para los estudiantes. No se ve claro por qué se sigue exigiendo que el curso tenga un impacto significativo en el alumno o la flexibilidad del distrito escolar. De hecho, Algebra II sigue siendo un requisito de elegibilidad para la admisión automática universitaria en el marco del Plan Alto Del Diez Por Ciento de Texas, eliminando el curso del currículo que actualmente ofrece menos flexibilidad y la oportunidad de los estudiantes después de la secundaria. Durante la sesión legislativa la Coalición Latina de la Educación en Texas (TLEC) un grupo compuesto por los derechos civiles, organizaciones de base y las organizaciones empresariales, resistió cualquier disminución académica del plan automático/recomendado de estudios al nivel secundario y en contra de la idea de que algunos estudiantes son "materia de universidad" mientras que otros no lo son. Ni las zonas postales ni la riqueza de su distrito escolar pueden determinar las expectativas del Estado o las oportunidades que se les ofrezca a los estudiantes. No sorprendiendo, muchos en las comunidades de educación superior y de comunidades de negocios también se han comentado en contra de bajar las expectativas para los estudiantes. Ellos saben lo que se requiere para tener éxito en la universidad y estar preparados a entrar en mano de obra económica mundial que está en constante avance. Los expertos saben que Algebra II actúa como un componente clave de los exámenes de preparación para la universidad como el ACT / SAT y como predictor vetado para éxito universitario. Saben que el curso abarca la destreza para resolver problemas importantes y relevantes para una amplia gama de profesiones. En el pasado algunos han criticado a la Asociación de Padres y Maestros de Texas por su falta de representación y por apartarse de las comunidades que supuestamente deben servir. Algunos participantes de esta coalición han trabajado en estrecha colaboración con ciertas Asociaciones de Padres y Maestros locales en zonas mayoritarias de latinos y de áreas de bajos ingresos. Las Asociaciones de Padres y Maestros locales se esmeran por mantenerse informados y se niegan a conformarse con una educación de segunda clase para los niños o para las políticas que reduzcan las posibilidades de que sus alumnos se gradúen preparados para tener éxito en la universidad. No sabemos si las voces de estas organizaciones fueron ignoradas o simplemente no se les ha solicitado su opinión sobre la Asociación de Padres y Maestros de Texas. Cual caso sea, la Coalición pide a las Asociaciones de Padres y Maestros locales que hagan oír su voz y exijan que su organización estatal cambie su posición de apoyo a expectativas limitadas.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

¡Fuerza del Valle Turns Up the Heat on Wage Theft!

Education and Commitment Across the Rio Grande Valley, students are eagerly returning to school; they, as we, anticipate the wonders education can achieve for our society, especially in the realm of labor exploitation. Fuerza del Valle Workers’ Center anticipates eagerly the wonders community education can achieve with the local Police/Sherriff Authorities cooperating with working families in the struggle to stop wage theft. Epidemic of Wage Theft in the Borderlands There is a wage theft epidemic in the borderlands. One in five constructions workers experienced the denial a paycheck in Texas last year according to a groundbreaking study on Texan construction workers. Fuerza del Valle Documented 250 labor abuses in the 2012 alone from all low wage worker industries, restaurant, construction, domestic, and agriculture: 90% of them were unpaid labor. The civil remedies to address the issue are simply not enough, 91% of undocumented construction workers do not know of the Texas Workforce Commission and half of the construction workforce in Texas is undocumented. The Department of Labor is flooded with complaints and lacks jurisdiction on many problematic work sites. Attorneys for poor working people free of charge are few and private attorneys are expensive and in most wage-theft cases unwilling to litigate a case due to the lack of potential in attorney’s fees or profit. We need additional tools to curb the exploitation of workers through the uncivil practice of wage theft. Wage Theft is a Crime in Texas Texas has a Theft of Service Law (31.04 in the Texas Criminal Code) which criminalizes unpaid labor, or wage theft. This law became stronger in 2011 thanks to the Build a Better Texas Campaign, spearheaded by the Workers Defense Project. No longer can employers give a partial payment and claim benevolent intent, this too is a criminal practice. We collaborated with our community allies to take steps to truly criminalize unpaid labor and have been working hard for the last five months to get adequate attention on the criminal practice. Workers affiliated with Fuerza del Valle, organizers with La Union del Pueblo Entero, members of ARISE, and allies at the South Texas Civil Rights Project have diligently been meeting with police departments, the sheriff department, and opened a conversation with the district attorney to address this problem. Theft of Service Press Conference-A Commitment to Justice This Summer of 2013 we displayed the fruits of our work by hosting a press conference at the historical Farm Worker Union Hall in San Juan, TX. Representative from different police departments were present to inform the public of their commitment to enforce the law and support working people. We had representatives from San Juan PD, Pharr PD, McAllen PD, Mission PD and Alton PD. We will continue our conversation with the authorities to make sure workers are defended when a crime is committed against them, when they are denied their pay. Together working communities and the authorities through education and commitment can achieve a better RGV, one where workers do not have to experience wage theft and if they do they can trust the employers will be punished by the justice system. You can see more photos of and stories of the press conference at Fuerza del Valle’s facebook page. Join the movement against wage theft and for economic justice, support the Workers Center, like our Facebook Page, follow us on twitter, make a donation at the TCRP donation site (make sure to scroll down to give your donation to Fuerza del Valle), donate some time and energy, email us at fuerzadelvalle@gmail.com Check out the Media Coverage of This Event Conferencia Sobre El Robo De Sueldo En El Valle Valley Employees Victim of Wage Theft Wage Theft Prevalent Among Undocumented Immigrants Se Suman los Jefes de Policías a las Movilizaciones a Favor de los Derechos Salariales de los Trabajadores Utilizaran Estatutos Para Encauzar a Empleadores Van Contra el Robo de Salarios a Empleados Denuncian Acoso Labora y Amenazas en McAllen

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Public Education Under Attack! Texas Charter School Scams and other ills.

The current Texas legislature is considering many things harmful to public education: 1. The billions that were cut from the last budget will be minimally replaced, in a funding system that is grossly inequitable. 2. Returning to tracking and new versions of vocational education, creating options that will sidetrack students that are of color, economically disadvantaged, or speak a language other than English...or all of the above. We had a long and difficult battle to get our curriculum standards up so that all children would have four years of English, math, science and social studies in high school: in other words, would be prepared for college. The GOP-led push to water-down education is being supported by the business community and (quietly) many school administrators. The statistics on college entrance and completion for students of color, economically disadvantaged, or speak a language other than English are dismal. While the chorus of 'college is not for everyone' gets louder the voices of those who have been advocating for higher expectations and standards for all children are being heard less. 3. Charter schools, all with a spotty and questionable history in Texas, will be getting another boost while the budget for the existing public schools will continue to be seriously underfunded. Charter schools have shown limited success, and little when they don't cream the best students from the community. They don't have locally elected boards with representation from the families whose children attend those schools. 4. An illogical and insane system of high-stakes testing might be softened but the danger will be that accountability will be diminished, especially for students of color, economically disadvantaged, or speak a language other than English. The testing industry will still get hundreds of millions of dollars of Texas public education money. 5. Parent triggers are being considered that will continue to decimate our already weakened public school system. 6. Ethnic courses are being attacked, in a context where the State Board of Education has already weakened and reduced the recorded historical contributions of all groups.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

I was for public schools...when public schools weren't cool

Opening of Anne Foster's article:

The New York Times ran an article on April 6, 2009, called "The Sudden Charm of Public School." The article details the panic of Manhattan families who have suddenly decided, given the economic times, that they may send their kids to public schools. For families who planned on private school and didn't consider public school zones when they bought homes, they suddenly care very much which public school their kids might attend. Stating that it used to be a taboo in certain circles to even suggest you're interested in sending your kids to public schools, the article quotes one parent as saying, "Now it's actually kind of cool and in vogue." Oh, my ... what a difference a dollar and a day make. It reminds me of Barbara Mandrell's hit song years ago: "I was country ... when country wasn't cool."
The reality is that public schools have been cool for many people in the United States ever since our nation instituted the noble experiment of educating everyone. Public schools educate approximately 90% of the kids in this country, so I would welcome these newly found converts and tell them that it never was necessary or even desirable to spend $33,000 a year on private school tuition. Save the money instead for college -you'll need it there, to be sure.

Read the complete article The New Vogue Public Schools from Parents for Public Schools new director.

Middle class families ( who might have otherwise selected a private school) are sending their children to public schools because of current economic woes. The greater number of blue-collar and poor families have always had public schools as their realistic option. Having the vast majority of our children co-existing, co-learning and collaborating in our wonderful, far-from-perfect-but-central-to-democracy neighborhood public schools is the (get ready for a barrage of mixed-metaphors) caldron, salad-bowl, floral hot-house, global arena, market square, agora, amphitheater and community commons where democracy will flourish and future economic wellbeing, equitable and inclusive, can be possible.

Phew... and all in one breath.

Family leadership for public education can make it so. We're Everywhere. Engaging and empowering parents to create excellence in every public school.(PPS)
Schools that work for all children.(IDRA)
Every child: one voice.(PTA)