Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The New Every Student Succeeds Act -- Progress and Promise or Retreat and Surrender #ESSA #AllMeansAll #NCLB

The New Every Student Succeeds Act -- Progress and Promise or Retreat and Surrender

On December 10, 2015, President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law, making it the first major overhaul of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 13 years. IDRA closely followed the legislation in 2015, focusing on the impact the changes in federal law could have on what should matter most: equity and opportunity for all public school children, especially for low-income, English learner, and minority students.
While being an improvement over the original versions that passed both chambers of Congress earlier this year, the ESSA can hardly be described as policy that ensures that all underserved children will be provided “significant opportunity to receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education, and to close educational achievement gaps,” despite the stated purpose of the act.
“This is a critical time for our nation to map out how we will achieve the twin goals of educational equity and excellence for every child in every neighborhood and in every state. The promise of quality education is America’s promise not to the privileged few but to all our children. – Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, IDRA President & CEO
The ESSA advances some important civil rights protections, but it also is saddled with many questionable provisions and uncertainty. Its value seems to be measured against its two predecessors as opposed to its vision and utility in carrying out the stated purpose of “significant opportunity” for all students.
Provisions of the ESSA that are good for equity for underserved schoolchildren include…
  • Continued disaggregation of test score data among various student groups for accountability purposes and further disaggregation of groups by gender (though further disaggregation of Asian/Pacific Islander student group was not approved);
  • Measurement of graduation rates and other of indicators of quality or success;
  • Requirements that schools identify and serve English learner students under stricter timetables;
  • New reporting requirements for long-term English learner students and English learner students with disabilities;
  • Elimination of the requirement to include student test scores in teacher evaluations (though states maintain the authority to include scores); 
  • Expansion of pre-kindergarten programs (though impact on quality Head Start programs and migrant communities is concerning);
  • Incorporation of research into program evaluation and the peer review process; and  
  • Rejection of Title I portability funds (which would have undermined the targeting of funds to districts and schools with concentrated poverty).
Provisions of the ESSA that will negatively affect equity for underserved schoolchildren include…
  • Continued testing regime of NCLB: 95 percent of all students are to be tested in each grade level (instead of allowing states to administer stratified random testing through validated procedures, thus removing high-stakes).
  • Masking of English learner student performance by allowing states to combine current English learner test scores with the scores of former English learners who exited the program over the previous four years.
  • Weakening accountability nationwide by relegating the job of designing accountability systems and intervention efforts to each individual state with little collaboration or guidance, which could likely lead to underserved students being denied the opportunities needed to succeed in the classroom.
  • Adoption of ambiguous expectations of “workforce” readiness and “employment,” together with post-secondary readiness, which could lead to the creation of diverging educational programs with tracking of underserved students into less rigorous programs.
  • Failure to adopt provisions that would ensure the more equitable distribution of Title I dollars, which are the chief source of federal funding to schools serving low-income children.
  • Added criteria of socioeconomic integration as a vehicle for racial integration, which could be interpreted as favoring schools that use socioeconomic integration, as opposed to other constitutionally permissible racial integration methods.
  • Loss of a stronger definition for qualified and effective teachers, which could result in even greater numbers of students of color and poverty and of English learner students having less access to effective well-educated, well-prepared and well-supported teachers.
  • Shifting of federal dollars from the underfunded public sector to the private sector with little accountability.
These are only a sampling of the pluses and minuses of the ESSA expected to impact students and the schools that serve them. IDRA will provide a deeper analysis of the law’s impact on equity and opportunity for underserved school children in comparison to NCLB in the coming months.
In addition, the several discretionary provisions written into the law could provide states the opportunity and flexibility to be used in a positive manner that ensures the true intent of the ESSA is carried out. IDRA will provide equitable model proposals as the law and regulatory process unfolds. The IDRA Quality Schools Action Framework™ also can be used by state education officials and policymakers as a guide for developing effective state educational policies and programs that serve all students.
See IDRA’s ESSA policy note for more information, including background and resources.
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See IDRA’s overview of the provisions of the ESSA that are good for equity for underserved schoolchildren and those that are not.

Last week, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law, making it the first major overhaul of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 13 years. While it advances some important civil rights protections, it also is saddled with many questionable provisions and uncertainty.

#ESSA #AllMeansAll #NCLB

Thursday, December 10, 2015

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A quick question for you: Will Latinos be the deciding factor in the coming presidential election, or will we be packing our bags to board Trump’s deportation trains headed south?
You’d think – given all the recent media attention – that those are the only options available to U.S. Latinos. Candidates from City Council to the presidency are talking about us and the mainstream media can’t seem to figure us out.
Meanwhile, here we are, looking for a place where we can find a true U.S. Latino narrative, a place for a thoughtful conversation about the things that concern us.
The truth is that many people have tried to build such a place, many have gone by the wayside and others have fallen short of their vision. It’s a shame because we’re living a critical moment in the history of Latinos in the U.S. and we need a place to gather our collective thoughts.
Here’s the thing, at NewsTaco we’ve been at this for 5 years. We’ve been watching the issues unfold, we’ve been listening to your concerns through your comments, emails and occasional phone calls. We’ve been doing our best to lead a thoughtful conversation about U.S Latino issues.
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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Recalling a Time When Congressional Bipartisanship Worked for Young Children - Marian Wright Edelman - Children's Defense Fund

Amidst the shameful dysfunctional legislative gridlock of the U.S. House of Representatives, it was a great joy this week to celebrate a time and a leader – former Minnesota Senator and Vice President Walter Mondale – when bipartisanship, common sense and a national moral commitment to children and families almost became the law of the land for young children. What a different country we would be today had millions of children received the carefully conceived high-quality early childhood and family support services in the bipartisan Comprehensive Child Development Act of 1971 which President Nixon vetoed on the eve of his trip to China, capitulating to right wing ideologues like Phyllis Schlafly and Patrick Buchanan.
In addition to mischaracterizations of the legislation's provisions, President Nixon attempted to portray day care and other child care services outside the home as a radical new departure, ignoring the millions of mothers already in the workforce. A plethora of child care legislation has been passed over the past four decades but programs are still available to only a fraction of the children and families who need them. The quality of care provided to our children in their early years through public and private means remains uneven, fragmented and often very inadequate, especially for the poorest children.
While none of the 1971 Act's supporters, I among them, believed it perfect, its approach represented a vast step forward from the child care system then and now in our country. The Act was a model of what bipartisan support can look like. It passed December 2, 1971 by a vote of 63 yeas to 17 nays in the United States Senate with 39 Democrats and 24 Republicans. Republican Senators Schweiker (PA) and Javits (NY) were lead cosponsors. Five days later, thanks to the leadership of Representative John Brademus (IN), the United States House of Representatives voted its approval, 211 to 187 with 180 Democrats and 31 Republicans.
Photograph courtesy of the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs
This Act passed because of strong bipartisan leadership and the enthusiastic support and hard work of the most broad-based coalition assembled since enactment of the social legislation of the early 1960s. It included poverty, civil rights, children’s and women's groups across the income spectrum, labor unions, faith leaders, educators, community and citizen organizations. During committee hearings, the need for child development legislation was detailed by leading child advocates, developmental psychologists and pediatricians. Outside groups worked hand-in-hand with Senator Mondale’s staff in the drafting process. The Washington Post called the bill "as important a breakthrough for the young as Medicare was for the old," and described it as "a vehicle for a new national effort to make childhood livable.”
The Act was designed to begin to meet the developmental needs of all children, regardless of family income, by investing major new federal funds to establish high quality comprehensive programs with federal standards under a coordinated delivery system. It guaranteed parents decision-making roles in the operation and administration of the programs in which their children would be enrolled, building on the successful Head Start experience I had personally witnessed in Mississippi. And it expanded program eligibility by income, age groups and types of services to be offered. Its funding authorization the first year of $2 billion – equivalent to $11.3 billion today – is nearly $3 billion more than the 2014 Head Start funding level of $8.6 billion.
Although Senator Mondale introduced weaker versions of the 1971 bill soon thereafter, it took the Children’s Defense Fund Action Council working tirelessly with a broad coalition of early childhood, faith, civil rights and education groups 19 years to help gain enough momentum for enactment of the less comprehensive Child Care and Development Block Grant in 1990 which President George H.W. Bush signed after feared veto threats. As if yesterday, I remember going to the White House gates to help deliver boxes of letters collected by thousands of United Methodist Women urging President Bush to sign this much-needed child and family support bill to help working parents.
In 1971, 40 percent of mothers were in the workforce; today 70 percent are, including 64 percent with children under 6. In 2014, although 15.5 million children were poor, Head Start served fewer than half of eligible 3- and 4-year-olds and Early Head Start reached only 4 percent of eligible infants and toddlers. Only 1 in 6 federally-eligible children receives a subsidy through the Child Care and Development Block Grant, and enrollment numbers continue to decline as the cost of care increases. In 2012, the total combined federal and state child care funding under the Child Care Block Grant and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program fell to its lowest level since 2002. Center-based child care for an infant is more expensive than tuition at a public, 4-year college in 31 states and the District of Columbia. Fewer than half of 3- and 4-year olds are enrolled in any preschool program and even fewer are in high quality programs.
Since the 1971 Nixon veto and ongoing struggles to expand federal and state investments in quality early childhood development systems, we have learned much more about early brain development that makes an urgent case for investment in our youngest children to get them ready for school. A baby is born with a brain 25 percent of adult size. By age 5 a child’s brain has grown dramatically to 90 percent of adult size. During these years of rapid brain development children are learning from their environments and interactions with adults and developing a foundation for their future school and life success. Stresses associated with poverty can disrupt healthy development and leave poor children behind from the very beginning. High quality, comprehensive early childhood programs have been proven to buffer the impacts of poverty and provide lifelong benefits for children and their families.
Research and experience show that quality early childhood programs are one of the best investments the nation can make towards assuring better education and societal outcomes. Nobel prize-winning economist James Heckman estimates the return on investment of such programs at 7-10 percent per year. So why do so many members of Congress keep denying children the basic foundation they need to get ready for and do well in school and why do the parents – especially – and other adults of our nation stand for it? What kind of leaders think tax breaks for billionaires are more important than education gains for the majority of all our children of all races whose life chances will be stunted if they cannot read and compute at grade level. Our dropout rates are nation shaming and threatening. And what kind of voters tolerate the disgraceful dysfunctionality of ideologically driven self-serving Congressional representatives who continue to deny millions of voiceless children safety and quality care when parents work? Just think how many good jobs could be created by a high quality universal early childhood system.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Deep thanks to Senator Mondale and his co-sponsors in both parties and then House Education and Labor Chair John Brademas and his Republican co-sponsors who sought to put our nation’s children and families above partisan political gain. I hope we may see their likes again and an end to the ugly political grandstanding that denies children the basic supports they need to be ready for and achieve in school in our competitive global world.

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Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Children's Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to

Mrs. Edelman's Child Watch Column also appears each week on The Huffington Post.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

English-Only to the Core - What the Common Core means for emergent bilingual youth BY JEFF BALE

English-Only to the Core
What the Common Core means for emergent bilingual youth

Children and their parents demonstrate against English-only Proposition 227. Oakland, California, 1998.
Photo credit: David Bacon
Among bilingual educators, there has been much debate about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Some of the most respected scholars of bilingual education have endorsed the Common Core and are working hard to make it relevant for English learners. Others have been more suspicious. Not only do the standards focus on English-only, critics note, but they were bankrolled by the Gates Foundation, pushed on states in a way that amounts to bribery by the Obama administration, and promise to worsen the impact of high-stakes standardized testing.
In fact, the genesis of the Common Core stands in direct contrast to how bilingual education programs were won, namely through grassroots, explicitly anti-racist organizing by students, parents, teachers, and community allies. The standards thus raise a key question: Given the history of bilingual education programs in the United States, is it possible to expand social justice for emergent bilingual youth through the Common Core?
Addressing that question has been challenging, given the inconsistent responses of professional and civil rights organizations to the standards. The National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE) issued a position statement in January 2013 with mixed messages. Although NABE’s membership passed a resolution opposing the Common Core, the statement explains that the group is “working collaboratively with policymakers, school administrators, and teachers” to ensure that implementing the Common Core does not negatively impact English learners. The TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) International Association issued a policy brief endorsing the standards.
Civil rights organizations—including the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)—have endorsed the standards while calling for equitable implementation. The NCLR, for example, has used Gates Foundation money to apply the standards to English-language education and to develop tool kits supporting parent advocacy on behalf of the Common Core. The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) posted resources on its website to help parents make sense of the Common Core.
However, the Common Core isn’t just a set of standards. Instead, new standardized tests accompanying the standards promise to deepen the impact of high-stakes accountability measures in place since No Child Left Behind (NCLB) took effect in 2002. On this count, civil rights organizations have wavered. In October 2014, MALDEF and LULAC joined nine other civil rights organizations in issuing a letter to President Obama protesting the negative impact of high-stakes testing, and calling for more equitable resources and multiple measures (i.e., not just test scores) to define accountability. This letter clearly fit the mood of growing resistance by students, parents, and teachers to high-stakes testing. And yet, not three months later, many of these same organizations issued a letter to Arne Duncan endorsing the practice of annual, high-stakes standardized testing.
Their stance is significant, if unfortunate: When NCLB was first proposed, support from leading civil rights organizations gave enormous political cover to its high-stakes testing policies. The main argument was that accountability measures would “shine a light” on how poorly many schools were educating youth of color, including emergent bilinguals, and thus lead to positive change. Fifteen years later, we know how misguided that hope was. As Wayne Au has argued in Unequal by Design: High-Stakes Testing and the Standardization of Inequality, and as the many contributors to More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing have documented, high-stakes testing has had a devastating effect on many schools, but especially on schools that primarily serve Black and Brown youth. And yet, mainstream civil rights organizations continue to pursue this strategy for education reform.
If the response to the Common Core by scholars, professional organizations, and civil rights groups has been inconsistent, then it is no wonder that bilingual educators and teachers of English learners have struggled to make sense of the standards. If the standards can’t just be adopted, is there a way to adapt them and make them relevant for English learners? Is it enough to create a bilingual Common Core, that is, to translate the standards to guide bilingual instruction of language arts and math? If not, then what is the alternative?
To help address these questions, this article looks at CCSS in three ways: against the backdrop of the history of bilingual education and anti-racist struggle, on their own terms, and in light of the current status of bilingual education. Each perspective suggests that the Common Core will further erode bilingual education and linguistic justice in the United States.
A History of Successful Community Organizing
Usually, when the story of bilingual education in recent U.S. history is told, that story tends to focus on the actions of Important People like President Lyndon Johnson and Senator Ralph Yarborough. The narrative tracks formal policy, including the Bilingual Education Act of 1968 and the Lau v. Nichols Supreme Court case in 1974 as key plot points.
However, this approach to history distorts as much as it reveals. Actually, it was the actions of Chicana/o, Puerto Rican, Native American, and Asian American activists in the 1960s and ’70s that brought about bilingual education in the first place. As these activists focused on schools, they combated segregation and a lack of resources, and demanded bilingual and bicultural programming. They built strong social movements from the ground up, which compelled policymakers to heed their demands and either create or expand bilingual education. But the dominant historical perspective takes our attention away from grassroots activism and focuses instead on the actions of “key players” and/or policies.
It also reduces struggle to “advocacy.” That is, it narrows the definition of political activism to lobbying this or that politician, or testifying before this or that committee. This sort of advocacy can matter, to be sure. But it takes place on terms set by those with power. The politicians in their offices and the committees in their hearing rooms are able to set the boundaries of the discussion and debate, while advocates are left to adapt to it or be shut out of the conversation altogether. What gives this sort of advocacy any real weight is whether students, teachers, parents, and community allies have built movements that are strong enough to change the terms of the conversation.
In fact, it was local struggles—often school-by-school and district-by-district, led by students in concert with parents, sometimes teachers and teacher organizations, and radicals—that provided the necessary momentum to make advocacy effective. Without the blowouts in East Los Angeles in 1968; without the student boycotts in Crystal City, Texas, in 1969; without the Third World student strike in San Francisco in 1968 (where the lawyers for the Lau family cut their political teeth); it is difficult to imagine bilingual education becoming formal policy at the district, state, or federal level.
Finally, the dominant approach to bilingual education history completely misidentifies the source of hostility to bilingualism and bilingual education from the 1980s on. It focuses, accurately, on the election of Ronald Reagan as a turning point, a moment when all the gains of the civil rights movements came under attack. The Reagan administration backtracked on the Lau remedies, a series of measures flowing from the 1974 Supreme Court case that strengthened bilingual education. There was also a concerted campaign to declare English the official language, federally and in several individual states. But when it comes to explaining why this conservative shift happened, the story runs into trouble—it lays the blame at the feet of the very civil rights activists who pushed for bilingual education in the first place. Their activism is described as too confrontational, the demands for meaningful bilingual education as too radical.
According to the terms of the dominant view of the history, which ignores or denigrates community demands and organizing, I guess it’s logical to rely on official channels and Important People to reform schools. But the actual history of bilingual education in the United States suggests something quite different. It was the conscious, ambitious, and collective actions of anti-racist activists that brought real change to schools for emergent bilingual youth. The CCSS are neither the product of, nor will they contribute to, the creation of such movements.
Emergent Bilingual Education and the Common Core
Bilingual education scholars who support the Common Core, and even some who don’t, have acknowledged the significant shift it represents in understanding the relationship between language and content. How language and content are connected has been an enduring dilemma for language educators.
One traditional, but prevalent, model claims that English learners must first “master” the language (i.e., use grammar and vocabulary accurately) before they can engage in meaningful, age- and grade-appropriate content. The most extreme version of this model is Structured English Immersion (SEI) in Arizona. In 2000, Arizona voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 203. This measure not only severely restricted bilingual education, but also required the state to develop a new model of English-only education. The state responded with SEI. English learners are grouped by proficiency level­­­­—and segregated from their English-proficient peers—for up to four hours per day in English-language development classes. This model includes no content instruction or cultural components. Contrary to what some 40 years of applied linguistic research have taught us about language learning, SEI assumes that students can develop enough language “skills” to be successful in mainstream classes within one year.
This approach to language education is consistent with the twin logics of standardization and accountability that have deformed our schools. Skills and facts are broken down into discrete parts; it is assumed that these parts can be measured and that those measurements reflect real learning. Students are then “prepped” on those parts ad nauseum. Under the SEI model, student progress is tracked on what is called the Discrete Skills Inventory. This stranger-than-fiction document contains a series of tables that literally break down the English language into grammatical units. Teachers are then expected to use the inventory as a checklist to track student “mastery” of English: Student uses past tense of to be accurately—check! Student uses past negative of to be accurately—check! Student uses past simple negative accurately—check!
Other models have tried to unify language development and content knowledge in so-called sheltered environments. Here, academic language is scaffolded to facilitate student engagement with content. Prominent examples of this model include the Sheltered Instruction Observational Protocol, widely adopted by school districts across the country; the Specially Designed Academic Instruction in English model, first developed in California; and the Cognitive Academic Language Learning model. Although there is much value in these models, it is an ongoing challenge to prevent scaffolded or sheltered instruction from becoming watered-down instruction.
Part of the support for the Common Core among bilingual educators and teachers of English language learners (ELLs) is rooted in the potential they see in CCSS for moving away from these models toward an academically robust environment for emergent bilinguals. Scholars and practitioners working with the Understanding Language project at Stanford University have made this case most clearly. For them, the Common Core assumes that English learners can learn the language through rigorous content. The standards focus literacy instruction simultaneously on text (processing individual letters, words, etc.) and discourse (overall meaning). That is, it shifts literacy instruction away from mere decoding skills and instead gives English learners access to instruction using academic language for a variety of complex, critical tasks. Emergent bilinguals don’t just learn about language through explicit instruction on grammar items or isolated vocabulary. Rather, they use language to engage academic content and to collaborate with others (with native-speaker, English-only, and multilingual peers, and with teachers who do and don’t share their home language) on academic tasks. The math standards also support language development by focusing on the language of math, namely, the language of explanation, reasoning, and argumentation associated with mathematical functions. Finally, the standards reinforce the idea that every teacher is a language teacher, not just the ELL or bilingual ed specialist.
This shift in orientation to the language-content connection reflects perspectives that many bilingual and English-language educators have long held. It is certainly refreshing to see these ideas taken up so broadly in policy briefs and curriculum guides. My sense is that for this reason alone many bilingual educators (practitioners and academics alike) have gotten on board with the Common Core.
However, the Common Core only makes this connection between language and content in English. The CCSS make no reference to linguistic diversity, to culture and its relationship to language, or to the linguistic and cultural resources that emergent bilinguals bring with them to the classroom. Worse still, the standards make no room for applying the language-content model to any language other than English. The standards invoke all the opportunity represented in sociocultural approaches to language learning, only to foreclose on it by focusing on English only.
The authors of the Common Core do explicitly address English learners in a brief addendum to the standards, but the addendum is inconsistent in its perspective. On the one hand, it acknowledges the linguistic, cultural, economic, and academic diversity of emergent bilinguals and states clearly that these students are capable of engaging rigorous content. However, it uses a medical model for defining effective instruction as that which “diagnos[es] each student instructionally.” It also labels students as English learners (i.e., defining them by what they do not yet know) rather than as the emergent bilingual youth they are. Moreover, the cultural knowledge that emergent bilingual students possess, and how teachers might leverage that knowledge, is left entirely unaddressed.
Most revealing, though, is how the addendum talks about students’ home languages. In the very few instances where they are mentioned at all, home languages serve merely as tools for learning English and English language content. In the section on English language arts, for example, “first languages” are mentioned only as a resource to learn a second language more efficiently. In the section on mathematics, “all languages and language varieties” are identified as resources for learning about mathematical reasoning. But home languages are never described as worthy of further academic development themselves. This stance continues the long tradition in the United States, even within some bilingual education models, of using home languages just long enough to learn English, and then leaving them behind.
On their own terms, then, the CCSS amount to another English-only policy. This severely undermines whatever curricular or pedagogical advances they might contain.
Bilingual Education Under Attack
Of course, the Common Core does not exist in isolation from other education reforms. In fact, the standards are part of a doubling down on the test-and-punish approach to reform that has had disastrous consequences for all students, but especially for schools serving students of color and multilingual communities. In addition, the standards appear at a moment in which bilingual education has long been in decline as a legitimate model for emergent bilingual youth.
There are several factors that account for this decline. One is an open political assault on bilingual education that reached its highpoint at the turn of this century. Four state-level ballot initiatives attempted to restrict bilingual education; three of them (in California, Arizona, and Massachusetts) were successful. These initiatives were part of a larger wave of anti-immigrant racism that had grown significantly by the 1990s. At first, anti-immigrant activists focused on denying undocumented immigrants access to public services, as with Proposition 187 in California in 1994. Although voters approved that measure, it was overturned by a federal court. In some ways, measures like Prop. 187 were seen at the time as too radical. Anti-immigrant forces quickly regrouped and focused instead on attacking bilingual education. Here, they found greater success—and greater legitimacy for their ideas. Bilingual education has long been low-hanging political fruit for anti-immigrant racists (Bale).
Beyond these explicit attacks, shifts in education policy have further undermined bilingual education. Most significantly, NCLB abolished the Bilingual Education Act of 1968 and all mentions of bilingual education and bilingualism were replaced with English-only terminology. NCLB’s high-stakes accountability measures have had direct and disastrous consequences for emergent bilingual youth. Kate Menken has documented this trend in two important studies in New York City public schools. Her work shows that the pressure exerted on schools to perform on high-stakes literacy exams in English has led to a significant decline in bilingual programs—even though both city and state policies still formally support bilingual education (Menken, Menken and Solorza).
One glimmer of hope in this otherwise dismal situation is the modest growth in dual-language programs. Different from compensatory bilingual education models, in which all students are English learners, dual-language programs have a more balanced mix of students. Some students are proficient speakers of English, and some are proficient speakers of the other language. This balance between speakers of dominant and minoritized languages is designed to build equity into dual-language programs: Each set of students acts as a linguistic and cultural resource for the other. However, language educators have long raised concerns that dual-language programs are often created either at the behest of or to attract (upper-) middle-class, white families and they tend to function more to the linguistic and academic benefit of English-speaking children. Language scholar Nelson Flores recently referred to this dynamic as “columbusing”—the “discovery” by white families of the benefits of bilingual education programs that in fact were fought for and won through the activism of communities of color.
Moreover, dual-language programs are not necessarily more exempt from racism than bilingual programs. Consider the experience of the Khalil Gibran International Academy, an Arabic-English dual-language program that opened in Brooklyn in 2007. As Brooklyn is home to the largest number of Arabic speakers in the United States, it is a logical site for such a school. The Arabic language curriculum it initially adopted was developed by researchers at Michigan State University and Arabic language teachers in that state. Their work was funded by the Department of Defense, which supports Arabic language learning in the name of national security. Neither logic nor the shroud of national security protected the school from a hateful campaign of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racism. Although the school managed to weather the storm, its potential was severely undermined. Its founding principal was forced to resign, and the school has changed locations several times.
Given this political context, whether the next generation of education standards sets bilingualism and biliteracy as explicit goals for all students is not a neutral question. And clearly, the Common Core has taken sides. By focusing on English-only, the standards function as the culmination of more than a decade of attacks on bilingual programs and emergent bilingual youth.
Politics, Not Evidence
From every perspective, then, it’s clear that the CCSS promise to further erode bilingual education and linguistic justice in the United States.
This conclusion underscores a point that has long been acknowledged, even by bilingual educators who support Common Core: Bilingual education is above all a question of politics, not of evidence. We have no shortage of evidence about the cognitive, personal, and social benefits of bilingualism. And, as difficult as it has been to come by, given the ups and downs of research funding and changing models of language education, we even have significant evidence of the benefits of bilingual education models themselves (Baker, García, García and Baker).
To be clear, as linguistic diversity in U.S. schools continues to increase, we need much more research on educational models for multilingual as well as bilingual settings. Also, there is much work to do in developing standards and curriculum that support and sustain students’ home languages while they learn academic English. This is the goal, for example, of the Bilingual Common Core Initiative in New York, a welcome response to the English-only assumptions in Common Core. But even here, “translating” the standards misses the point because the Common Core isn’t just a set of standards, but part and parcel of the test-and-punish paradigm. A bilingual version of Common Core may be pragmatic, but it does not move us away from the high-stakes testing that has so disfigured public schools. In short, adapting to the Common Core, rather than challenging it, does not help progressive educators change the conversation about real school reform.
Although challenging the Common Core may seem like a daunting task, the good news is that we already know a lot about what makes for high-quality and equitable bilingual education. In their book Educating Emergent Bilinguals: Policies, Programs, and Practices for English Language Learners, Ofelia García and Jo Anne Kleifgen describe the most effective practices for emergent bilinguals organized around four key strands: tailoring educational programs to the specific linguistic and academic needs of English learners; implementing fair assessments, especially assessments that decouple language from content proficiency; providing equitable resources, especially age- and grade-appropriate curricular resources in both home language(s) and English; and involving parents and communities at school. An important advance in the ideas they describe is moving away from a traditional approach to bilingual education that strictly separates the two languages and privileges only academic/standard varieties of language, and instead moving toward classroom practices that help students become conscious and critical users of the full language repertoire they bring with them to school, that is, both standard and non-standard varieties of English and home language(s).
History also tells us that challenges to the Common Core can’t come from just inside the classroom. Although many teachers and language scholars were working on models of bilingual education in the 1950s and early ’60s, it wasn’t until that work connected with a radical and grassroots civil rights movement that those models were widely implemented. The same holds for us today: If we are to transform schools into more equitable places for emergent bilinguals, then we need to rebuild social movements of students, parents, teachers, and community allies to make that change happen. The coalition building of the Chicago Teachers Union before their successful strike in 2012; the ongoing coalition work by groups such as the Grassroots Education Movement or the biannual Free Minds, Free People conference; the dramatic and rapid growth of opt-out and other anti-standardized testing activism across the country; the potential of deepening the #BlackLivesMatter movement to include education issues—all offer compelling and promising models for what this work looks like moving forward.
Not only did the CCSS not emerge from these educational and activist spaces, their vision of “reform” stands in direct opposition to grassroots, anti-racist democracy. If we are to transform schools into places that foster linguistic equity, the Common Core will not be the vehicle of that change. The burden, then, is on us—as supporters of linguistic and social equity for emergent bilingual youth—to organize against the Common Core politically, and to be part of building social movements that force open social space at school and beyond for bilingual education and practice.  
1.   Au, Wayne. 2009. Unequal by Design: High-Stakes Testing and the Standardization of Inequality. Routledge.
2.   Baker, Colin. 2006. Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism (4th ed.). Multilingual Matters.
3.   Bale, Jeff. 2012. “Linguistic Justice at School.” In Bale, Jeff and Sarah Knopp, eds. Education and Capitalism: Struggles for Learning and Liberation. Haymarket Books.
4.   García, Ofelia. 2009. Bilingual Education in the 21st Century: A Global Perspective. Wiley.
5.   García, Ofelia and Colin Baker. 2007. Bilingual Education: An Introductory Reader. Multilingual Matters.
6.   García, Ofelia and Jo Anne Kleifgen. 2010. Educating Emergent Bilinguals: Policies, Programs, and Practices for English Language Learners. Teachers College Press.
7.   Hagopian, Jesse, ed. 2014. More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing. Haymarket Books.
8.   Menken, Kate. 2008. English Learners Left Behind: Standardized Testing as Language Policy. Multilingual Matters.
9.   Menken, Kate and Cristian Solorza. 2014. “No Child Left Bilingual: Accountability and the Elimination of Bilingual Education Programs in New York City Schools.” Educational Policy 28.1: 96-125.
Jeff Bale ( is associate professor of language and literacies education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. Previously, he taught English to newcomers in urban secondary schools in Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Phoenix for a decade.

Public School Parents And Children File Lawsuit To Declare Nevada Vouchers Unconstitutional

ALERT! Public School Parents And Children File Lawsuit To Declare Nevada Vouchers Unconstitutional
Vouchers Violate Nevada Constitutional Ban on Diverting Public School Funding to Private Schools
Today, five parents whose children attend Nevada public schools filed a lawsuit challenging the State’s new voucher law – Senate Bill 302. The lawsuit claims that the voucher law violates the Nevada Constitution’s explicit ban on using public school funding for private schools. The lawsuit also seeks to permanently block the State Treasurer from implementing the voucher program.
In enacting SB302, the Nevada Legislature authorized the most expansive program of private school vouchers in the United States. The voucher law directs the State Treasurer to deposit funds appropriated by the Legislature for the operation of the Nevada public schools into private accounts to pay for private school tuition, online classes, home-based curriculums and related expenses, tutoring, transportation to and from private schools, and other private expenses.
The parents and students filed the lawsuit, Lopez v. Schwartz, in the First Judicial District Court in Carson City. More public school parents and their children are expected to join the lawsuit in the coming weeks.
Educate Nevada Now (ENN), a campaign of The Rogers Foundation, assembled a team of experienced Nevada and national attorneys to ensure that Nevada law protects and advances education opportunities for all children. ENN is supporting this lawsuit because it addresses using public funding for private schools, an issue of vital importance to all Nevada public school children and taxpayers – and one that must be resolved by the Nevada courts.
“The Nevada Constitution makes it crystal clear that the funding provided for our public schools can only be used to operate those schools, and not for any other purpose,” said Justin Jones, an attorney with Wolf, Rifkin, Shapiro, Schulman & Rabkin LLP, Nevada-based pro bono counsel for the plaintiffs. “The voucher law, by taking funding out of the public schools to pay for private school tuition and other private services, blatantly violates this explicit mandate enshrined in our state constitution.”
The parents and students contend that the voucher law violates the Education Article of the Nevada Constitution in three ways:
The voucher law by its terms diverts funds earmarked by the Legislature exclusively for the operation of the public schools to pay for private schools and other private expenditures.
The voucher law reduces State-guaranteed funding for the public schools below the level determined to be sufficient by the Legislature in the biennium budgets.
The voucher law allows public school funding to pay for private schools that do not have to comply with the “uniform” non-discrimination, education performance and accountability standards all Nevada public schools must follow.
The parents filed the lawsuit to prevent loss of funding from their children’s public schools to pay for private schools. Under SB302, even families who can readily afford to pay the full cost of private school tuition are eligible to receive public funds. The voucher law will reduce funding for the public schools while at the same time requiring those schools to educate a higher concentration of high needs children, including students with disabilities, English language learners, and students at risk due to family and neighborhood poverty, homelessness, transiency and other disadvantages.
"The voucher law undermines our uniform system of public schools which the Legislature is constitutionally obligated to maintain and support with sufficient funding," said Sylvia Lazos, Policy Director for Educate Nevada Now. “This lawsuit does not challenge the right of parents to choose a private or religious school for their child. But it does seek to ensure that public school funding is not diverted and depleted by subsidizing that choice.”
The complaint filed today complements the lawsuit filed by ACLU-Nevada last week to block the use of taxpayer funds for religious schooling but raises a separate and independent basis under the Nevada constitution for invalidating the voucher law.
In addition to the Wolf, Rifkin attorneys, David Sciarra and Amanda Morgan of the non-profit Education Law Center (ELC) in Newark, NJ, and Las Vegas, a partner in the ENN campaign, are representing the students and parents. They are also represented pro bono by Tamerlin Godley, Litigation Partner, and associates from Munger, Tolles and Olson in Los Angeles.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The fight against unpaid labor & for workers’ dignity developing Texas' lower Rio Grande Valley

The fight against unpaid labor and for workers’ dignity is developing in the Rio Grande Valley. 

This past Thursday Fuerza del Valle organized a Labor Day Press Conference at the SEIU Union Hall in McAllen, Texas to urge the public to denounce wage theft incidents, support working families, and emphasize the criminal nature of unpaid labor.

Fuerza del Valle members urged workers not to dismiss incidents of wage theft and leave them unreported, Sareth Garcia spoke on Domestic Workers and the need to support their fight to better conditions,  Jorge spoke on intimidation he has faced including physical violence when claiming his wages, nonetheless stating the importance to take a stance against abuse and organize.

Nidia Torres, the Secretary Treasurer of SEIU Texas and longtime Hidalgo County Employee, spoke on the SEIU’s support of movements for workers’ rights in the RGV, San Antonio, Houston, and El Paso.   Samantha Serna, attorney with TRLA, spoke on the services TRLA offers to working people in the RGV and their resolve to defend workers’ rights.

Rosa Sanluis, community organizer with  Fuerza del Valle, stressed the need for elected officials to support working families.  Hidalgo County Criminal District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez clarified his office will protect victims of crime and prosecute criminal activity.  Within the criminal activity lies unpaid labor as stated by the Texas Penal Code 31.04.

For the first time in history we have a District Attorney in South Texas openly stating their intentions to defend working families against wage theft. 

There is a lot of education and work ahead of us, join our movement for a better valley, for a better Texas.

Check out some of the media coverage:

And a great article by Erika, Michael, and Hector with the Workers’ Center:

 Follow our work through social media and our website.

We hope you enjoy the rest of your labor day and continue to support working families.

-Fuerza del Valle Workers' Center