Education: The 21st Century Civil Rights Issue

By John Monteleone, Fellow, National Institute for Latino School Leaders, NCLR

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I often find that within educational circles, the word equity can be controversial and confusing. Those who are more affluent and privileged often become squeamish, while those from economically-disadvantaged districts become increasingly engaged. However, while this conversation can be difficult to have with different audiences, the difficulty only emphasizes its importance. Pursuing equity in education can prevent some districts from falling into the achievement gap—and help prevent deeper inequality from taking root in our society.

In a country that prides itself on the mantra that “We The People” are treated fair and just, providing every child with an equitable education should not be controversial.

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Latino Education Has Improved, but We Still Have Work Ahead

By Ana Martinez, Midwest Regional Executive Director, New Leaders, National Institute for Latino School Leaders

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I am a U.S. citizen who was born in El Salvador at a time of civil turmoil. Like many others from that country, my family fled to the United States in search of the American Dream. One could argue that their journey, at least in terms of my life’s prospects, has paid off. I was the first in my family to go to college and graduate, and the first in my family to have a career of my choice.

However, the reality of the current state of Latinos in our educational system is one in which my story is the exception, not the norm. Now more than ever, the future success of Latinos in our educational system is at stake, and we have a moral obligation to ensure that we are steadfast in our commitment to advancing the Latino community.

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Kids Are at the Heart of the Padres Comprometidos con CHISPA Training

By Eddi Ortiz, Parent and Family Engagement Coordinator, Para Los Niños Charter Schools, NCLR Affiliate

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After traveling to San Antonio for the Padres Comprometidos (PC) con CHISPA training, I walked into the venue and discovered a room full of educators much like myself. Most of us were meeting each other for the first time, but all of us were at the training for the same purpose: to learn from each other and discuss how to best engage parents and families in STEM through the PC con CHISPA program. Now in our third year, PC con CHISPA introduces Latino parents around the country to the STEM concepts their children are learning at school. As a parent facilitator at the training, I had an opportunity to network, share ideas, and work in groups to improve my skills.

I discovered at the training that other parent facilitators face similar challenges in engaging parents. Para Los Niños Charter Schools, located in Los Angeles, works with our city’s most at-risk children, and provides a comprehensive approach to education. We not only focus on academic achievement, but also work to meet each student’s emotional, social, and psychological needs. The PC con CHISPA training allowed me to share best practices and ideas that are working for us at my school.

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Leadership Qualities of Equity-Focused School Leaders: Rafael Gaeta

By Rafael Gaeta, Ed.D., Nightingale Middle School, National Institute for Latino School Leaders Fellow

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Equity can be defined as “the quality of being fair and impartial.” As a school administrator, the topic of equity can conjure up cognitive dissonance with the personnel we work with each day. Why does the topic of equity cause so much angst at times? We believe the answer could be in the way that the terms “equity” and “equal” have been used interchangeably. A person’s definition of these terms may be the very factor that causes the angst that many school leaders encounter as they try to make decisions to create and sustain an equitable school environment. As a first-year “rookie” principal, I present a perspective of an administrator who continuously works on maintaining equity at our schools.

I just celebrated my one-year anniversary as the principal at my middle school in Northeast Los Angeles. My middle school has a more diverse student body than most schools in my area. We are 70% Latino, 29% Asian, and 1% Black. My school is considered school-wide Title I due to the socioeconomic status of our student population. I came into my first principal assignment with my personal experiences as an immigrant to this country and an English learner. Coincidentally, many of those experiences are also those of my students.

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Leadership Qualities of Equity-Focused School Leaders: Marla Fernandez

By Marla Fernandez, South Bay Union School District, National Institute for Latino School Leaders Fellow

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I have worked at South Bay Union School District for seven years. My wonderful elementary school is tucked away in a beach community that is located five miles from the Mexican border in San Diego. Our enrollment of 560 students includes 70% Latino students and 50% English learners. Additionally, 79% of our students’ families are low socioeconomic status; hence, we are schoolwide Title I.

When I was growing up, I was an English learner like many of my students. Although my mother was bilingual, I did not begin to attempt to tackle the academic demands of English until fourth grade. This was due to my teacher, who opened up a whole new world to me by teaching me to love literature. These experiences informed my teaching career, which has always included working in the field of bilingual education as a classroom teacher, resource teacher, and literacy coach.

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