In Education, the Effort Is Worth It

By Janet Murguía, President and CEO, NCLR


Latinos work very hard, and they instill in their children the kind of commitment that turns possibilities into great accomplishments. My own parents, who had little more than a middle school education, taught my siblings and me that triumph and progress require commitment and hard work. They also taught us a good education is key to advancement and reminded us that in school, as in all good things, el esfuerzo vale la pena—making an effort is worth it.

I know my parents were not unique in that respect. It’s why I am not surprised that Latino parents across the nation welcome the new rigorous academic standards that are now the norm in more than 40 states. At each grade level, there is a set of clear, consistent academic goals that students must master before moving on to the next. Those goals, along with accurate tests that measure how well a student is mastering the academic content, guarantee something very important. By the end of high school, parents and teachers will know a student is truly prepared for success in college or the workplace.

Before the new standards and assessments, a high school diploma did not necessarily mean a student was ready for college-level work. Not only were the standards different in each state; they could be quite different from one school to the next. It meant zip codes dictated how well a student was prepared for college.

Furthermore, while Latinos tripled their college-going rate over the past two decades—an encouraging statistic—many were arriving on campus only to discover that they were not academically prepared. It meant many Latino students spent time and money on content they should have learned in high school—or worse, dropped out of college altogether.

Today, more than nine million Latino students are being taught to and assessed on these new rigorous academic standards in math and English language arts. It means the bar has been raised to ensure students learn how to think critically, solve problems that they will experience in the real world and be able to explain and justify their work. It’s far more than a demanding experience. All of those skills are necessary to succeed in college and the 21st-century workplace.

Right now we are in a period of adjustment as teachers and students get used to the new standards and tests. For example, in Kentucky, the first state to begin using these new academic standards (known by many as the “Common Core”), student test scores went down at first. But the percentage of high school graduates ready for college and careers increased from 34 percent to 62 percent in four years. And, the state’s high school graduation rate for Latino students has risen from 56 percent to 80 percent.

That’s not a bad start. But, across the U.S. we should—and can—do much better. I am certain we can accomplish it—together. While parents are setting high expectations at home, I encourage them to also speak with their child’s teacher about the new standards and assessments. Ask them how to best work in concert to ensure your child is mastering the new standards. And, don’t forget to visit NCLR’s website, where we provide information and resources about the standards and assessments for Latino parents like you.

The truth is, none of this will be easy—for students, parents or teachers. But, as my parents showed me, Latinos never shy away from hard work, especially when it means a better future for our children.

Giving Voice to Latino Parents on the Common Core

A recent Newsday article highlighted efforts by some parents on Long Island to take their opt-out message over testing and the Common Core to Latino parents. Much of the article is devoted to why these groups are encouraging parents to opt out of tests, but virtually no print is given to those who support the Common Core and why the opt-out message is a dangerous one. In fact, the Latino parent perspective was missing entirely.

Peggy McLeod, our Deputy Vice President for Education and Workforce Development, sent a letter to the editor to outline exactly why the Common Core is vital for ensuring our kids take the right steps to succeed. Read the letter, as published, below.

As the nation’s largest Latino civil rights organization, the National Council of La Raza works with Latino parents every day. We found Newsday’s Nov. 17 article, “Seeking Common Core opt-out ‘en Español,’ ” lacking an important perspective — that of Latino parents. Most welcome high standards and accurate measurements. Excluding voices from the strong movement in support of the Common Core and annual assessments provides an imbalanced view of a critical issue facing parents.

Latino parents care deeply about ensuring that their children are ready to succeed. They also believe in high expectations — those set both at home and at school.

For too long, the quality of the education that a child receives, or his or her ability to succeed in college and career, has been determined by where family lives, how much money it makes or its race or ethnicity. The Common Core state standards and the tests that are aligned to them are solid steps in the right direction because they provide parents with a more honest look at how a child is doing and whether he or she is on track to succeed.

Latino parents know that standardized tests are part of life. You have to take a test to get into the military and most four-year colleges. In many professions — from hair dressers to doctors — you have to take tests to earn licenses. Taking these end-of-year tests helps prepare students for what lies ahead.

And, where their children are concerned, Latinos want that to be success.

Peggy McLeod, Manhattan

Youth Program Launches Academic Success Workshops for Parents

By Rachel Lopez
(Cross-posted from the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan Blog)

The “Equity and Excellence Project” delivers academic success workshops to empower parents and improve academic outcomes for students. (Left – Right: Yenny Gaspar – Union Graduate 2015, Parent – Jose Rivera, Jeanette Rivera – Godwin Heights Graduate 2015) Photo: Hispanic Center of Western Michigan

The “Equity and Excellence Project” delivers academic success workshops to empower parents and improve academic outcomes for students. (Left – Right: Yenny Gaspar – Union Graduate 2015, Parent – Jose Rivera, Jeanette Rivera – Godwin Heights Graduate 2015) Photo: Hispanic Center of Western Michigan

Raising kids is a tough job. The Hispanic Center is trying to make it a little easier, at least when it comes to navigating the educational system, with a new initiative called the, “Equity and Excellence Project.”

The Hispanic Center is partnering with National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the nation’s largest Latino civil rights and advocacy group, to increase educational opportunities and improve achievement for Latinos by amplifying the voice of the Latino parent community.

Through the Equity and Excellence Project, the Hispanic Center is partnering with local schools to deliver educational workshops to discuss the standards and assessments, as well as elevate community voices in policy discussions that call for the need for proper accountability systems to be effectively implemented.

Michigan adopted the Common Core State Standards in June 2010 and is now utilizing the “Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress” assessment system, more commonly known as “M-STEP,” to assess student progress. The M-STEP replaces the 44-year-old MEAP test. Unfortunately, there still remains many parents that are misinformed or unaware about the benefits of standards and assessments for low-income and minority students when implemented properly.

Leticia Lopez, a Program Assistant at the Hispanic Center, is leading these informational workshops. As a first generation college student herself, she understands first-hand the struggle she and her parents faced when navigating the educational system.

“Working with NCLR has taught me that parent involvement and high academic standards work hand-in-hand to prepare all of our students for academic success,” says Leticia. “I always tell myself nothing is impossible unless you tell yourself it’s impossible. You’re the only one that can stop yourself from achieving what you want to achieve.”

Leticia wants parents to know that the resources are out there, “all you have to do is start looking and start learning.” The Hispanic Center will be offering several workshops to equip parents with the information they need to know about state standards, preparing for college along with tools and resources to help support their child’s academic success.

The workshops are free and open to the public. All workshops will be in English and Spanish and appetizers will be provided.

  • Godwin Heights High School: Monday, Nov. 30 (6:30-7:30pm)
  • Union High School: Thursday, Dec. 3 (Time to be announced)
  • Hispanic Center of Western Michigan: Thursday, Dec. 10 (6pm-7pm)

For more information about the workshops, or to bring a workshop to your school, please contact Leticia Lopez at

Rachel Lopez is the Director of Youth and Parent Services at the Hispanic Center. She currently resides in Wyoming, MI with her husband and twin daughters, Sofia and Isabella.

A School Year in Review: Camino Nuevo Charter Academy

By Heather McManus, Principal, Camino Nuevo Charter Academy
(Cross-posted from the National Institute for Latino School Leaders blog)


As another school year winds down, educators throughout California will reflect on the last 10 months of student progress, overall growth toward goals, and how we have changed as individuals and professionals. This year’s evolution was memorable for us at Camino Nuevo Charter Academy (CNCA) as well as at many other schools across California.

This school year brought with it many celebrations and challenges. Wrapping up a $36 million construction project that was delayed for nearly a year, we packed up 15 years’ worth of school memories and moved into Belmont High School to experience a co-location. Co-location, also known as “Prop 39,” pairs up public charter schools with local public district schools that are underenrolled to share the space and school facilities.

Co-location can be challenging for all parties involved. Due to the expensive nature of land and real estate in California, Prop 39 remains an important option for many public charter schools in underserved neighborhoods. This year, the California Supreme Court impacted the law’s implementation in some school districts. In April, the Court ruled that the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) had been violating Prop 39 and required LAUSD to make changes to ensure that its methods of allocating classrooms to all schools are lawful.

CaminoNuevo_pic5The past year also brought an influx of revenue directed toward public schools and a new state funding mechanism: the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). Under this revolutionary model, schools receive a base amount of money, and those that serve a majority of students who live in poverty, are English language learners, or are foster youth receive a concentration and supplemental grant above the base amount. Historically, schools in the most needy areas operate on fewer dollars than schools in more affluent areas because they are funded by community tax dollars.

With the implementation of LCFF, schools are held accountable by creating a Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). At Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, parents, staff, and students participated in budget meetings, surveys, and presentations related to the eight state priorities and CNCA-specific priorities. Our plan prioritized, among other things, providing mental health services, interventions for struggling students, and a well-rounded education. As the year winds down, schools are measuring progress toward the goals outlined in the accountability plan and writing updated versions of their plan for next year.

CaminoNuevo_Pic1Finally, this school year saw the first full-year implementation of the new California Common Core State Standards. These standards require schools to dramatically shift classroom instruction. This spring, students throughout the state engaged in the first round of the Smarter Balanced Assessments. At CNCA, students in grades 3–8 took four assessments over eight days and a total of 16 hours. They had to successfully navigate the new technology testing platform as well as more rigorous standards. While California will not use this year’s results in calculating the state’s accountability tool, the Academic Performance Index, at CNCA we are anxiously awaiting our scores to help us push our work forward.

In these final few days of the school year, we’re working to close it out while moving swiftly toward the next. We are already planning and hiring for 2015–2016 and look forward to continuing to provide students with an excellent education.

Here’s to a great school year and a restful summer!

The Common Core Works

The Common Core State Standards is currently being implemented in schools across the country, including at our Affiliate, El Sol Science and Arts Academy of Santa Ana. Students there are already showing signs of improvement and are benefiting from the common core. See how in the video below.