In Education, the Effort Is Worth It

By Janet Murguía, President and CEO, NCLR

STEMGirl

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 www.RumboalTriunfo.org 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.

En la educación, el esfuerzo vale la pena

(Este artículo fue publicado anteriormente en LaOpinion.com.)

Los latinos no le tienen miedo al trabajo fuerte, más cuando significa un mejor futuro para nuestros hijos

Por Janet Murguía, President and CEO, NCLR

Classroom

La comunidad latina es muy trabajadora, y esa ética de trabajo es algo que les inculcamos a nuestros hijos y que les sirve muy bien en el transcurso de sus vidas.  Estos valores ayudan a convertir simples sueños en grandes logros.  Mis propios padres, quienes tuvieron poco más de una educación de primaria, nos enseñaron a mí y a mis hermanos que el triunfo y el progreso requieren compromiso y trabajo.  Ellos también nos insistían en que una buena educación era clave para prosperar en la vida y nos recordaban continuamente que en la escuela, el esfuerzo vale la pena.

Yo sé que mis padres no son los únicos y por eso no me sorprende que los padres latinos a través del país apoyen los estándares académicos más rigorosos que ahora están en vigor en más de 40 estados.  Para cada nivel escolar hay retos académicos claros y consistentes que los estudiantes tienen que dominar antes de pasar al próximo grado.  Estos retos, juntos a exámenes más precisos que miden como el estudiante esta dominando al contenido académico, nos ayuda a garantizar algo muy importante—que cuando nuestros estudiantes se gradúen de la secundaria, están preparados para triunfar en la universidad y en sus carreras.

Antes de estos nuevos estándares y medidas de rendición de cuentas, un diploma de la secundaria no necesariamente significaba que un estudiante estaba preparado para tener éxito en la universidad.  No solo eran diferentes los estándares de estado en estado, los estándares cambiaban de escuela a escuela.  Esto significaba que a veces, el código postal de un estudiante determinaba la calidad del contenido de la enseñanza y la preparación que recibían para entrar a la universidad.

Mientras que los latinos han triplicado sus números en las universidades en las últimas dos décadas—una estadística alentadora—muchos llegaban a la universidad solo para descubrir que no estaban preparados académicamente para ser exitosos.  Esto significaba que muchos estudiantes latinos pasaban tiempo y gastaban dinero en tomar contenido académico que tenían que haber aprendido en la secundaria—o peor aún, algunos abandonaban totalmente la universidad.

Hoy, más de 9 millones de estudiantes latinos están aprendiendo y están siendo evaluados bajo estos nuevos estándares académicos más rigorosos en la matemática y el inglés.  Esto significa que se ha levantado la expectativa para asegurar que estos estudiantes están aprendiendo como utilizar el pensamiento crítico, como resolver problemas—algo que les ayudara a justificar y explicar sus respuestas en el aula y navegar el mundo real cuando lleguen a ser adultos.  Todas estas herramientas son necesarias para triunfar en la Universidad y en la fuerza laboral moderna.

Ahora estamos en un periodo donde los estudiantes y los maestros se están acostumbrando a estos nuevos estándares y exámenes.   Por ejemplo, en el estado de Kentucky, el primer estado que aplicó estos nuevos estándares (conocidos como “Common Core”), los estudiantes vieron al principio que sus puntuaciones en los exámenes bajaron.  Sin embargo, el porcentaje de estudiantes que estaban listos para la Universidad y para sus carreras incremento de un 34% a un 62% en solo cuatro años.  Y la tasa de graduación de la secundaria para los latinos subió de un 56% a un 80%.

Este es un buen comienzo.  Pero a través de los Estados Unidos debemos—y podemos—hacer un mejor esfuerzo.  Mientras que los padres ya tienen altas expectativas para sus hijos dentro de sus hogares, también les aliento a que hablen con los maestros de sus hijos sobre estos nuevos estándares y exámenes.  Pregúntales como mejor trabajar juntos para asegurar que su hijo este dominando esta materia bajo el nuevo sistema de estándares.  Y no se les olvide visitar a la página del NCLR: www.RumboalTriunfo.org donde proveemos información y recursos sobre estos estándares y sistemas de rendición de cuentas para los padres latinos.

La verdad es que no va a ser fácil para los estudiantes ni los padres o los maestros.  Pero como mis padres me enseñaron, los latinos no le tienen miedo al trabajo fuerte, más cuando significa un mejor futuro para nuestros hijos.

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 llopez@hispanic-center.org.

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.

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.

Strengthening the Base in Houston

By Maria Moser, Midwest Regional Director, Education, NCLR

Charter school boards have a unique responsibility as guardians of the public trust that created the charter itself. Yet many small independent charter schools do not have access to training and support for this critical work. Through Strengthening the Base, a project funded by the Walton Family Foundation and launched in 2014, NCLR has trained board members from nine participating schools that collectively serve more than 7,000 students through meetings, webinars, and on-site trainings across the country.

Last month, NCLR and AAMA, an NCLR Affiliate, hosted the Strengthening the Base spring meeting at George I. Sanchez Charter School. Board members and directors from NCLR Affiliate schools across the country gathered for NCLR’s personalized, hands-on training. Participants also had an opportunity to tour the school facility and learn about its work from Principal John De La Cruz.

We have learned a few key lessons from this work so far:

  • Charter school boards want support and connection. Our board members are passionate about their schools and the responsibility that accompanies board leadership, but they are often isolated, particularly those in smaller communities with few charter schools. Our cohort meetings provide a chance to share best practices and strategize about common challenges.
STB_blog-1

Our board members coming together to share updates.

“The presentations from other schools on best practices were excellent. It was great having an opportunity to see where other schools were in their respective development and growth.” –Participant evaluation

  • Charter school boards are busy and need dedicated time for critical reflection and planning. Charter school boards meet more often than other nonprofit boards—usually monthly. With a constantly revolving academic calendar, meetings can be overwhelmed by small details and immediate concerns. Strengthening the Base provides on-site, full-day retreats for each board to reflect on its priorities and progress. In the second year of this work, each school’s board will revise its self-evaluation and begin self-evaluations for individual board members.

“Meeting as a cohort allows us to step away from the day-to-day work and refocus on the importance of the project.” –Participant evaluation

MAAC Community Charter School’s Education Advisory Committee gathered in October to create goals for the year.

MAAC Community Charter School’s Education Advisory Committee gathered in October to create goals for the year.

  • Charter school boards need help translating education jargon into “real world” meaning. Our board members often bring a great deal of experience from their fields, including law, higher education, nonprofit management, and business, but they may be unsure of how to translate this expertise into the K–12 world, which has its own set of jargon and rules. Orientations for new members and regular updates for everyone on the changing world of K–12 policy are essential. At the Strengthening the Base meeting, NCLR’s Leticia de la Vara provided updates on national education policy issues, including reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the Common Core State Standards.
  • Boards need tools. Small charter schools are often unaware of the resources available to help them work more effectively. Through webinars and meetings, Strengthening the Base has given board members the opportunity to share best practices and apply them to their work. At our March meeting, we compared several examples of leadership evaluation policies and standards, and we worked in small groups to create models of how these standards could be used in our own communities. By the end of the school year, all participant schools will have a revised leadership evaluation that reflects their unique situation while using best practices from across the country.
Two board members analyze the Education Leadership Policy Standards established by the Council of Chief State School Officers and compare them to school leadership indicators.

Two board members analyze the Education Leadership Policy Standards established by the Council of Chief State School Officers and compare them to school leadership indicators.

Strengthening the Base has given cohort schools a sense of camaraderie and a set of valuable tools and skills to improve their governance. NCLR will expand this work to the larger NCLR School Network at our Good Governance Summit on July 9–10 in Kansas City, Mo. Register for the summit today!