By Rafael Gaeta, Ed.D., Nightingale Middle School, National Institute for Latino School Leaders Fellow
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.
By Marla Fernandez, South Bay Union School District, National Institute for Latino School Leaders Fellow
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.
By Jose Enriquez, National Institute for Latino School Leaders Fellow
Current data trends show that the Latino educational pipeline is improving—within the last decade, both high school graduation rates and college enrollment rates have improved for Latino students. However, there are still challenges to closing educational gaps.
Until recently, data showed that for every 100 Latino students, 21 will go to college, eight will earn a graduate degree, and less than 0.2% will earn a doctoral degree. According to Pew Research Center, 49% of Latino high school graduates in the United States enrolled in college in 2012, while high school dropout rates continued to fall. This positive trend may be representative of Latino students moving through the education system more smoothly than before. Despite such promising trends, in comparison to other ethnic groups, Latino college students are:
By Ana Martinez, National Institute for Latino School Leaders, NCLR
(cross-posted with the permission of the Surge Institute and Ana Martinez)
I have spent my entire life in the fight for educational equity and 14 years fighting that fight in classrooms and schools across cities like Los Angeles, Miami-Dade and Chicago. For a long time, I believed schools and classrooms were the best spaces to create change for the Black and Brown students we serve. Don’t get me wrong – change without transformational leaders in classrooms and schools is impossible. But, the change that is needed today is deeply rooted in historical systems of oppression and racism that – consciously or unconsciously – have resulted in institutions that are well equipped to maintain the status quo. Unless there is transformational change at multiple levels the changes created in classrooms are, at best, short term.
I am the child of an immigrant single mother. I believe the appropriate label afforded to me was “alien” – a very befitting term as I was neither from here nor there. My family left a war-torn country in pursuit of the all-American dream, but little did we know that language, poverty, culture clashes, alcoholism, domestic violence, and sexual abuse would be some of the challenges we would have to overcome in pursuit of such dream. I struggled understanding the world I left behind and the world that stood in front of me, so I embraced the “alien” label and allowed myself to walk in that lane for too long.
NCLR has long been at the forefront of education reform. Our policy team has advocated for English learners (ELs) and helped pass the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the federal education law that updates the landmark Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965, most recently known as “No Child Left Behind.”
Our policy efforts are highly visible. Our programmatic work, which supports and serves hundreds of youth and educators throughout the nation, has also grown exponentially in the past decade. This past week was a highlight for the NCLR Education team, which hosted the first combined institute in Fort Worth, Texas, to spotlight four NCLR Education programs: the National Institute for Latino School Leaders (NILSL), Padres Comprometidos, Children Investigating Science with Parents and Afterschool (CHISPA) and the annual Leadership Institute for Latino Literacy (LILL).
“Individually, our programs have grown tremendously, providing great resources and training to hundreds of educators throughout the country,” said Dr. Margaret “Peggy” McLeod, Deputy Vice President of Education and Workforce Development at NCLR. “The decision to host this convening, however, was born out of a desire to create a collaborative platform where educators, parents, advocates and Affiliates could come together, exchange ideas, and glean from the individual approaches they are taking to improve education outcomes for Latino students.”