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Reauthorizing ESEA With Latino Students in Mind


The drumbeat on reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (known most recently as No Child Left Behind) has been sounding a little more loudly lately. Arne Duncan beat the drum a bit last week. This week, the National Council of La Raza, which advocates policies for improving the schooling of Latino students, is articulating what it thinks has to happen in a reauthorization to safeguard those students' interests.

In a paper out today, La Raza says that new Title I rules issued last fall went part of the way toward better accountability for schools that serve large numbers of Latino students. For instance, under the new regulations, high schools will be held accountable not just for one overall graduation rate, but for the graduation rates of subgroups such as low-income students and Latino students.

But while La Raza applauds such changes, it argues that the reauthorization has to take them a step further.

For instance, the rules require high schools to make "continuous and substantial" improvement in their graduation rates. But La Raza argues that more definitive language is needed to ensure that districts aren't making adequate yearly progress just because their growth targets are unacceptably low.

Some of the rules implemented last fall, though, should just be changed, the group argues. At the high school level, it points to the rule that allows states to use an "extended year" graduation rate—one that gives them partial credit for students who take five or six years to get diplomas. Using extended-year rates is "worrisome" because it risks putting lower-achieving students on a "slower academic track" than that of their peers, La Raza says.


I believe that alternatives should be considered:


1. Expand the school day
2. On site - one-one-one tutors prior to school & after school
3. Family ESL instruction after school or in the evenings at the school
4. ESL community involvment at the school site weekly
5. ESL library for students & family members
6. More ESL activities with motivating ESL visitors, field trips, community employers, etc.. Include weekend and holiday events.
7. School board & district meeting & greeting family and students monthly.
8. ESL community events held at the school.
9. ESL peer mentors assigned for the duration of school until graduation.
10. ESL on-line tutorials available in the school libarary and lab which may be worked on alone, with a peer mentor or with family mentors.
11. Expansion of ESL services having programs available during the summer months as well.
12. ESL movie night
13. If ESL students remain in school longer combine with an academic program with a nearby junior college, arrange a work study with the additional schooling or incorporate a trade school with the extended learning time.
14. Make this a situation with advantages and truly assists the student and family members.

These are possible suggestions which may help and assist ESL students in graduating on time as opposed to graduating later or not graduating at all. Hopefully, there are otherrs out there who have some workable solutions.

La Raza could move these initiatives a long way if it raised private money to support them. The group has made significant policy gains and has pushed for and gained systemic reform in education which benefits Latinos. I aplaud this frankly. I wonder how successful they will be going forward, however, particularly in the current climate. Since we are talking about a significant number of students (although not all) whose families are in fact here illegally and who do not contribute to the tax base it will be hard to get citizens (even some Latino Americans)to support government when they try to get futre bills passed for English Language Learners. The radical posture taken by some Latino advocates, i.e. proposing that English Second Language programs be retitled as English As A Foreign Language (EFL) programs in an English-dominated country, when many of the beneficiaries came here by breaking the law, and will not contribute a cent towards developing related programs, only builds resentment. This leaves politicians to have to walk a careful line, or sometimes to abandon language-minority or immigration policies, in fear of losing their positions. Things like the Dream Bill and Bilingual education will be hard to pass as hard-working Americans continue to see their children denied more and more services due to the need to stretch limited resources to include all when all is not putting anything in the pot. This is not intended as racism or bigotry toward Latinos. It is a real discussion that many Americans are having in their homes daily, although a silenced dialogue publicly. Americans should be able to share real concerns about their and their children's futures without being considered to be bigotted. If there is ever going to be sustained progress in this area, there has to be fair and open discussions on the community level, that are not racially or socio-economically dominant. I pray for that day so that America can heal and move on.

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