Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday Blog Round Up

This week's best blog entries, in no specific order:

Mary Ann Zehr on Presidential Candidates and Bilingual Education (quoting Hispanic Link).

Tech in the Class on The Importance of Technology Education. A comprehensive look at California's CTE programs and how they can be improved and expanded.

The Quick and the Ed on Same Sex Education and its impact on minority kids.

The TFA Trenches on Nationwide Assessment.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Career and Technical Education (Part II)

A continuation of yesterday's "Wednesday Issue:"

When discussing CTE, we must weigh the good with the bad. For all of these benefits of these programs, I still have my questions and reservations about CTE. Primarily, I take issue with the way that CTE has been operated in the past – as a tracking system that diverts minority kids from college prep programs. With CTE, low expectations are a very dangerous temptation. (“Oh, Miguel isn’t doing well in his academic classes, but it doesn’t matter - he doesn’t need US History to be a mechanic.”) Therefore, when designing CTE programs – particularly CTE programs that will cater to minority students – there must be equal emphasis on academic instruction and career training. We must ensure that these programs are preparing our children for all of the opportunities that they will face after graduation – in both the workforce and the academic world.

My other reservations about CTE are more philosophical. While well-balanced CTE programs surely have the potential to produce students who are both technically skilled and intellectually creative, I often wonder if a focus on “marketable skills” reduces students to robot workers. Intellectual curiosity and creativity must not be sacrificed in the name of career preparation – especially since they are essential to so many careers. Having a wide exposure to different subjects and disciplines is as important as having specialized training and CTE programs must be carefully designed to include both.

Interrupting the flow..

I will return to CTE later today, but before that, I wanted to put this out there:

The Pew Hispanic Center has released a report on English Usage Amongst Hispanics in the US, which can be found here.

According to the study 88% of US-born adult Latinos say that they speak and read English very well. In contrast, only 23% of foreign-born Latinos say that they speak English very well.

The study is somewhat imperfect - as its asks for mere opinion and doesn't actually measure the participants' English fluency - but it is sure to be important data for the bilingual education community.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wednesday Issue: Career and Technical Education (Part I)

When we talk about educational options, oftentimes, traditional models come to mind: charter schools, homeschooling, private schools, etc. One educational option frequently ignored, however, is career and technical education (CTE), formerly referred to as vocational/technical education. Considering the needs and values of the Latino community, CTE proves to be a very important educational option for Hispanics. Today’s analysis will take a very quick look at the positive opportunities that CTE offers to the Latino community. Tomorrow, we’ll take a more critical look at these programs and consider their flaws.

Before any real analysis can begin, however, one must understand the full breadth of the term “Career and Technical Education.” CTE is no longer just the auto mechanics class that meets in the back of the school; numerous pedagogical and institutional models fall under the category of CTE. One example is dual enrollment programs, where high school students attend college classes (and receive credit for them) while pursuing their high school diplomas. Another example is Tech Prep programs, which generally begin in the ninth grade and provide students with technical training to pursue a career in engineering, mechanics, agriculture, or a number of other fields. Students often graduate these programs with an Associate’s degree or a professional certificate in their field. Many other models exist for CTE, but all share one main purpose: prepare students to pursue higher education and a specific career field.

Although each CTE model is unique (and thus, has its own positive and negative quirks), CTE programs benefit Latino students in similar ways. Firstly, most of these programs allow students to receive college credit for the classes that they are taking. While this is an obvious “plus” for any child, it is especially helpful for Latinos whose families may struggle financially and are unable to pay college tuition. Research from the organization Excelencia in Education reveals that Latino students are much more likely than other undergraduates to be from a low-income family. Earning college credits in a CTE program can allow Latino students to “speed up” their university careers, reducing their financial obligations and making it more likely that they will graduate from college.

In addition to helping Latinos get an educational and financial “head start” on college, many of these programs equip students with marketable skills that can help them during their undergraduate careers and beyond. For example, many programs train students to work as auto mechanics. Being able to work as an auto mechanic during an undergraduate career is surely a much lucrative option than say, working at McDonald's (or the school's dining hall, like I did).

Thirdly, while I would love to see every Latino child in America (in fact, every child in America) graduate from college with a 4-year degree, that is not the wish or destiny of every student. Some students cannot or do not want to attain a bachelor’s; for these, CTE provides major opportunities. According to the Census Bureau’s most recent analysis, the average full-time worker with an Associate’s degree will earn $1.6 million over the course of his/her working life. In contrast, the average full-time worker with only a high school diploma earns a mere $1.2 million. That’s some difference. By providing students with an easy opportunity to attain an Associate’s degree or professional certificate (which also has extra earning power), CTE programs ensure a better future for that student – a future which holds not only increased earning power, but also increased employment options.

Finally, I must examine CTE from a former teacher’s perspective. Another reason why I support CTE is that students actually like it. The practical approach of these programs provides concrete goals for students to work towards and keeps them invested in their education. When I was teaching in DC, our high school had an extremely popular culinary program. This program funneled students into post-secondary culinary schools, but aside from giving them that opportunity, it kept them interested in their high school work. Needless to say, that is no small feat. Being able to engage students who have been historically alienated by our school system is one major benefit of CTE programs and, in my opinion, all the more reason to support them.

Of course, CTE programs are not perfect. Although they offer many excellent opportunities to Latino students, there are also aspects of CTE which must be criticized. Tune in tomorrow to hear more about the challenges of CTE programs.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Vouchers versus CTC Scholarships, Part II

Today's goal is two-fold:

1.) Point out some of the philosophical differences between vouchers and CTC scholarships.

2.) Discuss how these philosophical differences could affect the CTC push in Utah.

Numero uno:

School choice opponents are often quick to label tax credit scholarships as "vouchers," however, in reality, the two models operate quite differently - and have different philosophical underpinnings.

Vouchers come from public tax dollars - essentially, as money "returned" to the citizen for his/her own use. Voucher systems function on the belief that individuals have the right to control how their tax dollars are used for their children's education. Generally, voucher programs are proposed as "universal" and available to all residents of a particular state. This fits with their underlying philosophy - after all, if one family has the right to decide how its tax dollars are used, all other families should have the same.

On the contrary, corporate tax credit scholarships are created by the donations of various corporations. The donating corporation is the one who receives the tax credit; the student is the individual who receives a scholarship for private school. Rather than emphasize taxpayers' rights, CTC programs emphasize a philosophy of responsible business. They are also generally targeted to a specific audience - low-income families, for example. This results in a feel-good situation for both businesses and the general public. By participating in a CTC program, businesses enjoy a tax break and the squishy "I made a difference" feeling while families receive the money they need and the comforting thought that Big Business cares.

Numero dos:

The difference between "taxpayers' rights" and a focus on philanthropy cannot be understated for the Utah case. Utah's legislators would be seriously remiss to assume that their constituents who favored vouchers will also support a CTC scholarship program. My guess, based on what happened earlier this month, is that Utah's citizens will not be particularly enthusiastic about CTC scholarships.

To back this up, I must again refer to the Salt Lake Tribune poll, which found that only 6% of Utah voucher supporters favored the program because it would "help the poor." For most voucher supporters, "parental choice" was the driving factor in their approval. However, if a CTC program is initiated, it is likely to be restricted to low-income families. Thus, it will focus exclusively on helping the poor.

It's a recipe for resistance. While voters may not decide the future of this program, they'll have plenty to say to their legislators, who will be listening.

Additional Notes:

One of the most common misconceptions and fears about the Utah voucher program was that it would "take money away from public schools." Since the CTC program clearly has nothing to do with public funds, Utahns may be much more supportive of it despite the fact that it conflicts with some of their original reasons for supporting vouchers.

I will also be watching to see how the idea of competition figures into this debate - will the proposed CTC program actually provide enough scholarships and influence to change the public system itself? We shall see...

Tomorrow Wednesday Issue is Career and Technical Education, so stay tuned for some good information and hopefully, lively discussion!

Monday, November 26, 2007

"I'm Not Dead Yet!" : Utah Voucher Update

Okay, the Monty Python reference was cheap, but I decided to go for it it appears, the Utah vouchers are NOT dead yet.

Paul Rolly of the Salt Lake Tribune is reporting that the Utah legislature is considering starting a Corporate Tax Credit (CTC) scholarship program following the defeat of voucher legislation that would have created a universal voucher program in the state.

We have seen this happen before in Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Minnesota. At one point, these states all had voucher legislation on the table, but when the legislation was defeated, the states came back with CTC scholarship programs. And they won.

So what are the chances that this program will pass? When asking yourself that important question, here are some facts to consider:

1.) This campaign will be different. First of all, let's remember that the original voucher legislation passed in the House and Senate and was signed into law by the governor. Then, and only then, was it defeated in a voter referendum. The proposed CTC scholarship program will likely never go to a voter referendum, so instead of convincing everyday citizens, the school choice movement will have to focus their efforts on people in power.

2.) The November 6th vote will have a major effect. School choice suffered a major defeat in the voter referendum - a defeat which could alter the outcome of this (possible) legislation in two ways. On the one hand, the voucher defeat could motivate Utahn legislators who support school choice to re-commit themselves to the cause and ensure that the CTC program is passed and protected.. On the other hand, a 60/40 vote against the voucher program is difficult for legislators to ignore. Well, it's difficult for legislators who want to please their constituents to ignore. Granted, the CTC program is not a voucher program, but polls show that the general public is not very well informed on school choice programs; therefore, the nuances of vouchers vs. CTC just might be too much for them.

3.) The NEA still has lobbyists. Tying in to the fact that the general public is uninformed about school choice programs, we must expect that the NEA will vilify the CTC program as an underhanded way to get vouchers into Utah. Not that I'm trying to give them any ideas; I'm sure they're already thinking that. So the school choice side must be prepared with a strong strategy to educate our legislators about the benefits of the CTC program and how it differs from vouchers.

I'm sure I missed a few points there, so please chime in.

Tomorrow I'll take a deeper look at the history of CTC scholarship program legislation in Arizona, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania to explain how Utah can move forward. I'll also ask the more philosophical question: Should CTC scholarships be accepted as a "consolation prize" after the defeat of a voucher program?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Wednesday Issue: Guestblogger Dan Lips on NCLB

Guestblogger Dan Lips, an Education Analyst at the Heritage Foundation, takes the reins today to share his views on NCLB and its effects on Hispanic children*:

Here’s a fact you probably won’t see in your local newspaper: Half of all Hispanic children in public schools in this country can not read or write the English language. Will Congress and the American people wake up to this grim reality before Congress makes a big mistake in its new version of No Child Left Behind?

The 2007 National Assessment of Educational Progress reveals the depth of the crisis in education for Hispanic children. It reports that 50 percent of Hispanic fourth grade students scored “below basic” in reading. Given that statistic, it is no surprise that only 59 percent of Hispanic girls and 48 percent of Hispanic boys end up graduating from high school.

Yet parents shouldn’t look to Congress for an immediate solution. True, Congress is about to decide whether and how to reauthorize No Child Left Behind, which was originally intended to address the problem of low expectations facing many minority students. The law was designed to hold schools accountable for results through annual testing and by giving students trapped in low-performing schools the opportunity to transfer into higher performing schools.

But after five years, NCLB hasn’t solved the problems in American education. Evidence suggests that federal high-stakes testing has led some states to change how their tests are graded, making it difficult for parents to understand whether their children are making progress. Some states have simply lowered standards to make their test easier to pass.

Early discussions on Capitol Hill suggest that NCLB will become worse, not better, if Congress moves forward with reauthorization. Some of the changes that are being considered would put Hispanic children further behind in the classroom. In particular, draft legislation released by Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D–CA) would change current testing policies to give states more leeway in how English language learners are tested. Specifically, the new proposal would reform existing law to allow states to use more subjective portfolio assessments and native language tests for five or more years to measure whether children are learning.

This change would force public schools across the country to make a tough decision: tackle the challenge of teaching Spanish-speaking children English so they can pass regular exams or take the easier path of using native-language tests and portfolio assessments. Because NCLB would continue to pressure schools with high-stakes state tests, federal law would provide an incentive for states to choose the easier path. The result: Fewer Hispanic children would learn the critical skills of reading, writing, and speaking English at an early age.

If Congress doesn’t have the answer, what can be done to address the crisis facing Hispanic children in the classroom? Fortunately, there is a promising solution.

A growing number of states and communities are enacting school choice policies that let parents use their children’s share of public education funding to choose the best school for their child. This gives parents the power to ensure that their children receive a quality education. If a child isn’t thriving in his or her current classroom, parents can pick a new school where the child will receive a better education. Giving parents choices puts pressure on schools to succeed.

And giving parents more control in education is a popular idea. For example, a recent poll conducted by Harvard University researchers found that school choice reforms are popular among Hispanics. Sixty percent of Hispanics support providing school vouchers to disadvantaged students, and 54 percent support giving all children scholarships to transfer out of failing schools.

For far too long, parents have been waiting for government and politicians to fix our schools. Instead, government and politicians should give parents a chance by letting them choose the best school for their children.

From the Daily Grito: I agree with Dan that NCLB is an imperfect law, but I don't necessarily believe that NCLB and school choice are mutually exclusive reform strategies. Although parents should have more educational options (and children have the chance to attend better schools NOW, not ten years from now), I also see the accountability of NCLB as a positive measure to improve public schools. Certainly, NCLB can be improved, but I don't think that it should be abandoned. In an ideal world, America's public schools would be so phenomenal that they would satisfy every child's learning needs. But since they aren't there yet, let's work on improving them while we give children other options and a fighting chance.

* Please note that this has also been published in the Heritage Foundation's Education Notebook.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Amigos Por Vida In the News

Amigos Por Vida Charter School, an affiliate organization of Hispanic CREO, made this morning's Houston Chronicle. Congratulations to them!

If you missed last week's exclusive interview with Carlos Villagrana, the school's director, you can find it right here.

FYI: Amigos Por Vida is a charter school in the Gulfton area of Houston, Texas, which is one of the poorest neighborhoods of the city. The school has triumphed over its initial mismanagement and the challenges of serving a largely low-income and minority student population to achieve great results with its children. The school serves mostly Latino students and has seen enormous success with its dual immersion language program.

Monday, November 19, 2007

IQ/Insanity Tests for Utah's Voters - So which is it?

Patrick Byrne, CEO of and a tireless school choice supporter, published a strongly worded op-ed in Saturday's Salt Lake Tribune, sounding his own "grito" against Utah's declining education system. The rhetoric is strong and maybe off-putting to some, but his righteous anger is something to be admired.

Here's the problem, though: Byrne's argument is that Utah's schools are not working for low-income and minority students and thus, Utah needs school choice. While this is true, we already know that not even the voters who supported the vouchers did so because of a concern for poor/Latino/African-American children. Thus, we have a marketing problem on our hands. Byrne is missing an opportunity to connect with voters and tap into their value system as a way to motivate them to vote for vouchers.

There are better arguments. The Tribune's polls show that voucher opponents in Utah were largely frightened that the voucher program would take money away from public schools. I can affirm this; while I was in Utah, every Referendum One opponent that I spoke with cited the argument "Vouchers take money away from public schools." Every. single. one.

So while I understand that Byrne was speaking on his own behalf - and probably not thinking about how to best "market" the school choice cause - his words still raise some imoortant questions for those of us involved in school choice. It may seem ironic and counter-intuitive, but perhaps the best way to GET school choice for low-income and minority students is actually to focus less on those students themselves and more on the worries of the voters.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Gap Here, A Gap There..

Much news is being heard about yesterday's Achievement Gap Summit in CA, but I like the points that Philip of the Education Policy Blog makes in his post about the many other "gaps" in our society that contribute to the achievement gap. This is the first time that I have seen these "gaps" listed out in a concise yet effective way.

I agree with Philip - I think most would - and I'll also add my two cents as a former teacher. In the schools where I taught in Philadelphia and DC, I saw the impact of these gaps each and every day. They affected what I taught and how I taught it, how I related to my students and how they related to me; overall, they were a huge influence in my classroom. I would imagine that many inner-city teachers experience the same.

Yet despite this fact, these "gaps" were never discussed in my teacher training. My traditional education classes didn't address the issue and neither did my inner-city specific TFA training. If these "gaps" were discussed at all, it was in the most cursory way; for example, I remember being told "Your students might be too poor to afford food, so keep some pretzels in your room." But did we discuss that issue any further? Unfortunately, we did not.

On a classroom level, our current and future teachers must be better prepared to understand these "gaps" and how our society's general ills will affect themselves and their students. On a societal level, I see a real need for partnerships between educators and people from other industries and institutions. Teachers, who deal with these gaps every day, must be heard on these issues and their ideas for change must be taken seriously.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

CEP on ELLs in AZ (abbreviation fun!)

The Center for Education Policy released a report today on how Arizona's high school exit exams are affecting ELLs in that state.

CEP took a look at five AZ high schools to determine the challenges that ELLs face with the exit exams (lack of information, limited English proficiency, lack of resources, etc.) and includes a number of recommendations that AZ can use to improve ELLs' achievement on this test.

Unfortunately, the study presents no conclusions on how the exit exams affect graduation rates or post-secondary opportunities for ELL students. This is due, CEP states, to a lack of accurate data, as the exit exam was first administered in 1999 and the first diplomas were withheld only in 2006. So that's something to keep an eye on for the future - I'd like to see some follow up on how these exams affect ELLs future career and educational options.

Wednesday Interview: Carlos Villagrana of Amigos Por Vida

In the Gulfton community of Houston, Texas, Mr. Carlos Villagrana is moving montaƱas as the principal of Amigos Por Vida/Friends for Life Charter School.

Amigos Por Vida serves a unique population of students. Of the 430 students in grades PreK – 7, 99% are Hispanic, 1% are African-American, 98% live below the poverty line, and 94% are classified as Limited English Proficient. While such numbers would present an impossible challenge to some schools, Amigos Por Vida has proven that it can beat the odds.

Last year, Amigos Por Vida produced impressive TAKS test scores and was awarded the Governor’s Excellence Award, a Financial Accountability Rating of Superior Achievement, and the State’s Gold Performance Acknowledgement in Math and Attendance.

I spoke with Mr. Villagrana this week to learn the keys to his school’s success and how Amigos Por Vida is helping its Latino students achieve excellent results.

1.) Tell me a little bit about the history of your school.

Amigos Por Vida is in the Gulfton community of Houston, which is an area that is known for being poor, young and Hispanic. In this neighborhood, 11% of the population are children under the age of five, so having quality schools is very important. Before we built our school, many children were being bused out of the area to attend school, because the schools here were so overcrowded.

Amigos Por Vida was founded in 1999 as a new option for parents who didn't want to send their children out of the neighborhood for school. Unfortunately, it was mismanaged during its first few years and didn't offer a quality education to its students. Luckily, this changed when the Board of Directors decided to turn the school around with major staffing and administration changes.

Now, Amigos Por Vida is a very successful school and we are fulfilling our promise to give the Gulfton community a good charter school option.

2.) Does Amigos Por Vida face any special challenges in educating its children?

At this point, our biggest challenge is our facilities. As a state charter school, we do not receive any funding for facilities. The apartment complex where Amigos is located cannot accommodate any more classrooms and we have to make room for 8th grade next year.

3.) What innovative techniques have you used to improve your school?

The implementation of our dual language immersion program has been instrumental in our school’s success.

4.) Why did you choose to implement the dual-language immersion program? ]
In trying to meet the needs of the community, we realized that most of our students came to us speaking only Spanish and that we needed to also focus on developing English from day one. When looking at bilingual programs, the research was very clear and showed us that dual immersion programs were what would help our students become successful.

5.) What kind of success have you seen with the dual-language program?

Our students have consistently achieved high scores on the TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) and the TELPAS (Texas English Language Proficiency Assessment System).

Blogger's Note: Click here to find out Amigos Por Vida's 2007 TAKS scores. Look for the abbreviation "Pct. Met Std." to see the percentage of students who passed each exam.

6.) How do you encourage parents and community members to be involved in your students’ education?

We offer night classes for parents and community members on Monday and Wednesday for them to complete GED and also receive ESL and technology applications courses. During the day, our counselor does a great job of offering volunteer opportunities to parents. As part of our 21st Century grant we also offer parenting classes, ESL and a women’s craft class during the day.

7.) Do you have any plans to expand Amigos Por Vida Charter School in the next few years?
Our primary goal right now is to find a permanent home for the school. After that happens, we are very interested in working with other communities in Houston and other parts of the state.

8.) What advice would you offer to other educators who serve Latino or minority populations?
My advice is to find ways to be an advocate for our students. One of the reason I came to work at Amigos Por Vida was to improve the quality of education our students were receiving and create a school where students and parents excel. I think if I was not here at Amigos, I would be getting involved in what ever way I felt I could empower our community.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

School Choice and Hispanic Dropouts

The National Center for Policy Analysis has a report out about how school choice can decrease the number of Hispanic dropouts in the US.

I certainly think that the report could be more thorough; for example, its mentions only charters and open enrollment public schools as "choice options" (no private schools, homeschooling, virtual schools, etc.). That said, it is a good and very basic primer for anyone interested.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Blog Roundup

The Roundup is short this week, since most bloggers seem to be posting about Utah (and most saying about the same thing), so here you go!

Brian Shelley with an impassioned plea for choice.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on school choice as pathway to Americanization

* It features our affiliate, St. Anthony School!

Whitney Tilson on teacher training.

Hispanic Journalists Weigh In on 2008 Race

Home from Utah, recovering from the loss (and jet lag), and diving back into the game:

Juan Tornoe of Hispanic Trending reports on Hispanic PR Wire's recently released poll which reveals Hispanic journalists' "hot button issues" for the 2008 presidential election. Immigration tops the list, with 47% of respondents claiming it as the top issue for Latino voters, followed by the war in Iraq, health care and the economy, and all the way at the, with a mere 11% listing it as a top issue.

A few months back, the National Council of la Raza and the Ed in 08 campaign conducted a similar poll, but found the opposite results. 89% of their poll respondents indicated that improving public education should be a "top priority" of our nation's next president and that education ranked higher on their list of concerns than health care and the war.

So what's the disconnect?

Of course, this could be simple demographics issue - the Hispanic PR Wire poll was obviously not random - but it could also signify more than that.

What is the disconnect between Latino voters from different socio-economic classes? What is the disconnect between the Latino media and the rest of the Latino population?

Maybe we need a little more exploration into what "The Latino Vote" really means - and how varied it can be.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

T Minus 1 Day: Utah Voucher Melee

Tomorrow, Utah's citizens will vote on one of the most controversial and innovative programs to be recently proposed in their state. Their collective "yay" or "nay" will determine whether or not a new universal voucher program will be created and opened to all the children in Utah.

With only one day to convince undecided voters, both sides are working in full-gear, frantically trying to win over the public. I should know this, because I've spent the past three days in Utah and I'm just not sure I can stand to watch another NEA-sponsored commercial while trying to enjoy my late-night "Meerkat Manor."

All joking aside, the media efforts of both sides are impressive. Salt Lake is literally covered in pro- and anti-voucher propaganda, from highway signs to flyers to radio and TV ads. The voucher yard signs are even competing for space with the mayoral candidates' signs. It almost seems as if there is no other issue on the ballot this year.

And while these PR campaigns seem to be well crafted for their main audience - the White, middle-class population of Utah - they are missing a critical segment of the state's population - Latinos. Hispanics comprise 13% of Utah's population and arguably, are the group that stands to benefit the most from the voucher legislation. All this adds up to a powerful vote. So why isn't anyone reaching out to Latinos?

Here are two possible obstacles (and some ideas on how school choice groups can work around them):

1.) A perceived language barrier.

School choice groups may reluctant to reach out to Latinos because of the time and resources involved in producing bilingual materials and advertisements. However, according to the US Census, only 3.5% of Utah's population speaks only Spanish (no English) at home. Therefore, choice groups could continue to produce materials in English and reach a large segment of the Latino population. However, their materials will have to be tailored to the Latino population - could I please get a single Latino face in a voucher commercial? It would be nice.

As a former teacher, I also have to add this: give your audience materials that they can actually read. Materials written at a college level may look sophisticated and thus, “credible,” but if the community can’t read them, they’re essentially worthless. You CAN write about school choice at a 5th grade level (I have!), but you’ll need to be creative with your style.

2.) Irrelevant outreach tactics.

Blogs, You Tube videos, and newspaper Op-eds are great, but they are not necessarily the best ways to reach a Latino audience. In this community, face time is still the best way to get your message across. The voucher debate is big in new and traditional media, but few groups are attempting any grassroots work. This is a critical strategy for the Hispanic community. Utah's Latinos need information about the issue, but they also need to know about the voting process, how to register to vote, and the impact of their vote. To truly convince Latino voters of their political power and get them to exercise that vote, you have to work in the community, get to know the voters, and be available (and able) to walk them through the process.

Any other ideas? I would love to hear them.

Note: Another interesting article to consider is yesterday's Salt Lake Tribune poll on why Utahans support or oppose vouchers. It's good data to consider when we're developing our marketing and outreach strategies.

Friday, November 2, 2007

So many blogs, so little time...

Ever wish there was a way to catch up on the blogging you missed this week? Well, now there is!

At least, partially. Here's the Friday Blog Round-Up of the most interesting/provocative blog entries of the week.

Gabrielle at Fordham Fellows: The Teacher-as-Martyr Mindset

Megan McArdle at the Atlantic Monthly: Starts the Voucher Melee
Matthew Yglesias at the Atlantic Monthly: Joins the Voucher Melee

Phillip at the Education Policy Blog: Outlining Democrat/Independent Ed. Orgs.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Business Leaders Unite to Solve Latino Education Crisis in Utah

Official report:

In Salt Lake City this morning, several business leaders joined with Competitive America to pledge their support in solving the Latino education crisis in Utah. Latinos, who comprise 12% of Utah’s population, drop out of high school at astounding rates – approximately 40 to 50 percent each year.

“This is a state crisis, which is why these Latino business leaders are coming together. Ask any business leader and they’ll tell you the negative impact an uneducated workforce has on their company,” said Julio Fuentes, vice president of Competitive America. “Failing so many Latino students by not getting them the education they need will be a drain on the state’s economy for decades to come.”

Despite the fact that college degrees have become increasingly necessary in the labor market, only about 12% of Latinos nationwide actually hold a degree in higher education. Competitive America is a national coalition of business leaders concerned about this crisis and its future effects on the workforce and the American economy.

In addition to Fuentes, other participants in the press conference included: Tony Yapias, former director of the state office of Hispanic affairs and a public school parent, Marco Diaz, former chairman of the Utah Republican National Hispanic Assembly and newly-elected vice chairman of the National Republican Hispanic Assembly, Antonella Packard, president of the Latin American Chamber of Commerce, Quiko Cornejo, founder of the Utah Minority Community Information and Education Center and Claudia Burnet, a Utah parent.

Unofficial commentary:

I like to see coalitions like Competitive America taking on the Latino education crisis, because it really drives home the fact that our education system - its failures and its successes - affects the rest of our society. Business leaders should be concerned about how our nation's schools are working, because the students sitting in today's classrooms will be their future workers. They should be especially concerned about the Latino population as the fastest-growing minority group in the country.

Involving groups like Competitive America in the ed reform debate helps us maintain a wide perspective on the problem - and its possible solutions. I'll be the first to admit that it's sometimes difficult to take a panoramic view on how different reforms affect our society - too often, I am primarily concerned with how a specific reform strategy will affect a group of kids, a school, or a district. It is a challenge (a daily and necessary challenge) to view these efforts in light of the positive results that they can offer to our country's economy, justice system, social services, etc. So that's what I take away from Competitive America - a challenge to keep a wide perspective.

And of course, in the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that Competitive America is a project of CREO, but were it not, I would be fond of it anyway.

The Daily Grito's Comment Policy

We encourage comments and debate on the issues discussed in the Daily Grito, but please keep basic etiquette in mind as you leave your thoughts. Inappropriate comments – for example, any containing profanity, personal attacks or “trolling” – will be deleted. Please do not use this blog to advertise your company product either. If you have questions or concerns, please e-mail the Daily Grito.

Welcome to the Daily Grito!

Hola and welcome to the Daily Grito! In Spanish, the word “grito” mean a cry or a call to action. This blog is Hispanic CREO’s daily call to action on the Latino education crisis. It will be a resource for the Latino community, the education reform community and other interested readers, offering timely, relevant information about how education reform efforts affect America’s Hispanic students.

The Daily Grito is written by Anne Guarnera, Membership and Communications Coordinator of Hispanic CREO. Guest bloggers will also contribute on an occasional basis. On Wednesdays and Fridays, the blog will host special features. Wednesdays will be Issue/Interview days, and will feature either an in-depth analysis of an education reform issue OR an interview with a Latino or education reform leader (and, of course, individuals who fit into both of those categories). Fridays will feature the Blog Round-Up of the best education blog posts from that week.

Hispanic CREO is a non-profit, non-partisan organization; thus, any opinions expressed here should be considered the standpoints of their writer(s) and not of Hispanic CREO.

I welcome your feedback on this blog and am always grateful for tips, links, comments, article suggestions and guest blogger suggestions. All correspondence is of, course, confidential. You can reach me at

So welcome – or bienvenidos – and enjoy the Daily Grito!