Hispanics More Disciplined in Schools

Hispanics More Disciplined in SchoolsThe Department of Education (DOE) recently released new data showing that Hispanic and other minority students might be affected disproportionally by zero tolerance policies. Are these policies effective? And what can you do to ensure your child is being disciplined appropriately?

Though Hispanic students account for only 24% of enrollment in United States schools, they accounted for 37% of school-related arrests in 2009. The survey found that more than 70% of students involved in school-related arrests or referrals to law enforcement were Hispanic or black. It’s obvious that something’s at play.

“The undeniable truth is that the everyday educational experience for too many students of color violates the principle of equity at the heart of the American promise,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan told following the release of the DOE data.

Mother and TV producer Marisol González experienced this difference in treatment first hand. “My son just graduated from a K-8 Catholic school where 80% of students are Hispanic. The school administration, however, is white-Irish. I always noticed that when white kids did something terrible, they were given the lightest punishment but when a Hispanic kid did something much less horrible, they were punished much more severely,” Marisol said.

“Last year, a Hispanic boy got into some trouble with a white girl. The school was not going to allow him to graduate middle school, until I got involved with the mother and helped her uncover what had happened. I also helped her write emails to leave a written trail. In the end, the girl’s responsibility was brought to light and the kid was allowed to graduate. The problem I see is that most Hispanic parents are afraid of interfering for fear that the teachers or the administration will retaliate against their kids.”

Get Informed. Many schools with high Hispanic populations are more likely to have zero-tolerance policies. These policies do not allow administrators to give kids a second chance, and they are seen as sort of the “tough love” policies of modern education. The problem is that they usually don’t work. These policies often have the opposite effect, making teens more likely to lash out and less likely to finish school. According to one study on the effect of these policies, they may actually increase “youth’s criminality by removing them from the school” and the positive support that school offers.

As a parent, you must know your school’s policies and understand whether or not they are working. Print off copies of the DOE report for your own school district. Inform yourself and other parents about the effects of suspensions, expulsions, and arrests on campus so that you can become an advocate for the kids.

Speak Up. Be vocal for your own child, but also for all the students. Join the PTA, if you haven’t already, and don’t be afraid to voice your opinion. Being shy won’t cut it when your child’s educational success is on the line. Call the school administrators, ask questions, demand answers, and if necessary, be that over-involved parent that borders on annoying.

Show and Tell. Show the administrators the research and ask what is being done to change the way they handle their students. If you are uncomfortable with your understanding of your local policies, ask other parents, teachers, or the administrators for help. It’s critical for you to be your child’s advocate and to seek even distribution of disciplinary policies.

“Once they (suspensions) become automatic, we’ve really hurt that child’s chances to receive a high school diploma,” said Dr. Doug Otto the superintendent of Plano Independent School District in Texas in an interview with the New York Times. Just one school suspension can decrease the chances of graduating.

Although teenagers need and demand more independence until they are 18, it’s still your job to know what is happening in school and to intervene on their behalf whenever necessary. Your child’s future depends on your advocacy for them today.

This article was originally published on Mamiverse.

Latinos Must Urge Community to Take ESL Classes

Latinos Must Urge Community to Take ESL ClassesIn an interconnected world in which English is the language of business, it’s hard to believe most Latin American countries don’t incorporate it in their curricula until middle school or high school.

As Andrés Oppenheimer points out in his book, Basta de Historias, this is one of the factors that seriously limits the economic future of the region and that of its people.

I see examples of this limitation around me on a daily basis – people who have left their family and their culture behind to come to the U.S. in search of a dream that for many, without language fluency, remains elusive. (It’s no secret that with few exceptions, speaking English is the first step for immigrants to attain social mobility in this country.)

Coming from countries where English is not taught in public schools early enough (if at all!) and arriving largely without college degrees at a time when most jobs require some kind of post secondary education, Hispanics are confronted with a double disadvantage. Unless they address it soon after their arrival it affects their ability to progress in the U.S.

Low hourly rates keep them working two or three jobs, which doesn’t leave much time for studying English, keeping them trapped in the same low-level jobs. In addition, many Latinos live in close-knit Spanish-speaking communities, which reinforces the idea that English is not really necessary to survive.

That may be true if the main goal in moving to the United States was just to survive. But for most immigrants, the reason they left everything behind was to have a better living standard and more financial opportunities.

Too often Latinos don’t connect learning the language and furthering their education with better opportunities. But you’re reading this in English. You know exactly what I’m talking about. So, why have I chosen to preach to the choir?

Because we all know someone who needs a little nudge to get moving and do something about their language skills, someone who’s always complaining about being stuck. Latinos need to step up their game if they want to have viable jobs and careers for themselves and their kids, and all of us must help to pull our community up.

At a time when technology has made it easier for adults to learn English, there really aren’t many excuses left. You can take online courses at whatever time is convenient for you (many of them free or at a low cost) or use applications, such as Voxy (, which delivers contextual and personalized content through the Internet and mobile applications so you can even learn English while you commute to work.

Those of us lucky enough to have an education and to speak English need to continue making this the most relevant issue for our community. And for that to happen, you and I need to do our part daily: We need to advocate for people to learn English and get an education every chance we get.

Whether you post messages on your social media pages, provide specific guidance to your neighbor who only speaks Spanish, or offer to practice conversation skills with your relatives who have most recently arrived in the country.

Let’s take a page from the book of the Jewish community, which has been successful at educating its members for generations, and assume individual and group responsibility to pull up the Hispanic community.

If it takes a village to raise a child, it surely takes a lot more people to raise a community.

Mariela Dabbah is the CEO of and an award-winning, best-selling author and speaker. Her new book El poder de la mujer will be published by C.A.Press (an imprint of the Penguin Group), March 2012. Follow her on Twitter: @marieladabbah and on like her on Facebook:

Mariela Dabbah’s latest book Poder de Mujer will be out in English April 2013 by Penguin. She’s the founder and CEO of Latinos in College, a not-for-profit organization, and of the Red Shoe Movement, an initiative that invites women to wear red shoes to work on Tuesday to signal their support for other women’s careers.

This article was originally published on Fox News Latino.

Despite Tests, Latino Students Still Lagging

Despite Tests, Latino Students Still LaggingEducators and politicians have been trying for decades to chip away at the wide academic achievement gap between Latino students and others. Millions have been poured into programs to figure out a way to spruce up Latino test scores.

Yet, after years of effort and millions of dollars spent, Latinos high school students are still not prepared for college level work, according to results from the college entrance exam known was the ACT.

In this test that rivals the SAT and measures what a student has learned throughout their academic careers, only 13 percent of Hispanic students (and 5 percent of black students) are likely to pass typical first-year college courses in English, math, reading and science, according to ACT results. In contrast, 42 percent of Asians and 32 percent of whites met all four benchmarks.

“There is still a lot of ground that needs to be gained by Hispanic students in terms of what they are learning,” said ACT spokesperson Ed Colby. “This is a nationwide problem that has to be tackled at the national, state and school levels.”

The effort began 20 years ago, when George W. Bush came into office and started an agency within the Department of Education devoted to Hispanics. But it did not end there.

In this presidential administration alone, nearly $180 million have gone toward funding education in high-poverty areas and there is a push to increase funding and quality for early childhood education programs.

Yet the scores remain stagnant.

The benchmarks are minimum scores in each section that indicates whether a student has a 75 percent chance of earning a C or better, or a 50 percent chance of earning a B or better, in an entry-level college course of the given subject. The sections are scored on a scale of 1 to 36. Nationally, the 2012 composite score for the ACT was 21.1. For Hispanics, it was 18.9, a modest increase of .2 over five years.

The overall trend for Hispanics meeting the benchmarks is positive. Thirteen percent of those tested met all four benchmarks this year, compared with 11 percent last year. Still, the racial difference of the scores, while alarming, is just another data point in a larger, troubling picture of educational disparity that has yet to be addressed, say some.

“We’ve been having this gap in education for many years,” said Mariela Dabbah, founder of Latinos in College, an organization that helps Latinos get into college. “We need more programs to address students earlier. We really need to address preschool education and Hispanic access to preschool education and support for elementary years.”

One reason for the low scores: the courses taken by Latinos are not rigorous or taken in the right sequence before college, according to an ACT summary. For example, students who were ready for Algebra before 9th grade and took more than three years of math had a better chance of test success than those who weren’t. Almost 21 percent of tested Latinos, however, took three years or less of math and did not fare as well.

But the picture might not entirely be grim – the ACT’s ability to forecast college readiness has been challenged.

A report released last year by the National Bureau of Economic Research indicated that two of the four tests – reading and science – are not good predictors of college readiness. The other two tests, math and English, more closely correlate with a student’s performance, according to the study. Latino scores follow the national trend of scoring lower on Science and English and higher on Reading and Math.

The ACT disputes the claims emphasizing that the test looks to see whether students have mastered basic skills necessary to build from.

While opponents to standardized testing caution the public against using scores such as the ACT as a sole predictor college success, they say the implications of the results reinforce long running educational problems.

“We need an approach to go after core problems like poverty,” said Robert Schaeffer of FairTest, a watchdog of the test industry. “Poor kids are at schools with fewer resources and less trained teachers. If we want to fix the problem and seriously close gaps we need to stop fooling ourselves that testing is the magic bullet.”

Soni Sangha is a freelance writer based in New York City.

This article was orginally published on Fox News Latino.