Preparing Students for Success: The Common Core State Standards and Civil Rights
Posted on 12/11/2015 @ 11:45 PM
By: Xiomara Santos, Policy and Legislation Intern, LULAC National
As a civil rights organization, we recognize the importance of all students having equal access to a quality education. Throughout its 86-year history, LULAC has recognized that education is the bedrock of civil rights, and resolving educational disparities is essential to furthering the advancement of the Latino people. The Common Core State Standards are one of the latest initiatives aimed at ensuring that all students have access to a high-quality education that adequately prepares them for higher education opportunities and the workforce.
Common Core forms a set of consistent guidelines of what students should know at each grade level in Mathematics and English Language Arts, ensuring that all students are prepared for success after high school. LULAC has been advocating for access to equitable and high-quality education for Latino students, and Common Core is helping achieve just that. Having high and consistent standards for students throughout the country means that more students can receive a quality education and have an equal chance at pursuing higher education opportunities. Thus, the adoption of the Common Core State Standards is a civil rights issue because the standards can be used as a tool for constructing an equitable education for all.
Just before the Fall 2014 school term, the Pew Research Center projected that the majority of enrolled students in public schools would be minority students. In that projection, 12.9 million Latino students were enrolled in public schools in the United States. According to this particular piece of research, Latinos make up a sizeable portion of the public school student population, thus; it is absolutely necessary that we provide quality education to all students. A zip code, family income, or one’s race or ethnicity should not determine the quality of a child’s education or their ability to succeed in college and in future careers.
For example, in Montgomery County, Maryland; if you live in a zip code with a high poverty rate, you will most likely attend a low performing school with limited resources compared to a school in Potomac, Maryland where the average income is significantly higher. According to Ed Trust, school districts found in high poverty areas receive 10% less per student in state and local funding than districts with low poverty rates. The difference is even larger in school districts where the student populations are majority minority.
In the past, the fight for an equal and a quality education has varied from state to state. However, times are changing, and for the first time, Latino parents do not have to worry about different educational standards if they move their child from a school in Illinois to a school in Kentucky. The state standards are now standardized across states, meaning that a high school diploma from Kentucky is equivalent to one from Illinois. We can now guarantee that no matter what state you are from, you are receiving the same quality education as others students across the United States.
As a civil rights organization, our priority should not solely be getting Latinos into college, but ensuring that they are adequately prepared to be successful. Across the country, Latino students have been graduating high school unprepared for college. Students who are not prepared for college end up taking remedial courses that cost more money and additional time. Due to this and other factors, only 30% of Latino college students graduate college in four years. By having higher standards, we raise the bar for students, and help them become college-ready by the time they graduate high school.
The Common Core State Standards are the new foundation in education, and we can only continue to build upon them. Common Core is not the magical solution to the flaws in our education system, but it is a step forward in the right direction. It is helping lower the likelihood of disparities between states by having the same standards across the board. Although some states will have more work to do than others, the Common Core State Standards provide the level of learning that will help states to get there.
There will be challenges, but the Latino community is ready to face them. In fact, the NBC poll sponsored by Pearson found that 50% of parents and over 70% of Latino parents were in favor of Common Core.
LULAC is currently working on its “Ready, Set, Go” Initiative aimed at educating Latino parents and students about college and career readiness through Common Core. LULAC plans on doing community sessions in Illinois, Colorado, and New Mexico. These sessions will bring families information on how to prepare for new assessments and how to read score reports. In addition, the session will engage them in pledge campaigns to fully participate in the transformation of their school instruction.
By informing Latino parents of these new changes, LULAC is living up to its civil rights history, ensuring that all students are adequately prepared to succeed in the classroom and beyond.
The Case for Puerto Rico Statehood
Posted on 11/10/2015 @ 11:45 PM
By: Roger C. Rocha Jr., LULAC National President
Earlier this week, presidential candidate Ben Carson joined Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio in voicing support for granting statehood to Puerto Rico. Such support is welcome news to the people of Puerto Rico, who presently are experiencing economic hardship and would benefit greatly from statehood status.
Whatever the candidates’ motivation, the $72 billion debt crisis is an important issue facing Puerto Rico today. Puerto Rico has been in a recession since 2006, with unemployment at 14 percent and the majority of Puerto Ricans living in poverty. Many have moved to the mainland seeking employment opportunities and access to programs and resources that are not available in the territory.
If Puerto Rico obtained statehood status, the territory’s public corporations and municipalities would be allowed to file for bankruptcy. Such a move would enable Puerto Rico to restructure its debt in an organized manner. It would also provide more financial options and benefits that ultimately will help the Puerto Rican people. These benefits include the full benefits of the Affordable Care Act, the full extension of the Earned Income Tax Credit, and full reimbursement parity under Medicare and Medicaid.
Since 1917, Puerto Ricans have been recognized as U.S. citizens. In addition, since World War I over 200,000 Puerto Rican men and women have served in the Armed Forces, with nine having received the Congressional Medal of Honor. Puerto Rico has been a territory for 117 years, making the Caribbean island the longest held territory in U.S. history.
A considerable portion of the LULAC membership are U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico who are hard-working loyal Americans. Permitting Puerto Rico statehood status is the best strategy for stabilizing Puerto Rico’s economy. LULAC will continue to keep a focus on the needs of the people of Puerto Rico and work towards a solution to the Puerto Rican debt crisis that benefits the people of Puerto Rico.
Diversidad, Dignidad y Trabajo: Ensuring Protections for the LGBT Community in the Workplace
Posted on 11/03/2015 @ 11:45 PM
Dr. Lydia Medrano, third from right, spoke on the legal protections needed in the workplace to protect the LGBT community.
By: Dr. Lydia Medrano, LULAC National Vice President for the Southeast
In September, I served as a panelist for a forum called Diversidad, Dignidad y Trabajo that took place in Tampa, Florida. I was one of four panelists who discussed the topic of the right to work with dignity, which refers to the right of every individual to obtain employment without the fear of discrimination. The forum was a collaboration between Florida LULAC, ACLU Central Florida Region and Ana G. Mendez Tampa University. The other panelists included EEOC representative Nelson Borges, human resources representative Carmen Alverio and psychologist/university faculty member Rafael Fuentes.
I told the audience of students and the general public that the right to work is not a class, gender or nationality “privilege”, but a right afforded to all citizens. Everyone has a right to work in order to support themselves and their families. People should be valued for their job performance skills as well as the quality of their work. Nobody should feel unfairly targeted or singled out for their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Full equality for LGBTQ individuals is one of the major civil rights challenges of our time. Although LGBTQ individuals have always been part of our society; now,they are much more visible and engaged in ensuring their civil rights are protected.
The LGBT community recently achieved a major civil rights victory with the legalization of same-sex marriage. Despite this victory, we must not remain blind to other types of discrimination that the LGBT community faces on a daily basis. Discrimination based on sexual orientation is discrimination, and an individual's identity should be protected by law in all fifty states. The laws must clearly define discrimination in order to be enforceable and prevent hate crimes and discrimination in the workplace.
Additionally, we must continue to work to address the issue of bullying, homelessness, and an end to the detention of Latinos. All of these are issues that affect both straight and gay Latinos and it is in these intersections where we must build coalitions to achieve change and progress.
Prejudice is a human phenomenon caused by suspicion and distrust of people that do not meet our personal, nor our societal expectations. We must educate the public on the diversity of our society and the positive contributions it brings to our culture. Concurrently, we must also show the negative impact of discrimination on the social fabric of our nation. Everyone deserves respect, and everyone should be able to work with dignity and have the opportunity to contribute to our communities without being penalized for who they are.
Driving Educational Attainment Forward Through Community Initiatives
Posted on 11/02/2015 @ 11:45 PM
Ford Driving Dreams Participants; LULAC Council #4692; Victoria, Texas
By: Elisa Aquino, Education and Youth Programs Intern, LULAC National
In California, for every 100 Latino students who enter a ninth-grade classroom, only 61 leave high school with a diploma in hand. This is an alarming statistic that demonstrates that Latinos are falling behind in California, and the stats don’t look much better throughout the nation. As the Latino population becomes the largest minority group in the country, this issue must be addressed not only in our communities, but at all levels of government. High school completion and a good education is beneficial to both the individual and the American economy. A lack of a high school diploma can jeopardize long-term economic security, employment security, and earning potential. Closing the attainment gap also benefits our economy, allowing it to grow by $2.3 trillion by 2050. Thus, it is important to develop programs that target high school completion/graduation in the Latino community.
LULAC advocates for educational equity for Latino students and has created a variety of programs to help alleviate these disparities while simultaneously advocating for legislative solutions. Because of this, LULAC and Ford Motor Company Fund are partnering to address high school dropout rates through the Ford Driving Dreams (FDD) Grants program. This program allows LULAC Councils to develop their own curriculum that will address the specific needs in their community, with the overall goal of stimulating academic achievement, increasing high school completion rates and college enrollment. Each award recipient receives $20,000 over the course of two years for them to carry out their program.
Every participating council implements each program differently. Activities range from visiting colleges and meeting with students and professors, to supporting students through the college application process, to providing tutoring sessions, and even providing STEM career opportunity workshops, all free of cost to participating students. The participants often include students who are first generation college-bound, low-income (whose parents make $50,000 and below), Latino, Spanish-speaking/bilingual students, or a combination of these demographic groups. This program addresses the needs of students who otherwise would be neglected and ignored by a public school system that often leaves behind low-income students of color. By providing them with the skills and tools necessary for their educational success, LULAC helps empower these students to fight for their future.
To look at just how the Ford Driving Dreams Grants program has significantly improved the lives of its participants, look at the data. For example, in Austin, Texas participants aimed to attain a 3.33 GPA, and by spring of 2014 the group had earned an average GPA of 3.48. In addition, 58.33% of the students at this location thanked the FDD program for inspiring them to be the first in their families to go to college. In this same report, in El Paso, Texas, in one year, students improved their GPA from a 2.69 to a 3.31, Of these students, 89% of them plan to attend college, in contrast to the 57.9% that thought it was very important to go to college at the beginning of the program.
FDD has become one of LULAC’s flagship educational programs, and its effectiveness and success have received national recognition. In September 2015, FDD was selected by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics as a “Bright Spots in Hispanic Education” for their outstanding commitment to closing the high school completion gap in the Latino community.
Growing up as a first generation college Latina student, in my family, higher education was always emphasized particularly because both of my parents were immigrants with very little education. Both my parents migrated from a small pueblo in Oaxaca, Mexico. Their native language being Zapotec, they didn’t learn Spanish until they went to school at around the age of 5. Due to the poverty in their pueblo, both of my parents were forced to work in the fields and were not able to finish elementary school. My parents always share with me that if they would have been given the resources to continue their education, they would have taken the opportunity to do so. Seeing their struggles in the U.S., I have come to value the importance of completing high school and continuing to pursue higher education opportunities. I appreciate that organizations like LULAC are proactively addressing the issue of Latino high school dropout rates through empowering Latinos to graduate high school and pursue higher education. By helping students with similar background stories like myself, LULAC and Ford Motor Company Fund's partnership is one that is changing communities, not only at the local level, but nationally as well.
Elisa Aquino is an Education and Youth Leadership Programs Intern at the LULAC National Office in Washington D.C. Elisa is a fourth year student at the University of California, Santa Cruz majoring in Sociology and Latin American Latino Studies and will be graduating this upcoming spring of 2016.