Why Are States Changing Their Approach to Mathematics?

Posted on 10/24/2015 @ 12:45 AM

Tags: blog, policy, education

By: William Renderos, Policy and Legislation Fellow, LULAC National

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are revolutionizing our approach to children’s learning in 42 states; Washington, D.C.; and four United States territories. These standards create a clear and concise single set of education standards for all participating states, with the goal of preparing students for entry-level credit courses in two or four-year college programs or the workforce. Switching to new standards in these states gives local schools an opportunity to improve their English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics curriculum.

Why is the common core necessary? In 2013, the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) issued their latest 8th grade mathematics report. Results showed that 79% of Latino students in the 8th grade had only a basic understanding of 8th grade math or below. Only 18% of Latino students in the 8th grade met the grade level standards for mathematics. These numbers show we need to somehow reevaluate the way we teach math to our Latino students. The new common core math standards that states have adopted allow us to do just that, opening the door to new approaches that improve the way students learn math. These new standards focus on critical thinking and reasoning development, which are key skills needed to understanding higher levels of mathematics.

Before the new standards, schools across the country would teach several concepts over a short period of time instead of focusing on in-depth knowledge of specific concepts. Like the saying goes, schools went an inch deep for every mile of concepts. Now, states with the new standards teach students in a way that helps them proficiently understand math concepts. Thus, we can say schools go a mile deep in understanding for every inch of concepts they teach. Curriculums based on the new standards build the depth of knowledge necessary to understand mathematical concepts, cultivating students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills and ensuring long-term success.

Dr. Raj Shah, creator and founder of Math Plus Academy in Ohio, talks about the importance of changing the way we think about the new math standards. In his video, Why is Math Different Now, Dr. Shah talks about how teaching students to remember math procedures at the expense of critical thinking does not work. Only a few students do well this way. However, teaching students to think and understand the concepts through critical thinking and reasoning skills helps them discover different ways of solving math problems. This leads to a better understanding of concepts for students who have trouble remembering math procedures. Ultimately, students who understand the concepts can think in many ways and it helps them with mental math.

LULAC understands that changing the way our Latino students learn math can be confusing and can create questions for parents who want to help their children succeed. To help eliminate the confusion, LULAC wants to provide parents with resources that will help improve their children’s critical thinking and reasoning skills in math. Our Ready, Set, Go Initiative will offer workshops that allow parents and their children to talk about the changes happening in the classroom while providing them with information sheets, study guides and other learning tools to help them with the new math standards.

Some of the resources will come from the website Be a Learning Hero, which separates resources by state, grade and subject, allowing parents and students to find the information they need for their state and grade on their learning tools page. Another helpful website is Univisión Contigo: Clave al Éxito, which provides Spanish resources for families who need learning tools for their child’s grade level.

Together we can change the way we think about math and help our Latino student’s intellectual growth with critical thinking and reasoning skills.

William Renderos is a Policy and Legislation Fellow for LULAC National. Prior to LULAC, he served as the Social Work Intern at Alliance for Justice and worked with a Maryland nonprofit organization to conduct outreach work with students attending alternative schools in Montgomery County. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work and Sociology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and a Masters of Social Work in Community Action and Social Policy from the University of Maryland, School of Social Work.

Senate Must Reject the Anti-Latino and Anti-Immigrant "Trump Act "

By Jossie Flor Sapunar on 10/20/2015 @ 12:45 AM

Tags: policy, act, action

Photo credit: Derek Bridges/Flickr

By: Luis Torres, LULAC National, Director of Policy and Legislation

The U.S. Senate is scheduled to take on controversial legislation proposed by Louisiana’s U.S. Senator David Vitter. Earlier this year, Senator Vitter led a push to strip citizenship rights from U.S. born children of immigrants. He continued his attacks on the Latino community with legislation that would pit police officers against hard working immigrant communities, thus jeopardizing law enforcement’s ability to keep our communities safe.

Momentum for this legislation gained steam following Trump’s racist tirade against Latino immigrants, referring to them as drug dealers, criminals, and rapists. Aside from being inflammatory, Trump’s remarks are inconsistent with the facts. According to research from the Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, there is no correlation between immigrants and violent crime.

Unfortunately, Trump’s words seem to have had an effect on the Senate. Today, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is calling up Senator Vitter’s legislation—which will need 60 votes in order to be considered in the Senate as part of a procedural vote.

Some Senators are following Trump’s lead of characterizing the immigrant population as prone to violent crime. They are pointing to the tragic death of Kathryn Steinle, a woman who was shot by an undocumented Mexican immigrant. Steinle’s murder is now being used as an excuse to scapegoat 11 million immigrants, many of them Latino. This, despite the fact that Steinle’s family has commented on how disappointed they are with politicians like Trump are using their daughter’s death for such political purposes.

The Trump Act is the latest example of how anti-immigrant rhetoric has poisoned the work of the U.S. Senate. The policies espoused in The Trump Act, are, as the New York Times put it, a result of “a class-action slander against an immigrant population that has been scapegoated for the crimes of a few, and left stranded by the failure of legislative reform that would open a path for them to live fully within the law.”

America deserves action and not divisive rhetoric. Senators must not be permitted to scapegoat Latino immigrants for the actions of one man. Instead, the Senate must be reminded that the public knows better. That’s why 3 out of 4 Americans favor broad reforms to the immigration system, including legalization of those who are out of status. By contrast, S. 2146 only fans anti-immigrant divisions and further divides communities. A summary of the bill’s impact is listed below.

Senator Vitter’s bill will not improve public safety.

• S. 2146 bill would punish localities by withholding millions of dollars in federal grants upon which sheriffs and police chiefs rely to keep their communities safe.

• S. 2146 would undermine local policing efforts designed to foster trust between police and residents in order to root out crime.

• Law enforcement, faith, and domestic violence leaders oppose this approach.

• S. 2146 targets public housing grants that benefit rural and urban low income communities and are unrelated to crime prevention.

S. 2146 is out of touch with the vast majority of the American public.

• An October 2015 Pew Research poll shows that 74 percent of Americans favor legalization. S.2146 is out of step with our country.

• S. 2146 embodies an enforcement-only, mass deportation approach and attempts to deputize local law enforcement officials to arrest undocumented immigrants. Even worse it seeks to insulate rogue officers like Sheriff Joe Arpaio who may act in discriminatory manners.

• Senator Vitter has introduced similar versions of this proposal multiple times but has not gained broad support. Both Republicans and Democrats have expressed concerns about it.

• Congress should pass comprehensive immigration reform. The American people want it, and it’s what will make our nation stronger and safer.

S. 2146 ties the hands of judges and prosecutors by creating mandatory minimum sentences that would break the bank.

• S.2146 creates mandatory minimum sentences that will remove appropriate authority from judges.

• S. 2146 will cost U.S. taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in federal prison costs and will lock up thousands of non-violent people.

(Source: American Immigration Lawyers Association: http://www.aila.org/advo-media/tools/talking-points/talking-points-opposing-s-2146)

Help LULAC defeat the Trump Act. Take action today and tell Congress to stop scapegoating Latino immigrants. Click here to take action today!

Luis Torres is the Director of Policy and Legislation for the League of United Latin American Citizens. Prior to LULAC, he served as Legislative Director for Congressman Silvestre Reyes, former-Chairman of the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and was one of a handful of Latino Legislative Directors in the U.S. House of Representatives. Additionally, Torres also served as a high school teacher in Washington, D.C. as part of Teach for America. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Government and Sociology from Georgetown University, and a Master of Arts in Teaching from American University.

2015 Fall TV Preview: Has the Latino Media Gap Been Bridged?

Posted on 08/26/2015 @ 12:45 AM

Tags: blog, intern

Photo Credit: Getty / Maarten de Boer

By: Aurora de Peralta, Education and Youth Leadership Programs Intern, LULAC National

As the 2015 Fall TV season approaches, network television is boasting a variety of new shows with more racial diversity. What’s even better is that Latinos haven’t been excluded from this boost in non-white casts. Three NBC series featuring Latina leads are scheduled to premiere this fall: Jennifer Lopez as a New York detective in Shades of Blue, America Ferrera as a retail employee in Superstore, and Eva Longoria as a telenovela star in Hot & Bothered.

These Latina-led television series follow what has been a groundbreaking year for Latino representation in mainstream media: Gina Rodriguez won a Golden Globe for her role in the CW’s Jane the Virgin; Cristela Alonzo premiered her eponymous ABC show as the only network series starring, created and produced by a Latina; and Sofia Vergara was ranked by Forbes--for the third year in a row--as the highest paid television actress.

But each of these landmark moments in entertainment still comes with a downside: despite Rodriguez’s Golden Globe, it’s still less than a handful of Latinos that get nominated for Academy Awards each year. Cristela Alonzo’s show was cancelled after one season due to lackluster ratings, and Sofia Vergara’s Modern Family character continues to represent no more than a caricature of the sexy Latina, complete with a thick accent and a sketchy immigrant heritage.

Worse still, these examples of Latino mainstream media representation are the exception to the rule: any Latino participation in mainstream English-language media is still stunningly low. According to a report by filmmaker/scholar Frances Negron-Mutaner, a review of top movies and television programs reveal that there are fewer Latino lead actors in the entertainment industry today than there were seventy years ago. And, whereas the Latino population grew 43% from 2000-2010, the rate of Latino media representation grew stagnant or declined proportionately. Even further, when Latinos are visible, they tend to be portrayed through decades-old stereotypes like law enforcement officers, cheap labor, and hypersexualized beings.

Negron-Mutaner bills this conundrum as “The Latino Media Gap”, and these upcoming network series aren’t doing a convincing job of bridging this divide: America Ferrera is starring as a low-wage service worker; Jennifer Lopez is advertised as a “sexy New York detective” gone bad; and Eva Longoria(who was placed under fire in 2013 for perpetuating stereotypes in her show, Devious Maids) seems set to turn the Latino cultural facet of the telenovela into cheap laughs for English-language audiences.

Yes, the success of a handful of stars like Gina Rodriguez is noteworthy, and there’s something to be said for the mere fact that network programs with Latino leads exist at all. But the rate of incorporation is still out of step with the growth of the Latino population, and those incorporated are still relegated to stereotypical portrayals that skews the public’s perception of this community.

It’s not easy to foster mainstream media representation that accurately reflects the Latino community without stereotyping and prejudice. ABC’s Cristela wasn’t just a show that featured a non-white cast: it challenged how television handles characters of color while still being entertaining, but it got cancelled.

In a blog post in response to the Cristela cancellation, Mexican-American Alonzo detailed the challenge of honest portrayals of race on television.

“I got messages from people that said I need to add ‘that crazy chola cousin we all have’ or telling me that I sold out my culture because my mom has a thick accent,” she wrote. “I didn’t have the ‘crazy cousin’ so I can’t write about that. And my mom had a thick accent on the show because she was from Mexico and couldn’t speak English.”

But despite the criticisms and low ratings, Alonzo’s show still managed to positively impact the community.

“I’ve also gotten messages from people that told me how much my show inspired them to do something with their lives. People told me that they decided to go to college for the first time, others told me that they’re going back to school.” she wrote. “I have to admit, I cried at some of those messages...If these people made these changes because of Cristela, then the show has served its purpose.”

Alonzo’s challenge is part of the constant struggle to create television that reflects the racial diversity of America without amplifying its problems with stereotyping and prejudice. Maybe the upcoming Fall 2015 network series will rise to the challenge, have stellar ratings and spur the creation of more Latino-focused programs in mainstream media--effectively bridging the Latino Media Gap.

Then again, maybe it’s safer to hold our breath until the premieres.

Aurora de Peralta is an Education & Youth Leadership Intern at the LULAC National Office in Washington, D.C. She graduated from American University in May 2015 with a degree in Spanish and Print Journalism, where she regularly wrote pieces aimed at improving racial representation in media.

Pushing for Change Through Community Action

Posted on 08/07/2015 @ 12:45 AM

Tags: education, intern, civic engagement, policy

By: Samantha Preciado, Policy and Legislation Intern, LULAC National

Did you know that there are more than 1.2 million homeless children and youth attending public schools in the United States? In fact, according to the National Center for Homeless Education there were 259,656 homeless students in California during the 2012-2013 school year. The number of homeless children in the past couple of years has skyrocketed not only in California, but also across the nation. With the 2015 fall school year fast-approaching, our communities must get involved to ensure these students are prepared for a successful academic year.

Operation Backpack is one of the many different volunteer programs that you can get involved in to help homeless families and children. The annual community involvement program is dedicated to helping kids start their school year prepared, with all the new school supplies necessary to ensure educational success. Operation Backpack volunteers assemble brand new backpacks and donate school supplies to kids ranging in grade levels from pre-K to high school seniors. The program encourages contributors to host backpack drives at churches, schools, offices and other institutions to help collect backpacks and supplies for those who cannot afford them. By hosting a drive, more individuals are given the opportunity to donate supplies, making this program a true community effort.

This is the second year my family and I have been involved with Operation Backpack through UC Davis Medical Center in California where my mother works. Last year, my mother’s work hosted a backpack drive that resulted in the donation of over 40 backpacks just from our family alone. My sister, brother, mother and I assembled 15 backpacks and even more were donated by our friends and extended family.

We advertised the backpack drive to our extended family and friends through Facebook, Instagram and text messages, receiving a great response from many people who were more than happy to help contribute supplies and backpacks. The feedback we received from our family and friends was so overwhelmingly supportive, that we had people dropping off backpacks on our doorstep.

Part of LULAC’s mission is to advance the educational attainment of the Hispanic population, and as an intern at the LULAC National Office, I learned there are many different ways to do this. While policies are important to addressing systemic issues in the educational system, we also need community efforts to remedy some of the disparities we see on the local level. There are many programs that can help homeless kids across the United States, like Operation Backpack, that can make a difference in a student’s educational outcome whether in kindergarten or high school. This issue affects more than one million kids and families across the nation, and I encourage the community to help more children by giving them the necessary tools to ensure success in the classroom and beyond.

Samantha Preciado is a Policy and Legislation Intern at the LULAC National Office in Washington, D.C. She is currently working towards getting a Master's in Political Science and Government from California State University-Northridge.


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