When we discuss education reform, the issue of urban education is usually one of the top discussion points. But in most corners, urban education translates into the education of the African-American community. We look at the achievement gap, and it is usually how black students measure up against white students. Even recent efforts to boost high school graduation rates and college-going rates that focus on underserved populations seem to focus first on the African-American community.
Anyone who has followed politics over the last year, however, knows that much of the political and community action is now happening in the Hispanic community. The fastest growing demographic in the United States, Hispanic Americans are a growing force in the education reform movement, but in general terms and with regard to issues specific to their community.
Just this week, Eduflack had two interesting announcements cross his desk. The first was from the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE). The alternative certification group announced a new partnership with the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to recruit and certify more teachers of color for high-need Florida schools. The real challenge — how do we get more qualified, successful Hispanic teachers at the front of Hispanic-dominant classes?
Through scholarships and incentives, ABCTE will work across a number of Florida counties to build a better program. To date, they claim 150 individuals, both career changers and recent graduates, have taken up the cause and made the commitment.
Today, the U.S. Department of Education announced a three-quarter-of-a-million-dollar grant to the National Academy of Sciences to study how best to distribute Title III English Language Acquisition state grant funds. The goal here? Ensuring that federal ELL funding is actually getting to the communities that need it the most, those with the highest concentrations of English language proficiency. For those keeping track, the feds are spending about $700 million on such state grants, so delivering them to the right addresses is a pretty good priority.
So why does all of this have my antenna up? Education reform isn’t just a black-and-white issue. These two announcements serve as a clear reminder of the need to focus on the Hispanic community in education reform. And for education communicators, we also need to realize that means more than just ELL/ESL issues. Accountability and standards are just as important. Research and proven effectiveness are just as important. Reading, math, and STEM education are just as important. PreK and afterschool programs are just as important. School choice and online education are just as important. Qualified, effective teachers and equipped, supported schools are just as important.
As the population continues to shift, those who figure out how to effectively engage the Hispanic community in overall education reform issues will be in a position to make a real difference. To get there, we need to set aside urban legends like Hispanic families don’t have home computers or such families don’t want to get engaged in the educational process.
ABCTE and NAS can help us expand the debate. But there is a national dialogue on this issue that is just itching to happen.