Saturday, May 12, 2018

When will we have the will? Updating the Commission for Latino Educational Excellence

Remember this?
Back in 2011, in response to a charge from then-Mayor Joe O'Brien  for a report on the conditions of education for Latino students in the Worcester Public Schools, the Mayor's Commission on Latino Educational Excellence released "Creating the Will: A Community Roadmap to Achieving Educational Excellence for Latino Students in Worcester" (which you can download here). I was among those on the Commission at the time; we were reconvened Friday for an update by Co-Chair Mary Jo Marion of the Latino Education Institute.

So why does this matter for Worcester?
Well, this is the Worcester Public Schools:
Disclosure: I actually looked for this in the FY19 budget. Oddly, it isn't there (?).
Demographic data from DESE District Profile from the October 1 report (2017)
The red area taking up nearly half the circle is our Latino students. Worcester also has the highest percentage of English learners in the state.
As Mayor Petty put it yesterday, the future of the city of Worcester depends on our Latino students.

The first thing that the update did was show us where we were at:

Okay, set aside 2017 MCAS which you can't just compare to the previous of anything: the gaps haven't closed, and in some cases have widened. There is nowhere that Latino students as a group are doing as well as all students.

One of the main things that stuck with me from the original report was, at the time, we were coming up from a full third of Latino students not completing high school in Worcester. So, how's that going?
This briefly came up yesterday:
trendline down on both, more steeply for Latino students, but not consistent over time.
Data from the DESE Profile for WPS
So, more and more of the kids are staying in school, and at least this year, Latino students are doing better than the city norm.

Both contining to head up, possibly with some gap closing recently
Data from the DESE Profile for WPS
Likewise, we have more kids graduating (this is the five year rate, so it only goes through 2016), and it looks as though the gap, at least recently, is shrinking between Latino students and all students.
At the same time, a five year 85.3% graduation rate means that more than 14%--in this case, 87 kids--aren't getting through high school in five years. And that's the most recent and best number.

Knowing of the gaps around college attendance and completion rates--a focus of the original report as well, as Worcester's economy is "eds and meds" as we say: the colleges and the hospitals--I checked in on our most recent numbers on that as well:

And clearly some other gaps that need attention here as well
And yes, Worcester has a well-regarded tech school--not everyone needs to go to college--but if you compare this to the top chart:
Yes, DESE has school profile pages as well,
though these you also can pull from the school budget pages of the FY19 WPS budget

This is much better, but it's not reflective of the district just yet.
What we don't yet have data on, but we're going to need to start collecting it, is access to upper level courses; the accountability system is going to want to know that all kids are taking such courses. They aren't--the only data I have here is eleven years as a WPS parent, but...--as yet.
The update, though, that really hit home for many of us, was this one:
This is LEI's slide, though the data is from DESE's district profile as well.

If you're a Latino student in Worcester, you have more than a one in ten chance of being disciplined.
A white student? That drops to one in eighteen.
If you're a Latino student, you're:

  •  more than twice as likely to be out-of-school suspended
  • nearly twice as likely to be in-school-suspended
  • more than twice as likely to be emergency removed 
...than your white peers.
Emergency removal, incidentally, isn't covered under Ch. 222 quite the same way, and is widely regarded as a work around for reporting.

As always, if you're going to come on my page and argue that Latino students misbehave more, you can take that perspective elsewhere. The school official reaction, at least as voiced by Mr. Monfredo, was that it really comes back to the family.
No, it comes back to systemic racism.
I should note here that this parallels the data released by the U.S. Department of Education Civil Rights division two weeks ago, finding that disparities in student discipline continue to rise. You can find the Worcester discipline report here; it looks like this:
Upper left is enrollment; any variation between that and the other pie charts needs accounting. 
This hasn't been improving. This should horrify us. And the other thing that should horrify us is this:
Photo I took yesterday; I'd link to the article, but the T&G online archives don't go back that far.
The date on that article? 1972.
What were the parents asking for? Many of the same things we talked about yesterday: district leadership reflective of the district; coordination and conversation with parents; student supports through counselor and others; thorough translation services; bilingual education as a real and supported option; district attention to (2017 language here) implicit bias. 

As I pointed out in my post on the strategic plan, the demographics of the district don't appear to be driving any of the conversation as the district looks forward. The discipline disparities are called out in the plan as publicly proposed thus far, but the remainder of what it means to be a majority student-of-color district with a plurality of Latino students is not acknowledged.
And if we don't acknowledge it, we certainly can't plan for it.

Seven--or forty-six--years on, we still need to create the will.

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