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Texas Education Sec. wants state’s businesses not to hire dropouts. A crazy idea worth considering

LatinaLista — When it comes to finishing high school, it’s been long known that Latino students have dismal success rates.

In 2007, the most recent year for available statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics, it was found that Hispanic students had a 21 percent dropout rate versus 8.4 percent for blacks and 5.3 percent for whites.
Those figures are for two years ago. We know the problem has not diminished since then and continues onward, perplexing and frustrating educators, politicians and community advocates.
Unfortunately, it took the Latino dropout rate reaching almost a quarter of the Hispanic student population before anyone decided to start getting innovative in combating the crisis.
In New Mexico, it’s worst. The state suffers from a 46 percent dropout rate. New Mexico Governor Bill Richarson must have been really embarrassed over his state’s failure rate (the figures were released this week) especially since he went to San Diego last month and happily accepted a rather ironic award from the National Education Association — America’s Greatest Education Governor Award.
It seems he wants to prove that he deserves the award. Today, he announced a new program that aims to bring back to school this year 10,000 dropouts.
What are his bold ideas for educational reform that will keep students in high school?

The $8.9 million effort will use federal stimulus money to make online courses available to dropouts.
The governor also announced the creation of the Office of Hispanic Education at the Public Education Department. The press release said the office will act as a liaison with the state’s Hispanic community to address the achievement gap, generally understood to mean the difference in educational outcomes between minority and Anglo students.
The press release also announced three Governor Summits later this year on the Achievement Gap. Each summit will have a separate focus on Hispanic, Native American, and African American student achievement to be held in October, November and December.
“The purpose of the summits is three fold: 1) to call attention to educational challenges, 2) to collaboratively arrive at solutions, and 3) to engage parents and community in the process,” the press release said.
Other parts of the plan include online cultural competency training for teachers and the creation of an annual report card for achievement, dropout and graduation rates.

Nothing particularly innovative or helpful to motivate students to stay in school. Not even online courses since it takes self-discipline to stay up with classes that are not a part of a group setting. Something these students already have a hard time with.
Maybe, Gov. Richardson needs to pay attention to the idea the Education Secretary in neighboring Texas is floating around to the state’s business community — Don’t hire dropouts!

Texas Education Chief Robert Scott has gone to the Texas Association of Business to ask them to participate in a statewide ban on hiring high school drop outs.

Needless to say, the idea is not very popular.
The business community doesn’t like it because it infringes on their cheap workforce. Dropouts don’t like it because they need to make money. In fact, a lot of Latino students who do drop out do so because they can’t handle the pressure of trying to help their families and go to school.
Others who drop out need to make money and find working towards a weekly or bi-weekly financial reward is more relevant than learning about the Civil War.
While the Texas Education Secretary’s idea is bold, it’s the kind of innovative jolt that is needed to combat this crisis. I’m not saying that dropouts should not be allowed to work but it’s pretty obvious life will be 100 times more difficult for those who don’t have the basic kind of education/vocational training that is needed to survive in our changing society.
In the past, there have been stories done on those business owners who took the initiative to instill the importance of education in their young employees. They did this by respecting the importance of education by making sure the kids weren’t working late hours, reviewing their report cards and working hand-in-hand with the schools.
There has been talk floating around for years that if education was truly to be reformed we have to scrap the current model and start from scratch to recognize the realities of today’s kids.
Summits, penalizing schools for poor performance, standardized tests, making teachers more culturally sensitive don’t have the greatest impact or instill the change that is needed. The educational system has to be blown apart and rebuilt in such an innovative way that it excites students to be a part of it and to finish it.
It has to be so bold that people have to first call it crazy, but then realize it has the potential to succeed. It definitely has to be a three-way partnership — schools, families and businesses.
Yet, the most important part is that the innovation has to start in the area no one worries about — elementary school. It’s the seeds planted in those years that lead to the frustration later.
And among low-income families who depend on their children’s labor to sustain the family, here’s a radical idea — give those families a financial incentive to keep their children in high school. If a child drops out, the family loses the money.
It’s just an idea. And with so few ideas floating around that blow up the system instead of trying to make the current outdated model work — it’s something to think about.

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  • Maegan la Mamita Mala Ortiz
    August 6, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    The problem with the solutions you propose Marisa: including not hiring dropouts and $ for families whose children stay in school, is that they do not address the institutional reasons why young Latinos are dropping out. The public school system wide is institutionally racist and classist. The tax funding system means that schools in poor ‘hoods have poor infrastructure. High stakes standardized testing leaves everyone behind but especially non-English dominant students. Public schools shut out non-English dominant parents by not offering accessible information. Schools look like prisons with more and more police departments taking over school safety meaning many schools are the first place young students are criminalized and tracked into the prisons.
    I write this not just as an activist but as a mami of an hija who has been dealing with the public school system here in NYC for years

  • Karen
    August 6, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    The Latino drop out rate is so high because little or nothing in the curriculum pertains to Latinos. If you go to school and are taught about the achievements of every culture except your own, then what message does that send? That nobody like you has ever accomplished anything, and that you won’t either.
    Even American history excludes Mexican-Americans. We have been Americans for hundreds of years (and on this continent for thousands) and have fought with distinction in every US military conflict since the Civil War. The original cowboys were Mexicans from Texas, and there are Mexican-American astronauts,judges, brain surgeons, CEOs, scientists, Nobel Prize winners, etc.
    What do the schools teach about Mexican-Americans? Cesar Chavez. And his movement wasn’t lasting, so what message does that send?
    The curriculum with regard to Latinos needs to be overhalued. In fact, I would scrap the word “Latino” altogether. We’re Americans. Ths whole hemisphere is called the Americas, yet we are the only group not called American. It’s ridiculous.

  • Marisa Treviño
    August 7, 2009 at 10:22 am

    Thanks Maegan. You get no argument from me in what you said. That’s why, I find that the initiatives that are starting up across the country — New Mexico and Illinois to name two — aren’t really addressing the root cause of dropping out. Yes, it may have to do with the reasons I listed but, you’re right, in that it is very institutionalized racism that permeates not just the curriculum but the administration in how schools operate. Just another reason to (figuratively) blow up the current model and create a new one.

  • Jose
    August 7, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    You’re crazy Karen. Reading, writing, mathematics, and science are where we are failing our people. Do these subjects have to be put in special context for Latinos? To be frank, with all its warts, the founding of this country as a democracy is mostly about European settlers. Except in the West, which was sparsely settled at that, Hispanics do not contribute much until later in the 19th century, by which time this country was well on its way to maturity.
    The fact is that most kids these days, including Anglos care little for American history, and they are still doing better than Latinos.
    Karen, your type of excuse contributes little toward improvement, except for making excuses for failure. How did you overcome your situation, where others have failed? Other racial/ethnic groups, i.e. Asians, are doing far better than Latinos, yet they’re mentioned even less in U.S. history that our people. How do you account for that that? You make me very angry, Karen!

  • Tara
    August 8, 2009 at 11:47 am

    Could it be that latin american culture does not value education as much as other cultures and that this ‘baggage’ is carried into u.s. society? Intellectual laziness and lack of discipline are major problems with latino students.

  • Jose
    August 8, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    I hate to have to admit it, Tara, but you’ve hit the nail on the head. This is certainly not about how Latinos can’t find themselves in North American history, but how Latin Americans value literacy and education. Bill Cosby preaches the right stuff in his book. Maybe Latinos would do well to read them. Unfortunately there are people like Marisa and others who preach useless victimology. Check out his book “Come On People: On the Path from Victims to Victors”. It’s a great book, one of hope, not hate and blame, as Marisa and others preach.

  • Karen
    August 9, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    Re: “You’re crazy Karen. Reading, writing, mathematics, and science are where we are failing our people. Do these subjects have to be put in special context for Latinos?”
    I say that Latinos should be in the curriculum just as other Americans are, and that makes me “crazy.” SIGH…
    1) Reading/Wrtiting. Children are more enthusiastic about reading when they see themselves reflected in books. This has not only been proven by research–it’s common sense! If you don’t see yourself reflected in your own education, that sends the message that nobody like you is capable of acccomplishing anything. So why study?
    If you internalize this type of education without thinking critically about it, you’ll marginalize yourself and think of yourself as a sidekick. People like that end up being subservient. I am not saying that Latinos should only learn about other Latinos. I am saying that we should be included.
    2) Math/Science
    When these subjects are taught, children should also learn about Latino scientists, such as Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Mario Molina, astronauts Ellen Ochoa, John D. Olivas, and Jose Hernandez, etc.
    Everybody needs role models, Latino children included. What is so controversial about this?
    3) History
    We have thousands of years of history, just like everybody else. In addition to learning about European history, we should learn about the accomplishments of the Maya/Aztecs/Incas and stop believing the propaganda that they were all “savages” who committed human sacrifice. Read “American Holocaust” by David E. Stannard.
    I think we also need to study the Conquest and how they used religion to subjugate people.
    When you erase somebody’s history, they can’t move forward, because their concept of time becomes stuck in the present, which leads to intertia. In the Yucatan, the Spanish erected a statue of an Indian bent over with a Spaniard’s boot on the back of his neck that says “All Time Stops Here.” It’s no accident that conservatives freak out at any attempt to teach minorities about their own history.
    As for American history, yes, we became part of the United States in the 19th cetury, so why not include that? We were US citizens even before the Civil War, and we sent Latinos to Congress and the Senate. Our labor helped build the West and make it rich, especially in agriculture. Furthermore, we have fought with distinction in every US military conflict since the Civil War. Many Latino soldiers have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. But that’s never mentioned, which makes it easier for conservatives to slander us as us “disloyal” and “alien.”
    And I’m not making excuses for failure. I’, explaning one reason why I think it happens. You’re defending a system that doesn’t work.
    As for Asians, yes, they do much better than every other group. And they know their own history. While there have been incursions into Asia in the past, nobody has conquered the whole region, erased their history, religion, language and renamed them. Even the Filipinos resisted the Spanish. They don’t call themselves Latinos and pretend to be from Spain, despite having Spanish surnames. They know who they are, which motivates them to work hard.

  • Marisa Treviño
    August 10, 2009 at 10:40 am

    No, Jose, you got it wrong. You say “useless victimology” but the fact remains that injustices are being perpetuated against Latinos and other people of color, along with, gays and lesbians. Just because it is not within your realm of experience, you dismiss it as if it doesn’t exist. Well, it may not exist for you but the emails I get from other readers show me clearly that it’s out there and there are people suffering because of it.

  • Jose
    August 10, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Maya/Aztecs/Incas were stoneage peoples who destroyed their own civilizations or destroyed them as the resut of conspiracies with Spain to destroy each other. You cannot blame Spain entirely for the demise of the Aztec and Mayan plights because there just were not enough Spanish conquistadors to the job alone. Regardless, there would be no Hispanic culture today, if it were not for Spain. Ironiclally for the belly achers like some in this blog, the language of Spain, a Western European nation is the clue that holds Hispania together. Also, I find it ironic, that if it were not for U.S. anthropologial efforts, very little would be known of these peoples during the pinicale of their civilizations.
    What does the history of these peoples have to do with U.S. history? There were no Aztec, Inca or Mayas within the area known today as the U.S., so why should our schools teach their histories with the same consideration as that of the European settlers? The histories of South and Central America are taught as world history, as are the histories of France, Italy and England, so what’s the beef?
    The vast majority of Hispanics in this country today are here as the result of migrations from Mexico during recent times. We contributed little to this country in the way of estabishing our legal system or European traditions that make up the majority of this country’s heritage, the character of which is admired the world over. I find it ludicrous that you demand the teaching of the history of South and Central American peoples as U.S hisotry, when their influence has been minor at best. histories.
    Your demands are as ludicrous as would be those of Japanese or Arab Americans. However, I doubt that Japanese parents would use the excuse that their children weren’t doing well in school because the history of European colonization dominated American history. I’m sorry, if we Hispanics can’t assimilate into this society by giving deference to the Eurpoean influence that founded this nation, then we’ll never be happy. Your arguments are copouts, excuses for failures that will certainly never be overcome on your terms.

  • cookie
    August 10, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    I know what Jose means. He isn’t insinating that racism and discrimination doesn’t exist anymore. What he is saying is that many minorities are wallowing in it by playing the eternal victims. Many changes have taken place since the Civil Rights Era to correct these injustices. It will never be perfect but then today racism and discrimination occurs in every race in this country including with white people. I was once discriminated against when applying for a job because I don’t speak Spanish.
    The far lefties and those who use the past to continue their victim status are doing so because it pays off. Time we just all accept the fact that racism still exists but not what it was 50 years ago and move on. We will never move on if the constant whining and talking about it continues.

  • Texan123
    August 10, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    If these kids need to learn about Mexican History and famous Mexican scientists, let them do it im Mexico.
    Do Mexican schools teach about successful US scientists and how many US scholars have been successful in Mexico?
    The whole idea of recreating a school system so that Latinos can ecxel is questionable. If they can not compete in a diversified setting, should we set apart a “special” school for them. Must we make everyone speak Spanish, rather than English, Chinese, French or Greek?
    Stop blaming the method of teaching and start blaming the kids themselves. Success takes time and hard work. Study takes priorty over parties.
    Anyone can be successful, even with mediocre schools. Why is it that some Latinos do very well in the same schools that others drop out?

  • Marisa Treviño
    August 11, 2009 at 9:09 am

    The idea of learning about Mexican scientists, inventors, etc. should be taught in the schools since it’s Mexican-Americans we’re talking about here. And knowing what the history of Mexico and the US is a smart idea. We don’t live on this continent by ourselves and we should know the true history of this country — that it took the Southwest from Mexico, plain and simple.

  • cookie
    August 11, 2009 at 9:43 am

    They DO teach in our schools that the U.S. fought a war with Mexico and that parts of the southwestern U.S. were BOUGHT from Mexico and that is the real truth.

  • Juan
    August 11, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    “…..the true history of this country — that it took the Southwest from Mexico, plain and simple.”
    So what? I, as a Latino am happy that it happened. Imagine if we American Latinos lived in a Nevada or Arizona run by a government as corrupt as that in Mexico City today? As someone a while back said in this blog, it’s not whether or not Latinos are in charge of government, but how the people are treated under that government. It’s a fact that Latinos are far better off under an Anglo government in Arizona than their amigos are across the border. And Latino Texans can thank God that Mexico lost the war in the mid 1840’s.

  • Maury
    August 12, 2009 at 7:49 am

    “The idea of learning about Mexican scientists, inventors, etc. should be taught in the schools since it’s Mexican-Americans we’re talking about here. And knowing what the history of Mexico and the US is a smart idea. We don’t live on this continent by ourselves and we should know the true history of this country — that it took the Southwest from Mexico, plain and simple.”
    Knowing about the history of such people is a lot easier than actually involving oneself in the intellectual effort to accomplish great things. What is the rest of the world to resort to; the places that have few role models? Marisa, apparently they are hopeless, because according to you, the only way they could ever progress is by role models. Maybe they should just consider themselves part of humankind and follow the example of the Alexander Graham Bells and Edisons of the world. Perhaps Latinos have separated themselve from the world community as a whole and the remedy is to make them feel that there is no real difference between their ethnic group and the ones that produced Madam Curie, Einstein, Tesla, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Bill Gates and Anton Lavoisier.
    One disadvantage of identity politics is that it is a source of disunity for mankind and promotes jealousy and conflict. It appears that much Latino disenchantment is due to pure jealousy and obsessing with ethnicity.
    As to the history of Mexico, how is that better than the example of how the Fonding Fathers created this country?

  • Paul
    August 12, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    “We don’t live on this continent by ourselves………..”
    Yes, very true, but isn’t our neighbor to the north a better example to Latinos than the one to our south, after all, few Canadians feel compelled to enter our country illegally. And I don’t hear anyone screaming that we should teach the history of Canada. Remember, if you teach the good part of Mexican history, you’re obligated to teach the bad, and there’s a lot of that, to include the Conquistadors, and recently, about the current social injustice and drug trade. I would think that Mexican history would be rather depressing, than uplifting or inspirational.

  • Kenny
    August 12, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    “Perhaps Latinos have separated themselve from the world community as a whole and the remedy is to make them feel that there is no real difference between their ethnic group and the ones that produced Madam Curie, Einstein, Tesla, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Bill Gates and Anton Lavoisier.”
    Bravo, Maury, that’s the true meaning of assimilation, something that some people in the Hispanic community eschew.

  • Benji
    August 18, 2009 at 11:01 am

    The truth is that the same lack of regard for our the European Founding Fathers history is seen in Latinos today in the form of contempt for our laws. They view anything that came out of another culture as irrelevent, including our Constitution and immigration laws. If they didn’t have a hand in it, then it’s not worth heeding. It’s interesting that Asian and Afrian Americans have more respect for our legal system, history and immigration laws than Latinos. Although Asians are known to violate our immigration laws, they’re not so quick to call them invalid and arrogantly march in the streets in protest of a system that’s been in place for decades, and one that other ethnic groups and races respect.
    Today’s Latinos have a pack mentality similar to lynch parties; the more in the group, the more the participants feel righteous in their actions, moral or not.

  • velma ybarra
    September 24, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    When is the summit on Hispanics and Education?

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