Thursday, February 26, 2009

Finally, Some Resources on Multiple Pathways to Graduation

In addition to the materials you can find at Youth Transition Funders Group you can now get the materials from the US Department of Labor's Learning Exchange.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Is MPG paying enough attention to ELL?

The article below that indicates NYC one of the cities taking graduation rate increases really seriously not making progress with students that are english language learners. If this trend is the same for other cities we need to pay attention to it by:

a) increasing a focus on language and literacy in high schools, especially those efforts to help students stay on-track thru the transition to 9th grade
b) develop more international high schools designed to help ELL students graduate in the mix of the portfolio of schools
c) ensure that there are adequate number of transfer/alternative schools that have expertise in language and literacy to help ELL students pass exit exams and graduate.

BY Meredith Kolodner
Daily News
February 23, 2009

Exclusive - High school graduation rates have increased under Mayor Bloomberg - except for students not fluent in English.

While the general graduation rate climbed to 52.2% in 2007 from 46.5% in 2005, the rate for students learning English (called English language learners, or ELLs) dropped from 28.5% to 23.5% over the same period.

Advocates say some city efforts that have improved achievement in general missed the mark when it comes to English language learners.

"We support high standards," said Deycy Avitia, education advocacy coordinator at the New York Immigration Coalition, "but what we need is the increased resources and strategies to make sure they can meet the higher standards."

As an example, she noted that for one of the mayor's biggest initiatives, the creation of new, small schools, the city allowed the exclusion of nonfluent students.

English language learners are also overrepresented in some of the system's worst schools, accounting for one in five students at the 15 failing schools that were shuttered this year. ELLs made up more than a quarter of the student body at the two high schools that were closed.

Two years ago, advocates successfully fought for increased funding for these students, but say more is needed. Among their suggestions are a longer school day, reduced class size and access to full-day pre-K and kindergarten. They warn that the coming change in graduation standards, requiring all students to pass all five Regents exams, will only make things worse. Currently, only about 10% of English language learners meet that standard.

But there are programs that work, the advocates say.

Flushing International High School in Queens, where students speak 18 languages, boasts a 2% dropout rate and a 92% college attendance rate.

Bronx International High School, which has 40 languages spoken in its hallways, has a similar record.

An Education Department spokeswoman acknowledged that four-year graduation rates remain a concern, but said overall academic performance had improved.

Progress is easier when students are younger, say experts, and, by some measures, there has been improvement.

The percentage of English language learners in the third through eighth grades able to read English at grade level jumped to 22.6% in 2008 from 11% in 2006, according to state tests. Those who were proficient in math grew to 59% from 36% over the same period.

On national achievement tests, however, there was no progress in reading shown by the system's fourth- or eighth-graders. The same was true for eighth-graders in math, though the fourth-graders made some improvement.

"These are problems that have been accruing for some time," said Maria Torres-Guzman, professor of bilingual studies at Columbia University's Teachers College.

"It's too easy to ignore, because it's a population that's not going to make a lot of noise in the political world."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Implications for Youth and Education in the Stimulus Bill

Although this hasn't been verified, this is the latest I have heard about the opportunities in the stimulus bill.

The bill provides $789 billion over two years, but $70 billion of this amount extends provisions of the Alternative Minimum Tax that would have been enacted anyway: thus, relative to baseline spending, the actual fiscal stimulus is closer to $730 billion.

The bill provides about $100b for education, including:
· $250 million for data systems.

· $54 billion for a “fiscal stabilization fund,” most of which must be used for education. Charter schools are eligible to receive this funding.

· $4.6 billion for early childhood programs

· $13 billion for Title 1, of which $3b is for the school improvement fund.

· $11.7 billion for IDEA

· $200 million for the teacher incentive fund

· $15.6 billion for Pell Grants (it appears that the award will increase $400-500 next year)

· $5.17 billion for job training, including $200m national emergency grants, $250m for community training (through community colleges), $250m for Job Corps, $1.52 billion for dislocated workers, $1.2 billion for youth training, $540m for vocational rehabilitation, and $50m for Youthbuild.

The bill also provides low-income families with tax relief that should lift an estimated 2.5 million people out of poverty:
· The earned income tax credit is expanded to provide, for the first time, a larger credit to families with more than two children.

· The earnings requirement for the child care tax credit is lowered from $8,500 to $3,000, which will expand the credit received by the families of 13 million children.

· The Administration’s refundable “making work pay” tax credit is set at $400 for individuals and $800 for families.

· The HOPE tax credit is renamed the American Opportunity tax credit and is for the first time made partially refundable, thus finally making the credit useful to low-income students. The refundable portion would provide up to $1000 per year for tuition and books. On the spending side, the bill also will increase Pell grants by $400-500 per year.

Other provisions of help to low- and moderate-income families:
· A 20-30% increase in the monthly food stamp benefits for the lowest income families (this increase will phase out over time).

· A federally-funded increase of $25 per month in state unemployment insurance benefits. In addition, the bill provides fiscal incentives for states to make part-time workers eligible for UI (especially important for working mothers).

· Several billion for TANF, with changes in federal law that would encourage states to help more families when unemployment increases.

· $4 billion for capital improvements to public housing

· $1.5b for homelessness prevention

The bill also provides states with $87 billion through a temporary increase in the Federal share of Medicaid costs (this funding comes with a temporary prohibition on state action to restrict Medicaid eligibility).

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Green Schools

With the discussions on the economic recovery bill, there has been increased interest in "green schools". Here are some resources to get you started:

  • Green Schools Conference coming up:
  • Green Schools -- I think this organizations stands out as they expand their understanding to include healthy eating with gardens integrated as part of the curriculum. Given the empty lots in Detroit, you might be able to turn what is often perceived as a deficit into an asset.
  • US Green Building Council:
  • Public Architecture
  • American Architectural Foundation ( has a Great Schools by Design program ( Great Schools by Design hosted a convening on green schools in December 2007, in association with the Congressional Green Schools Caucus. The forum was sponsored by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), which has since launched this:
  • Lois DeBacker at Kresge. They are investing in green building.

  • John Weekes, principal of Dull Olson Weekes Architects ( He and his firm designed the 45,000 sq ft Rosa Parks School in Portland, which has been hailed as a model for green building. You can find the school on his site under Experience -> Projects -> Learn.
  • Peter Calthorpe
  • Koning Eisenberg Architecture (J. Sturges)
  • Daly Genik Architects (J. Sturges)
  • William McDonough redesigned the Ford plant in River Rouge about 10 years ago.
  • Designshare ( is the firm that worked with Bingler in NOLA to create a new school Gaylaird Christopher is contact. 626-356-4080
  • Regenisis Group in santa fe. Joel Glanzberg is contact.


  • Sidwell Friends in DC is a LEED platinum school facility with a wide variety of sustainable features, including a revolutionary new lighting system. See description at
  • The new Ann Arbor public libraries were built with an environmentally sustainable approach. Luckenbach|Ziegelman Architects ofAnn Arbor. The library at Mallets Creek Library won a sustainable design architecture award.
  • Ann Arbor Skyline High School was built with a green orientation. TMP Associates, Inc. (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.), along with Mitchell and Mouat (Ann Arbor, Mich.) are the architects for the new school.