Disrupting the Status Quo to Support Latino Students from Immigrant Families

This post was crossposted from the Institute of Education Sciences blog, Inside IES Research.

Driven in part by massive demographic shifts in the U.S. population, education and social behavioral research has increasingly attended to the growing diversity of the student population. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Latinos accounted for more than 50% of the U.S. population growth between 2010 and 2020. While the country’s white population is shrinking, the Latino population grew by 23% in the last decade and now makes up almost 19% of the U.S. population. Although the raw numbers are worthy of attention, the change rate—and what it means for how schools and other systems serve students—may be even more important, especially given that the K12 education system is not built to accommodate such rapid demographic shifts.

Charles Martinez in a suit with an orange tie.

NCES data show that, although there has been overall progress in improving high school graduation rates, the nation’s Latino student dropout rate is 65% higher than White students and almost 40% higher than Black students. Only 20% of Latinos aged 25 to 29 have obtained a college degree—the lowest degree attainment rate of any racial/ethnic subgroup. Growing evidence shows that the disparities in college participation among Latino and first-generation college students may become even more pronounced as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage.

Since 2015, with the support of two IES-funded NCER grants, my team of colleagues and I have led work designed to challenge and innovate how schools support the positive development and college access and success for Latino students from immigrant families. Our Juntos Project was designed to create a new intervention model working directly with teachers, school leaders, and parents of Latino middle school students. The goal of the project was to address common challenges confronting immigrant families as they navigate the U.S. education system, to use effective strategies for recognizing and transforming teacher bias, and to create a school climate that centers equity leadership and builds authentic family-school partnerships—all with the promise to improve academic and school success for Latino students. The second project, Project LEAPS (Latino Education After Public School), which is currently underway, extends the model we developed in Juntos by working with teachers, parents, and school counselors to support the postsecondary readiness (and ultimately the college access and success) of Latino students as they transition from middle school to high school.

Through this work, we continue to learn important lessons about how to be disruptive given that current approaches have too often failed to make a lasting impact on nurturing the academic success and positive behavioral health of Latino students. Here are a few of those lessons:

Parents are the most important teachers in a child’s life. As much as education researchers and professionals attend to the role educators play in student life, our approach is designed to capitalize on the strengths of Latino families and the deep cultural value of familismo, which prioritizes dedication, connectedness, and loyalty to family, as essential targets of our intervention. Notwithstanding the influence of adult agents inside the education system, parents (that is, all of the adults in a child’s life who play a major role in raising them) play the most important and sustained role in raising healthy children. Although the education system frequently frames parents and home environments as “the problem” when considering the challenges of underserved students, data from the NCES National Household Education Survey show that parents of students of color are as likely or more likely to be engaged in their children’s education (for example, checking on homework completion, monitoring school performance) than their white peers. This is especially true for Latino parents, including those who are Spanish speaking and those who have low educational attainment themselves.

Move from a deficit framing to an asset framing. Undoubtedly, many Latino students and their families experience challenges as they navigate the education system. However, many of these challenges are not of their making. The fact that we can mark disparities in educational outcomes and access to higher education by race/ethnicity, poverty, rurality and other factors should be a source of outrage. None of these demographic characteristics should be correlated with school success or can legitimately be described as causal. The true causes stem from deeply rooted inequities embedded in the education system. One way to shift away from a student or family deficit framing is to focus on a more interesting question: What makes students, families, schools, and communities thrive in the face of difficult circumstances? The answers to this question can help us leverage assets that too often go untapped in service of student success.

Attend to within-group variation. Like other racial/ethnic groups, Latinos are not monolithic. Comparative designs in which outcomes for Latino students are contrasted with White students or students from other groups often contribute little to nuanced understandings about how variables linked to these group identifications might explain differences in outcomes. Ample research shows that within-group variation among Latinos on factors such as country of origin, nativity, generational history, language, time in U.S. residency, context of reception for immigrants, and acculturation level are more important in understanding the nature of risk and protection around academic and social behavioral adjustment than are between-group differences. In designing intervention programs for the families and students we serve, our goals are to understand these sources of variation and carefully attend to them in our development work.


This year, Inside IES Research is publishing a series of interviews (see here and hereshowcasing a diverse group of IES-funded education researchers and fellows that are making significant contributions to education research, policy, and practice. As part of our Hispanic Heritage Month blog serieswe are focusing on Hispanic researchers and fellows, as well as researchers that focus on the education of Hispanic students.

Charles Martinez (@c_martinez) is the dean of the College of Education at the University of Texas at Austin, a professor in the Department of Educational Psychology, and the founding director of the Texas Center for Equity Promotion. He is a first-generation college graduate and a third-generation Mexican American. His Project LEAPS co-investigators are Heather McClure, University of Oregon, and Elma Lorenzo-Blanco, University of Texas at Austin.

This guest blog was produced by Katina Stapleton (Katina.Stapleton@ed.gov), co-Chair of the IES Diversity and Inclusion Council.

Research Roundup: NCES Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

This post was crossposted from the National Center for Education Statistics blog.

Breaking down data by race and ethnicity can provide a better understanding of education performance and outcomes than examining statistics representative of all students. In observation of Hispanic Heritage Month, this blog presents NCES findings on the learning experiences of Hispanic students throughout their education careers.

Early Childhood Education

  • In 2019, 43 percent of Hispanic 3- to 4-year-olds and 86 percent of Hispanic 5-year-olds were enrolled in school.

 

K12 Education



  • Between 2009 and 2018, the percentage of students enrolled in public schools who were Hispanic increased from 22 to 27 percent.


  • In school year 2018–19, the adjusted cohort graduation rate (ACGR) was 82 percent for Hispanic public school students. The ACGRs for Hispanic students ranged from 60 percent in the District of Columbia to 91 percent in Alabama and West Virginia.
  • Between 2010 and 2020, the percentage of Hispanic 25- to 29-year-olds who had completed at least high school increased by more than 20 percentage points, from 69 to 90 percent.

 

Postsecondary Education

  • In 2007, postsecondary enrollment of Hispanic students surpassed 2.0 million for the first time in history. In 2012, enrollment of Hispanic students surpassed enrollment of Black students, making Hispanic students the largest minority population enrolled in postsecondary education.


  • Between fall 2009 and fall 2019, Hispanic undergraduate enrollment increased by 48 percent (from 2.4 million to 3.5 million students).


  • In 2017–18, there were 99,718 bachelor’s degrees awarded to Hispanic students at Hispanic-serving institutions, which have a full-time undergraduate enrollment that is at least 25 percent Hispanic.


  • In academic year 2018–19, 17 percent of bachelor’s degrees conferred to Hispanic graduates were in a STEM field.
  • About 58 percent of Hispanic students who began seeking a bachelor’s degree full-time at a 4-year institution in fall 2013 completed that degree at the same institution within 6 years.

 

By Mandy Dean, AIR

Build Back Better for Latino Americans

This post was crossposted from the U.S. Department of Education blog, Homeroom.

Blog by Eloy Oakley, Senior Advisor 

President Biden has a bold vision for the future of country in his Build Back Better agenda, and critical education investments like the free community college and advancing affordability proposals are about opening opportunity for all Americans. As we close out National Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s also a time to celebrate what these proposals would mean for Latino students trying to pursue a postsecondary degree or certificate.

And there’s a lot to celebrate. The President’s proposal would make community college free for students who pursue a certificate or degree, attend college at least half-time, and qualify for in-state tuition (or would qualify but for their immigration status). Our nation’s community colleges are the gateway to an affordable, quality education for the majority of Latino students in higher education. The free community college proposal would provide more than $4,500 per full-time student, with the federal government initially covering the full amount and covering at least 75 percent once the program is fully phased-in, to states in exchange for making community colleges free to attend. If all states participate, this ambitious plan will extend opportunities to millions of students across over 1,000 institutions of higher education.

Additionally, the Advancing Affordability for Students (AAS) proposal will provide eligible students from low- and middle-income families, including DREAMers, two years of subsidized tuition at a four-year Historically Black Colleges and UniversitiesTribal Colleges and Universities, or Minority-Servicing Institutions (MSIs), such as  Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-serving Institutions (AANAPISIs) – either as first-time students or as transfer students.

The Build Back Better agenda is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in our Latino students. In addition to the $1,875 increase to the maximum Pell Grants (almost half of all Hispanic students receive Pell Grants), we project that, if all states participate, the plan would:

  • Eliminate tuition and fees for the nearly 55 percent of all Hispanic postsecondary students who are enrolled in community colleges;
  • Include over 90 percent of Minority-Serving Institutions in the free community college and AAS proposals combined;
  • Include institutions that serve half of all undergraduate students, including about 70 percent of Hispanic students, across both of those proposals.

The pandemic has hit Main Street much harder than Wall Street, and working families have struggled to gain a foothold in the pandemic economy. Students from communities of color and low-income communities are disproportionately impacted by this reality. Hispanic individuals saw people saw the largest declines in employment of any group due to the pandemic, and their unemployment rates remain more elevated today. Importantly, the benefits of free community college tuition will be designed to support all Americans, but will promote equitable access and a path to upward mobility especially for students of color and those from lower-income families. In cities both urban and rural, hardworking Americans are looking for livable wage paying jobs that can support their families, and postsecondary credentials are more important than ever for our learners and workers to be competitive in our labor market and help drive our economy. The challenge for everyday Americans is that for many, a college education or career training has not been within reach for them.

Community colleges have long served those who need it most: students juggling work and life along with school, students who are supporting their own children’s education, students who are experiencing poverty and weighing the option of education versus another part time job to pay the bills, students who are English language learners and immigrants to our country, students who may be incarcerated or who are in reentry following incarceration, and so many more.

As a parent, working learner, and product of a community college myself, I can clearly attest to the value of a community college education—not only for me, but for my entire family. President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda provides for the kind of opportunity that I received to so many more Americans. And given the challenges that most everyday Americans have endured during the last 18-months, they deserve it.

Developing Research Training Programs (Part 1): Advice from IES-funded Hispanic Serving Institutions

This blog was crossposted from the Institute for Education Sciences blog, Inside IES Research.

This blog post featuring advice from IES-funded Hispanic Serving Institutions on developing research training programs, is part of an ongoing series featuring IES training programs as well as our blog series on diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) within IES grant programs

In 2015, IES launched the Pathways to the Education Sciences Research Training Program to encourage undergraduate, postbaccalaureate, and master’s students from diverse backgrounds to pursue careers in education research. The Pathways program grants were made to minority-serving institutions (MSIs) and their partners to provide one year of mentored research training. We asked the leadership teams from our six initial Pathways Programs to share their lessons learned on establishing research training programs. In part one of this blog, we share the lessons learned from the Pathways programs based at Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs). In part two, we share lessons learned from the Pathways programs based at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and their partner institutions.

Pathways: Successful Transitions to and Through Higher Education

California State University, Sacramento (HSI, AANAPISI)

Leadership: Jana Noel, Timothy Fong, Jacqueline Brooks, Erica Zamora

We have five areas for universities to consider that wish to develop undergraduate training programs:

Create an interdisciplinary training team. Draw on the strengths of the wide range of researchers on your campus and beyond. An interdisciplinary team provides an expanded range of perspectives on both the research methods and the questions that are important to pursue within education. All are important and valuable to the expansion of research that will make a difference to the lives of underrepresented students.

Develop partnerships. Develop partnerships across departments and colleges as well as in the community. Our apprenticeship sites span the university and into the community and include university research centers and institutes, K-12 offices of education, and non-profit public policy centers. Apprenticeship partnerships provide fellows with the opportunity to be part of a team that actively conducts research into pressing educational issues and contributes to the research needed to make practice and policy decisions within your region and state.

Intentionally match mentors to fellows. As much as possible, match the fellows’ diversity when selecting research mentors. Mentors provide support on learning new research methodology, asking new questions, working as a team, preparing to present research at conferences, and preparing for graduate school.

Choose a broad research theme. Choose a broad research theme that will appeal to a wide range of students. In our case, we study the barriers and supports for underrepresented students in K-12, community college, and higher education. This allows underrepresented students at MSIs to know that they are welcome in the program and that their experiences and voices will be valued.

Provide continuity across cohorts. Fellows in our program speak at recruiting events for future cohorts, participate in panel discussions for future cohorts, and truly serve as our best source of encouragement for future fellows. The continuity persists during and beyond the program as fellows engage in their academic journeys together.


AWARDSS Training Program

University of Arizona (HSI)/College of Applied Science and Technology at the University of Arizona

Leadership: Michelle Perfect, Brandy Perkl, Sara Chavarria, Andrew Heurta

Our number one piece of advice for establishing undergraduate research training programs is to add in bridges over the biggest barriers to URM participation.

Our Pathways program (AWARDSS) was built on the idea that (1) support from campus programs and (2) intentional mentoring are vital aspects of promoting participation in research from traditionally underrepresented students. For that reason, we have learned that undergraduate research training programs within MSIs need to build on what is already present. Add in the elements you know your students need most, such as financial support, increased access to resources, and focus on improvement of specific skills.

To achieve this in our practice, we built a complementary, hybrid, add-on program to the University of Arizona’s well-established and award-winning Undergraduate Research Opportunities Consortium (UROC) experiences. UROC provides the primary coursework and faculty, while we deliver the add-ons that allow for underrepresented minority (URM) student participation. We focused initially on providing additional funding for our students’ experiences. Then, we added a required inclusion-oriented mentor training to bolster the intentionality of those relationships and the quality of this potentially transformative relationship. This often allows us to support underrepresented mentors, as well. Mentoring does not occur in a vacuum though, and the latest research shows that those with a developmental network outperform those without one. Thus, we staffed the program specifically to serve as a supportive developmental network for our students. Finally, we assessed and trained students in academic areas of need (for example, statistics) at both the cohort and individual levels.

We also suggest that leaders of undergraduate research training programs continuously examine their practices and adjust their models accordingly. We plan to further train our staff in more inclusive and anti-racist practices ensuring that the entire AWARDSS network is informed, intentional, and engaged in supportive practices from day one.


Pathways Program

University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA; HSI)

Leadership: Guadalupe Carmona, Ann Marie Ryan, Francesca Bronder

Our goals for the program are to 1) broaden participation of undergraduates from underrepresented backgrounds in doctoral study, and 2) develop a pipeline of talented interdisciplinary researchers who bring fresh ideas, approaches, and perspectives to addressing the challenges of inequalities that exist in P-20 educational experiences, transitions, and outcomes.

Through a structured program design, undergraduates can be exposed to research at an early academic stage and discover that through academic and scientific research, they can achieve their passion to systematically improve education and transform their local communities. By learning how research is conducted, closely working with faculty mentors, finding their own research focus, and developing their work, our UTSA Pathways Fellows have gained in academic and personal development, self-confidence, a sense of accomplishment and peer support, independence of work and thought, and have become more academically resilient. For many of them, UTSA Pathways has opened doors and facilitated access to several graduate schools. For others, it has helped them apply their newly acquired research skills to a variety of professional fields and become more marketable in their chosen careers.

We identified three central concepts for UTSA Pathways that we think would be helpful for others who are developing undergraduate research training programs: EmpowermentTransformation, and Inspiration.

  • Empowerment. Once unheard student voices are now becoming part of our education research community as fellows actively participate in academic and research activities. Your program should empower students to form their own identities as fellows and help to extend this empowerment to their personal lives.
  • Transformation. Our Pathways program has generated change in multiple communities, built new collaborations, recruited new faculty, and obtained supporters devoted to Pathways and its goals of broadening participation of historically underrepresented voices. We suggest that your program identify the critical partners and potential levers of change specific to your program’s model and goals.
  • Inspiration. We have found that our fellows’ resilience and commitment has been channeled through their active engagement and dissemination of their research that, for most, begins with UTSA Pathways. And our mentors’ passion and generosity has guided and supported a new generation of scholars in educational research. We encourage you to create an environment of hospitality and engagement that will embrace a passionate group of young scholars to participate in their communities of research and practice.

Produced by Katina Stapleton (Katina.Stapleton@ed.gov), co-Chair of the IES Diversity and Inclusion Council. She is also the program officer for the Pathways to the Education Sciences Research Training Program and the new Early Career Mentoring Program for Faculty at Minority Serving Institutions, the two IES training programs for minority serving institutions.  

El Camino…The Path of a Young Latina in the Making

This was crossposted from the Institute of Education Sciences blog, Inside IES Research

Dr. Lorena Aceves

Formally, I am known as Dr. Lorena Aceves, but you can just call me Lorena. I am a first generation (first in my family to graduate high school and college) Latina scholar. I recently completed my PhD in human development and family studies (HDFS) at the Pennsylvania State University. Currently, I am working as a Society for Research Child Development Federal Postdoctoral Policy Fellow at the Administration for Children and Families’ Office of Head Start. In my current role, I work on all things related to Head Start from issues facing the Head Start workforce to considering the impact that COVID-19 has had on the daily lives of Head Start children. Given that September 15 to October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month, I wanted to share my camino (path) with the hopes of inspiring other Latinx students and to demonstrate the beauty of Hispanic excellence in education!

How It Started

My journey into higher education began before I could even remember. My amazing parents are two immigrants from Michoacán, Mexico. Their journey of migration was fueled by the desire to open more doors of opportunity for themselves and their future family. They settled in southern California, where they would start building the foundation of values and motivation that would lead me to my PhD.

In California, my parents had their first interaction with opportunity and education for their daughter with Head Start. As a four-year-old, Head Start gave me a step up in my educational career and connected my parents to resources and services that could increase our familial wellbeing. The journey here was just getting started when my parents decided that it was time to leave southern California for Arizona. In Arizona, my parents were able to earn better wages and purchase a home in a good school district. This opportunity was not as accessible to them in California. This move, as my mom always says, “(as difficult as it was) was the best thing we could have done educationally for you and your younger brother.”

I started my elementary education in the Gilbert Public Schools school district. It was when I got to high school that a major educational opportunity opened for me—the founding of Gilbert Classical Academy (GCA), a public college prep school. GCA was a saving grace for this little Latina who had every aspiration to go to college but had no clue where to even begin! It gave me all the tools and preparation I needed to make it to college, and I did. I was admitted to 80% of the colleges I applied to and continued my higher education at the University of Arizona (UA).

Moving Away and Embracing My Latina Identity

After high school graduation, I moved two hours south of home to attend the UA. This move was a BIG deal for this eldest Mexican daughter. My parents were not happy about me living in a dorm, but they knew it was necessary to achieve that “American Dream” that we always talked about where I would never have to scrub toilets as my mother had done most of her life.

Life at UA was amazing. I got to embrace my Latina identity because, for once in my life, I was finally surrounded by people who looked like me and had the same familial experiences. I also got to explore all my potential career options. I started college wanting to be a pediatrician but ended up finding my passion in the HDFS major. I loved the idea of studying human beings, especially in the context of their families. I finally was going to be able to understand my family and culture from a scholarly lens.

In my third year of college, I was unsure about what I wanted to do post-graduation. I knew I wanted to pursue graduate education; I just didn’t know for what. And that’s when I stumbled upon research, which ultimately led me to my PhD. Before this moment, I had no idea what a PhD was, but I was sold on pursuing one because being able to use research to support Latinx youth and families seemed like a dream come true.

In my last year of college, I was a McNair scholar, which set me up for success in graduate school. With the program’s help, I was able to gain social capital and academic skills I did not have as a first-generation student, which are critical for successfully pursuing a graduate degree. With the help of the program’s staff and training, I was admitted to 8 out of the 10 doctoral programs that I applied to! I ultimately decided to pursue my PhD at Penn State. This little Arizona girl had no idea what she had signed up for by leaving sunny warm weather for cold, gloomy central Pennsylvania. At Penn State, my research focused on examining the cultural, familial, and individual level factors that contribute to Latinx youth’s academic outcomes.

I started graduate school with the goal of becoming a professor to continue this kind of research and helping other Latinx students like me attain their PhDs. That dream quickly evolved after a few internships at the U.S. Department of Education, including with IES, as well as the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics (formerly known as the White House Hispanic Prosperity Initiative). It was thanks to IES that I was even able to pursue these internships. As a graduate student, I was an IES predoctoral fellow, which afforded me opportunities to do the research I was interested in, as well as pursue these non-traditional graduate experiences. Through these internships, I quickly learned that I could do more. I learned that there is great need for Latinx scholars like myself in federal spaces, where decisions about funding and policies are happening. I became passionate about federal service, which led me to my current postdoctoral position.

Moving Forward

My main goal with my newly blossoming career as a doctora is to be able to work for a federal agency where I can use my skills and training to serve diverse communities, particularly communities of color. Federal leadership is still not reflective of the communities that make up the United States. I hope to serve in a federal leadership position in the future to represent the communities of color and make our leadership more reflective of its citizens. I plan to give voice to Latinx children, youth, and families of this country that need to be heard. Juntos podemos (Together, we can)!


This year, Inside IES Research is publishing a series of interviews (see here and hereshowcasing a diverse group of IES-funded education researchers and fellows that are making significant contributions to education research, policy, and practice. As part of our Hispanic Heritage Month blog serieswe are focusing on Hispanic researchers and fellows, as well as researchers that focus on the education of Hispanic students.

Lorena Aceves (Lorena.Aceves@acf.hhs.govis a Society for Research Child Development Federal Postdoctoral Policy Fellow at the Administration for Children and Families’ Office of Head Start.

This guest blog was produced by Caroline Ebanks (Caroline.Ebanks@ed.gov), Program Officer, National Center for Education Research.

 

Peer to Peer: Career Advice for Aspiring Education Researchers from Pathways to the Education Sciences Alumni

This post was crossposted from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) blog, Inside IES Research

In 2015, IES launched the Pathways to the Education Sciences Research Training Program to broaden participation in education research. Pathways grants are awarded to minority serving institutions and their partners to provide up to year-long training fellowships to undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, and masters students. Each Pathways program has a specific education theme such as literacy, equity/social justice in education, student success, and education pipelines. Pathways fellows receive an introduction to scientific research methods and their program’s education theme, as well as meaningful opportunities to participate in education research, professional development, and mentoring. Currently, there are seven funded Pathways programs; IES recently launched the newest program focused on learning analytics and data science to the University of California, Irvine. Over 250 students have participated in Pathways, and many (39 at last count) have already started doctoral programs. In honor of HBCU week (September 7-10), Hispanic-Serving Institutions Week (September 13-19), and Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15- October 15), we reached out to six Pathways alumni who are in graduate school to ask them for advice for other students who wish to pursue graduate study related to education research. Here is what they shared with us.

Comfort Abode

RISE Training ProgramUniversity of Maryland, College Park/Bowie State University (HBCU)

Doctoral Student, Indiana University

My number one piece of advice for students who want to become education researchers would be to keep in mind the purpose of your research. If nobody understands it, it is not helpful. And in order for people to understand it, you yourself need to understand it. You cannot teach what you do not know. Especially considering that the research is in education, the goal should be to educate teachers, students, faculty, or whomever, about what is being studied and (hopefully) steps that can be taken towards improving that area. You have to keep your audience in mind and while it should not be “dumbed down,” you have to make sure that your point is getting across clearly. In order for that to happen, you have to know what you are talking about. Project RISE was especially helpful in the fact that there were a lot of mentors and people willing to help you understand the scope of the research as well as provide comments and feedback on areas to improve upon.

Jeremy Flood

RISE Training ProgramNorth Carolina Central University (HBCU)/University of North Carolina Wilmington/Pennsylvania State University

Doctoral Student, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

My only advice would be to remember the mission of solving challenges in education. Within the body of education research, there are several ways one can accomplish this—whether it is by policy research, grounded theory, ethnography, or experiments, there are quite a diversity of tools available at a researcher’s disposal, so much so that it may seem overwhelming at first.  Do not stress if you find this true; you are not the first or the last to feel overwhelmed! Instead, use this as an opportunity to rededicate yourself to the mission and allow your dedication to choose a research path that is best for you. Whichever one, two, or three (or more) that you choose, make sure that the end goal seeks to improve the practice of education.

Jessala Grijalva

AWARDSS Training Program, University of Arizona/College of Applied Science and Technology at the University of Arizona

Doctoral Student, University of Notre Dame

I advise Pathways fellows to take the time to reflect and internalize the cultural competency components of the program. The Pathways program will not only prepare you with the hard and soft skills that you need to be a successful researcher, but also help you become an all-around culturally competent researcher. Sometimes, we assume that as students of color or students from diverse backgrounds that we are inherently culturally competent; yet, there is so much more to learn and to be aware of. From my experience as a participant in the Pathways program, I’ve learned of ways to extend cultural competency beyond research and into my interactions with other researchers, colleagues, mentors/mentees, and the broader community. To be an effective researcher, it’s not only important to conduct culturally component research, but to also work with people of all walks of life, and to be able to disseminate our research and findings to the public. Training in cultural competency is very rare and very valuable–and something we may not fully appreciate—so take advantage of this opportunity and make cultural competency an important priority in your conduct as a researcher.

Camille Lewis

PURPOSE ProgramFlorida State University/Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (HBCU)

Doctoral Student, Florida State University

There is an African proverb that states: “Knowledge is like a garden. If it is not cultivated, it cannot be harvested.” On the quest to become an education researcher, it is easy to get caught up in the hype of being “the expert.”  My #1 piece of advice to anyone who is interested in education research is to remain a student of life. Your journey to becoming an education researcher will be filled with many opportunities to learn, adapt, and understand the process of learning. Embrace these experiences; allow your researcher identity to be shaped and influenced by new discoveries and new interests. Continue to seek new information and allow your knowledge base to be cultivated. My experience as a public-school teacher, PURPOSE fellow, and doctoral student has shown me the importance and necessity of continually seeking advice, experiences, knowledge, and professional development related to learning and education. This pursuit of knowledge has informed and shaped not just my research, but my life outside academia as well. I never allow myself to become a “know it all.” This keeps me humble and allows me to continue to make improvements in every facet of my life.

Christopher Terrazas, MA

Pathways ProgramUniversity of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA; HSI)

Doctoral Student, University of Texas at Austin

UTSA Pathways was instrumental in developing my identity as a researcher and graduate student. The other day, I described my experiences as being in a rocket, and Pathways provided the fuel to take off and get one step closer to my goals as a researcher. During my time, I made it a priority to be curious, always. I did this by attending all seminars offered and asking questions—even questions that I thought were not the right ones to ask at the time. You never know who may share a similar experience or perhaps a differing one to support you in your endeavors. Be bold and use your voice as an instrument to understand the world of research and graduate school during this exciting journey. It is crucial to get into this mindset because this will be your experience, perhaps your first. You will want to make sure that you are well prepared for this process as an aspiring researcher and scholar because this is your future. With that said, my number one piece of advice is to look inward to reflect on your own life experiences. Use these thoughts to feed your inner sense of self because you know more than anyone what you want for your future to be.

Erica Zamora

Pathways ProgramCalifornia State University, Sacramento

Doctoral Student, University of Arizona

The Pathway Fellows Program had a tremendous impact on my growth as a scholar and education researcher. My advice to students is to engage in research that not only reflect their scholarly interests but also reflect their values as community members and educators. My experience in the program gave me a deeper understanding of the importance of social justice and equity work in research. Education has the potential to transform communities and encourage growth and development while perpetuating various forms of oppression. Engaging in education research that centers the voices of and the issues that historically marginalized groups experience could lead to transformative outcomes at postsecondary institutions.

 


Written by Katina Stapleton (Katina.Stapleton@ed.gov), co-Chair of the IES Diversity and Inclusion Council. She is also the program officer for the Pathways to the Education Sciences Research Training Program and the new Early Career Mentoring Program for Faculty at Minority Serving Institutions, the two IES training programs for minority serving institutions, including Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions, American Indian Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities, Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISI), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Predominantly Black Institutions, Native American-Serving, Nontribal Institutions, and any other minority-serving institution as specified in request for applications. 

This blog is part of an ongoing series featuring IES training programs as well as our blog series on diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) within IES grant programs. For more information, see this DEIA update from Commissioners Elizabeth Albro (National Center for Education Research) and Joan McLaughlin (National Center for Special Education Research).

Recognizing Inspiring School Employees for a Second Year

This was crossposted from the U.S. Department of Education blog, Homeroom.

Even a pandemic cannot stop the arrival of year two of the newest recognition award at the U.S. Department of Education (ED).  Designed to shine a spotlight on good work and ignite more positive contributions, while engaging state and local stakeholders, the Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE) Award is kicking off its second award cycle, with nominations due to ED this fall. ED is also seeking peer reviewers to help select the single national honoree this winter.

This award was inaugurated back in April 2019, when Congress passed the Recognizing Achievement in Classified School Employees Act, enabling ED to begin honoring one extraordinary education support professional annually.  The subsequent fall, ED officially launched the first award cycle.

While we received many inspiring nominations during the 2020-21 contest, one individual stood out above all others. U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona ultimately selected Mr. Melito Ramirez, an Intervention Specialist at Walla Walla High School in Walla Walla, Washington, for this honor, announcing the award via a video message.

Over his 40-year career, Ramirez has worked for multiple school districts in more than a dozen different roles, such as migrant home visitor, summer school coordinator, special education secretary, and bus driver.  He is also known for his help in organizing a multilingual adult night school.  He supports students as they apply for and participate in youth leadership programs — including rising well before dawn each weekend to drive them five hours to programming across the state.  Ramirez is also credited with diminishing tensions among rival gang members in the 1990s when gang conflict was high in the Walla Walla area by coordinating supervised out-of-school activities.

To notify him personally of his recognition, ED and the Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction coordinated a surprise video conference, with State Superintendent Chris Reykdal and Secretary Cardona as special guests.  Since his award announcement, Ramirez has well represented the classified school employee community at multiple national events that draw on his expertise.

This year, ED once again invites states to nominate up to two classified school employees by November 1, 2021.

A federal review will take place during November and December.  For this reason, ED seeks individuals with expertise in the various education support professions to help rate submissions.

One nominee is selected a national RISE Awardee, but all states are encouraged to honor and communicate their nominees.

Individuals interested in nominating or applying should contact their governor’s office to inquire about their state-specific process.  Governors’ office and state education agency program administrators may contact RISE@ed.gov with any questions and to indicate a state’s plans to participate for the coming cycle.  Interested reviewers may also contact RISE@ed.gov, by October 1, to volunteer as a reviewer.

We look forward to getting energized and inspired by the efforts of dedicated education support professionals across the country.  Their work is ever more critical and appreciated in these challenging times, so we are thrilled to offer a measure of federal accolades.

Andrea Suarez Falken is Director of the Recognizing Inspiring School Employees Award, as well as Director of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, and ED’s Facilities, Health, and Environment Liaison.

Innovations in Addressing COVID-19 and Promoting Equity: FY 2021 Education Innovation and Research (EIR) Competition Announcement

This was crossposted from the U.S. Department of Education blog, Homeroom

The U.S. Department of Education is pleased to announce the $180 million FY 2021 Education Innovation and Research (EIR) Early-Phase Competition. The EIR program provides funding to create, develop, implement, replicate, or take to scale entrepreneurial, evidence-based, field-initiated innovations aimed at improving outcomes for high-needs students. The program also supports the rigorous evaluation of these innovations. The Department expects that early-phase grants will be used to fund the development, implementation, and feasibility testing of a program.

State educational agencies, local educational agencies, the Bureau of Indian Education, and nonprofit organizations may submit applications for up to $4 million for a project period of up to five years.

We know that COVID–19 has caused unprecedented disruption in schools across the country and drawn renewed attention to the ongoing challenges that underserved students experience. As a result, the Department is committed to addressing the impact of the pandemic—particularly on students who have been least well served by our education system—and promoting equity through innovative solutions that are reflected in this program’s competitive preference priorities

All across the country, educators and researchers are working to better understand and address the impact of inconsistent access to academic instruction and other vital educational services and supports, as well as other challenges that have affected children’s learning. SEAs, LEAs, and nonprofit organizations play essential roles in building capacity at the state and local levels both to respond to current crises and create better systems to support long-term recovery. Here at the Department, we hope that grantees through the EIR program will share their responses to the pandemic widely to inform scalable strategies that can help meet future challenges that communities throughout the nation face.

Expanding educational equity is a priority for the Department, with particular emphasis on supporting students who are historically and presently underserved. The Department seeks to fund projects that propose innovative ways to address disparities in our education system. For example, we know that students of color and students from low-income backgrounds far too often have less access to well-rounded and rigorous coursework and certified, experienced, and effective teachers. The Department seeks projects that develop and evaluate evidence-based innovations to remedy these types of inequities in our education system.

TIMELINE
· Deadline for Notice of Intent to Apply: August 17, 2021
· Deadline for Transmittal of Applications: August 27, 2021

For more information regarding the FY 2021 EIR Competition, please visit the program website. Please direct questions to eir@ed.gov or (202) 453-7122.

Written by Jamila Smith, Director, Innovation and Early Learning Programs, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education

The Next Decade of Climate Leadership at the U.S. Department of Education: An Exchange of Ideas to Inform the Agency’s Climate Adaptation Plan

This was crossposted from the U.S. Department of Education blog, Homeroom.

On January 27, 2021, the Biden Administration issued Executive Order (E.O.) 14008, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. The order revitalizes past Federal efforts to enhance adaptation and bolster resilience by requiring each Federal agency to devise a Climate Adaptation Plan. The plans are a first step in leveraging Federal agencies to demonstrate climate leadership through both policy and example.

Given the opportunity presented by the creation of these Climate Adaptation Plans, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) will host virtual “Listening Sessions” with the public. The aim of these sessions will be to support an exchange of ideas around the opportunities for Federal climate leadership within ED. These sessions will inform the agency’s Climate Adaptation Plan and subsequent implementation and explore the connections between climate, the safe reopening of schools, and ongoing efforts to advance educational equity.

These listening sessions will take place around the ten-year anniversary of a successful collaboration in 2011 among key leaders from some 80 national and state-based nonprofit organizations and ED to honor schools for their sustainable facilities, wellness practices, and effective environmental education. The award that evolved from this collaboration, U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS), continues to be a powerful contributor to the national green schools movement.  With a new call to action from the Biden Administration, supportive Federal agencies which are engaged in this work, and a history of successful collaboration with nonprofit organizations, ED seeks to solicit input from a diverse set of stakeholders on opportunities for partnership and innovation.

Each listening session will be focused on specific themes that reflect the breadth of the opportunities and challenges related to climate adaptation. Engaging ED political leadership and key stakeholders, the aim of these input sessions will be to discuss opportunities for climate leadership that exist within ED’s statutory authority. Sessions are also intended to encourage further multilateral collaboration among the breadth of agencies and organizations with an interest in climate-resilient schools.

The Listening Sessions will be hosted by ED via Microsoft Teams meeting.  Topics and dates are as follows:

  1. Equity in Sustainable Schools: Targeting Underserved Populations for Federal SupportAug. 3, 2 p.m. ET
  2. School Infrastructure and Federal ProgramsAug. 5, 2 p.m. ET
  3. Career Opportunities in the Green and Blue Economy, Aug. 18, 2 p.m. ET
  4. Incentivizing Outdoor and Environmental EducationAug. 23, 2 p.m. ET
  5. Postsecondary SustainabilityAug. 30, 2 p.m. ET

All are welcome. It is preferred that attendees register with name, role, and organization to ed.green.ribbon.schools@ed.gov. You may also click on the Teams embedded in each session title to join.

For each session, an ED Administration official will articulate the Agency’s rationale for focusing on the theme and identify connections to the Biden Administration priorities such as jobs and equity. ED Administration officials will briefly introduce the Administration’s existing work, including other federal agency programs, but the vast majority of each session will be open to participants’ input. We are requesting discussion topics of interest and questions be sent by Friday July 30 to ed.green.ribbon.schools@ed.gov.

For years, ED has benefited from proposals, letters, and requests from an engaged set of stakeholders on matters relating to school sustainability and infrastructure. Please put on your sustainability thinking caps and join us for an unprecedented opportunity to inform Administration officials about some of the most pressing education issues of our time.

Andrea Suarez Falken is Director of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools and ED’s Facilities, Health, and Environment Liaison, as well as Director of the Recognizing Inspiring School Employees Award.

Students, Immigration Status, and the Right to Public Education

The following is a cross-post from the Office for Civil Rights.

Students, immigration status, and the right to public education

 

An essential part of ensuring equal opportunity is protecting all students in their access to education free from discrimination. This includes the right of all students in the United States to attend America’s public elementary and secondary schools, regardless of their immigration or citizenship status.

Students continue to have this right to public elementary and secondary education after last Friday’s federal district court ruling regarding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, which bars the Department of Homeland Security from approving new applicants but temporarily permits renewals to continue for those who currently have DACA. Secretary Cardona stated in response to the ruling:

We are deeply disappointed by the recent decision by a federal district court in Texas to block access to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. The outcome will be harmful to promising young people who have grown up here, and shared their talents and energies with our communities. Many of these young people cannot remember any other home.

Through the centuries, this nation – including our schools – has been enriched by those who have come to our shores from all over the world, seeking safety, freedom, and the opportunity to contribute to our democracy. We draw strength from our diversity. I want to be clear that under the law, public elementary and secondary schools remain available to any student, and no state can deny access to public education to any resident, regardless of their immigration status. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights will continue to safeguard those rights for all students, including those affected by the ruling. We will work to ensure the nation’s public schools, colleges and universities will be welcoming, safe and supportive places where all students, regardless of where they’re born and their immigration status, are given the opportunity to succeed.

Here’s what you need to know about the right to a public education for students who are not U.S. citizens:

  • A State may not deny access to public education to any child residing in the State, including children who are not citizens and do not have immigration documentation. The Supreme Court made this clear nearly forty years ago in a case called Plyler v. Doe.
  • School districts may not bar students from enrolling in public elementary and secondary schools based on the citizenship or immigration status of the student or their parent or guardian.
  • School districts may not request information about the citizenship or immigration status of students or their families with the purpose or result of denying them access to educational opportunities.
  • Students who are English learners have a right to appropriate language assistance services, and parents and guardians have a right to receive communications from their children’s school in a language they can understand.

We invite you to use these resources that are designed to help students, families, schools, and districts understand the rights of students who are undocumented and the obligations of the schools that serve them:

Our nation derives strength from our diversity and has excelled because of, not in spite of, the many people who have come to the United States from all parts of the world. We grow stronger still when all students in the United States have full access to education, free from discrimination. The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights stands ready to provide that protection.