Hispanic Heritage Month Teacher Profile, Bobbi Ciriza Houtchens

Bobbi Houtchens

Bobbi Ciriza Houtchens

San Bernardino, CA

Bobbi has had a long and storied career as an educator and finally retired after 40 years of teaching English and English language development.  She currently lives in Los Angeles works as a consultant to support teachers who have English learners in their classrooms. Before her retirement, Bobbi worked in a variety of classrooms, from traditional to migrant labor camps. She also worked with educators in Oaxaca, Mexico. Bobbi’s formal academic training consisted of earning a B.A. and Licenciado from Elbert Covell College at the University of the Pacific, completing the requirements for three majors: Latin American Politics, Teaching English as a Second Language, and Spanish. Bobbi also earned a M.A. in Bilingual/Bicultural Literacy from California State University San Bernardino. Her inspiration comes from the stories of her immigrant mother, who often suffered great cruelties such as being sprayed by school nurses with insecticide for simply being an immigrant unable to speak English. Bobbi has also worked as a U.S. Department of Education Teaching Ambassador Fellow in the Office of English Language Acquisition.

Why do you teach? I have always felt compelled to teach in order to make the world a better place, even if it is just for one student at a time.  I started when I was very young, bribing  neighborhood kids with candy to come to “school” in my backyard, and I haven’t stopped since!  A large part of my motivation was to make sure that the horrible things that happened to my mother in school never happened to other students.

What do you love about teaching? It’s difficult to list all that I love about teaching.  I love the sound of “aaaahhh” when students finally get something they have been struggling with.  I love the connection I get with students and their families, the satisfaction on their faces when they accomplish what they believed was impossible and knowing that I had a part in that satisfaction.  I especially love hearing from students years after they have been in my classes and having them tell me that my words still ring in their ears, especially when life is tough.  I still continue to inspire them somehow.  That is priceless and gives my life meaning!!

When you were a student, was there a great teacher who inspired you?  I had two teachers who inspired me:  Mrs. Bose in second and third grades, who turned me into a reader and writer.  She loved me and believed I was going to be a great writer.  Mr. Winsor, my high school Spanish teacher, who also loved me and believed that I was going to do something great some day and that I could do it better if I was fluent in Spanish.  They were both tough, demanding, dedicated teachers.

New Commitments to Improve College Opportunity

Cross-posted from The White House Blog

Last January, I listened to the President ask hundreds of college presidents to increase college opportunity for all Americans. He asked them to help because a college degree remains one of the surest pathways into the middle class in America, and is an especially powerful engine of social and economic mobility.

Over this decade, nearly 8 in 10 new jobs will require some postsecondary education or training beyond high school. And of the 30 fastest growing occupations, half require a college degree. At the same time, college graduates earn an average of 77 percent more per hour than a high school graduate. President Obama set forth a goal early in his first term to guide our work in education – to lead the world with the highest proportion of college graduates by 2020.

And yesterday, I had the privilege of joining Secretary Duncan in meeting with community college leaders who have made new commitments to ensure student success, because, in order to make progress on our goal to be first in the world, we need to embrace some of the foundational challenges to college enrollment, persistence, and completion.

Our nation’s community colleges are the engines of our higher education system. As the largest part of America’s higher education system, these institutions provide the education and training to prepare our 21st century workforce and are an ideal place to raise the knowledge and skills of our workforce – and to meet the academic needs of a diverse population of learners, from recent high school graduates to adults seeking new skills.

Following yesterday’s meeting, today we are announcing several developments in our efforts to expand college opportunity for all:

  • The White House announces second College Opportunity Summit: The Administration is announcing that the White House will host another College Opportunity Summit on December 4, 2014. The goal of this conference will build on the work launched in the first College Opportunity Summit last January, while launching initiatives in new areas. This year’s summit will focus on building sustainable collaborations in communities with strong K-12 and higher education partnerships to encourage college going, and supporting colleges to work together to dramatically improve persistence and increase college completion, especially for first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented students.
  • New community college partners working to expand college opportunity: The Administration is announcing 14 new commitments by community colleges to expand college opportunity by strengthening college readiness for academically underprepared students, building on the more than 100 colleges and universities and 40 nonprofit organizations who made commitments in January.
  • New commitments from the field to strengthen college readiness: The Department of Education’s Institute for Education Studies (IES) is launching a new Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness (CAPR) led by the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College, Columbia University and the social policy research organization MDRC that will work to strengthen the research, evaluation, and support of college-readiness efforts across the nation. In addition, Khan Academy is announcing new commitments that will focus on technology-based solutions customized to improve student success in developmental math. Lastly, the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation will commit $5 million, partnering with MDRC, the Ohio Board of Regents, and City University of New York (CUNY) to replicate CUNY’s successful Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) to support as many as 2,000 community college students in Ohio to help more students graduate sooner.
  • Continued progress on ongoing college opportunity commitments: In addition to new commitments, we continue to make progress on our previously announced efforts to expand access to college for all students, including efforts to improve the effectiveness of college advising and enhance support for school counselors, and increasing efforts to boost student achievement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and to broaden participation in STEM fields to women, underrepresented groups, and students from low-income or underserved communities.

These efforts have inspired engagement and supported the progress of education leaders who are taking collective action in their schools, on college campuses, and in their communities to do all they can to help more low-income students prepare to enter and succeed in college.

For more information, read our fact sheet here.

Cecilia Muñoz is an Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council.

Students Who Have Beaten the Odds Share Their Stories with the Secretary

Cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Education’s blog, Homeroom

Secretary Duncan with students

Secretary Duncan and members of the most recent Student Voices session. From left to right: Darius Wesley, Jordan Roberts, Juan Montano, Rachel Scott, Michella Raymond, Deja Chapman, Tenzin Choenyi, Julia Jent, Kristen Fraenig, Anthony Mendez, and Dr. Freeman Hrabowski (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

The move from middle school to high school is exciting for some students, but can be incredibly difficult for others. Some students require intensive support to stay on the path to graduation, and that support can take many different forms.

That was the sentiment expressed by Secretary Arne Duncan during a recent session of Student Voices, where young people from across the country gather and chat with senior ED staff about what it’s like to be a student in America today.

Darius was one of the 10 students who attended and, for him, this transition was almost insurmountable. His mother suffered a severe stroke and went into a deep coma during his freshman year of high school, forcing him and his siblings to move to the far south side of Chicago. On top of coping with the emotional and physical strain of his mother’s condition, because he was forced to move, he had to wake up at 4 a.m. to get to school every day, and he often stayed late for basketball practice, which took a toll on his academics. He explained, “tiredness grew over me and teachers berated me for not paying attention in class. I didn’t want to let my mother down, and as I felt alone in this situation, basketball was my stress reliever.” His coach noticed that Darius needed more support, so he offered to give him rides to school and eventually invited him to live with him. After a few months with his coach he moved in with a friend and this experience altered the course of his life.

Darius will be attending Southern Vermont College in the fall, where he has received a Mountaineer Scholarship. Darius has become empowered to take control of his future knowing that he can overcome any obstacles he may encounter in college. Darius still continues to struggle to keep his family together but feels his success is what’s needed to keep them all together.

Rachel, a student from Washington State, told Secretary Duncan that as one of five children growing up on a farm, she also faced seemingly insurmountable challenges.

After losing her mother, she moved into the foster care system. Rachel told Duncan that “constant moving created gaps in my learning. I can do advanced math, but because of the lapses in primary education, some of the basic middle school stuff troubles me.” Luckily, she explained, she was able to eventually stay with her aunt, who became her main source of support. Once she settled into life with her aunt, things changed. During her high school career, she took advanced placement math and sciences and worked twenty hours a week at her family’s restaurant. This fall, she will attend the University of Washington to study Marine Biology and Ocean Sciences.

After hearing from several other students, Secretary Duncan then asked all of the attendees to think about who or what helped them to beat the odds and graduate high school. The students agreed that strong mentors and role models, high expectations, and relevant college information made the strongest impacts.

Do you have a unique story to tell? We would like to hear made a difference in your life and education or for the youth in your community. Please send your story to youth@ed.gov.

This session was a part of the ongoing “Student Voices” series at the Department, in which students engage with senior staff members to help develop recommendations on current and future education programs and policies

Samuel Ryan is a special assistant and youth liaison in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education

My Brother’s Keeper Data Jam: Old World Values with New World Strategies and Tools

Cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Education blog, Homeroom

Students at the Data Jam

Nearly 20 teams worked through the day on crafting compelling ways to show data and creative solutions to chronic challenges. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

 

When President Obama launched the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, he called on Americans to make sure that every American — including our boys and young men of color — can reach their full potential. On August 2, over 150 people showed up early on a Saturday morning for a “Data Jam” hosted by the U.S. Department of Education, in partnership with Georgetown University and the Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation. The Jam took place at Georgetown Downtown in Washington, D.C.

The My Brother’s Keeper Data Jam brought together a diverse group of high school students, teachers, data scientists, data visualization experts, developers and community and non-profit leaders. The aim was to find new and better ways to use data to highlight opportunities and create solutions that can improve life outcomes for all students, including boys and young men of color. It was a powerful day.

A group of young men started us off with compelling spoken word performances that reminded all in attendance of the incredible challenges they face and enormous potential they hold. While acknowledging the role they had to play in changing the narrative of their own lives, they made plain the real danger and risks they face each day and expressed frustration in having to overcome the negative stereotypes that are applied to them and their peers.

The attendees then broke into teams focused on the six universal goals outlined in the My Brother’s Keeper 90 Day Task Force Report– entering school ready to learn; reading at grade level by third grade; graduating from high school ready for college and career; completing post-secondary education or training; successfully entering the workforce; and reducing violence and providing a second chance. The teams were designed to capitalize on the range of perspectives and expertise among the participants. The student and teacher team members almost uniformly commented that they had never before been engaged in developing or even asked about tools and resources that impact their daily lives.

Nearly 20 teams worked through the day on crafting compelling ways to show data and creative solutions to chronic challenges – ranging from strategies to reduce preschool suspensions and expulsions to websites that enable students to find career paths and the required education or training to access them. At the end of the day, seven teams were voted by other participants as having the most promising ideas, and those teams committed to moving these and other ideas forward.

We are excited about the ideas that emerged and anxiously await seeing these ideas in action. We are even more excited about the lessons learned from the day and how they will improve future Data Jams that I am sure other colleges and universities will be clamoring to host. But we are most excited by the demonstration of commitment and unbelievable energy of the individuals and teams that participated. With no cash prizes or press coverage, these people leaned in and showed a big part of what My Brother’s Keeper is all about – people coming together to help our young people and the country. The Data Jam simply applied a little technology and innovation to that simple but profound concept and left many of us feeling inspired.

Yet, nothing was as inspiring to me as the time I had during lunch with the youth in attendance. They asked how I got where I am; how I avoided and dealt with the violence in my neighborhood; how best to survive and excel on campuses where they, for the first time, might come across few people with similar backgrounds and experiences; and many other questions about life as they know it and imagine it. They shared their stories of struggle and triumph as well as their plans for the future and the impact they plan to have on the world. Their questions and their stories reminded me, as one young man said in the morning session, they are “overcoming every day.” So if we create ladders of opportunity, they are more than willing to climb. And, that, too, is a big part of what My Brother’s Keeper is all about.

Jim Shelton is Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education and Executive Director of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force.

The My Brother’s Keeper initiative is a collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach led by an interagency federal task force to build ladders of opportunity and unlock the full potential of our young people, including boys and young men of color. Learn more about My Brother’s Keeper.

The Beeck Center for Social Impact & Innovation at Georgetown University exists to inspire and prepare students, faculty and global leaders with the necessary skills to generate and innovate solution-based social change both locally and internationally. It will promote collaborative spaces for fostering innovation and provide experiential opportunities to pragmatically impact the social sector. Learn more about the Beeck Center.

Drawing the Right Lessons from Vergara

Cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Education blog, Homeroom

Sometimes conflict is the starting point on the path to progress.

That’s one of two possible ways events could play out in the wake of Vergara v. California,a court case that is driving enormous debate throughout the education world.

Brought on behalf of nine public school students, the Vergara case argued that California’s laws on teacher tenure and placement violate the right to an education in the state constitution. The lawsuit claimed that minority and low-income students are deprived of effective teachers by state laws that, in essence, award lifetime employment to teachers after as little as 18 months, and that require layoffs on the basis of seniority.

Last week, a judge agreed, saying these laws deprive students of their civil rights. The decision affirmed the fundamental duty to ensure that all students, regardless of zip code, family income or skin color, receive a quality education – starting with an effective teacher.

The question is, what happens now?

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#GEARUP Alumni Hector Araujo’s Success Maximized through Educational Partnership

Cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Education blog, Homeroom

Lacking a strong role model, Hector Araujo’s community told him that an education was not necessary to be successful. He spent his life running races; the only problem is, this race would have led him into the criminal justice system.

That changed, though, when Emily Johnson — a Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) Coordinator from Boise, Idaho — transplanted herself into Hector’s school. He was awe-struck when he found that someone believed in him.

“She has been the greatest factor in my life,” Hector said on stage at the 2014 Building a GradNation Summit hosted by America’s Promise Alliance, before introducing Secretary Arne Duncan. “What is [most] important is that there are people in your life that are going to support you and nurture you to achieve the dreams that God has put in your heart.”

Today, the U.S. Department of Education is announcing the availability of $75 million for two new Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) competitions. The aim of this year’s GEAR UP competition is to improve college fit and readiness, so all students graduate from high school prepared for college without needing remedial courses – a problem for millions of beginning college students each year – and enroll in an institution that will help them maximize their success. This follows up on a commitment the Department made at the White House College Opportunity summit in January to help students achieve the necessary milestones that provide a pathway to college success.

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Making Education Work for Latinas in the U.S.

Research and video by the UCLA Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles, commissioned by the Eva Longoria Foundation

The UCLA Civil Rights Project (CRP) conducted a study in 2013 to examine the existing knowledge base about promoting Latina educational success, defined as completing high school and then going on to secure a college degree.

STUDY BACKGROUND

Across the nation, there is a rising crisis in the low education levels of Latino youth. While nearly 35% of white adults hold a BA degree or higher, only 15% of adult Latinos do. The situation is even worse in California, the state with the largest number of Latinos, where only about 11% of adult Latinas/os hold a BA degree or higher. Given that the majority of the school age population in California is now Latina/o, this under-education is not just an urgent educational problem, but it foreshadows an economic issue for California, and the nation.

Although Latinas complete college at almost twice the rate as their male counterparts, they trail all other women by significant percentages. Two-thirds of Latinas come from low-income families, and many people continue to hold negative stereotypes about Latinas. These factors manifest unique challenges for these young women: they are often expected to prioritize family responsibilities above school; they often feel that they “don’t belong” in school, a feeling that can be reinforced by discrimination and low expectations; they see few models of Latinas who have excelled educationally that they can emulate, and too many lack any understanding of how or even why to pursue a college education.

STUDY FINDINGS

The Civil Rights Project found a number of important “levers” for improving educational outcomes:Latinas in a classroom

  • Having more Latina/o teachers leads to significantly higher rates of college going for Latinas
  • Maintaining bilingual skills is associated with a higher rate of high school completion and college going
  • Feeling confident about math, and doing well in it, leads to higher rates of high school completion and college going
  • Being involved in extracurricular activities in school is associated with successful high school graduation and college going, and also appears to be related to developing a sense of belonging in school
  • Having a strong personal belief about completing high school and going to college predicts actually doing so
  • Having Peers with the knowledge and aspirations to go to college is associated with college-going

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My Brother’s Keeper: Voices of Young Men in Denver

Cross-Posted from the U.S. Department of Education blog, Homeroom

Sometimes, all it takes is an honest conversation to be reminded of the power and courage of so many of our country’s students. Earlier this month, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics convened 10 Hispanic young men from the Denver area to sit down with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Colorado Lt. Governor Joe Garcia, Metropolitan State University (MSU) of Denver President Stephen Jordan, and a few other guests, to have just that – an honest conversation.

The roundtable was held at MSU Denver. The young men were students at MSU Denver or at area high schools, and they shared stories about their lives, the challenges they have faced and overcome, the supports that have helped them through, and the things they believe need to be changed or improved to help more Hispanics and other young men of color succeed.

Many of the high school students are regular participants in activities with Padres y Jovenes Unidos, a nonprofit organization that seeks to improve educational equity for Denver students. They shared their experiences around issues like school discipline and need for mentorships. In the video below, you’ll see that the conversation was powerful and moving. It provided insight into how we as a society need to support all people, including boys and young men of color, and reminded us of the potential that exists in them.

Marco DavisMarco Davis is the Deputy Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics

3 Reasons to Be Proud for Supporters of Education Equality

Cross-posted from the Huffington Post

In all the years that I’ve been advocating for economically disadvantaged students, I’ve never seen a time when so many forces seem to be aligning in our favor. First, on Feb. 25, Child Trends released a groundbreaking report that laid out a solid evidentiary base for Integrated Student Supports (ISS). And then, barely a month later, the White House waded into the same waters with its first-ever national summit on ISS.

A report plus a meeting? That might sound like just another day at the office, but this particular report and this particular meeting are anything but business as usual in the battle for educational equality. I’ve already written about the significance of the Child Trends report, and now, given a few days to digest the proceedings at the White House summit, I’m convinced that we will one day look back on this event as the prototypical “quiet meeting in a church basement” where a social movement is born.

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Hispanic Males in Education: What the Numbers Say

The President recently launched the My Brother’s Keeper initiative to build ladders of opportunity for all youth, including boys and young men of color. The effort aims to improve measurably the expected educational and life outcomes for youth and address the persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color, including Hispanics. The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics (Initiative) is working to advance the goals of My Brother’s Keeper for the Hispanic community. To carry out its mission, in January the Initiative convened a roundtable discussion with a group of academics, researchers, practitioners, funders, and thought leaders whose work addresses issues Latino males face.

In the Initiative’s initial research – confirmed by the dialogue at the roundtable, something became clear; there is a lack of sufficient exploration of this issue for the Hispanic population. The amount of data collection and analysis, of scholarship, of resources invested, and of general public awareness about the situation of Hispanic boys and young men needs to increase, to remove barriers that prevent young Latino males from contributing fully to their communities and society.

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