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.

The National Policy Forum on Integrated Student Supports, to use its official name, brought 120 national leaders to Los Angeles to chart a path toward closing the academic achievement gap for low-income students — especially students of color. Organized under the auspices of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics and the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, this marked the first time that federal policymakers at the highest levels convened a meeting to focus exclusively and intensively on ISS as an “essential” component of public education.

If you’ll take a moment to let that sink in, I think you’ll agree that this is a watershed event. For as long as I can remember, advocates of Integrated Student Supports have fought for a place at the table, a chance to make our case that non-academic supports are absolutely necessary to level the academic playing field for poor children. On March 27, we rolled up our sleeves, pulled up our chairs, and sat down at the table, both literally and figuratively — policymakers from the White House and the U.S. Department of Education, side by side with teachers, principals, superintendents, local and state school board members, philanthropists, academics and ISS providers from multiple organizations.

And with that, ISS officially became a part of the national conversation. To me, this meeting epitomized the growing recognition that we have to figure out the academic implications of poverty, and we have to do that with the school system, not over or against the school system. For those who care about quality education, social justice and equal opportunity, this is a major achievement that has been a long time coming. We’ve gained a seat at the education policy table, and that will make a major difference in three important areas:

1. Perception:

ISS can no longer be seen as new, unproven, experimental or “nice to have.” This is a movement that began more than 30 years ago. Today, there are nine evidence-based providers serving 1.5 million students in urban, suburban and rural communities. We have history, we have scale, and we have evidence. In all humility, we recognize that our evidence is emerging and needs to get stronger, but that is a question of degree, not of fact.

2. Policy:

The education policy community at large has woken up to the fact that our schools have an unanswered demographic problem, with black and Hispanic students facing a persistent achievement gap compared to their white classmates. Poverty is a roadblock to learning for millions of students, and schools increasingly are looking for ways to offer those students the non-academic supports they need to overcome economic hardship and focus on learning.

3. Priorities:

Perhaps most encouraging is the fact that the White House summit marked a shift in the way we discuss what’s “important” in education policy. Instead of the tight, highly circumscribed conversation we’ve been having for 10 years regarding teacher quality, accountability, school management and the role of technology-driven innovation, today’s conversation increasingly recognizes how “out of school factors” (like poverty) or “nonacademic factors” (like unsafe neighborhoods) materially impact student success.

To every teacher, principal, superintendent, supporter and site coordinator who helped us reach this tipping point, I’d like to offer my heartfelt thanks. I know there are many who have been toiling and learning in this field longer than I have, and I hope you recognize this moment as the tremendous victory and validation that it is.

Go ahead, take a few minutes to bask in the warm glow of success. But then, ask yourself this: How do we leverage our newfound place at the table to bring Integrated Student Supports to more students than ever before? That was a major focus of the policy forum in L.A., and it will be the subject of my next post.

Dan CardinaliDan Cardinali is Co-Chair of the K-12 Subcommittee of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics

Posted in Integrated Student Supports, School Reform | Comments Off

Hispanic Males in Education: What the Numbers Say

The President recently launched the My Brother’s Keeper initiative to build ladders of opportunity for boys and young men of color, including Hispanics. The effort will improve measurably the expected educational and life outcomes for, and address the persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color. 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.

Earlier this year, The President affirmed that this would be a year of action, and accordingly the Initiative has engaged stakeholders that are undertaking this challenge and are producing scholarship to support Hispanic boys and young men in reaching their full potential. For example, in Texas, since 2010 Dr. Victor B. Saenz and Dr. Luis Ponjuan have managed Project MALES, conducting research, sharing information, and implementing programming to move young Latino males through the education pipeline successfully and increase postsecondary completion.

And just after the President’s announcement of My Brother’s Keeper, Hispanics in Philanthropy released a new report called “The Right to Dream: Promising Practices Improve Odds for Latino Men and Boys” that highlights several programs that show merit in supporting young Hispanic males, and also recommends strategies and investments we can make as a society to ensure a globally competitive workforce.

We need more of this information, more data about what works, where the most effective work is taking place, and how we should create policies and invest time and resources to strengthen this population and help these boys and young men overcoming institutional and systemic barriers, and reach their full potential. Young men of color are one of the greatest untapped economic resources in the United States.

There are two resources, made available by the U.S. Department of Education (ED), that further depict the state of education, providing critical data that reveal gaps and disparities for young men of color. First, the Higher Education: Gaps in Access and Persistence Study, issued in August 2012 by the National Center for Education Statistics, examines differences between males and females overall and within racial/ethnic groups, as well as overall sex and racial/ethnic differences.

It presents 46 indicators of important developments and trends in the education of males and females within and across specific racial/ethnic groups. These indicators focus on student demographics, school characteristics, student behaviors and afterschool activities, academic preparation and achievement, students’ college knowledge, postsecondary education, and postsecondary outcomes and employment.

Second, just today ED’s Office for Civil Rights has released the results of its 2011-12 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC). The CRDC presents wide-ranging education access and equity data from our nation’s public schools. For the 2011-12 school year the data was collected from every public school and school district in the country.

The Initiative is committed to working with leaders and stakeholders to advance My Brother’s Keeper, and identifying and highlighting Bright Spots – programs, leaders, schools, organizations, or models that address this topic for Hispanics. Working together and relying on the numbers, we will unlock the full potential of Hispanic boys and young men, and other males of color – something that will not only benefit them, but all Americans. These two reports will go a long way toward providing stakeholders with the data they need to identify gaps and disparities among young Latino males, and seek ways to close them.

Marco Davis

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

Posted in Bright Spots, Civil Rights Data Collection, Latino Males, My Brother's Keeper | Comments Off

My Brother’s Keeper

Yesterday, the President announced a new initiative, “My Brother’s Keeper”, which is focused on advancing opportunity for young men of color and making sure that “if you work hard and play by the rules, you should be able to get ahead.” The initiative will focus on implementing strategies that are proven to get results, particularly at key transition or impact points, like beginning school ready to learn and reducing negative interactions with the criminal justice system. The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics has been working in support of this initiative, with a particular focus on improving academic and other outcomes for young Latino males, and will continue to engage the Hispanic community to advance the President’s goals. To that end, the Initiative recently organized a meeting for academics, researchers, funders and thought leaders to discuss young Latino males, the issues they face, and the potential they hold for America.

“As a group, young Latino males make up the greatest untapped economic resource in the U.S. today.”

That was the consensus of the group who met at the White House mid-January. “We cannot wait” was a common theme, as the panel members who gathered in the Indian Treaty Room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building committed themselves to action such as continuing research on the education and life outcomes of young Latinos and building a pipeline for more Latino teachers and school leaders in our school system.

Student speaking at Latino Males Roundtable

However, the voices that resonated weren’t just those of professionals. Latino male college students who attended informed the dialogue by speaking about their personal experiences. One student who is currently enrolled at a university in Maryland praised the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which has allowed him to afford in-state tuition at his university. He will graduate next year.

Still, he is currently an exception. While there is reason for celebration – the high school graduation rate among Hispanics has been increasing, college enrollment numbers are up, etc., we know that there is still a great deal of work to do, particularly for Latino males. According to the Digest of Education Statistics, in 2011, the percentage of 18 to 24 year-old Latinos who held a high school diploma was 73 percent, while the percentage of African American and white diploma holders were 79 percent and 89 percent respectively. In 2013, the U.S. Census Bureau found that only 15 percent of young Latinos, aged 25-29, hold a bachelor’s degree. Additionally, within the Latino community, women are more likely to complete college than men. In an issue brief on Latino male education, Dr. Victor Saenz and Dr. Luis Ponjuan analyzed U.S. Census data and found that of the bachelor’s degrees awarded to Latinos in 2009, women who received degrees outnumbered males by nearly 30,000. These figures ought to be a wake-up call to those concerned about the future of our country. We celebrate Latina student achievement, but we need to work to ensure that academic performance for young males is increasing on an equal pace, not falling behind their female peers.

Latinos have one of the largest levels of educational disparity compared to any other group nationally; however, there is great potential for contribution to our economy and our society from the Latino community. Latinos make up the largest and the fastest-growing minority group in America and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Latinos will account for 80% of the total growth of the labor force from 2010 to 2050. Increased educational achievement for Latinos from cradle to career would in turn lead to higher paid wages in the workforce. Increased wages would lead to a higher standard of living for those families, greater investment in homeownership, and more revenue to support public services, like social security, as well. All of these results are achievable, but there must be more research and investment in Latino education, with a focus on Latino males, so that problems of educational disparity can be solved and the economic potential of Latinos in the United States can be realized.

For further information:

US Census Bureau – Educational Attainment in the United States: 2013 – Detailed Tables


“Men of Color: Ensuring the Academic Success of Latino Males in Higher Education” by Victor B. Saenz, Ph.D. and Luis Ponjuan, Ph.D.


Eliot Griggs

This blogpost was written by Eliot Griggs, an intern with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics

Posted in Latino Males, My Brother's Keeper | Comments Off

ACA Latino Week of Action

It’s “Latino Week of Action,” and a time to make sure all of our Latino students and families are enrolled and covered by health insurance.   This week represents the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) continuing efforts to engage the Latino community to #GetCovered or #Asegurate under the Affordable Care Act.

Across the country, community organizations have joined local, state and federal government partners to convene health care enrollment events, partnering with Spanish language media to offer personalized enrollment assistance and to encourage Latinos to sign up for quality and affordable health coverage.

  • The Latino Week of Action will increase outreach efforts to educate Latinos across the country about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act and to let them know how affordable quality health insurance is if they enroll in the health insurance Marketplaces.

Here at the U.S. Department of Education (ED), we know that if our students are healthy, their chances of doing better in school increase. And students whose parents are covered with health insurance are more likely to see a doctor before they get sick.  Having health insurance is makes sense.  Now is the time to get signed up!

#GetCovered by March 31

What can you do? 

1.     If you or someone you know does not have health insurance, go to Healthcare.gov or CuidadoDeSalud.gov and get covered! 

2.    Participate in the Latinos and the Healthy Insurance Marketplace (in English) Webinar on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 7pm EDT.

According to the Census Bureau, nearly 16 million Hispanics are uninsured. The health care law is in effect and there is a new way for individuals and families to get health insurance. This webinar is co-sponsored by the Administration for Children and Families and the HHS Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Please send your questions to ACA101@hhs.gov by Noon ET on February 26.

Click here to RSVP.

3.     Share this important information and resources with your networks:

This week we will continue to highlight the bilingual enrollment tools available to Latinos to sign up for coverage through the health insurance Marketplaces:  

4.     Take part in an upcoming Latino Enrollment Summit

During the Latino Enrollment Theme Week and each week until March 31, HHS in partnership with national organizations like Enroll America, LULAC, National Alliance for Hispanic Health and Planned Parenthood, but also many community partners like health centers, community centers, and libraries in your neighborhoods, are hosting Latino Enrollment summits throughout the country.

These Enrollment Summits are for community members to learn more about the Health Insurance Marketplace and to enroll with the assistance of trained Navigators and assistors.  Our next Enrollment Summit takes us to:

2/26/14      Orlando/St. Petersburg, FL

2/27/14      Kissimmee, FL

3/1/14         Chicago, IL

3/1/14         Dallas, TX

3/1/14         Philadelphia, PA

3/1/14         Atlanta, GA

3/1/14         McAllen, TX

3/8/14         Phoenix, AZ

3/15/14      El Paso, TX

3/15/14      North Jersey

3/15/14      Orlando-Daytona area (Sanford, FL)

3/15/14      New Orleans, LA

3/15/14      Cleveland, OH

3/15/14      Miami, FL (Florida City, FL)

3/22/15      Miami, FL

3/29/14      Tampa

5.     Share your story.  We want to hear from you and how the ACA has made a difference  in  your life. 

6.     Follow and Amplify on Social Media

Use some of the following hastags:






Or Simply share:6 Reasons You Should #GetCovered”

If you know someone who needs health insurance, tell them about the Marketplace today.  We can’t do this alone.

Enrollment is open until March 31.   We have five weeks left to reach millions of uninsured that may not know the Marketplace even exists.

Thanks for your support!


Posted in ACA | Comments Off

Latino Education and the Fifth Anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

On February 17, 2009 President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).  This was in response to the worst economic crisis in the U.S. since the Great Depression.  At the time, private employers had cut almost 4 million jobs and trillions in dollars in household wealth had been wiped out. 

The Council of Economic Advisors has released its final report to Congress which affirms the investments made through ARRA have had a positive impact on the economy.  We not only see the effects of ARRA through the millions of jobs it helped create, but we also see how ARRA has helped in the classroom.

ARRA has provided more than $97 billion in existing and new education-related grant programs, including the Race to the Top (RTT) program.   This investment in education was made to improve schools, raise achievement, drive reforms and produce better results for children and young people all across this country, many of them Latinos, as 33 percent of Latino students live in states that received RTT grant funding.    

In addition, ARRA funding included investments in early learning to reach our youngest children through Head Start, Early Head Start, child care and services for infants, toddlers and preschool-aged children.  Thirty-six percent of the nation’s Head Start children are Latino, the largest of any minority group in the U.S.

Five years later, the U.S. economy is undoubtedly on a more solid footing, and so too are our nation’s schools and students.  The U.S. Department of Education reports that today’s high school graduation rate is at 80 percent, the highest in American history.  Latino students are also completing high school in record numbers. Among the Latino high school graduates in the class of 2012, 69 percent enrolled in college that fall, higher than the rate among their white counterparts (67 percent).  

No doubt, we have further to go, but these successes are reasons to celebrate the hard work of our educators, students and parents.

Read more about the ARRA five-year anniversary.

Posted in ARRA, Early Learning, Race to the Top | Comments Off

First Lady Michelle Obama: “I’m First”

Last November, First Lady Michelle Obama spoke to the sophomore class at Bell Multicultural High School, in Washington, D.C. about the importance of higher education. In her remarks, Mrs. Obama talked about how education has created opportunity in her own life, working hard to attend and graduate from college.

Like the First Lady, many Latinos are also the first in their family to go to college.  The whole process; from applying to college, to finding ways to pay for it, to navigating a college campus, can be overwhelming, as it was for the First Lady. 

Yesterday, the White House released a special video message from the First Lady in which she talks about being the first in her family to attend college. This video is part of the “I’m First” storytelling project, which lifts up the stories of first generation college students in order to inspire future generations.

As the First Lady says in her video, “no matter where you come from or how much money your family has, I want you to know that you can succeed in college, and get your degree, and then go on to build an incredible life for yourself.”

First Lady Michelle Obama ‘I’m First’ Video 

Transcript of the First Lady’s message:

Hi! My name is Michelle Obama and I’m first!

Neither of my parents graduated from college, so when I got to campus as a freshman, I’ll admit I was a little overwhelmed.  I didn’t know how to choose my classes or find the right classrooms. I didn’t even know how to furnish my own dorm room. In fact, when I moved in, I realized that I hadn’t even packed the right size sheets for my bed.  Mine were way too short. So that first night, I slept with my legs sticking out past the end of the sheets, rubbing up against one of those old plastic mattresses… and I ended up sleeping that way for my entire freshman year.

But here’s the thing – I may not have had the right sheets, but I learned pretty quickly that I had what it took to succeed in college. 

Sure, there were moments when I had doubts.  At first, I even worried that maybe I just wasn’t as smart as some of my classmates.  But soon enough I realized that that was all in my head.  I was just as smart as everyone else – and I had just as much to contribute – I just had to have the confidence to believe in myself and the determination to work hard and ask for help when I needed it.

So that’s my message to all of you – no matter where you come from or how much money your family has, I want you to know that you can succeed in college, and get your degree, and then go on to build an incredible life for yourself.

That’s been my life story, and my husband’s as well.  And if you’re willing to put in the time and the effort, I want you to know that it can be your story too. 

So I want to wish you the best of luck in the years ahead… I know you can do it.

Posted in College Access, First Lady, I'm First | Tagged | Comments Off

Making Progress on ConnectED

Cross-posted from the White House blog


Today, President Obama visited Buck Lodge Middle School in Adelphi, Maryland to announce major progress on the ConnectED initiative, designed to enrich K-12 education for every student in America. ConnectED empowers teachers with the best technology and the training to make the most of it, and empowers students through individualized learning and rich, digital content.

Preparing America’s students with the skills they need to get good jobs and compete with countries around the world relies increasingly on interactive, personalized learning experiences driven by new technology. Yet fewer than 30% of America’s schools have the broadband they need to connect to today’s technology. Under ConnectED, however, 99% of American students will have access to next-generation broadband by 2017. That connectivity will help transform the classroom experience for all students, regardless of income. 

As the President announced today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will invest $2 billion over the next two years to dramatically expand high-speed Internet connectivity for America’s schools and libraries — connecting more than 20 million students to next-generation broadband and wireless. He also announced that private-sector companies have committed more than $750 million to deliver cutting-edge technologies to classrooms, including:

  • Apple, which will donate $100 million in iPads, MacBooks, and other products, along with content and professional development tools to enrich learning in disadvantaged U.S. schools
  • AT&T, which pledged more than $100 million to give middle school students free Internet connectivity for educational devices over their wireless network for three years
  • Autodesk, which pledged to make their 3D design program “Design the Future” available for free in every secondary school in the U.S. — more than $250 million in value
  • Microsoft, which will launch a substantial affordability program open to all U.S. public schools by deeply discounting the price of its Windows operating system, which will decrease the price of Windows-based devices
  • O’Reilly Media, which is partnering with Safari Books Online to make more than $100 million in educational content and tools available for free to every school in the U.S.
  • Sprint, which will offer free wireless service for up to 50,000 low-income high school students over the next four years, valued at $100 million
  • Verizon, which announced a multi-year program to support ConnectED through up to $100 million in cash and in-kind commitments

For more information on how ConnectED works, click here.

Read the ConnectED Fact Sheet here.

Posted in ConnectED, Technology | Tagged | Comments Off

State of the Union and Hispanics Twitter Chat Recap

Last night, we held our first Twitter Chat following the President’s State of the Union (SOTU) Address.  This year more than ever, we were able to watch the address across different platforms, and engage in activities before, during and after. We wanted to hear from you. What did the State of the Union say about education? What does that mean for the Hispanic community? What are other education-related issues important and relevant to you? We were thrilled with the questions and comments we received during our one hour session.

Folks from Arizona raised questions about college completion and wanted to learn more about how the Obama administration is supporting postsecondary completion for Hispanics.  Others applauded and appreciated the significance of Latino students, including one ELL student, who joined the First Lady during the SOTU.  We were too.

Read the Twitter excerpts  and join us next time!  @hispaniced  Like us on Facebook, sign up for our newsletter or simply send us an email at WHIEEH@Ed.gov.

White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics Twitter Chat

Posted in State of the Union, Twitter Town Hall | Tagged | Comments Off

State of the Union and Hispanics Twitter Chat: Wednesday, January 29 at 5:00pm ET

State of the Union and Hispancs Twitter Chat. Wednesday January 29, 2014 at 5-5:30pm ET. Who: @Hispaniced Where: http://tweetchat.com/room/hispaniced

Posted in State of the Union, Twitter Town Hall | Tagged | Comments Off

Latino Students to Join First Lady During State of the Union Address

In less than 12 hours, President Barack Obama will deliver his fifth State of the Union Address. Education is sure to be one of the topics the President addresses in a speech that will lay out “practical proposals to grow the economy, strengthen the middle class, and empower all who hope to join it.”

For decades, First Ladies have invited extraordinary Americans that match the themes of the State of the Union Address to join them in her viewing box. This year three Latinos are among the educators and students joining First Lady Michelle Obama:

Aliana Arzola- Piñero
2013 Kids State Dinner Attendee – San Juan, Puerto Rico
 Aliana Arzola-Pinero






Aliana Arzola-Piñero, from San Juan, Puerto Rico, is in fourth grade at the Colegio Puertorriqueño de Niñas. Aliana is an avid reader and gymnast who loves to cook with her grandma, something she’s done since she was two-years-old. She participated in the 2012 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge sponsored by the First Lady. While she didn’t win, she worked hard, tried again, and her perseverance paid off as she proudly represented Puerto Rico at the 2013 Kid’s State Dinner hosted by the First Lady. Her winning recipe “Yummy Eggplant Lasagna Rolls,” incorporates the “My Plate” guidelines. Aliana has worked hard to translate her experience visiting the White House into concrete steps to benefit her community, championing healthy eating and an active lifestyle for kids.

Cristian Avila
DREAMer, “Core Faster” and Voter Engagement Coordinator, Mi Familia Vota – Phoenix, Ariz.

Cristian Avila






Cristian Avila, 23, was brought to the United States with his younger brother and sister when he was nine-years-old. Though Cristian became an All-American scholar by 7th grade and received a full scholarship to a private Jesuit high school, he was limited by his undocumented status. Last year he received temporary relief from deportation through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The 23-year-old Arizona resident started volunteering with Mi Familia Vota, a non-profit Latino civic engagement program, at the age of 16, and he was one of the core fasters in the Fast for Families demonstration late last year at the foot of the Capitol, which the President, Vice President, First Lady and Cabinet and Administration officials visited. After 22 days, he passed on the fast to others but has continued to push Congress to take up comprehensive immigration reform. Cristian is fighting for commonsense immigration reform so he can one day join the US Marine Corps and serve our country in uniform.

Estiven Rodriguez (New York, NY)                                                                 Student, Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School

Estiven Rodriguez







 Estiven Rodriguez is the son of a Dominican immigrant, he arrived in the United States when he was nine years old and didn’t speak any English. When he entered Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School (WHEELS) in the sixth grade, he still spoke and understood very limited English. Now a high school senior, Estiven is one of the top students in his class and will attend Dickinson College in the fall on a Posse Foundation Scholarship, making him a first-generation college student. “At only 16, 17 years old, he, in many ways, embodies the spirit of a life-long learner. He is a model student,” said Erick Espin, Estiven’s 11th grade United States history teacher. Outside of his academic studies, Estiven is also a member of the school’s math club, and soccer and track teams. Earlier this month, Estiven attended an event at the White House on expanding college opportunity.  His story underscores the importance of the President’s goal to give all kids a chance to get ahead, regardless of the circumstances of their birth.

Posted in State of the Union, Students | Tagged | Comments Off