Thursday, May 25, 2017

Less Funding and School Privatization are a Retreat from Demographic Trends

I'm re-posting this Texas Tribune piece from a year ago as it speaks to our future as a state (link to the actual piece to view the graphs).  I share this in the wake of the death of HB21 that you can read about here.  Sadly, our legislature can't seem to fund public schools despite decades of court cases that speak to how they're inequitably financed.  In the meantime, our state demographics reveal growth in both numbers and diversity.  



We're all looking at the same trends.  Yet the Senate's response is to not only not adequately fund education—not that HB21 doesn't have its own limitations—but to privatize public education instead.



Less funding and privatization together amounts to a dog-eat-dog world where our human right to a quality education vanishes with education literally reduced to that which one can afford as a consumer.  



How is a consumer society visionary by any stretch of the imagination?  To the contrary.  It represents a retreat from the demographic shifts and realities facing our nation. It also represents meanness and stinginess when we see the challenges facing districts that are on the front lines already, losing revenues to charter schools that don't perform any better, and frequently worse, than public schools.  Plus, since such schools have their own corporate governance structures, you as a consumer are beholden not to a democratically-elected school board, but to a corporation through your signed, contractual agreement.  Good luck with that if your kid differs in any way from the norm.


And then there's what the research shows—which doesn't make a lick of difference with privatization advocates in the Senate.  Go to this link to read a recent analysis comparing neighborhood schools to charters by Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig.  The results shouldn't surprise you, since this is a struggle that is more about ideology than evidence.


My friends, we must all vote, get others to vote, get involved in the political process, and then vote our interests as a polity.  For starters, this means getting these private school advocates out of power—and frankly, re-committing to democracy lest we become the fascist, corporate state that Benito Mussolini envisioned and wrote about.


Angela Valenzuela

c/s





Young Texans Make Up Most Diverse Generation










If demographics are destiny, the youngest Texans appear destined to make the state dramatically more diverse.
While white Texans still make up the largest racial group, the state's
demographic future is in the hands of younger Texans, according to new
age, race and ethnicity figures released Thursday by the U.S. Census
Bureau. The
estimates, which track population change from July 2014 to July 2015,
show that older generations of Texas are more white while younger Texans
are much more likely to be part of a racial or ethnic minority group.
Almost 68 percent of Texans aged 19 and younger are non-white. That's
a reversal of the racial breakdown among Texans 65 and older, almost
two-thirds of whom are white while only about 36 percent are people of
color.



Both of those breakdowns stand in contrast to the state’s overall share of Texans — 57 percent — that are non-white.



The new figures, particularly the diversity among young Texans, fuel predictions
that Texas may be the next state where Hispanics become a plurality,
comprising the largest racial or ethnic group though not a majority. If
that happens, Texas would join New Mexico and California.
As of July 2015, Hispanics made up 38.8 percent of the state's population while white residents made up 43 percent.
The state’s white, black
and Hispanic populations all grew in size last year, but the overall
share of white Texans continued to drop slightly. And it was the
Hispanic population that grew the fastest.
Nationally, the continued
growth of the Hispanic population is due largely to natural increase —
Hispanic parents having more babies — and not immigration from other
countries. Research by the state demographer
has shown
that while people born in Latin American countries continue to make up
the largest group of immigrants in Texas, the rate at which they are
moving to the state has decreased in the past decade.
Once again, Starr
County — located in the Rio Grande Valley along the Texas-Mexico border
— had the highest share of Hispanics in the country with 95.8 percent,
followed by several other border counties. 
But the recent rapid growth in the Hispanic community is not limited to the border region.
The state's urban cores
have seen consistent growth among the Hispanic population. Among the
state's 25 most populous counties, suburban counties surrounding
Houston, Austin and Dallas have experienced the fastest growth in
Hispanic residents since 2010.
This analysis includes people who are identified as non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black or Hispanic.
Correction: As originally published, the second chart
accompanying this story showed incorrect numbers for all the county by
county statistics on fastest Hispanic population growth.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Náhuatl crosses borders, arrives in Austin



This is a really neat piece by ¡AHORA SÍ!/Austin American-Statesman columnist, Liliana Valenzuela.  In English, the title translates as  "Náhuatl crosses borders, arrives in Austin." Náhuatl happens to be the original language spoken by the Aztecs in Mexico.  It is also a living language with at least 1.5 million speakers who are mostly reside in Mexico.  That's a really large number when taking into consideration more than 500 years of colonization since the conquest of Tenochtitlán—where Mexico City is located today.

Native Náhuatl speaker from Mexico, Sabina Cruz de la Cruz, teaches a course on Náhuatl at The University of Texas at Austin Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies.  This piece tells a painful story of having to grow up in a society that forced her to assimilate into the Spanish tongue.  Since it was her home language, however, she held onto it.  She has a law degree and has also collaborated in the writing of a Nahuatl dictionary.  

I and others are fortunate to have gained access to some Nahuatl through the Aztec danza (or danza Mexica) that gets taught as part of the Academia Cuauhtli curriculum.  "Danza" doesn't mean "dance."  It means "ceremony."  What this column doesn't say is that the knowledge and symbolic system of the Mexica is vast, with a great deal of it having gotten preserved through the danza itself.  So yes, while their books were burned by the Europeans, the oral memory to which their knowledge was also committed has allowed it to largely survive.  There are also generations of ancestral families, dating back to the fall of Tenochtitlán in the 1500s that have intentionally and with great personal investment, sacrifice, and effort, held on to the ancient knowledge.  

Europeans who knew nothing about them and further judged them through their cultural lens, deemed them as superstitious "pagans."  Nothing could have been farther from the truth.  They were actually extremely scientific in their way of thinking and theorizing of the world and universe. The Aztec calendr itself speaks to this.

Hernán Cortés and his men encountered a city that easily rivaled economically, socially, and aesthetically the great European cities of its time, including Venice, to which it shared great similarities with its surrounding bodies of waters and waterways.  Tenochtitlán had schools, institutes, and universities. They had higher education.  A great book to learn about these things was written by Loyola Marymount University Professor Dr. Ernesto Colín titled, Indigenous Education through Dance and Ceremony: A Mexica Palimsest.

Remember that we, as Mexican Americans/Chican@s, were stripped of our indigenous tongues before getting stripped of the Spanish language through the schooling process. Stated differently, the assimilation process not only "Americanizes" or "assimilates" in a way that eviscerates the Spanish language and its accompanying identity, but this form of colonization is layered over an equally profound erasure generations earlier of our indigenous tongues and identities. These are macro processes, of course, that play out differently across different contexts in place in time.

This very story about Sabina Cruz de la Cruz speaks directly to this ongoing process today in Mexican schools that disparage native languages, rendering assimilation to the Spanish tongue a painful, laborious process—not unlike assimilating to English for Mexican-origin people in the U.S. (I wrote a whole book about this. It's titled, Subtractive Schooling: U.S.-Mexican Youth and the Politics of Caring.)

So yes, while we need to appreciate, recover and revitalize indigenous tongues like Náhuatl, we also need to be aware that they, too, continue to struggle under the oftentimes crushing weight of what I term, "subtractive cultural assimilation"—or simply, "subtractive schooling."  That said, exceptional individuals like Sabina Cruz de la Cruz live and teach to educate and inspire another generation.  Read on.

 Angela Valenzuela 

c/s 

El náhuatl traspasa fronteras, llega a Austin




El náhuatl es la lengua materna de Sabina Cruz de la Cruz y ahora ella disfruta de poder compartir su amor por su lengua con los demás. LILIANA VALENZUELA / ¡AHORA SÍ!
  
De niña la regañaban por hablar su idioma materno. Ahora en edad adulta, ella da clases de náhuatl a estudiantes en Estados Unidos.
“El náhuatl es mi lengua materna, mi primera lengua”, dijo Sabina Cruz de la Cruz, de 34 años, nacida en Tecomate, en el distrito de Chicontepec, al norte de Veracruz.
El náhuatl no es sólo el idioma original de los aztecas en México, sino una lengua viva, la cual siguen hablando al menos 1.5 millones de habitantes en México.
Pero este idioma podría estar en proceso de extinción y ella quiere hacer todo lo posible para evitar que eso suceda.
Cruz ha estado dando clases de náhuatl en la Universidad de Texas en Austin (UT) durante dos años y sus alumnos dieron una presentación de cierre de cursos en náhuatl, inglés y español esta primavera.
Los estudiantes presentaron una canción, un poema y una obra escrita originalmente en náhuatl. Un ejemplo de uno de los parlamentos de la obra en náhuatl, con traducción al español e inglés, y proyectado sobre una pantalla decía: “Pan nopa tonatiuh, Chela huan Mela itzoqueh altauhco tlachicueniah huan iuhquinon zaniloah ica tlamachtiliztli then Chalino. (En ese día, Chela y Mela están en el arroyo lavando la ropa y hablando de los estudios de Chalino.).
El náhuatl Cruz lo aprendió, dijo, “con mis papás, con mi pueblo, con mi gente”.
Y aunque Cruz lo hablaba de niña, no lo aprendió a escribir hasta que ya era adulta. “Fue algo bonito para mí, emocionante”, dijo, cuando llevó su idioma natal a otro plano, el de la escritura.
Aunque Cruz se recibió de abogada con un diploma en Derecho, no ejerció esa profesión, dijo, ya que desde el tercer o cuarto semestre de la licenciatura la habían invitado a colaborar en la elaboración de un diccionario de náhuatl como nativo hablante, del cual es coautora con el profesor John Sullivan y otros 7 u 8 participantes.
Posteriormente, Cruz dio clases de verano en un instituto de lenguas para estadounidenses desde 2007, el Instituto de Docencia e Investigación Etnológica de Zacatecas.
En Estados Unidos, fue asistente de un profesor de náhuatl en Nueva Orleáns cada dos años, del 2009 al 2015, y desde hace dos años ella es la profesora de náhuatl en el Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies (LLILAS Benson).
“Fue mi primera experiencia frente al grupo yo sola”, dijo, “me gustó más”. Espera que le renueven el contrato para el 2019, agregó.
Un comienzo difícil 
Cuando Cruz tuvo que aprender español en su pueblo natal, este fue un proceso doloroso debido al rechazo a su lengua materna. Los maestros les decían, “aprende español porque el náhuatl no te va a ayudar, el náhuatl no te sirve de nada”. Los maestros no eran bilingües y no había en esa época, ni ahora, un concepto de educación bilingüe, dijo.
“Nosotros de niños llorando porque no sabíamos español, más que náhuatl…fue difícil porque a fuerza teníamos que aprender”, recuerdó. “Luego nos castigaban si decíamos una palabra en náhuatl, nos pegaban”.
Sin embargo, Cruz siguió hablando náhuatl en casa y entre sus hermanos, aún cuando ya todos cursaban la universidad. “Hasta nos daba pena hablarnos en español, porque ‘¿cómo nos vamos a hablar en español nosotros?’”
También le daba pena hablar en español con sus padres, “me sentía rara”, dijo.
Hoy día siente que en su vida tiene un balance entre las dos lenguas y realidades. “El español me ha ayudado mucho, estando fuera de mi comunidad, al comunicarme”.
Y tener dos lenguas, le ha permitido viajar y conocer otras culturas, dijo. Además, el náhuatl la reconecta a sus raíces, a cómo era todo antes.
Desafortunadamente, si los abuelos ya no les enseñan a sus nietos el náhuatl y los padres tampoco se los enseñan, el idioma materno es algo que “se puede perder”.
“Ojalá que no se perdiera, que a los niños en las aulas les enseñaran, porque ahora sí no soy la única maestra interesada en que se aprenda el náhuatl, habemos más”, dijo.
Comunícate con Liliana al 512-912-2987.
 
Algunas palabras en náhuatl
Cualli yahuatzinco Buenos días
Cualli tiotlac Buenas tardes
Cualli yahualli Buenas noches
Nimechtlahpaloa Saludos
Piyali Hola



Tuesday, May 23, 2017

TCEP Policy Brief: Abolishing the Arbitrary 8.5 Percent Cap for Identification and Enrollment of Students for Special Education Services in Texas

Happy to share another Texas Center for Education Policy brief that is germane to a bill that is currently sitting on Governor Greg Abbott's desk.  Senate Bill 160 is about a scandalous under-reporting in Texas of students qualified to receive Special Education Services.  You may have read some of the writeup on this in the Houston Chronicle last fall.  Education Policy and Planning Masters student, Rob Walker, does a great job in capturing not solely the travesty, but also the importance of a solution through statute.  You may also link to this piece [pdf] here.

Angela Valenzuela








Policy Brief


Abolishing the Arbitrary 8.5 Percent Cap for Identification and Enrollment of
Students for Special Education Services in Texas

by

Robert Walker, Research Assistant

Texas Center for Education Policy

The University of Texas at Austin

May 23, 2017





Executive Summary

            Currently at play in the 2017 85th Texas Legislative Session is Senate Bill 160 (SB160), authored by Senator José Rodriguez and co-authored by Senator José Menéndez, is a bill that is aimed at abolishing the 8.5 percent indicator or cap for identification and enrollment of students receiving Special Education services in Texas public schools.  With Senate Bill 160 currently on Governor Greg Abbott's desk awaiting his signature or veto, the purpose of this brief is to provide a brief history and policy context for the 8.5 percent performance indicator that was put in place by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) in 2004.  Specifically, this cap keeps the number of children enrolled in and/ or receiving Special Education services in all public school districts at or below an arbitrary 8.5 percent in order to avoid an over enrollment of students (Rosenthal, 2016a).

            According to surveys administered to Texas Special Education teachers, as well as listening sessions with teachers, administrators and parents conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, enforcement of the 8.5 percent indicator has led to several thousands of students not receiving services to which they are entitled under the law (Texas American Federation of Teachers, 2016). It was further found that under the cap, English Language Leaners (ELLs) were the most at risk to not receive services to which they would have otherwise been due in the absence of it (Rosenthal, 2016c). In order for every child that has special needs to receive the services that they require to be academically and socially successful, Governor Abbott must sign Senate Bill 160 into law.







Abolishing the Arbitrary 8.5 Percent Cap for Identification and Enrollment of
Students for Special Education Services in Texas

by

Robert Walker


Brief History and Policy Context
            Since the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1975, any school-age child with a disability, whether they have a visual-, auditory-, physical-, mental-, emotional- and/or learning-related disability is to receive full access to a district’s Special Education services. (IDEA, 1975). Yet, despite this being the law of the land, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) implemented an 8.5 percent performance cap in what many believe to be an effort to avoid the costs of providing Special Education services (Rosenthal, 2016a). Texas currently has the lowest percentage of enrolled Special Education students in the nation (Rosenthal & Carrol, 2016). Districts have had to meet this indicator or cap to be labeled as being compliant with the TEA standards listed in the Performance Based Monitoring Analysis System (PBMAS) (Texas Education Agency, 2004).  PBMAS was implemented under state education commissioner Shirley Neeley Richardson and continued under the current education Commissioner Mike Morath. If districts provided Special Education services to more than 8.5 percent of their student population, they were labeled as guilty of over enrolling students and were subjected to corrective action plans. These corrective action plans included school and administration restructuring, fines, and in some cases, direct takeover of the supervision of Special Education enrollment in the district by the state (Texas Education Agency, 2004).

            The cap was instituted in 2004 after the TEA’s budget was cut by $1.1 billion in 2003  which led to the agency laying off 15 percent of its staff (Rosenthal, 2016a). From available evidence, the indicator was an attempt to save school districts money (Rosenthal, 2016a; 2016b). The TEA has said that the indicator was not meant to be cap on the number of children receiving legally mandated services, but worked instead to identify if a particular category of student fell outside given indicators (Texas Education Agency Full Statement to Chronicle Questions, n.d.).

            The TEA also denies that there has been any observable drop in Special Education enrollment across Texas public school districts and maintains that no student has been denied services (Texas Education Agency Full Statement to Chronicle Questions, n.d.). It is the TEA’s position that the PBMAS and the indicators written within it, were created with the collaboration of experts in Special Education and is in full compliance with IDEA (Texas Education Agency Full Statement to Chronicle Questions, n.d.).


Concerns
            Despite the assertion by TEA officials that there is overwhelming evidence showing that there has not been a significant decrease in the enrollment of students in educational services across the state, the evidence suggests otherwise.  According to a Houston Chronicle investigation that took place in Fall, 2016, the percentage of identified Special Education students in Texas decreased significantly from 11.67 percent in 2004 to 8.5 percent in 2015 (Rosenthal, 2016a). The following is the exact decrease in percentages  types of special needs services in Texas since the implementation of the cap: There was a 46 percent decrease in the amount of services to children with learning disabilities; a 42 percent decrease in emotionally and mentally disabled children served; a 39 percent decrease of children with orthopedic impairments served; a 27 percent decrease of children with speech impediments served; a 20 percent decrease of children with brain injuries served; a 15 percent decrease in children with hearing impairments served; and an 8 percent decrease of students with visual problems served (Rosenthal, 2016a; Rosenthal & Carrol, 2016).

            In an effort to comply with state regulations, school districts, including the Houston Independent School District, utilized a number of tactics to keep their students from receiving Special Education services. These tactics ranged from not offering testing for mental and learning disorders, distributing Special Education assessment forms geared to blaming other factors for mental- and learning-related disorder symptoms and, in general, creating a system where learning disorder test results were “re-examined,” meaning that they were subsequently characterized as being related to other factors (Rosenthal & Barnard-Smith, 2016).

 Under the cap, it was found that English Language Learners (ELLs) were the most at risk to not receive services (Rosenthal, 2016c).  ELL students’ special needs-related behaviors were often attributed to their lack of understanding of English by school officials (Rosenthal, 2016c). In addition, ELL’s family often did not how attain Special Education services for the child because of the language barrier (Rosenthal, 2016c).


Recommendations

            Though the TEA has held a press conference announcing that in the coming year, the 8.5 percent performance indicator would eventually be eliminated (Disability Rights Texas, 2017), the bill should still be made into law as changing the education code of the state will permanently stop any such cap from being implemented again. In addition, a statewide policy of providing parents at the start of each school year with a list of their rights in terms of getting access to   disorder testing and Special Education services, in general, should also exist.  This list, as well as all other subsequent Special-Education-related information, should be made available and distributed in all the languages spoken in each school district. Lastly, the TEA should monitor and report biennially on all Texas school districts’ provision of Special Education services to ensure that they are in compliance with federal law. 


                                                           



References


Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400 (1975)

Rosenthal, B. M. (2016a, September 10). Denied: How Texas Keeps Tens of Thousands of Children out of Special Education. Houston Chronicle.  Retrieved from http://www.houstonchronicle.com/denied/1/

Rosenthal, B. M. (2016b, November 9). Denied: Mentally ill Lose Out As Special Ed Declines. Houston Chronicle. Retrieved from http://www.houstonchronicle.com/denied/3/?t=b0dad284f4

Rosenthal, B. M. (2016c, December 10). Texas Schools Shut non-English Speakers Out of Special E. Houston Chronicle. Retrieved from http://www.houstonchronicle.com/denied/4/

Rosenthal, B. M., & Barnard-Smith, S. (2016, December 27). Denied: Houston Schools Systematically Block Disabled Kids from Special Ed. Houston Chronicle.  Retrieved from http://www.houstonchronicle.com/denied/6/

Rosenthal, B. M., & Carrol, S. (2016, December 24). Denied: Unable to get Special Education in Texas, One Family Moved. Houston Chronicle. Retrieved from http://www.houstonchronicle.com/denied/5/

Senate Bill 160 85th Legislative Session (2017). Bill History. http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=85R&Bill=SB160

Texas American Federation of Teachers (2016). Texas AFT Special Education Survey. Austin, Texas: Charles Luke

 Texas Education Agency (2004) Texas Education Enrollment target. Retrieved from https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3105621-Target-Sped-Percentage-Introduced-in-2004.html#document/p2

Texas Education Agency Full Statement to Chronicle Questions [Interview]. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3105519-Full-TEA-Statement.html#document/p1


Multilingualism is Our Strength

by Greg Pulte


View http://tinyurl.com/mn6ovmv for more
info on Greg Pulte
Debate over making English the "Official" language of the United States has gone on for longer than the United States as been a sovereign country, all the way back to at least 1750 (PBS). Yet after more than 250 years, the United States of America has functioned without making English the official language of this country. We are a nation of immigrants, and as such we must value the languages and cultures each of us brings to this country by not officially privileging one language over another, after all, we did fight a brutal revolution against the English. Why should the language of England be revered by making it the official language? The founding fathers must have understood this and must have recognized, then as now, that this country would be filled with speakers of many different languages by the very nature of our country's great experiment with democracy.

In spite of the outrage expressed by so many "Americans" who demand that non-English speakers immediately drop what they are doing, forget what they are speaking, and instantaneously learn and produce English, (here is a smart clip describing this dumbfounding outrage: http://www.latina.com/lifestyle/our-issues/americans-pissed-latinos-speak-spanish-video), research suggests that first-generation children of immigrants learn English rapidly. Bilingual education researcher Dr. Sergio Garza at Texas A&M International University suggests that first-generation children learn English quickly because they choose English in order to be accepted and to succeed in an English dominate society (Reichard, May 22, 2017). Presumably, this choice is suggested through the cultural cues exerted at home and in schools.

However, while these social cues are strong, they are not carved in stone. The social constructs that impose these language limitations upon us may also liberate us when they evolve to include and value the use of many languages. We can choose to remain constrained by xenoglossophobia (fear of other languages) or we can embrace knowledge, understanding, and skills, of the type that empower us and make us stronger.

For our young students to succeed and to feel valued within our collective society, we must not force everyone to conform to a contrived archetype, a monolingual one at that, but to allow for the languages and experiences all people bring to illumine each of our lives. We can learn from each other and indeed we must.

PBS (2005). Do you speak American? Half the countries of the world have an official language.               Retrieved from: http://www.pbs.org/speak/seatosea/officialamerican/

Reichard, Raquel (May 22, 2017). Spanish use slowly fading among new LatinX generations.                   Retrieved from: http://www.latina.com/lifestyle/our-issues/spanish-fading-new-latino-generations

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Superior Social Skills of Bilinguals

Every study I've ever read shows the positive benefits of bilingualism and bilingual education—to the degree that our programs are well-staffed, well-designed, and well-funded.  The one posted below is no exception.  We must have by now at least 40 years of evidence on this.  We do know how to do this well, my friends.

Bilingual education should not even be a debate. That said, it continues to be one that is more about politics than evidence.  It plays out in a lot of different ways.  One big way in Texas has to do with the legislature not funding bilingual education adequately.  Not even close.  

Latin@s simply have to exercise more political power.  They need to get out and vote and just as importantly, to get more involved in the political process.  Plus, we all owe it to our forebears and civil rights ancestors who fought for our rights, most especially the right to vote.

Sí se puede! Yes we can!

Angela Valenzuela
c/s

The Superior Social Skills of Bilinguals


Photo

Credit Gérard DuBois


BEING bilingual has some obvious advantages. Learning more than one language enables new conversations and new experiences. But in recent years, psychology researchers have demonstrated some less obvious advantages of bilingualism, too. For instance, bilingual children may enjoy certain cognitive benefits, such as improved executive function — which is critical for problem solving and other mentally demanding activities.


Now, two new studies demonstrate that multilingual exposure improves not only children’s cognitive skills but also their social abilities.
One study from my developmental psychology lab — conducted in collaboration with the psychologists Boaz Keysar, Zoe Liberman and Samantha Fan at the University of Chicago, and published last year in the journal Psychological Science — shows that multilingual children can be better at communication than monolingual children.
We took a group of children in the United States, ages 4 to 6, from different linguistic backgrounds, and presented them with a situation in which they had to consider someone else’s perspective to understand her meaning. For example, an adult said to the child: “Ooh, a small car! Can you move the small car for me?” Children could see three cars — small, medium and large — but were in position to observe that the adult could not see the smallest car. Since the adult could see only the medium and large cars, when she said “small” car, she must be referring to the child’s “medium.”
We found that bilingual children were better than monolingual children at this task. If you think about it, this makes intuitive sense. Interpreting someone’s utterance often requires attending not just to its content, but also to the surrounding context. What does a speaker know or not know? What did she intend to convey? Children in multilingual environments have social experiences that provide routine practice in considering the perspectives of others: They have to think about who speaks which language to whom, who understands which content, and the times and places in which different languages are spoken.


Interestingly, we also found that children who were effectively monolingual yet regularly exposed to another language — for example, those who had grandparents who spoke another language — were just as talented as the bilingual children at this task. It seems that being raised in an environment in which multiple languages are spoken, rather than being bilingual per se, is the driving factor.
You might wonder whether our findings could be explained as just another instance of the greater cognitive skills that bilingual children have been observed to have. We wondered that, too. So we gave all the children a standard cognitive test of executive function. We found that bilingual children performed better than monolingual children, but that the kids who were effectively monolingual yet regularly exposed to another language did not. These “exposure” children performed like monolinguals on the cognitive task, but like bilinguals on the communication task. Something other than cognitive skills — something more “social” — must explain their facility in adopting another’s perspective.


In a follow-up study, forthcoming in the journal Developmental Science, my colleagues and I examined the effects of multilingual exposure on even younger children: 14- to 16-month-old babies, who are hardly speaking at all. In this study, led by Zoe Liberman and in collaboration with Professor Keysar and the psychologist Amanda Woodward, babies were shown two versions of the same object, such as a banana, one of which was visible to both the infant and an adult, the other visible to the baby yet hidden from the adult’s view. When the adult asked the baby for “the banana,” the baby might hand her either object — both were bananas, after all — yet if the baby understood the social context, he would reach more often for the banana that the adult could see.
We found that babies in monolingual environments reached equally often for the two bananas. Babies in multilingual environments, including those who were exposed to a second language only minimally, already understood the importance of adopting another’s perspective for communication: They reached more often for the banana that the adult could see.
Multilingual exposure, it seems, facilitates the basic skills of interpersonal understanding. Of course, becoming fully bilingual or multilingual is not always easy or possible for everyone. But the social advantage we have identified appears to emerge from merely being raised in an environment in which multiple languages are experienced, not from being bilingual per se. This is potentially good news for parents who are not bilingual themselves, yet who want their children to enjoy some of the benefits of multilingualism.
Katherine Kinzler is an associate professor of psychology and human development at Cornell University.
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Texas Senate puts voucher-like program in school finance bill: Let's STOP HB21

Disgraceful.  House Bill 21 started out as a decent, do-able school finance bill, but now that its in the Senate, it has become a voucher bill.  This Texas Tribune piece by Aliyya Swaby (below) does a pretty good job of detailing the 11th-hour derailing of this bill by the Senate.  Succinctly, it allows for our hard-earned taxpayer dollars that would otherwise go to public school funding and gives it to private schools.  Very, very sad and shameless, to boot.

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and many of our pro-privatization senators are bad news for public education and democracy in Texas.  Committee on Public Education Chair, Dan Huberty and many others put a lot of time and effort into this bill, only to see it deformed beyond recognition. Good, closing quote from within:

House Speaker Joe Straus shot back later that day, arguing that the Senate's budget proposal reduced the state's share of public education funding, leaving local property taxpayers with a heavier financial burden. "The House made a sincere effort to start fixing our school finance system, but the Senate is trying to derail that effort at the 11th hour," he said.

Check out one of my earlier posts on vouchers from this legislative session titled, Challenging the School Privatization Agenda: Let's Grow, Not Kill, Our Democracy.  It lays out the argument why vouchers and school privatization are really  bad policy.

I just called my representative in the House and urged him to put a stop to this bill.  Please consider doing so, as well.  Time is of the essence. Contact your legislators right away and consider doing the same. If you do not know who represents you, click here to find out.

Let's also be forward looking and let's get these people who are not particularly fond of the public good out of office.

Angela Valenzuela 

@vlnzl

Texas Senate puts voucher-like program in school finance bill

The Texas Senate voted to approve a bill that would simplify funding formulas for public schools and let parents use state money to send their kids with disabilities to private schools or pay for homeschooling.

 
State Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, discusses a bill amendment in the Senate on March 30, 2017. 
State Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, discusses a bill amendment in the Senate on March 30, 2017.
Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

The Texas Senate on Sunday night approved a bill that would both simplify the formulas for funding public schools and allow parents of kids with disabilities to take state money to leave the public system for private schools or homeschooling.

Senators voted 21-10 to approve House Bill 21, which the House originally intended to reform a complicated system for allocating money to public schools and to provide a funding boost for most public schools.

Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, changed the bill to include a provision the House hates and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick very much wants: education savings accounts, which are state subsidies for parents who want to send their children with disabilities to private schools or need money for services to educate them at home.

"We're trying to fill a lot of different needs in the bill, and we're trying to keep our costs down," Taylor said while introducing the bill.

The bill now goes back to the House, where it will hit a major roadblock: Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, the bill’s House author, has said he won’t accept a version that includes education savings accounts.

Patrick promised the House an extra $530 million for public schools if the education savings account program becomes law; he has been unsuccessfully advocating for similar voucher-like programs for the past decade. The House had originally budgeted a $1.5 billion boost for public schools, and with the promise of $530 million, the Senate went from offering little extra funding for public schools to meeting the House partway.

If the House doesn't approve HB 21 as amended by the Senate, public schools won’t get the extra $530 million, Taylor said. Under the Senate's version of the bill, about 93 percent of school districts would see more revenue by 2019, with 7 percent seeing no change in revenue, he said.

Taylor stripped the bill of several of the original tweaks from the House that were intended to either simplify the funding formulas or allocate money to specific student groups, saying they would cost too much money.

At the same time, he packed HB 21 with provisions from other bills in the House and Senate — including $100 million in first-time facilities funding for charter schools, $20 million in grants for schools running programs for kids with autism and a 15-member commission for long-term school finance reform.

Democrats challenged Taylor to explain why state money should be used to pay for private schools when they are not subject to state accountability, are not required to take all students and are not subject to federal law when it comes to offering services for students with disabilities.

“We don’t want someone to be forced to take a student they’re not set up to handle,” Taylor said. He argued private schools are subject to a higher level of accountability because parents can decide to leave a school that doesn’t fit them.

He said he didn’t understand why a small program that would affect just 5,000 students would stop legislators from approving half a billion dollars for public schools.

“This whole [education savings account] is a mouse, and this elephant is just freaking out,” he said. “The whole world is coming to an end over this little bitty thing.”

Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, unsuccessfully proposed an amendment to the school finance bill that simply crossed out the education savings account language.

Taylor succeeded in convincing rural conservative senators to vote for the Senate’s version of the bill despite the fact that they generally have fewer private schools in their legislative districts and serve constituents who are skeptical of “private school choice.”

Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, said the 101 public school superintendents in his district dislike the education savings accounts but like the provisions that would save small, rural schools money. Nichols ended up voting yes on the bill.

Public education advocates did an about-face on the bill once they saw it included education savings accounts, with about 40 organizations sending letters to all Senate offices asking them to vote against it.

“In the middle of the night, the Texas Senate voted for a voucher scheme that will rob taxpayer money from public schools and give it to private schools,” said Ann Beeson, executive director of the left-leaning policy group the Center for Public Policy Priorities. “What started as a good school finance bill in the Texas House turned into a voucher bill that does not help remodel our state’s school finance system.”

Patrick on Wednesday listed the bill as one of the priorities he wants the House to pass. In exchange for a vote on HB 21, he promised to concur with the part of the House's proposal for the school accountability system that would delay implementation of a controversial A-F grading system for schools and districts until 2019.

House Speaker Joe Straus shot back later that day, arguing that the Senate's budget proposal reduced the state's share of public education funding, leaving local property taxpayers with a heavier financial burden. "The House made a sincere effort to start fixing our school finance system, but the Senate is trying to derail that effort at the 11th hour," he said.

Read related Tribune coverage:
  • A Senate committee passed the House’s major school finance reform bill, after adding a controversial provision subsidizing private school tuition for special needs students — a move unlikely to go over well in the House.
  • The Senate Education Committee discussed a bill that would radically simplify the state's school finance formula, stripping it of some antiquated provisions. Parents and educators who testified wanted a few new provisions added in.