Thursday, August 13, 2009

Blog 15: Self-Assessment

Blog 15:

This course has reaffirmed my desire to become a teacher. I currently work in an office, and although I am good at what I do, I can’t envision myself working in an office for the rest of my life. Teaching on the other hand is far from being routine. Being a teacher requires true dedication, and a drive that always inspires you to be and do better. This course has taught me that a teacher’s goal of reaching his/her students and supporting them in achieving academic success will always be challenged by the students’ surroundings. Not only do teachers have to deal with the effects of a student’s personal life, but in many urban communities teachers must also face insufficient funding, poor teaching conditions, and an undeniable lack of hope. If teaching wasn’t my passion, a course like this, which exposes the reality of teaching in urban communities, may have intimidated me back into my cubicle. Instead this course has strengthened my aspirations of becoming a teacher and of having a positive impact on each of my students’ lives.
One of the most valuable lessons that this course has taught me about public education is that it is fundamentally important to be creative. Because not all schools have the funding necessary to provide all students across the country with an equal level of opportunities, for example through course text books or school extracurricular activities, teachers must find alternative ways in which to engage their students’ interest and promote their learning. A teacher’s resourcefulness can potentially turn 99¢ sales into supply closets and bake sales into fundraisers. On the educationally end, sport statistics can be transformed into math lessons, music into literary analysis, and board games can be modified to serve as practice sessions for exams. Utilizing everyday items and situations do not only serve as teaching aids, but also impart the lessons of not conforming to tough circumstances and of making the best of what’s available. The focus must always be in preparing the students to succeed, and despite material and monetary disadvantages, these life lessons are what they will carry with them through the years.
Teaching is a powerful and fulfilling profession. Being a teacher doesn’t just consist of teaching a subject matter and striving to produce a class full of “A” students. Becoming a teacher means assuming the great responsibility of really understanding your students and taking on the challenges that may prevent them from achieving to the fullest of their potential. This course has inspired me personally and professionally to see beyond any obstacles and to always keep my eyes set on my goals. As a teacher I will aim to motivate my students to set high standards for themselves, and I will support them in living up to these standards. The impact a teacher can have on a student can be life altering. As a teacher I will be committed to seeing that my students receive the best education they can, regardless of the community they live in or any form of impediment that challenges their chances of success. I will also provide the emotional support they need to believe and know that they can reach beyond any limitations they have been dealt. This course has reinforced my determination to become a teacher, and to make a difference in each of my students’ lives.

Blog 14: Abstract & Final Summary

Blog 14:


The purpose of this study was to examine the role that testing plays in the learning experience of native English speakers in Union City, New Jersey. Over the course of six weeks, I observed the community and analyzed the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA) test results for Union City’s two high schools. This community in particular is comprised of a large Latino population. The data collected revealed mixed results in which a percentage of native English speakers tested below their counterparts as viewed through the State results, but also that a percentage tested above these same standings. Part of these results support previous research, while the remaining is new territory. This study will illustrate how living in a largely Latino community, where Spanish is present at times more than English, can have a crucial effect on the school policies that are put in place to prepare students for academic success. What is important about these results is that it highlights the need to reevaluate the ways in which the school system is addressing the needs of not only the limited English speaking students, but a portion of the native English population as well. Equally important to note, is that while this culturally-rich world that surrounds students outside of school is to some degree hindering the academic advancement and success of some of its students, at the same time it is promoting the progress of others.


The sample used in this study reproduced some results that have been generated in the past, however the combination of conditions have prompted a deeper look into the differences that persist in the Hispanic population’s testing results, especially when this group includes native English speakers. This study serves to encourage further, more meticulous research be conducted with the goal of pinpointing the exact causes behind the lower testing results of the Hispanic student population. If native English speakers can be defined as those who primarily communicate in the English language, then this means that the high percentage of students in both schools who maintain that English is the first language spoken at home are to be considered native English speakers. The question then becomes, then why do the results of the study still place the white student population in a higher proficiency status then the Hispanic student population? This study should also serve as a reminder of the importance of changing unfair school policies that try to accommodate easy academic achievement, and that isolate students that are not linguistically proficient, thereby causing them to fall behind their peers and limiting their academic achievement potential. The central point is that these practices must be examined and corrected to treat students as individuals and not as statistics.

Blog 13: Summary of Project Findings

BLOG 13:

During my walking observations of Union City I found that this community is very rich in Latin American culture. The majority of people are of Hispanic descent, although there is a large Hasidic Jewish community in the area surrounding the Jewish Community Center of North Hudson. Spanish is the language that is most heard, and it is spoken by all the age groups. English is also spoken, although mainly by young adults and teenagers. Something that stood out was that in most instances, teenagers spoke English when talking amongst themselves, however many were observed switching to Spanish when speaking to an adult figure. The restaurants of this community speak of its Latin American diversity, with a variety of Cuban, Caribbean, Mexican, and Central and South American cuisine.
Housing in this community consists mainly of two and three family homes, as well as a few apartment buildings. In some areas the homes have a nicer more maintained appearance. There is also a lot of new housing construction, mostly observed in areas where it appears that the community is being renovated. The commercial districts, especially Bergenline Avenue, seem to have a steady flow of consumer traffic. Most businesses are catered to this Hispanic community in that their services are offered in Spanish, or offer bilingual personnel. Something that caught my attention is that there is an enormous amount of daycare centers, almost on every block. This community also has the advantage of being very close to New York City, as can be observed by the skyline view in many areas. Union City has a close proximity a few of New Jersey’s major highways, and is also located near Weehawken, Hoboken, and Jersey City, which provide direct transportation to and from Manhattan. Another observation made was that although this community is so heavily populated, it maintains a fairly clean appearance. The sanitation department conducts timely pick-ups of garbage and recycling, and there are garbage cans practically on every corner.
As mentioned, various structures including City Hall and Jose Marti Middle School seem to have been renovated. The community also houses the offices of Senator Stack. Throughout the community there are a wide variety of churches of different denominations, including Christian, Catholic, Hasidic Jewish, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. There are a total of eleven public schools and a new high school and athletic complex is currently under construction

The results of my study replicate the findings of previous research which have shown that Hispanics generally test below their white counterparts. The HSPA results for Union Hill High School reveal that the white population tested higher than the Hispanic population in both Language Arts Literacy and Mathematics. Although in the Language of Arts Literacy the Hispanic population tested slightly higher than the white population in the Proficient category, they tested noticeable lower in the Advanced Proficiency category, and higher in the Partial Proficiency category. Because of the small level of white students tested in Emerson, testing results were not disclosed for this group. Below are the HSPA results for both schools.

Emerson High School

High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA)
LANGUAGE ARTS LITERACY: 2007-08 Number Tested Proficiency Percentages
Partial Proficient Advanced
Limited English Proficient Students School 49 83.7% 16.3% 0%
White School * * * *
Hispanic School 281 31.7% 68.7% 4.6%
*To protect the privacy of students, the Department of Education suppresses sufficient information to eliminate the possibility that personally identifiable information will be disclosed.

High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA)
MATHEMATICS: 2007-08 Number Tested Proficiency Percentages
Partial Proficient Advanced
Limited English Proficient Students School 48 81.3% 18.8% 0%
White School * * * *
Hispanic School 280 42.1% 50% 7.9%
*To protect the privacy of students, the Department of Education suppresses sufficient information to eliminate the possibility that personally identifiable information will be disclosed.

Union Hill High School

High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA)
LANGUAGE ARTS LITERACY: 2007-08 Number Tested Proficiency Percentages
Partial Proficient Advanced
Limited English Proficient Students School 52 76.9% 23.1% 0%
White School 11 27.3% 63.6% 9.1%
Hispanic School 287 29.3% 69.7% 1%
*To protect the privacy of students, the Department of Education suppresses sufficient information to eliminate the possibility that personally identifiable information will be disclosed.

High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA)
MATHEMATICS: 2007-08 Number Tested Proficiency Percentages
Partial Proficient Advanced
Limited English Proficient Students School 52 59.6% 40.4% 0%
White School 11 27.3% 63.6% 9.1%
Hispanic School 287 40.4% 51.6% 8%
*To protect the privacy of students, the Department of Education suppresses sufficient information to eliminate the possibility that personally identifiable information will be disclosed.
The question remains, why do Hispanic students always test below their white counterparts and what can be done to bring this population’s test results to the same level. What is really troubling is the fact that the Hispanic population makes up the largest part of the community, and yet they still test below the white population. My expectations were that the Hispanic student population would test at the same level as the white student population, but this was not the case. Also troubling were the results of the Limited English Proficient Students, which revealed that a 0% Advanced Proficiency for the Language Arts Literacy and Mathematics tests in both schools. This population also tested noticeably lower in the Proficient category, and had exceptionally higher results in the Partial Proficiency categories when compared to both the white and Hispanic populations.

Blog 11: Inquiry Project Progress

Blog 11:

My inquiry question, what role does testing play in the learning experience of English native speakers, has given me more insight into the world of teaching, and it has also taught me a lot about myself. As a future teacher, my goal is to provide my students with the tools and the opportunities necessary for them to achieve successful and fulfilling lives. This particular study has highlighted fundamental disadvantages that a large percentage of students must face in their struggle to achieve academic success. When accessing students’ academic success it is important to acknowledge the various causes of low test scores. In the case of limited English speaking students, this study has taught me that it is essential to evaluate beyond language proficiency and to examine all the factors that contribute to low testing results. When I first began this study, it’s fair to say that I was not properly classifying the student population as I should have been. My initial interpretation of an “English native speaker” was of a white student, and although I was conscience that this wasn’t always the case, I had the unconscious tendency to view students through this assumption. When analyzing the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA) test results, not only did my misinterpretation of the student population demographics become clearer to me, but I also began to realize that the test results revealed weaknesses in the entire student population, regardless of language proficiency.
During my walking observations, I instantly saw the impact that the predominately Latino community was capable of having on its students. When analyzing the HSPA test results and comparing them to the state standings, it became clear that the school system was in fact catered to the Hispanic majority. As an educator your hope is that your students will be prepared in enough to hold their ground when competing with students of other communities, however my study has demonstrated that this particular community is not at par with other communities statewide. This has made me more conscience of the level of achievement I, as an educator, should aim to promote in my students. This study has also shaped my understanding of public education in that I am now even more of aware of the various obstacles public educators must face. With regards to public education students, teachers must strive to motivate their students to achieve beyond the accomplishments that they and/or their communities have set. Similarly, public education educators must make every effort to encourage their students’ success despite shortcomings in the school system.

Blog 10: Inquiry Project Introduction

Blog 10:
Inquiry Project Introduction

One of the most highly debated topics in the United States is the “immediate” need for immigrants to learn English. This can become very apparent in situations where a non- or limited English speaker resides or is employed in a largely English speaking community. However, it is also important to keep in mind that this scenario isn’t always the case. Across the United States there are numerous communities that are made up of people to which English is a second language. This opens up the topic at hand by posing the question of, if non- or limited English speakers face various obstacles when finding themselves in an English speaking environment, in what ways are native English speakers that live or work in a non- or limited English speaking community affected?
One way to reach a more comprehensive understanding of the fundamentally influential role of the community is by examining academic success in high school students. It is important to examine the many ways in which a community can effect one’s learning experience, just as it is equally important to monitor the course of action that the school system promotes in addressing the needs of its community. By doing so, it will aid in carrying out appropriate measures that will continue to promote productivity, but it will also help to identify and remedy inadequacies in the educational system. The High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA) test is the standardized test used in the state of New Jersey as a form of assessing the level of academic performance among public high school students. Although many have argued that standardized testing is not the most accurate way of assessing academic performance, until more reliable measures of assessment can be put into place statewide, standardized testing results provide us with a breakdown of student performance as per the standards set by the state, and give some insight of academic and regional areas that need improvement.
This study will focus on examining the role that testing plays in the learning experience of native English speakers. In analyzing the HSPA results, it will be critical to keep in mind the diversity present in the student population. This is important because by outlining a student group comparison, more concrete observations can be made as to what sources contribute to differences and/or similarities in the results. These implications can then be explored further to allow for a more complete explanation of the influential factors behind testing results. In comparing student group results, certain advantages and/or disadvantages for a specific group might become more apparent. Limited English proficient students will be very significant when evaluating the results because their scores can bring to light weaknesses in the educational system and its policies with regards to English as a Second Language (ESL) placement and its established progress requirements. As has happened in previous studies, it can also be revealed that a student’s surrounding, typically one’s community and family, are what most impact academic development. All of these circumstances contribute to testing results, and ultimately to the learning experience of a student.
This study is important for many reasons; among them is the call to take a more rigorous look at the educational system. Testing results will indicate if the steps being taken to prepare all students, regardless of language proficiency, are satisfactory. It is fundamentally important that all students have an equal opportunity to do well, even if this requires implementing extra steps that will bring students that are behind to a uniform class level of proficiency. Perhaps the most significant finding that can be extracted from testing results is the basic reality that although it is important to learn the language, advancing in other academic areas is also important and must not be put aside until an ideal level of language proficiency is reached. Testing results can also suggest that other methods of evaluating student proficiency must be implemented. When looking at class progress and comparing it to testing scores, it is crucial to examine the differences that may exist and develop methods that will help close the gap.

Blog 8: Unequal Childhoods

Blog 8:

In reading Unequal Childhoods, the differences among social classes are what most stand out. It is incredible to see how each individual’s life differs in so many ways, when compared to one another. I believe that the main purpose of reading these texts is to make us more aware of these differences. One of the most important traits of becoming a teacher is having the ability to distinguish the needs of each student in helping them obtain a good and beneficial education. Factors such as after school activities, parental support and supervision, living conditions and economic stability all have an undeniable effect on a child, and therefore, all become relevant when assessing a child’s needs. It is crucial to understand that a child’s education is not limited to the classroom. The experiences that a child deals with on a daily basis, directly or indirectly, all contribute to the way in which the child functions.

What is interesting about Unequal Childhoods is that the children described, while approximately the same age, all have drastically different personal lives. I find this to be important because it displays an assortment of family living conditions, and chances are that this type of variation can be found in an inner city setting. Because a child’s learning experience can be influenced by home environment, it is important to be aware of the diversity that exists in an inner city setting, as opposed to a suburban setting for example. More often than not, children that receive education in the inner city are experiencing a multitude of challenges both at home and in their schooling, which suburban children are not exposed to. In inner cities, it is common to see financial difficulties, housing issues, and families that are forced to neglect their children’s needs while trying to provide for them. Aside from the adversities they face at home, these children must also face the consequences of insufficient funding in their schools, which in turn limit the essential materials and supplies needed to provide them with the quality of education that students in other communities enjoy. In most cases even the school buildings are in such a run-down state that these children’s concentration in undoubtedly affected.

This text has already begun to help me understand the different challenges a teacher must face when teaching in the inner city. It has made me more aware of the impact a child’s personal life has on their studies. In reading this text, any assumptions I may have made about a student’s life are now more real, and this in turn has made me question the ways in which I would deal with the issues that directly affect the student’s academic development. It has also made it clear that a parent’s encouragement or lack thereof is vital in accessing a child’s motivation to succeed. Although achieving changes at home that will help support a child’s academic success will not always be possible, this book has inspired me to look for alternatives that will help me reach my goal of helping each of my students succeed. This book has also made me more aware of the advantages that some communities have over others in terms of funding, and of the activities students tend to participate in. This has motivated me to be more creative in providing the same level of opportunities that inner city students are too often denied. Being more perceptive to the factors that affect a child’s academic development, will help me to determine the ways in which to reach and provide the support necessary for each student’s specific needs.

Monday, March 30, 2009

How do the evaluation standards set for minority non-English speaking students in comparison to minority English speaking students have an impact on their success? What is the success rate of minorities that have come to this country having already experienced the education systems of their native countries, versus the success rate of minorities that have solely been educated in the United States?

Interview Questions:
-What are the racial demographics within the school? (students, teachers)
-What types of tests are administered OR how are incoming non-English speaking students evaluated?
-Are there differences in class schedules between minority non-English speaking and minority English speaking students? What might these differences be?
-An overview of the ESL program /Are there sufficient resources for non-English speaking programs? (ESL)
-How is the progress of minority non-English speaking students monitored?
-Do these students become involved in activities with non-English speaking students? /How many minority non-English and minority English speaking students participate in extracurricular activities? (academic, sports)
-How involved are the parents of these students in supporting their educational growth? /How involved are the parents of these students in supporting their extracurricular activities?
-What is transfer rate of non-English speaking students to and from bi-lingual schools? Reasons for transfer on part of students and/or teachers.
-What is this success rate of students that have entered school as minority non-English speaking?
-What is the success rate of minority English speaking students?
-Comparison charts of classes and activities that minority non-English speaking students and minority English speaking students are enrolled in.