power of the press

To teach Latino history, Luperón High School turns to El Diario

Students unveiled a poster announcing the curriculum.
Gregorio Luperon High School students unveiled a poster about a new curriculum devised by El Diario and City College to teach about the history of Latinos in New York City.

Saulio Tuero learned to read his parents’ native language by reading El Diario, the country’s longest-running Spanish daily newspaper.

“I would buy El Diario for my father, and I’d buy myself an English-speaking one, and then we’d switch,” he said. “That’s the way I learned to read Spanish.”

Now, Tuero teaches at Gregorio Luperón High School for Science and Mathematics, a school created to serve recent immigrants from Latin America. In his government class last year, he piloted a bilingual curriculum created through a partnership between City College and El Diario. The curriculum, called “Social Justice & Latinos in NYC: 1913-2013” uses El Diario articles from the last century (the newspaper turns 100 this year), along with other resources, to teach students about the history of Latinos in the city.

That’s something Xiomara Pérez says she didn’t learn when she attended public school in Queens. Her parents immigrated from Puerto Rico, and she said she only learned about their history — in Puerto Rico and New York — at home. Now a graduate student at City College, Pérez helped develop the curriculum as part of a course on multicultural education in the college’s Department of Teaching, Learning, and Culture.

El Diario and City College formally announced the curriculum, which is now available online, at a press conference at Gregorio Luperón last week. The curriculum is designed for grades 6-12 and includes texts in both English and Spanish. As a final project, students create a multilingual, multimedia newspaper of their own.

Taking on such in-depth projects can seem burdensome when schools must balance many different pressures. Tatyana Kleyn, who taught the course in which the curriculum was developed, said teachers facing a time crunch could pick and choose from lessons in the middle on topics such as housing, bilingual education, immigration, and health care.

“We know schools are tight with testing, that testing rules, but to ignore where students come from is really a crime,” Kleyn said.

El Diario editor Erica Gonzalez said the process of developing the curriculum had been “detailed, tense, tedious at times, but very exciting throughout.”

Lúperon Principal Juan Villar said the curriculum is one of several ways the school tries to teach students about the history of the countries where they were born, and the history of Latinos in the communities where they now live. He said his school was the natural choice to pilot the program because of its population and the role El Diario articles about overcrowding played in helping the school secure a new space in Washington Heights in 2008.

As they revised the curriculum, Kleyn and her students observed ESL teacher Jakob Clausen’s classes to see what was working and what wasn’t. Kleyn said that after seeing what actually fit into one class period, she and her students cut some of the material “to ensure there was time for in-depth learning.”

Now that the curriculum has been released, Villar said he hoped the Department of Education would consider implementing it more broadly across the city. He says he hopes that in addition to teaching students more about Latino history, the curriculum will encourage them to read the newspaper, as their teacher did when he was in school, and to talk about it.

“Buy the newspaper and read it. Bring it to your parents, your friends. And use it as a mechanism to open lines of communication with [them],” he said in Spanish to the students gathered at the event.

that was weird

The D.C. school system had a pitch-perfect response after John Oliver made #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter

Public education got some unexpected attention Sunday night when John Oliver asked viewers watching the Emmys to make #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter.

Oliver had been inspired by comedian Dave Chappelle, who shouted out the school system he attended before he announced an award winner. Within a minute of Oliver’s request, the hashtag was officially trending.

Most of the tweets had nothing to do with schools in Washington, D.C.

Here are a few that did, starting with this pitch-perfect one from the official D.C. Public Schools account:

Oliver’s surreal challenge was far from the first time that the late-show host has made education a centerpiece of his comedy — over time, he has pilloried standardized testing, school segregation, and charter schools.

Nor was it the first education hashtag to take center stage at an awards show: #PublicSchoolProud, which emerged as a response to new U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, got a shoutout during the Oscars in February.

And it also is not the first time this year that D.C. schools have gotten a surprise burst of attention. The Oscars were just a week after DeVos drew fire for criticizing the teachers she met during her first school visit as secretary — to a D.C. public school.

Startup Support

Diverse charter schools in New York City to get boost from Walton money

PHOTO: John Bartelstone
Students at Brooklyn Prospect Charter School in 2012. The school is one of several New York City charters that aim to enroll diverse student bodies.

The Walton Family Foundation, the philanthropy governed by the family behind Walmart, pledged Tuesday to invest $2.2 million over the next two years in new charter schools in New York City that aim to be socioeconomically diverse.

Officials from the foundation expect the initiative to support the start of about seven mixed-income charter schools, which will be able to use the money to pay for anything from building space to teachers to technology.

The effort reflects a growing interest in New York and beyond in establishing charter schools that enroll students from a mix of backgrounds, which research suggests can benefit students and is considered one remedy to school segregation.

“We are excited to help educators and leaders on the front lines of solving one of today’s most pressing education challenges,” Marc Sternberg, the foundation’s K-12 education director and a former New York City education department official, said in a statement.

Walton has been a major charter school backer, pouring more than $407 million into hundreds of those schools over the past two decades. In New York, the foundation has helped fund more than 100 new charter schools. (Walton also supports Chalkbeat; read about our funding here.)

Some studies have found that black and Hispanic students in charter schools are more likely to attend predominantly nonwhite schools than their peers in traditional schools, partly because charter schools tend to be located in urban areas and are often established specifically to serve low-income students of color. In New York City, one report found that 90 percent of charter schools in 2010 were “intensely segregated,” meaning fewer than 10 percent of their students were white.

However, more recently, a small but rising number of charter schools has started to take steps to recruit and enroll a more diverse student body. Often, they do this by drawing in applicants from larger geographic areas than traditional schools can and by adjusting their admissions lotteries to reserve seats for particular groups, such as low-income students or residents of nearby housing projects.

Founded in 2014, the national Diverse Charter Schools Coalition now includes more than 100 schools in more than a dozen states. Nine New York City charter groups are part of the coalition, ranging from individual schools like Community Roots Charter School in Brooklyn to larger networks, including six Success Academy schools.

“There’s been a real shift in the charter school movement to think about how they address the issue of segregation,” said Halley Potter, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a think tank that promotes socioeconomic diversity.

The Century Foundation and researchers at Teachers College at Columbia University and Temple University will receive additional funding from Walton to study diverse charter schools, with the universities’ researchers conducting what Walton says is the first peer-reviewed study of those schools’ impact on student learning.