Texas-based Avance Draws Praise (Again) for Transforming Education

Thanks to Angela Valenzuela’s valuable newsletter, we receive word of a
serious report on children of immigrants. And the report praises one
Texas program that for the past 30 years has been proving that social
trends are not social destiny.

Valenzuela’s internet work at TexasEdEquity keeps up with research and media attention given to key educational issues. Her email list Wednesday included notice of a new report
by the National Council of State Legislators addressing the growing
population of children among immigrants. Statistical trends among
children of immigrants are not promising, with gaps showing up in
school performance, graduation, and income levels. But as a nation of
immigrants should well know, these trends are not destiny, and one
Texas organization has been showing how to do things right:

Another
successful program – Avance, based in Texas –serves predominantly
low-income Latino families through parent education, early childhood
development, literacy, and English language acquisition. Despite the
fact that 91 percent of the parents in the program are high school
dropouts, 94 percent of their children complete high school, 43 percent
attend college, and half of the parents continue their education.
Avance started as a preschool and school readiness program but has also
been successful in improving parent outcomes. Avance is funded by
federal, state, county and city governments, United Way, foundations
and corporations and serves more than 13,000 parents and children
annually.

As the web site
for Avance proudly claims, the core model of the program addresses
parents of low-income Latino children during pre-school years, offering
nine months of instruction in "stages of emotional, physical, social
and cognitive development of their children with special topics that
range from the importance of reading, effective discipline to
nutrition. Parents also attend classes in literacy learning English and
getting their GED."

For social determinists such as William Bennett (who recently broadcast
his opinion that abortion could solve the problem of crime) the Avance
program of Texas proves once again that statistical trends do not
dictate either destiny or human nature.

Children from the Avance peer group who are NOT provided
with these services will be, "5 times more likely to commit crimes by
age 27, 10 times more likely to be delinquent by age 16, and 4 times
more likely to be convicted of crime while in high school." But as we
can see, these differences in outcome are attributable to supplies of
resources, not to any innate characteristics of the birth populations.

For
more information on the difference that community resources can make in
a child’s chances of life, see the "Avance Works" tab at the
organization’s web site.

For state policy makers who would
empower education to make a difference, the National Council of State
Legislators references a 2004 report with specific policy choices:


School-based community centers to support assimilation of immigrant
families, through English as a Second Language (ESL), parent workshops,
computer training, translations, and referrals.

• Newcomer programs that provide intensive language development and academic and cultural orientation.


Collaborations between educators, religious, and medical personnel with
religious and cultural leaders in the community to plan programs for
immigrant families.

• A five-year high
school plan for immigrant students arriving too late to complete
requirements in four years, or who need additional English language
training.
• Specialists to assist teachers, for example, in literacy, special education, and ESL.

• Team teaching between general and special educators and ESL teachers.

• Alternative certification programs for immigrants who were teachers in their countries of origin.

As
the NCSL report shows, there is no reason to wish the children away in
order to improve social trends. One only needs to vanquish the selfish,
defeatist, and racist attitudes that stand in the children’s way.

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