High expectations help Hispanic students
Arizona Daily Star
4.01.2006
 
Tucson, Arizona | Published: http://www.azstarnet.com/allheadlines/122671

By Lourdes Medrano

 
Set high expectations for struggling Hispanic students, give them a healthy dose of individual attention and watch them succeed in school, a new study says.
Such high achievers are plentiful at a dozen Arizona schools that stay on top of each student's progress to make sure they learn. It is the norm at Gallego Elementary School and Sierra Middle School in Tucson.
The schools, in the Sunnyside Unified School District, are among 12 that the Center for the Future of Arizona's 2 1/2- year study cites as good examples of how to make winners out of students.
Also contributing to the study were Arizona State University's Morrison Institute and Jim Collins, author of the popular book "Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't."
Mary Jo Waits, who led the study, said she used Collins' business methodology to compare some of the state's top schools that enrolled mostly Hispanic and poor students with failing schools of similar size and make-up.
At the best schools, Waits said, "We started seeing a constant cycle of instruction, assessment and innovation. These are in many ways common-sense practices."
The schools' recipes for success can be found in the study, titled "Why Some Schools With Latino Children Beat the Odds and Others Don't."
Arizona has 1 million schoolchildren, more than 405,000 of them Hispanic. It is the fastest-growing ethnic minority group, but Hispanic students struggle academically and drop out of school at higher rates than their peers.
At Sierra Middle School, Hispanics make up about 92 percent of the student body, said Principal Art Menchaca.
In his view, what makes his school successful is a climate of collaboration where teachers and staff are part of committees that constantly examine internal testing data to ensure that students are on track. When pupils fall behind, teachers quickly intervene.
"Everyone is committed to the success of our students," said Menchaca, who largely credited his predecessor, Bob Miranda, for implementing learning strategies.
At Gallego, the school sticks to its strong "back to basics" approach that focuses on the three R's and lots of homework, said reading specialist Margie Vandervort.
"We're not always trying new programs to see if they work," she said, adding that the school usually has a waiting list of prospective students.
The study found that consistency is part of what makes a school successful.
Also crucial to success are a willingness to take responsibility for student performance, tracking student data, strong leadership, and collaborative solutions, the study concluded.
The center plans to seek input from Hispanic leaders and others interested in education reform to incorporate the study's recommendations in schools with a large number of Hispanic students.
● Contact reporter Lourdes Medrano at 573-4347 or lmedrano@azstarnet.com.