Torlakson Files Court Brief to Protect Federal Funding for Schools

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SACRAMENTO — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson filed a court brief Wednesday supporting Santa Clara County’s request to halt an executive order by President Donald Trump that threatens to stop federal funding for California cities, counties, and possibly public schools.

Torlakson filed a friend of the court brief in the Federal Court’s Ninth District, where Santa Clara County has filed for a preliminary injunction to stop the President’s Executive Order of January 2017.

The injunction request said the order is unconstitutional because it would compel local governments to take an active role in enforcing immigration law and could withhold federal funding from agencies, including schools, which declare themselves “sanctuary jurisdictions.” The order doesn’t clearly define that term.

Torlakson last year urged California school districts to declare themselves “Safe Havens” and reminded parents and their families that state and federal law guarantee that students can attend public school, regardless of immigration status. To date, 57 separate school district boards of directors, representing nearly two million students combined, have adopted such resolutions.

“The Executive Order places schools, schools districts, and county offices of education, who have merely identified themselves as safe havens for undocumented students, in the precarious position of losing large amounts of federal funds without warning, notice, or clear guidance about what is meant by the order,” Torlakson said in the court brief.

California receives more than $8 billion annually in federal funds for kindergarten through twelfth grade education, which then goes to public schools, districts, and county offices of education. Federal funding ranges from help for students in disadvantaged communities to free and reduced cost breakfast and lunch for students from low-income families.

            U.S. District Judge William Orrick is scheduled to hold a hearing on the Santa Clara County motion on April 5, 2017.

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Now possible: a family night of coding in every elementary school

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(previously published on EdSource)

When they check their email today, every elementary school in California will find a tool to bring families together for a fun introduction to computer coding.

Through a corporate grant, more than 6,000 principals in the state will receive a free digital kit today from MV GATE, a small Mill Valley nonprofit, enabling them to easily organize and stage “Family Code Night.” The program uses coding puzzles developed by Code.org, a national evangelist for computer education in schools.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy cited the project, which will also distribute the kits to schools in Chicago, among new initiatives it announced Monday to kick off Computer Science Education Week. Many schools will make time this week for Hour of Code, which introduces students to computer science through a choice of 100 one-hour entertaining coding activities covering a range of grades and coding knowledge.

On Family Code Night, parents and children participate in an introductory hour-long activity together. That can be a transformative experience, says John Pearce, director and CEO of MV GATE, which developed the Family Code Night program. “Parents can have a defining influence in celebrating their children’s progress in computer science learning. You see break-through moments. A 3rd-grader and her mom do simple puzzles and realize together that they can code and that they like it.” (A parents-oriented version of the kit can be downloaded from familycodenight.org)

It’s important to reach kids early, Pearce said, because “by middle school, kids have already decided if math and science are for them.”

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(By assembling blocks of instructions, students and parents can create lines of code that move the Angry Bird on the game board.)

Hour of Code and Family Code Night are part of a fast-growing national computer-science movement encouraged by the Obama administration’s Computer Science For All initiative. With partnerships with Silicon Valley companies like Salesforce and Intel, San Francisco and Oakland unified school districts are developing K-12 computer science curriculums; Google opened a coding lab in one of Oakland’s low-income neighborhoods. The San Jose charter school group Alpha Public Schools is requiring high school students to take at least  two years of computer science.

Proponents say understanding the fundamentals of computing is becoming a requisite part of a student’s core knowledge and a key to career opportunities beyond programming and computer science. At a recent computer science forum sponsored by the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, Kaustav Mitra, vice president of Innovation Ecosystems at the Infosys Foundation, drove home that point. “We’re not teaching computer science to create programmers, just as we don’t teach English to produce more novelists.”

Family Code Night requires internet access and a computer for each parent-student pair. The kit provides everything else: forms for parent invitations, an event timeline, to-do lists and instructions, an event script, handouts and badges for student coaches. Several hours of preparation by three people – the principal, an event organizer and a presenter – should be all that’s needed, Pearce said.

The puzzles and tutorials by Code.org teach the basics of computer logic; they ask parents and students to create lines of code by dragging and dropping commands like move forward or turn left to move pieces on a game board. In one of the challenges, for example, the code enables an Angry Bird to corral a Bad Pig.

Three months ago, White House officials invited Pearce to describe Family Code Night at a conference on computer education. That visibility led to a connection with Capital One Bank’s corporate foundation, whose $40,000 grant is funding the kit distribution.

Last month, the Disney Company, working with Code.org, announced the launch of “Moana: Wayfinding with Code,” a coding tutorial coinciding with its new animated movie; it will be the second of a series of Family Code Night programs, Pearce said. The third program, using the popular free Scratch programdeveloped by MIT for kids, is in the works.

Pearce is partnering with the Association of California School Administrators to distribute the Family Code Night kit. The leaders of ACSA’s Elementary Education Council’s 19 regions endorsed the promotion, said Scott Borba, council president and principal of Alice Stroud Elementary in Modesto.

“The kit is user-friendly and a Family Night of Code will be easy to throw together,” he said. “I think this is going to catch on.”

Borba will include the event as part of a STEM night in February and hopes it will attract close to a majority of parents in the nearly 500-student K-6 school. Since his school already does Hour of Code events, many of the students will be familiar with simple coding concepts and language and will be helping their parents. That process can reinforce kids’ confidence and enthusiasm, he said, adding, “Can you imagine a kindergartner showing a parent how to code?”

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UC along with 200 universities supports deportation relief policy

 

university_of_california-berkeley_5686897_i1In line with numerous campus efforts to promote inclusivity in wake of Donald Trump’s presidential victory, UC Berkeley and other UC campuses joined colleges across the country in signing a statement supporting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.

DACA is an immigration policy implemented by President Barack Obama through an executive order in 2012 that aims to protect eligible youth from deportation who first entered the United States before their sixteenth birthday among other guidelines. As of Tuesday, more than 200 college leaders across the country signed a statement in support of the DACA, which President-elect Trump opposes.

“UC Berkeley firmly supports DACA, its beneficiaries and all of our undocumented students. We are doing everything in our power to provide our undocumented students with the services and support they need,” said Chancellor Nicholas Dirks in an email. “Diversity is central to our mission, and we are committed to maintaining a campus culture where every member of the community feels safe, welcome, and respected.”

DACA beneficiaries are entitled to a work permit, a social security number and have the freedom to return back to the United States in certain circumstances.

The policy can have significant fiscal impacts for eligible students because it classifies them as California residents for purposes such as admission and financial aid, opening eligibility for grants, work-study and scholarships, according to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof.

“Without DACA, a Berkeley education would be out of reach for many,” Mogulof said in an email.

Apart from chancellors at other UC schools such as Irvine, San Diego, Davis and Los Angeles, signatories include Ivy League colleges like Yale and Harvard.

Juan A. Prieto, an undocumented campus senior, said he was grateful for DACA because it eased his anxiety over possible deportation.

“I think now that DACA is being threatened it’s like some folks are sort of being reminded that we are undocumented again,” Prieto said. “It gave a lot of student’s opportunities … but I think the flaw in it was that we did not use those opportunities to uplift all of our community.”

According to Prerna Lal, an immigration attorney at the Undocumented Student Program on campus, DACA has been a vital resource for undocumented students to participate in campus life and graduate on time.

“Ending DACA would wipe away at least $433.4 billion from the U.S. GDP cumulatively over 10 years,” Lal said in an email.

In light of uncertainty regarding the new government’s immigration policies, UC President Janet Napolitano has convened a task force to strategize policies to protect undocumented students. Additionally, UC officials have been in talks with undocumented students about establishing sanctuary status for the university.

“The campus also looks forward to working with President Napolitano’s task force that will be strategizing on how, in the future, to best protect undocumented students across the UC system,” Dirks said in an email.

Contact Parth Vohra at pvohra@dailycal.org and follow him on Twitter at @ParthVohra622.

3 Digital Trends Shaping the Future of College Admissions

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Generation Z, or the post-Millennial generation, is now the largest portion of the U.S. population, at nearly 26 percent. Considered “digital natives,” this demographic is the first generation to grow up fully digital, interacting fluently over social media and completely dependent on the Internet. Nearly three-quarters of them use cell phones more than they watch TV, according to the advertising agency Sparks & Honey.

As with generations past, a college and post-grad education is well-revered; however, the higher education industry is lacking the digital tools to appeal to their most desirable students, and worse, lacking the tools to prepare them for tech-heavy careers.

Undergraduate enrollment is projected to increase 14 percent from 17.3 million to 19.8 million students between 2014 and 2025, but higher education institutions still have major catching up to do. Cathy O’Neil, author and former Director of the Lede Program in Data Practices at Columbia University writes, “Today’s college admissions process has gradually become dominated by a viper’s nest of competing algorithms that keep tuition rising, parents worrying and kids suffering. Fail to play the game and your child may pay the price.”

The technology challenge facing higher education is substantial, but these are three key ways college institutions can use digital tools to better appeal to their tech-savvy audience.

1. Enrollment process must go digital.

Despite widespread digital trends, the school enrollment process remains largely unchanged. Prospective students can research a college website and chat with peers or active students, but a majority of them find it difficult to navigate the institution on a deeper level.

“In order to create a funnel of likely student applicants, institutions need more digital systems, (i.e. mobile apps) in place to attract potential students while also correctly gauging their interest to attend,” says Sujoy Roy, founder and CEO of VisitDays, an app that helps universities communicate with prospective students. “Research shows that when students are empowered with tools to take personalized on-campus tours, they’re 70 percent more likely to attend.”

Furthermore, digital tools that aim to solve the predictive yield problem, such as the emerging Virtual Reality campus tour trend, help predict enrollment rates, which lessens administrative headaches and budget roadblocks while increasing evaluation abilities.

2. Creative online, digital and mobile strategies.

According to a 2016 study by Marketo, newer methods of technology, such as enhanced course delivery, “flipped classrooms,” and gamification, have seen promising student outcomes. “Flipped” and gamified instructional models, in particular, have been linked to greater student engagement.

We use digital tools in the classroom to engage Generation Z, but higher education has been immensely slow to migrate their admissions outreach to similar channels. Data from TargetX, a CRM platform for higher education, reveals that 81 percent of students visit college websites on mobile devices and as many as 35 percent have submitted a college application from their hand-held devices.

Thus, colleges must have a compelling online and mobile presence. The Marketo study also found that 5 percent of seniors have received text messages from universities, while 73 percent would be willing to allow text messages. This is a huge missed opportunity to connect and engage real-time with future students. Implementing tools, like VisitDays, demonstrates to this all-digital cohort that the institution speaks their language.

3. Emphasize new marketing outreach.

In a society with abundant “noise,” today’s colleges must do much more outbound marketing than in decades past. Universities are creating roles for marketing and branding experts to analyze the market and cultivate strategies, much like traditional companies do.

A recent survey conducted by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth found that nearly all polled institutions use some form of social media as part of their marketing. Moreover, institutions are increasingly taking advantage of social media, mobile marketing, and other digital strategies not only to recruit students, but also to research prospective students.

Multichannel marketing and communications are critical: 40 percent of seniors and 45 percent of juniors noted that they are more likely to consider institutions that use print and phone communications, along with digital. An article published in Inside Higher Ed, estimates the annual recruiting spend of American colleges to move from the current $10 billion to $100 billion a year.

Lesson: Leverage digital tools to differentiate.

Many less-selective, four-year institutions are struggling with declining enrollments. The 2015 Survey of Admissions Directors found that half of admissions directors were very concerned about meeting their enrollment goals for the 2015 to 16 academic year, and 58 percent did not meet their goals. This large swath of four-year institutions need to quickly find a solution to lackluster admissions numbers.

Several questions emerge: is technology the answer? Is it revitalized branding or lowering tuition costs? Or perhaps opening bigger doors for international students? They all beg the question: is a school’s value earned or arbitrary? There is no obvious answer, but what’s clear is that if these schools don’t differentiate themselves from the pack in 2016, they’ll increase the risk of closing their doors permanently.

From Entrepreneur Magazine

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Is STEM Education in Permanent Crisis?

By Michael Marder-EdWeekxv36-10-op-1-copyright-peterhoey-jpg-pagespeed-ic-5rihxb0w4t

In 1983, “A Nation at Risk” raised grave concerns that America’s schools, particularly in the academic area we now call STEM, were damaging the country’s ability to compete. “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war,” warned the report from a federally appointed commission. Twenty-two years later, “Rising Above the Gathering Storm,” a report from the National Academy of Sciences, leveled a similar charge: “[O]ur overall public school system—or more accurately 14,000 systems—has shown little sign of improvement, particularly in mathematics and science.”

How can education in science and mathematics be in such crisis for so long? If fixing the crisis has the urgency of responding to foreign attack, how can it be that after 33 years of warnings, we are still stuck?

or some student populations, there is improvement. The best measure of long-term performance is the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Long-Term Trend Assessment. For 9- and 13-year-old white, black, and Hispanic students, math scores have increased since they were first measured by NAEP in 1978. Schools moved racial and ethnic groups in middle school ahead by around four years of learning: In fact, the scores of black and Hispanic 13-year-olds in 2012 almost matched the scores of black and Hispanic 17-year-olds from 1978.

But high school Long-Term Trend NAEP scores tell another story: Flat since 1990, NAEP math scores understate the scale of our problem. The United States stands apart from Europe and Asia in its conception of how much science and math is appropriate for all students. The United States has a culture of lower expectations for its students—one that will be hard to change, even if we want to.

Our country’s single biggest obstacle is a perpetual STEM teacher shortage. In surveys of school districts, openings in physics, chemistry, and math are regularly near the top of the list of positions hardest to fill. As a result, a large percentage of high school STEM teachers have neither a college major nor minor in their main assignment, or they lack full certification. Forty percent of math teachers fall into one of these categories. In physics, chemistry, and earth science, the number is over 60 percent.

Why do we have this STEM teacher shortage? It exists because incentives to change it are weak. For students who major in a STEM subject, the decision to become a teacher can add time and cost to their degrees. Teaching jobs pay tens of thousands of dollars less per year than nonteaching jobs in science, technology, engineering, or math. For university colleges of science, where all STEM teachers take content coursework or get their degrees, every staff or faculty position devoted to preparing STEM teachers is one not devoted to STEM researchers bringing in grants.

For many companies reliant on a strong STEM workforce to remain competitive, there is an inexpensive alternative to using their money and influence to solve the STEM teacher shortage: Hire scientists and engineers born and educated abroad. Fifty-three percent of the Ph.D.-level computer scientists in this country were born abroad, and 75 percent of Ph.D.-level aerospace engineers. Those are staggering numbers.

In 2005, the “Gathering Storm” report suggested a coordinated response to the STEM crisis, including the goal of producing 10,000 new STEM teachers a year by providing $20,000 a year in college scholarships for STEM majors who committed to teaching; $10,000-a-year salary increases for STEM teachers in hardest-to-staff schools; and $5 million incentive packages to universities to create programs for STEM majors to get bachelor’s degrees and teaching certificates simultaneously.

The report highlighted UTeach, which I co-founded in the late 1990s and currently co-direct. UTeach integrates STEM bachelor’s degrees with teacher certification and has expanded to 45 universities in this country. More than 85 percent of our graduates become classroom teachers, and more than 60 percent of them are in schools with majority low-income populations. Retention rates are strong: After five years, more than 80 percent of those who began teaching are still in schools.

These efforts—and those of other programs—could enable the United States to greatly reduce the STEM teacher shortage. A recent survey of more than 6,000 current and recently graduated STEM majors, which was sponsored by the American Physical Society, indicates that 35 to 55 percent would consider middle or high school teaching. There is also encouraging news in the finding of a relationship between STEM departments where college faculty simply discuss the possibility of teaching and increased student interest. Furthermore, 80 percent of those considering teaching say that incentives such as scholarships would make them more likely to teach.

But federal scholarships for STEM teachers are funded at less than 10 percent of the level “Gathering Storm” recommended, and what STEM majors and new STEM teachers say they most want are better working conditions and higher salaries. These are the hardest goals to achieve.

The current election season underscores the profound discontent with economic prospects and income inequality in the United States. There is no clear solution on how to address it. But education must be part of the solution. Kids from all economic classes and ethnic groups must have true access to fields ranging from computer science to finance. And there will be no cheap online fixes. Unless we finally resolve to pay what it takes to prepare and retain teachers for key STEM subjects, the next 30 years, like the last 30 years, will find us still shocked that our kids are behind, held back by our permanent STEM crisis.

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2016 ‘Schools to Watch’ Model Middle Schools

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State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Congratulates California’s
2016 “Schools to Watch™—Taking Center Stage” Model Middle Schools

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today announced that 13 high-performing California middle schools have been newly designated as model middle grades schools in the 2015–16 Schools to Watch™—Taking Center Stage (STW™—TCS) program.

Torlakson also announced that the sustained progress of 20 previously chosen STW™—TCS schools will allow them to retain their designation.

“These 33 schools excel at keeping students engaged and motivated during this critical juncture in a student’s school career,” Torlakson said. “I congratulate them for their efforts to exceed challenging goals, narrow the achievement gap, and set their students on a solid path toward high school and future success.”

The 13 newly designated STW™—TCS model middle grades schools are:

  • Alder Creek Middle School, Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, Nevada County
  • Curtis Middle School, San Bernardino Unified School District, San Bernardino County
  • Firebaugh Middle School, Firebaugh Las Deltas Unified School District, Fresno County
  • Lake Center Middle School, Little Lake City School District, Los Angeles County
  • Lindero Canyon Middle School, Las Virgenes Unified School District, Ventura County
  • Ross Academy of Creative and Media Arts, ABC Unified School District, Los Angeles County
  • San Gorgonio Middle School, Beaumont Unified School District, Riverside County
  • Serrano Middle School, San Bernardino Unified School District, San Bernardino County
  • South Pointe Middle School, Walnut Valley Unified School District, Los Angeles County
  • Sunnymead Middle School, Moreno Valley Unified School District, Riverside County
  • Vista Heights Middle School, Moreno Valley Unified School District, Riverside County
  • Willis Jepson Middle School, Vacaville Unified School District, Solano County
  • Yorba Linda Middle School, Placentia Yorba Linda Unified School District, Orange County

The 20 re-designated STW™—TCS model middle grades schools are:

  • Canyon Middle School, Castro Valley Unified High School District, Alameda County
  • Edna Hill Middle School, Brentwood Union Elementary School District, Contra Costa County
  • Fairmont School, Sanger Unified School District, Fresno County
  • Frank J. Zamboni Middle School, Paramount Unified School District, Los Angeles County
  • Frank Wright Middle School, Imperial Unified School District, Imperial County
  • Granger Junior High School, Sweetwater Union High School District, San Diego County
  • John Glenn Middle School of International Studies, Desert Sands Unified School District, Riverside County
  • Mistletoe Elementary School, Enterprise Elementary School District, Shasta County
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes Middle School, Los Angeles Unified School District, Los Angeles County
  • Pioneer Middle School, Tustin Unified School District, Orange County
  • Quail Lake Environmental Charter School, Sanger Unified School District, Fresno County
  • Reyburn Intermediary School, Clovis Unified School District, Fresno County
  • Sanger Academy, Sanger Unified School District, Fresno County
  • San Lorenzo Valley Middle School, San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District, Santa Cruz County
  • Scotts Valley Middle School, Scotts Valley Unified School District, Santa Cruz County
  • Sinaloa Middle School, Simi Valley Unified School District, Ventura County
  • Summit Intermediate School, Etiwanda School District, San Bernardino County
  • Thurston Middle School, Laguna Beach Unified School District, Orange County
  • Union Middle School, Union School District, Santa Clara County
  • Vanguard Preparatory School, Apple Valley Unified School District, San Bernardino County

STW™—TCS middle grades schools are high-performing model schools that demonstrate academic excellence, responsiveness to the needs of young adolescents, and social equity. These schools host visitors from California and around the world who are looking to learn practices they can use to improve their middle grades schools and close the achievement gap.

The STW™—TCS program is sponsored by the California League of Middle Schools (CLMS) External link opens in new window or tab. and the California Department of Education, in partnership with the California Middle Grades Alliance.

To earn this designation, schools must complete an extensive application that is reviewed by middle grades experts. In order to retain the designation, each school is re-evaluated every three years.

All of the schools will be recognized in Sacramento at the California Middle Grades Alliance annual luncheon February 25, 2016, and during the California League of Schools’ Annual Conference North, February 26–28, 2016.

For more information about the STW™—TCS program, please visit the CLMS High Performing Middle School Models External link opens in new window or tab.Web page.

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Tom Torlakson — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5206, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

Last Reviewed: Monday, February 8, 2016

EdTrust West: New Community-Based Data & Research Hub in San Bernardino County

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Ed Trust–West is excited to announce that we’re partnering with a number of civil rights, education, and social justice organizations to launch our first Community-Based Data & Research Hub in San Bernardino County. California’s move toward local control, the redesign of our state’s accountability system, and the implementation of the California State Standards provide a unique opportunity to help increase capacity of community stakeholders and support their current advocacy efforts through data, research, budget and policy analysis.

“In the age of local control, we must help communities make certain that local systems do what’s best for California’s Black, Brown, and poor students,” said Ed Trust–West Executive Director Ryan Smith. “We must commit more support and resources to those on the front lines – community-based organizations, parents, teachers, and students – to realize the true vision of equity for all students. The San Bernardino Hub serves as an important first step to achieve more meaningful and effective local decision making.”

To support existing efforts throughout the state, Ed Trust–West will first focus on San Bernardino County, collaborating with community-based organizations to create data and research tools that bolster existing advocacy efforts. This project would not be possible without our partners – a big thank you to Congregations Organized for Prophet Engagement (COPE), Inland Congregations United for Change (ICUC), ACLU of Southern California, Youth Action Project, Inc. (YAP), BLU Educational Foundation, San Bernardino Branch NAACP, LULAC of the Inland Empire, DELAC of San Bernardino City USD, San Bernardino City USD African American Advisory Council, and the Latino Education & Advocacy Days (LEAD) Organization

“We are thrilled to work with our partners and The Education Trust–West as they reinforce our community efforts for San Bernardino’s low-income students and students of color. This Hub will be a powerful tool in engaging decision makers and strengthening our work serving students and the broader community,” said Reverend J. Samuel Casey, Executive Director of COPE.

Last week, Ed Trust–West kicked off this collaboration by providing a Data Equity Walk and presentation on the state of educational equity in San Bernardino, hosted by the LEAD Program at CSU San Bernardino. Check out pictures here.

We are also excited to announce that Marcelino “Mars” Serna, an Inland Empire native, will serve as Ed Trust–West’s Southern California Regional Manager supporting this hub. Mr. Serna most recently served as the Coordinator of Family and Community Engagement for Fontana Unified School District. He has over 29 years’ experience working in the public sector. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration from California State University, San Bernardino and his Master’s Degree from University of Redlands in Management.

View full presentation here. 

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‘DREAM loan’ funds college for unauthorized immigrants

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Officials at California’s four-year public universities are reaching out to an estimated 10,000 undergraduate students who might qualify for a special loan aimed at reducing their tuition — a program that further distinguishes the state as a national trendsetter in providing services to unauthorized immigrants.

The California DREAM low-interest loans are designated for unauthorized immigrant students enrolled at University of California or California State University campuses. The program was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2014, but funding didn’t become available until now.

It’s the latest in a series of measures that the Democratic-controlled Legislature and Brown have approved in their push to help unauthorized immigrants integrate into mainstream society.

They have ushered through legislation that enables this population of Californians to obtain driver licenses, eliminates the word “alien” when describing unauthorized immigrants in the state labor code and expands access to health care for children of such parents.

Critics said these actions only spur more illegal immigration, hurt law-abiding taxpayers and reward individuals who should not be granted any privileges because they have violated this country’s rules.

The California DREAM loan program’s initial $7 million allotment — $5 million for the UC and $2 million for CSU — will be distributed to eligible applicants in the following weeks. The state provided half of the sum and the two university systems covered the other half. The loans are for the 2015-16 academic year, and they’re retroactive to last fall.

The UC system will divide the $5 million among its nine undergraduate campuses, with the amount for each school based on the number of qualified students there, UC spokeswoman Claire Doan said.

She estimates that UC San Diego has about 200 unauthorized immigrant students.

The Cal State system will take a similar approach with its campuses, which include San Diego State University and Cal State San Marcos. About 250 students at Cal State San Marcos are eligible for the loan, according to a spokeswoman for the school.

Each qualified student can borrow up to $4,000 for this academic year at an interest rate of 4.29 percent. Once they graduate, borrowers must begin repaying their loan after a six-month grace period.

Future funding is contingent on money being available from the state budget, according to school administrators.

Supporters of the loan program said it could erase significant financial barriers for unauthorized immigrant students, who cannot receive federal grants or federally subsidized loans.

“It helps alleviate the burden for undocumented students, many of whom are often forced to take quarters/semesters off or take on outside jobs to offset the cost of tuition,” Doan said.

State Sen. Ricardo Lara, creator of the California DREAM loan program through Senate Bill 1210, said: “I’m very proud of the fact that California has always led when it comes to providing much-needed resources for our undocumented student population — understanding that they are here, that this is their home and that many of them were brought here not out of their own volition.”

Lara, D-Bell Gardens, has helped advance immigration-related legislation for several years, including passage of Assembly Bill 540. That law allows non-resident college students who meet specific requirements, including unauthorized immigrants, to pay in-state tuition and fees instead of the far-higher expenses for out-of-state students.

Students who fall within the parameters of AB 540 are eligible for the California DREAM loan program.

Opponents of the program said it wrongfully rewards people who shouldn’t be in the United States in the first place.

Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform in Washington, D.C., said the program’s funding should instead be used to help law-abiding families in financial need.

“There are a lot of people in California who are struggling. Their kids want a good education. Even with the availability of federal loans, it doesn’t come close to meeting the needs of these many families,” he said.

Robin Hvidston, executive director of the Claremont-based group We the People Rising, said public money is being abused.

“These taxpayer-funded loans should be available to veterans who have served this nation. Why not aim this program to specifically help American foster care children? This is discrimination against U.S. citizens who are not able to partake in the program,” Hvidston said.

At least 18 states have policies that permit unauthorized immigrant students to pay in-state tuition rates, according to an October report by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Sixteen of those states, including California, have done so through legislation.

In addition, California is one of five states that allow such students to receive state grants for higher education, the legislatures group said.

It’s unclear whether any other state besides California has a higher-education loan program for unauthorized immigrants.

Zenén Jaimes Pérez, policy analyst for United We Dream, the country’s largest immigrant youth-led organization, said California has set a national precedent in establishing rights for unauthorized immigrants.

“When I travel to other states, a lot of folks are wondering, ‘How do we get to where California is?’” he said.

The movement supporting “DREAMers,” as youths living in the U.S. illegally are often called, took off more than a decade ago and has grown to become a focal point of the immigration debate.

They’re currently part of the spotlight on a case involving the U.S. Supreme Court, which is preparing to review an injunction blocking President Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration. That measure would provide a temporary waiver from deportation for up to 5 million unauthorized immigrants and expand a program that granted various rights to “DREAMers.”

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Article originally found in the San Diego Union-Tribune

GEAR UP Leadership Day in North State is a Hit

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(original article appears in the Red Bluff Daily News)

Corning, CA. Nearly 800 Tehama County eighth-graders were invited Thursday to join the third annual Leadership Day at the Rolling Hills Casino event center, with five local schools participating.

This seven-day college preparation workshop event, put on by the Tehama County Department of Education, California GEAR UP — Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs — Tehama County high schools and College Options, has continued to engage students with workshops to help guide them through the next four years and beyond.

The Rolling Hills Casino Foundation and Expect More Tehama were two groups that made the Leadership Day a possibility, said Karissa Morehouse, who is Education Talent Search director of Tehama County and with College Options

The schools that participated Thursday were Richfield School, Tehama eLearning Academy, Lincoln Street Independent School, Reeds Creek School and Vina School.

A few Mercy High School students participated as well by talking with the eighth-graders and sharing their own insights and experiences to help the students with the transition to high school, Morehouse said.

One workshop, the true colors personality assessment, had students choosing a particular card with a picture and a photograph that best suits their personality traits. The students were able to share what makes them unique and discuss that with a group of other students, Morehouse said.

Learning all the classes needed to prepare for college was another workshop that provide the students with a beaded key chain to remind the students of the core A-G classes needed.

Another workshop helped students identify what they are doing now to prepare for college with a bingo game.

The goal of the workshop was to show how the items on the bingo sheet can be attributes the students can continue to strengthen for the preparation of college.

One student said he gained a better understanding of what to expect in high school and how to prepare for college, his adulthood and his future careers. His favorite subject is math and he hopes to graduate high school near the top of his class.

At the end of Leadership Day the students got together and wrote their goals on a paper that was shaped in a thought bubble. The students will keep one with them to remind themselves of those goals and the other will be given to their teachers for them to understand the goals of their students, Morehouse said.

On the wall behind the workshop groups where quotes from celebrities showing how far you can go with positivity and urging that with the right resources you can be successful in anything you want.

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More Changes to FAFSA List

FAFSA list graphic

(from Inside Higher Ed)

States worry that a Department of Education plan to curtail their access to data from the federal student aid form will cause headaches for state aid awards.

The U.S. Department of Education is planning to further restrict how it shares information about students’ college preferences, but some state officials are concerned the changes will make it more difficult for them to award funds from state financial aid programs.

The department has already stopped providing colleges with the entire list of institutions that students express interest in attending when filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA. That new policy, which took effect Jan. 1, was a response to concerns that students may have been disadvantaged by colleges knowing the other colleges to which a student was also applying (and where those institutions ranked on the student’s list.)

State agencies that award financial aid, however, continue to have access to the full list of colleges a student provides on the FAFSA, including the ordering of those institutions. But the Education Department now plans to change that, a department official confirmed in an email to Inside Higher Ed.

Starting on the FAFSA for the 2017-18 academic year, the department will stop providing state agencies with the order in which students list colleges, the official said. States will continue to receive the full list of colleges that students share on the application, but the Education Department will first randomize the ordering of the institutions.

State officials have found that students are most likely to attend the college they list first on the FAFSA. Many state agencies use that information to plan how much state financial aid money they expect to dole out. And others use the information to start packaging state financial aid awards.

The Education Department has previously acknowledged that states use the FAFSA lists for such purposes. The current FAFSA, for instance, warns students that “the order in which you list schools may affect your eligibility for state aid.”

Without access to the list of colleges students provide on the FAFSA, in the order listed by the student, state officials say they will be left in the dark about which students are planning to enroll at colleges for which they may be eligible for state aid.

The National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs sent a letter to the Obama administration last year urging officials to reconsider their plans.

“No longer providing states with the schools listed, or no longer providing the schools in the order listed by the student, is anticipated to have costly and confusing impacts to both states and students,” the group wrote (italics from the original).

In Pennsylvania, for instance, about 80 percent of state grant recipients attend their first-listed institution on the FAFSA, according to Keith New, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, known as PHEAA, which administers the program. For those students, PHEAA automatically calculates their state award — which ranges between roughly $100 and $4,000 — after receiving the information from the FAFSA.

New said if the Education Department curtails PHEAA’s access to students’ FAFSA list information, the agency would have to reach out to about 130,000 state college or university applicants rather than automatically calculating their awards.

“The burden will be placed on the students to provide the name of their school to us a second time. It’s certainly going to be a big communications issue and it would add complexity,” Keith said. “The potential is significant for students, especially those who may already be at risk, to fall through the cracks.”

Similarly, Tennessee officials said the department’s plan to randomize the FAFSA list would complicate how they dole out state awards, including the popular Tennessee Promise program, which allows students to attend community college without paying tuition.

Tim Phelps, associate executive director of the Tennessee Student Assistance Commission, said the state typically packages an award to the first institution that is eligible for state aid that a student provides on his or her FAFSA list.

Without access to the complete FAFSA list information, he said, the commission would have to wait until students directly provide them with the name of the colleges for which they are seeking state aid.

“It’s adding another barrier that students would have to cross, in order to continue to be eligible or to become eligible,” Phelps said of the department’s plan.

The department’s initial move to curtail colleges’ access to the FAFSA list was announced last August after concerns that some colleges were using the lists of colleges students provide on the FAFSA in ways that could harm students’ admissions or financial aid prospects.

“We had learned, from a number of places, that some schools — not most but more than we would like — use those data for purposes totally inappropriate, and in some cases, unlawful,” Jeff Baker, a department official, said at a federal financial aid conference last month. Inside Higher Ed reported in 2013 that some colleges were denying admission and possibly reducing financial aid to students based on the FAFSA information the department was sharing with colleges.

But state officials contend that their use of the FAFSA college list, by contrast, benefits students by streamlining the process for students to apply for state-based loans and grants.

“It tries to solve a problem that doesn’t exist,” said Phelps of the Tennessee aid agency. “It really muddies the water for our programs.”

The FAFSA for the 2017-18 school year, for which these changes would take effect, will be published and available starting this Oct. 1 under the Obama administration’s new, earlier timeline for federal financial aid.