The Education Innovator #32
Volume III
Archived Information

The Education Innovator
 September 7, 2005 • Number 32
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What's inside...
The Puente Project, California
What's New
USED releases fact sheet and website to help with Hurricane Katrina relief; " Chicago Public Schools to pilot SES flexibility; new service from the U.S. Department of Education allows teachers to "Ask the Secretary;" Secretary Spellings introduces Tool Kit for Hispanic Parents; NCES releases report on trends in the education of American Indians and Alaska Natives; USED releases new non-regulatory guidance on Title IX, Part E, Subpart 1of No Child Left Behind; Constitution Day resources available online; History Channel offers resources for Hispanic Heritage month; Chris Whittle, CEO of Edison Schools, Inc., publishes new book; and CDW Government, Inc. publishes Teachers Talk Tech survey.
Innovations in the News
Two Temecula Valley (AZ) charter schools find a new home; plus information about closing the achievement gap, raising student achievement, school reform, and technology.

Puente Project Bridges High School and College for Educationally Disadvantaged Students
Visit the San Francisco Bay Area, and you will find a city once known as the "Heart of the Garden of Eden." With its temperate climate and fertile soil, Hayward, California earned this nickname in the early part of the 20th century because everything from produce to livestock grew in abundance. Within the last decade, 146,027 people from numerous cultures have settled in the city, an area that has burgeoned into one of the most ethnically diverse parts of the country, with over one-third of its residents Latino.

Wanting Hayward to live up to its Edenic reputation and better serve Latino youths, two faculty members at Chabot Community College built a support system aimed at keeping Latino students in school. Felix Galaviz and Patricia McGrath developed their intervention program in 1981 and named it "Puente," which means "bridge" in Spanish. In the early 1980s, Mr. Galaviz and Ms. McGrath recognized that the number of Latino students in California who dropped out of school exceeded the number of those who graduated. They believed their intervention program could help close that gap at the college level. When a pilot of the program at Chabot Community College showed an increase in student achievement and retention rates, the founders refocused their mission to prepare community college students to transfer to four-year institutions. In 1993, success with this approach inspired an adaptation of the program for the high school level. Today, Puente is active in 33 high schools and 59 colleges across California.

For both its high school and college programs, the Puente goal is the same: to increase the number of educationally disadvantaged students who apply to and attend four-year colleges, earn bachelor's degrees, and ultimately return to their communities as leaders and role models. Although Latino students still make up the majority of participants, the project is open to students from all ethnic backgrounds. To enroll, students must fill out an application and interview with Puente faculty members. Students are selected based on whether faculty members believe that the students will benefit from the program.

The Puente Project serves the needs of the "whole student" by using instructional techniques and materials that are sensitive to Latino culture in three areas: writing instruction, counseling, and mentoring. The entire Puente Project is based on the idea that educationally disadvantaged students will flourish if they are taught strong writing and communication skills in a supportive environment that validates their culture.

At the high school level, Puente is fully integrated into the existing district-mandated core curriculum at each participating site. The basis of Puente's academic component is a standards-based writing program, modeled after the Bay Area Writing Project, a collaboration of the University of California Berkeley and Bay Area schools. Puente's writing component begins when students enter high school and continues through the tenth grade with the same Puente English teacher, who is specially trained in rigorous developmental writing strategies and Puente's writing portfolio assessment cycle. Students begin writing from personal experience, connecting the world of school to the world of family, culture, and community. Over time, as the students develop fluency and confidence, their writing repertoire builds to include academic, analytical writing. Students also read and respond to a broad range of culturally relevant literature, including poetry, essays, novels, and other nonfiction. The reading and writing skills that students develop in their Puente English classes are also designed to help them perform better in other subjects.

Guidance counselors participate in the project and make frequent visits to classrooms. By observing and even engaging in lessons, counselors can ascertain students' interests and how they learn best. Counselors use this information during one-on-one meetings with students, where individualized learning plans are developed and maintained. These learning plans are used to ensure that each Puente student is taking challenging high school courses that will put him or her on track to attend college.

Once students enter the eleventh and twelfth grades and pass the Puente writing component, the counselor's role in the Puente Project is intensified. During one-on-one sessions, counselors provide students with more in-depth information concerning SATs, the college application process, and financial aid. Counselors organize field trips to local college campuses and coordinate information sessions at University of California sites. Throughout the school year, counselors also conduct workshops for parents of Puente students, where they provide specific information about college, and how parents can best support and monitor their children's current academic performance.

Puente's founders and Mary K. Healy, PhD, from the University of California at Berkeley, developed the project's writing curriculum and counseling program, as well as its faculty-training component. Each year, new teachers and guidance counselors from participating high schools attend a weeklong residential training institute at one of the University of California (UC) campuses. During this session, teams of teachers and counselors practice intervention strategies to help students from under-performing schools and from families with little or no college experience. Teachers learn how to link reading materials to the local community and to their students' personal and cultural experiences. They also practice techniques to differentiate their lesson plans, as Puente students enter the program at varying levels of academic proficiency. Counselors gather information about the UC system and educational resources in order to provide students with a wealth of information about their options for higher education. They also learn effective methods of reaching out to parents, who must sign a contract to support their child's goal of college preparation. After the training institute, teachers and counselors return to their schools to pass on what they have learned to other faculty members.

In addition to the teaching and counseling components, the high school program incorporates a mentoring component, designed to introduce students to professionals from the local community who can serve as models for students as they navigate their way toward higher education. Through collaborations with local businesses, universities, and with Puente alumni, students are inspired by the stories and lessons of those who have gone before them. The mentoring component is explicitly linked to both classroom and counseling goals and activities.

Frank Garcia, Executive Director of the Puente Project, notes, "The Puente high school program creates a wrap-around effect for students. Teachers, counselors, mentors, and parents reinforce the message that the students can get a college degree. Eventually the students move from asking each other, 'Will you go to college?' to 'Where are you going to college?'"

"Puente Clubs" at each high school develop students' leadership skills by promoting community service projects and cultural and social events. Students conduct fund-raising activities for community causes and attend school board meetings where they make presentations and discuss issues of concern. Each year, for example, Puente Club members at some sites organize a Christmas Posada. The entire school is invited to celebrate and cultivate a sense of familia, share a meal, and listen to speakers such as members of the city council and local school board and college professors.

Since their inception, Puente high school and college programs have directly served over 43,000 students. According to a 2001 study from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Puente students went on to attend four-year colleges and universities at nearly twice the rate (43 percent versus 24 percent) as matched control students who did not participate in Puente. Another report, published in Educational Policy in 2002, showed that by the twelfth grade, 82 percent of Puente students surveyed felt that they understood what they needed to do to prepare for college, while fewer than two-thirds of non-Puente students felt equally educated.

In 1998, the Puente Project was one of ten programs selected from a national pool of over 1,400 to win the Innovations in American Government Award, a project of the Ford Foundation, Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, and the Council for Excellence in Government. California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office and the University of California sponsor the Puente Project.

The Puente Project grew out of the Bay Area Writing Project of the National Writing Project, which currently receives a directed grant administered by the Office of Innovation and Improvement.

Resources: Note: The featured program is innovative and has a history of results; however, it does not yet have evidence of effectiveness from a rigorous evaluation.


What's New
From the U.S. Department of Education

The U.S. Department of Education has announced that the needs of students affected by Hurricane Katrina will be met and has launched a "Hurricane Help for Schools" website to serve as a nationwide clearinghouse of information. The Department will work with states and communities to welcome children and enroll them in schools as quickly as possible; the education process will be stabilized for all students; and parents will be offered guidance and support. The Department is also looking at ways to redirect existing funds toward relief efforts. Other ways of helping include: affected student loan borrowers may delay payments; deadlines for higher education programs have been extended; and on a case-specific basis, the Department will relax certain reporting provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) for affected states. (Sept. 2)

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced flexibility for Chicago Public Schools under NCLB supplemental educational services (SES) provisions. The Chicago Public School District will be part of a series of free tutoring pilots to be tested during the 2005-06 school year. These pilots will ensure more eligible students receive SES and that there is better information on the effectiveness of SES programs. (Sept. 1)

A new feature on the U.S. Department of Education webpage will allow teachers to learn about professional development, state academic standards, best practices, and success stories under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The link, Teachers Ask the Secretary, will also provide a forum for teachers to list their questions and concerns. This new feature is one of many interactive tools for teachers, including online eLearning courses, a searchable online database, and electronic Teacher Uppdates. (Aug. 24)

Secretary Spellings released a new tool kit for Hispanic families at Chaparral School in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In her remarks, the Secretary said, "Education is a value that we hold close to our hearts... It's the key to the American dream... That's why we created this tool kit. It gives families the information they need to help their children get ahead in school and in life." (Aug. 31)

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has released a report entitled Status and Trends in the Education of American Indians and Alaska Natives. The report illustrates the educational performance of American Indians and Alaska Natives, who make up 1 percent of the U.S. population. The report shows that more American Indian/Alaska Native high school students enrolled in Advanced Placement classes in 2003 than in any previous year. There has also been a 50 percent increase in the number of these students enrolled in degree-granting institutions over the course of the last 25 years. (Aug. 25)

The U.S. Department of Education has released new NCLB non-regulatory guidance on Title IX, Part E, Subpart 1-Private Schools: Equitable Services to Eligible Private School Students, Teachers, and Other Educational Personnel download files PDF, (618K). The guidance will assist LEAs and SEAs in fulfilling their obligations to provide equitable services to eligible private school students and teachers under such programs as Reading First, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, and the Enhancing Education through Technology Program, among others. (Aug. 29)

Constitution Day

September 17 is Constitution Day. To help schools and teachers educate students about the U.S. Constitution, resources are available from the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and Federal Resources for Educational Excellence (FREE). (Sept. 7)

Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15 marks the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month. The History Channel offers programming, teaching materials, and resources for illuminating Hispanic culture on its website. (Sept. 2)

School Reform

A penchant for research-based school design led Chris Whittle to found Edison Schools, Inc. This same interest has spawned a new book. InCrash Course: Imagining a Better Future for Public Education, Mr. Whittle urges the nation to invest in education research and to never "lose sight of the children in our schools who are not yet learning." (Aug. 23)


Results are in from a survey conducted by CDW Government, Inc. (CDW-G), a technology advisor and provider to educational institutions and federal, state, and local government agencies. The 2005 Teachers Talk Tech survey revealed that teachers at every level from kindergarten through twelfth grade increased their use of technology during the last year. Eighty-six percent of teachers surveyed relied on computers for administrative functions such as taking attendance; emailing colleagues, students, and parents; and posting class information on intranet systems. A smaller number (54 percent) integrated computers into daily lesson plans, although 70 percent reported that computers are a "somewhat important" or "very important" driver of student achievement. (Aug. 29)


Innovations in the News

Charter Schools
This fall, "homecoming" has a special meaning for two Temecula Valley charter schools. After moving its facilities seven times in 11 years, Temecula Valley Charter School has a permanent home along with Temecula Preparatory School, which has moved four times in five years. The schools had been shuttled around the district to make way for student growth, but now each school has a campus that consists of separate classrooms in portable structures. Within the year, construction will begin on permanent, multipurpose rooms. Temecula Valley serves 275 students in kindergarten through eighth grade and mixes a traditional curriculum with a focus on Spanish and the arts. Temecula Preparatory School serves 430 students in kindergarten through twelfth grade with a focus on phonics, classical literature, art, and French and Latin studies. [More-North County Times] (Aug. 30)

Closing the Achievement Gap
Nine states will share funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in order to develop programming that will motivate high school students to attend college or receive some form of postsecondary education. The Southern Governors' Association plans to partner with the Southern Regional Education Board to help the states that are selected for the grant money create public education and media campaigns to encourage high school students to pursue college. [More-The Atlanta Journal-Constitution] (Aug 31)

Raising Student Achievement
Think "state fair," and prize-winning pigs, cotton candy, and carnival rides may come to mind. How about state education test scores? The Minnesota State Fair was the venue Governor Tim Pawlenty chose to reveal some celebratory news concerning the results of the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments from last spring, and a shorter list of schools not meeting Adequate Yearly Progress goals. Across all grade levels, students improved scores in math and reading. Seventy-nine percent of students scored proficient on the reading section of the exam, up from 73 percent last year. In math, 76 percent scored proficient, up from 70 percent. Overall, 247 schools did not meet AYP performance criteria, down from 464 schools last year. [More-The Star Tribune] (Aug. 30)

School Reform
The new Secondary Support Services Unit at the Massachusetts State Department of Education has high school reform as its goal. At the helm is Stafford Peat, whose charge is to institute a more rigorous curriculum across all subjects, create a K-16 system with stronger relationships between the public schools and institutions of higher learning, and put an end to the achievement gap. Over the next two years, Mr. Peat and his team will oversee the development of a "Curriculum for College and Work Readiness" and will compare the state's core curriculum frameworks to college-level proficiency exams. [More-The Boston Globe] (Aug. 29)

"No more pencils! No more books!" Students at Arizona's newly opened Empire High School may be singing a similar song as they celebrate much lighter backpacks and participate in an innovative experiment in secondary education. Each of the 340 students received iBooks, laptop computers from Apple Computer, Inc., at the start of school in late July. Students get reading materials over the school's wireless network, which includes a built-in filtering system to control activities that distract from learning such as chat room visits and instant messaging. Students turn in assignments using the Internet and file work in virtual folders. Teachers craft lessons using free web resources as well as materials from traditional textbooks that have been digitally formatted. [More-eSchool News] (Aug. 29) [free registration]


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Last Modified: 08/13/2009