What is Working:
Latinos in New York City High Schools
Haiwen Chu, Suzanne Dikker, Heather Homonoff Woodley
Ph.D program in Urban Education, The Graduate Center, CUNY
Research Institute for the Study of Languages in Urban Societies
New York City Department of Education
Immigration and Education Conference
City College of New York, CUNY
March 19, 2011
Research Questions
How are New York Latino students with different
characteristics being educated in public schools?
What are the practices, structures, and stories within high
schools that are successful in educating Latino students?
The research team: Dr. Ofelia García , Haiwen Chu, Nelson Flores,
Suzanne Dikker, Laura Kaplan, Heather Homonoff Woodley
Sampled High Schools
2009 CEP,
2005-8 School
Report Cards
Data Sources
For each of the eight schools:
Two days of observations following a student’s schedule
 Advanced or proficient English speaking Latino student
 Beginner Latino ELL/emergent bilingual
Interviews were conducted with the following staff:
 Principal or Assistant Principal
 Teacher selected as successful with Latino students by
 Guidance counselor or social worker
Informal interviews with students
Teacher, student, and school artifacts
Major Findings
Bilingualism in Education
Collaborative Structures
Dynamic Assessment Practices
Culture of Caring
Support Services
Cultural Relevance
Bilingualism in Education
Student: “Maestra, se puede recoger en Spanglish?
Teacher: “Yes, so long as I understand your
Translanguaging in the classroom:
A process of the student and/or teacher using
bilingual/multiple discursive practices as “sense-making”
of learning or teaching in multilingual classrooms (García,
Bilingualism in Education
Translanguaging in the classroom
Between individuals: Student to student, student to
teacher, teacher to student
Across modalities: Reading, writing, speaking,
Teacher to students:
“The same thing goes for composicion, okay? Lo mismo va para
“Despues tenemos los […] arena, limo, arcilla. In English that would be
sand, silt, and clay”
T: “Ok, are we good?”
S: “Yes”
T: “Todos lo entienden entonces. Tienen que aprender esos nombres”
“Debes contestar estas nueve preguntas. You must answer all 9 questions”
Teacher to students:
 At
several schools, teachers use both Spanish
and English on hand-outs, posters, blackboard,
powerpoint presentations
Teacher-produced handout
for an ELA class.
English in bold
Spanish translations
Elaborations in Spanish
Spanish cognates
Student to teacher:
Student: “Maestra, se puede recoger en Spanglish?
Teacher: “Yes, so long as I understand your answer”
Worksheet in a
Living Environment
Building content
Reading. Class text in English, with
Spanish dictionaries for support
Discussing. Class lecture and discussion
in English with some Spanish translation
or elaboration
Writing: Headings in English (Effects,
People, Causes, Reforms)
Content detail in Spanish
Presenting: Groups report out to class in
English with some Spanish translation
Mapping: Use of semantic maps/webs
throughout ELA, science, and social
Explicit use of both
poster in an ELA
Instrumental use of both
Bilingual Algebra class (instruction mainly in Spanish):
S: “Yo hice: cinco times one which is five. Then cinco times two…”
S: “Equis minus three igual que three”
T: “You need to pick one”
S1 > S2: “Asi que tenemos que coger uno y escribirlo asi”
S1 > S2: [speaking Spanish]
T: “S, what are you doing?”
S: “I’m HELPING him!” [continues explaining in Spanish]
“Ay, Antony, por favor, have a seat now!”
“Everybody sit down! X, Estate quieto, bien?!”
S: “Maestro, puedo ir despues de ella?”
T: “No”
S: “Please?”
“No, tu no vas a salir. Tu te vas a sentar. Thank you.”
“Pick up the pace…”
“Seis, cinco, cuatro, tres, dos, uno.”
“all captains in front”
“uno, cuatro”
“sit down”
“Muévete, muévete, no te quedes así!”
“Argentina, tienes que levantar los brazos.”
“Tiene que pasar la bola también. Levanta la mano.
Alguien está libre, pasa la bola.”
“She’s fine, vamos, vamos, vamos.”
Culturally Relevant
Culturally Relevant Teaching (Ladson-Billings, 1995)
Academic achievement
Cultural competence
Critical consciousness
Dominant and critical axes (Gutiérrez, 2007)
Dominant axis: access and achievement
Critical access: identity and power
Curriculum as serving as “windows and mirrors”
Language as Cultural
“Students culture is their language, and language is their
culture so much. How can you ignore that in teaching?”
(Mr. Matos, math teacher)
“I had this one teacher who screams ‘No
Spanish!”…it’s like she’s saying ‘You’re culture is dumb,
don’t bring it here.’” (Leonela, 10th grade student)
“I tell them to tap into your language....your own
language is a very useful skill.” (Mr. Chavez, history
“Mirrors and Windows”
on Global History
Window: medieval European
history and symbolism in a
Coat of Arms
Mirror: create a Coat of Arms
for whatever country you
consider “home”
Culturally Relevant Pedagogy in the
Content Areas
When the conversation changed to the Greek tragedy of Oedipus Rex, the
teacher enhanced student understanding of both themes and plot by
connecting the drama, relationships, and authors’ purposes to telenovelas
Down these Mean Streets (Piri Thomas), When I Was Puerto Rican
(Esmerelda Santiago), and Bodega Dreams (Ernesto Quiñonez).
To illustrate the concept of exchange rate, for example, a teacher asks a
question with a reference to the Dominican Republic ,“Digamos que la
línea representa una tasa de cambio. ¿Cuántos pesos le dan en
Dominicana ahora por un dólar?” [Let’s say that the line represents an
exchange rate. How many pesos do they give you for a dollar in the
Dominican Republic?]
From a Class Reader’s Guide to
When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda
Cultural Competence on a
School-Wide Level
Celebrations of heritage, national independence days, and strong use
of school physical space for displays of student culture (class doors,
flags, bulletin boards, school-wide events, murals)
Teachers address issues that students face in their own lives when
considering content choice (discrimination, domestic violence,
immigration experienced by characters in fiction) and integrate it
naturally into class curriculum
Partnerships for supplementary services with: Ballet Hispanico, AfroCaribbean dance troupes, Alianza Domincana, Puerto Rican Family
Institute, and Centro de Desarollo de la Mujer Dominicana
Implications for Schools
and Next Steps
Expanded professional development
 Alternative (multilingual, multimodal) assessments
 Recruitment and retention of multilingual staff
 Flexibility within the frame of Language Allocation Policy
 Spaces for student agency
 Multilingual resources and materials
 Strategies for teachers who do, and do not, speak students’
home languages
 Creating multilingual spaces for non-dominant language
García, O. (2009). Bilingual Education in the 21st Century: A Global Perspective.
Malden, MA and Oxford: Basil/Blackwell
Gutiérrez, R. (2007). Context matters: Equity, success, and the future of
mathematics education. In T. Lamberg& L. R. Wiest (Eds.), Proceedings of the 29th
annual meeting of the North American Chapter of the International Group for the
Psychology of Mathematics Education. Reno: University of Nevada.
Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). Toward a theory of culturally relevant pedagogy.
American Educational Research Journal, 32(3), 465-491.
Haiwen Chu achu@gc.cuny.edu
Suzanne Dikker suzanne.dikker@nyu.edu
Heather Homonoff Woodley hwoodley@gc.cuny.edu
Ph.D program in Urban Education, The Graduate Center, CUNY
Research Institute for the Study of Languages in Urban Societies
New York City Department of Education

Teacher to students