By Rafael Collazo, Director of Political Campaigns, NCLR
The seminal Puerto Rican salsa band El Gran Combo sang it best: there is nothing quite like “Un Verano En Nueva York.”Even a hardscrabble Philly guy like me has to admit that a unique energy permeates the Manhattan streets during the summer.
So it was with great pleasure that I visited Spanish Harlem in New York City to document the opinions of leaders who are on the frontlines of preparing our young people for higher education and the future job market.
The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) is heavily engaged in the ongoing national debate on the benefits of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). For many that are still unclear about what the Common Core are, skepticism is spreading amongst parents and some educators due to a lack of information, and even misinformation. They wonder if the CCSS are another fad that is steering national public education off course and disrupting the progress of Latino and minority students.
While NCLR understands these concerns and is working to advocate for improved implementation, NCLR firmly believes that Latino students can only achieve education equity when all schools and school districts are held to the same standards of achievement, instruction, and assessment that the CCSS demand. In fact, NCLR has already discovered Latino educators committed to the Common Core State Standards for the benefit of students.
Amber Charter School, an NCLR Affiliate, is a K–5 school located in the heart of “El Barrio” in New York City. Since 2011, Principal Dr. Vashti Acosta has been preparing to align her school with the new rigorous standards of achievement that are now in 43 states and the District of Columbia. With careful planning from administrators, teachers, and parents, Amber Charter School is a model of how Latino and minority children can Step Up and Step In to higher achievement.
When NCLR spoke to Dr. Acosta about our New York Campaign to make Latinos more aware of what the CCSS entail and how they will benefit Latino youth, Dr. Acosta immediately recommended that we connect with students and teachers to hear their stories of how the CCSS have impacted their school year.
So NCLR staff paid a visit to Amber Charter School to tape video interviews (watch below) with Dr. Acosta, her teachers, and her kids to hear about their year with the CCSS. From the moment we started filming, it was clear how integral these standards have been in helping the entire school “Step Up.” Seasoned educators raved about how these standards accelerated learning, thinking, and communication for all students. The students themselves said it best: “My favorite word this year was ‘whimsical,’” said Nina, a fourth grader at Amber. Another student, Anthony, stated how what he is learning will help him “mature into the adult” he wants to be.
The buzz in Spanish Harlem a few days before the National Puerto Rican Day Parade made our visit even more inspiring. NCLR staff also interviewed Latino immigrant parents at the Annual English Language Learner Parent Conference held at the nearby Museo Del Barrio. The parents, primarily Mexican, shared the importance of education for their children and all Latinos, with the backdrop of some amazing artwork by top Latino artists from all over the world.
Commitment, inspiration, creativity, hope, warmth… all words I can use to describe our time in New York. After all these years, Un Verano En Nueva York is still something special.