Tag Archives: undocumented students

What Happened in Your State This December?

capitol buildingThis past month, ten policy analysts published reports about what occurred in California, Connecticut, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, and Virginia.

Higher Education

In New Mexico Colleges and Universities Consider Sanctuary Status for Undocumented Students, Erin O’Neill explored the various positions taken by institutions of higher learning in New Mexico toward their immigrant students.

Dan Melzer shared the CWPA (Council of Writing Program Administrators) Statement on Supporting a Diverse and Inclusive Environment to affirm CWPA’s commitment to diverse students.

Dan also discussed a report linking Developmental Writing and Food and Housing Insecurity in California college students, noting that “socioeconomic disadvantages play a central role in which student populations are tracked into remediation in college writing.”

In Low-Income Students at CT Public Universities and Community Colleges: Some Context, Stephen Ferruci noted similar concerns, stating “Income is a stark indicator of enrollment in and graduation from any post-secondary institution.”

Jalissa Bates reported that Louisiana public scholarship slashes half of its funding for college students.


Daniel Yowell lists questions by elected leadership in Michigan over Senate attempts to push pension reform through lame duck session.

According to Robin Holland, Ohio’s New Graduation Requirements have raised concerns among state superintendents due to the high percentage of students not on track to meet them.

Darlene Dyer reported that in Idaho, a Teacher Evaluation State Review Holds Incomplete, Illegal Data and that corrective action would be taken.

Leila Christenbury published the VATE Response to Virginia Board of Education regarding a proposed amendment relating to “sexually explicit” instructional materials.

Emily Zuccaro discusses the possibility of Charter Schools in Kentucky, “one of seven states that currently do not have any charter schools.”

Ezra Hyland shares Two more grants for Minnesota teachers, one for charter schools and the other a Teachers and Technology grant for PreK-12 private or public schools.

When Learning gets Personal, Part 3: Students Save a Classmate

This post is written by Bryan Christopher, NCTE’s P12 Policy Analyst from North Carolina. It is the third part of a series about Wildin Acosta, an undocumented student. You can read the first part here and the second part here

In Part 2, the students requested and obtained funding to travel from North Carolina to Washington, DC to meet with federal representatives. 

Photo by Julie Farkas

The students briefed Congress on the harmful effects of ICE raids targeting children in their school and community, answered questions in both English and Spanish for print, TV, and radio media, and participated in a roundtable discussion with the Department of Homeland Security, Secretary King, and the Department of Education.

They told policymakers Wildin was a good student, that he stayed out of trouble and was involved in clubs and sports. Secretary King asked them questions about his educational opportunities at Stewart Detention Center (Stewart). My colleague showed him the package of homework assignments Riverside teachers mailed to Wildin, which was rejected and returned to sender.

“It’s jail,” one of my students said. “He’s not learning anything.”

The trip created more media coverage, so my students were disappointed that something more didn’t come from it. At graduation students again donned white wristbands in a show of solidarity. The student body president and salutatorian both mentioned Wildin in their speeches and called for equal opportunities for all students.

I told them that, while it feels like they failed because Wildin wasn’t with them, someday they’ll realize what they’d accomplished.

“You picked a fight with the government, and you didn’t lose,” I said. “How many people can say that?”

But my consolation was little help as they learned that, while they received their diplomas, Wildin was in solitary confinement.

Following Wildin’s 10-day stint in solitary, a student wrote an open letter to Jeh Johnson. News outlets reported more ICE raids, and the New York Times mentioned Wildin again in articles on June 24 and July 4.

Then, on July 19, the BIA reopened Wildin’s case, giving him a chance to argue for more permanent asylum in federal court. Advocates barraged Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorcas’s office with phone calls requesting Wildin’s immediate release. Calls were “noted,” but he remained at Stewart.

Three weeks later a judge scheduled his bond hearing for August 9. Within hours of the announcement dozens of Durham teachers, students, and community advocates made plans to attend. The hearing was quickly cancelled and officials instead agreed to release Wildin on $10,000 bond. The money was raised in less than 48 hours.

More than six months after his arrest, Wildin finally returned to Durham on August 12. After two weeks of recuperation, he held a press conference.

Photo by senior Ray Starn

He spoke to reporters for more than an hour about his experience, beginning with his life in Honduras. He described the death threats he received from gangs that prompted him to leave, the officers he bribed at the Guatemalan and Mexican borders, getting stopped at the US border and spending several days in the “ICE Box” before joining his parents in North Carolina.

He talked about his time at Stewart, the other teens he watched come and go, and the dark days he spent in “that place” while his classmates walked in June.

He said his darkest moment came one day in July, when he asked an officer when he’d be free.

“Kid, I’ve seen your record,” the officer said. “I don’t know why you’re here.”

Photo by senior Ray Starn

He recounted the phone call he received when his family had raised his bond money. He jumped for joy in celebration and told the advocates in the audience that, if they ever needed anything, to please call him.

He vowed to fight for the North Carolina teens who remained at Stewart and refused to rest until they, too, are released.

“If I can be a voice for my community,” he said, “I will.”

When the press conference ended I met Wildin for the first time. He posed for photos with my students, some of whom had also never met him.

Photo by senior Ray Starn

Wildin returned to Riverside High School on August 29. He’ll earn his final three credits this fall and will graduate in December.

I wrote last May about knowing when to let my students lead. The first three months of the #FreeWildin campaign taught me how to recognize when it’s best to stay out of their way. My students did so much, so fast, that it was clear they didn’t need my help.

But when their advocacy efforts began to stall, I felt their frustration, shared their disappointment, and wanted to help. The last three months showed me how, when their leadership stalled, to serve them once again.

To get Wildin back, they needed to lead and I needed to follow. Together we restored his opportunity to graduate, and my community, school, and teaching will never be the same.

Bryan Christopher teaches English and Journalism at Riverside High School in Durham, NC. He’s also an NCTE Policy Analyst and Hope Street Teacher Voice Fellow. Email or Follow him @bryanchristo4. 

When Learning gets Personal, Part 2: Amplifying Student Voice

This post is written by Bryan Christopher, NCTE’s P12 Policy Analyst from North Carolina. It is the second part of a series about Wildin Acosta, an undocumented student. You can read the first part here

By Emilee Bachman

On January 28, Wildin Acosta, an undocumented high school senior in Durham, NC, was arrested on his way to school. On August 29, he returned to school again, thanks to the advocacy efforts of his teachers, community, and, most of all, classmates.

In part one I wrote about the demonstrations, articles, conversations with lawmakers, and social media campaigns my student-advocates organized to halt Wildin’s deportation. But shortly after, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Sarah Saldaña denied US Congressman G. K. Butterfield’s request for Wildin’s release from Stewart Detention Center until the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) reached a decision on his case. It effectively ended his opportunity to finish the final semester of his senior year and graduate, and my students’ momentum slowed considerably.

With an unrelated trip to Washington, DC, on my own schedule, I offered to advocate on their behalf during a few spare hours near the White House. They made a few calls, sent several emails, and handed me a stack of papers, delivery route, and list of instructions a few hours later.

Photo by senior Anna James

I landed in Washington the next morning, caught the train to Butterfield’s office, and met with Kyle Parker, one of his assistants. I handed him a few copies of The Pirates’ Hook, our school newspaper, with a photo of Butterfield’s visit on the cover. As Parker paged through the issue he noticed several articles written in both English and Spanish. It opened up a wider conversation about how much Durham has changed in the past 15 years and what makes it unique from other communities in North Carolina.

He didn’t have much to offer about Wildin, other than Butterfield’s slow-moving plans to visit Stewart. But he did say that, during the six years he’d spent working in Washington, he’d never seen anything like this before.

“Let’s be clear,” he said. “If it wasn’t for those kids at Riverside, Wildin would already be back in Honduras. There’s no doubt in my mind.”

“Americans see our government as this big, lumbering machine,” he went on. “It’s slow moving but steady by design. These kids, what they’ve done . . . it stopped the machine, if only for a minute.”

“They don’t know that yet,” I said. “Someday they’ll realize the magnitude of what they’ve done, but right now they just want Wildin to graduate.”

Photo by senior Anna James

From Butterfield’s office I walked to a nearby cafe to meet Julie Mao, a deportation defense attorney with the National Lawyers Guild and member of Wildin’s legal team. She was star-struck to see so many student-advocates on the newspaper cover with Butterfield.

“We should bring them up here,” she said. “Let the press know. Get Butterfield to help.”

“It would be a great opportunity,” I said, “but funding could be an issue, and exams begin soon.”

She said she’d look for funding and let me know. In the meantime, she asked that, during my visit to the White House for President Obama’s Teacher Appreciation assembly, I hand lawmakers a folder filled with letters, a New York Times editorial about Wildin, and the April issue of The Pirates’ Hook.

“If you meet President Obama,” she said. “You can put this on his radar.”

We finished our coffee and she helped me hail a cab to the White House. After moving through seven security checkpoints, I walked past the president’s home movie theater toward the East Wing of the White House. I checked my coat and, watching the other teachers head empty-handed toward the reception, left my bag and Julie’s folder, too.

As it turned out, I couldn’t have made the hand-off, anyway. President Obama spoke to a small group of us for almost an hour, but only the front rows got handshakes. I missed him by fifteen feet.

After the assembly we were allowed to explore the East Wing. I grabbed a drink, meandered through the Green Room and bumped into Secretary of Education John King. He was taking a selfie with another teacher, and I was next in line.

King had met another Riverside teacher the week before during one of his “Tea with Teachers” events. After posing for my photo I thanked him for taking the time to speak with my colleague and listen to Wildin’s story.

US Secretary of Education John King and Bryan Christopher

King told me that he appreciates the work my school and students are doing to advocate for Wildin’s return. He said he’s reached out to Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, but immigration policy is complicated and his hands are tied when it comes to making exceptions for individual students.

It was a more personal answer than I’d expected, but not good enough for my students.

“I understand, Secretary King,” I said. “But if you’d like another perspective, I have some students who would love to discuss it with you.”

He paused.

“You know,” he said, “we do invite students to share their perspectives on policy, and it would be an appropriate setting for their stories. Get in touch with the Department of Ed and see if we can set it up.”

I thanked him, finished my tour of the East Wing, and caught a flight home that night. Before falling asleep I emailed Julie, apologized for not delivering the folder, and asked her to check about that funding.

The next day at school I asked my students if they’d be interested in visiting DC, contacted the Department of Ed, and discussed fundraising options.

To be continued…

Bryan Christopher teaches English and Journalism at Riverside High School in Durham, NC. He’s also an NCTE Policy Analyst and Hope Street Teacher Voice Fellow. Email or Follow him @bryanchristo4. 

What Happened in Your State this September?

capitol buildingThis past month, fifteen policy analysts published reports about what occurred in the following states: California, Connecticut, Idaho, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Higher Education

Stephen Ferruci previews a bill in Connecticut that would help undocumented students “access institutional financial assistance.”

Dan Melzer describes legislation that passed in California, awaiting the governor’s signature, in AB 1690 Outlines Minimum Standards for Adjunct Instructors at California Community Colleges.

Michael Gos continues his series in Campus Carry Law VI, noting that the injunction requested by three professors against enforcement of the new University of Texas campus carry policy was denied while the lawsuit moves forward.

Higher Education/P–12 Education

As part of a trend all over the United States, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Adopts Emergency Teacher Licensing Rules to Address Teacher Shortage. Donna Pasternak notes that softening licensing requirements for K–12 teachers will impact not only school districts but also schools of education and departments of English.

Derek Kulnis describes New York City’s efforts to diversify its teaching force through a program called NYC Men Teach, which recruits men of color through mentoring programs or alternative pathways.

Michael Gos outlines the budget cuts, requested by Texas leaders, to all state agencies, including K–12 and higher education, noting the particular impact on community colleges.

P–12 Education

In Keystone Test No Longer an Exit Exam, Aileen Hower notes that Pennsylvania is reviewing alternative assessments. New Jersey, on the other hand, will “triple the weight of PARCC scores in teacher evaluations,” according to Kristen Turner.

Again in Pennsylvania, Aileen Hower shares Katie Meyer’s article about the National Labor Relations Board ruling that a virtual charter school should be classified as a private corporation, not a public institution. Aileen also published Judge: Lower Merion Schools Misled Taxpayers, Must Revoke Tax Hike, revealing that the Merion school district had a budget surplus.

Darlene Dyer writes about Mastery Education a Reality in Idaho; in mastery education, students “advance from grade to grade based on mastering concepts instead of seat time or a passing grade.”

Karen Henderson reports that MATELA (the Montana Association of Teachers of English Language Arts) will have a “significant presence” at the Montana Educators’ Conference in October through a number of presentations.

In response to a Montana State Board of Education ruling on writing programs, MATELA issued its own policy statement, which Anna Baldwin describes in Policy Assistance Offered for Significant Writing Programs.

Tiffany Rehbein reports from Wyoming that ACT Scores Increase[d] and Town Hall Meetings Give Wyoming Residents Voice on ESSA Implementation.

Robin Holland has been following teachers in Cleveland, posting these two reports: Cleveland Teachers Set to Strike in Ohio and Teacher Strike Averted in Cleveland, Ohio.

Clancy Ratliff describes the release by the Louisiana State Board of Education of a Digital Literacy Guide. Jalissa Bates shares that Louisiana Children with Disabilities Receive Boost with Federal Grant of $7 million.

Pamela Doiley questions whether Massachusetts will pass financial literacy legislation.

Derek Kulnis reports that New York City will revise the way it tests water for lead in all of its schools.

Talking Immigration in the Classroom

This is a guest post written by Katelyn Sedelmyer. 

KatelynSedelmyerThis summer there has been much talk around issues pertaining to immigration. As we head back to school, it’s likely that these public conversations will continue, and as teachers, we know that rhetoric matters. In these times, how can districts and schools ensure that immigrant and refugee students feel safe and free from discrimination? How can teachers facilitate productive classroom conversations about diversity, politics, and current events that affect their students?

Below are some resources NCTE has compiled for teachers looking to have these tough but important conversations in their classrooms.

NCTE positions:  

  1. Resolution on the Dignity and Education of Immigrant, Undocumented, and Unaccompanied Youth
  1. NCTE Position Paper on the Role of English Teachers in Educating English Language Learners (ELLs)
  1. Resolution on Diversity

 Teaching materials:

  • Teaching Tolerance’s resources on the 2016 election, lessons on civic activities and countering bias


Teaching after Tragedy
“Coming to school on tragic days is one of the toughest parts of teaching. It’s also, of course, one of the most important.” -Ken Lindblom
Teaching the 2016 Presidential Election: Racism, Immigration, and Xenophobia

“As educators, there are some important ways in which you can empower students to use the current rise of xenophobia and intolerance in the US and abroad to inspire global competence. Doing this will, in turn, help develop your students into young leaders who can engage with the current political discourse in a way that is meaningful and authentic to their own lives and contexts.” –Apoorvaa Joshi
Teaching Students to Consider Immigration with Empathy
“I ask students to see cultures, including their own, as experiments in sustainability. I encourage them to ask, ‘If we continue as we are (in this case, without immigration reform), what will things look like forty years from now–and what do we want them to look like?’” -Miguel Vasquez

What Undocumented Students Bring to the Classroom
“Classrooms can be forums for the honest, uncomfortable, revealing conversations adults don’t make enough time for in their public lives. Every student has important insights to share.” –Andrew Simmons

Katelyn was NCTE’s policy and research intern in the DC office in 2015-2016. A graduate of American University’s MPA program, she currently works on ICF International’s Youth and Adult Education team. As a former ESL teacher of adult immigrants, she is interested in the intersection of education and immigration. You can find her on Twitter as @katesedelmyer.