Monday, April 29, 2013

Future Posts. I think some people won't like the questions I pose.

Please read below to see some of my posts. The one below is from yesterday.

I want to write about these subjects in the future. Please comment now if you have opinions.

1. Do school sports have a place in public schools? I was in a lot of sports in high school. I love sports. I wish I had enough time to be a coach. However, we need to look at this question objectively. Take your kids and your love for the sport out of the equation and look at the bigger picture of closing the Achievement Gap. Maybe sports are part of the answer. Maybe they aren't being used to their full potential. Maybe all groups don't have access to sports, which could be helpful for those groups. Maybe promoting other sports would help close the Gap. I am adding some information here after thinking about this for a day or so. Schools in the United States are now judged on how well they perform academically. Teachers are judged by how well their students do. We are not judged by how well our sports teams do. I know the research says that students who are in sports and other activities do better in school than students who aren't. However, the question is, when do the sports benefit the students' academic performance and when do they have no impact or hurt the students' performance? I am just saying that we shouldn't make the assumption that sports help all students or that the money that goes into sports is benefiting the students who need the most help.

2. On the same token, does music and theater have a place in public schools? Think about who benefits and participates in these activities. Do those with less money have the same access to band as those with more money (due to the cost of the instruments)? How can these activities be made more accessible to all students? Do the programs you are familiar with try to involve all students or do they cater to the middle and upper class? One might say that is how it is, but think of the money that goes into these programs. Depending on the school, it could be two or three more reading teachers. Maybe a good compromise is to add something that would benefit those who do not usually participate in these activities. There is no real equivalent to band, theater, and chorus that is offered during the school day in most high schools. It's usually an easy A for high achievers and something they can put on their college application. What do the students who do not have an interest in this type of thing (or an interest in entering this segment of our culture) have as an equivalent?

My goal is not to push an agenda (other than promoting Advocate Latino). My goal is to try to make public schools work for everyone. I may not have great influence over anybody, but maybe one idea presented in this blog (from me or anyone who comments) will make a difference.

Take care,


Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Education Gap

I read a very interesting article in the New York Times today about the Education Gap ( We all know that children who come from affluent families do better in school. The author did a very good job presenting reasons for this. I am going to take a different spin on it because I come from a different perspective.

I believe that schools can do much more to close this gap, even at the high school level. The first thing that needs to be done is to create a system that really prepares students for college rather than focusing on content classes. Classes should be based on skill building rather than accumulation of information. I know this is already being changed by many schools and many teachers (with the focus being switched to reading and study skills), but I would say a majority of teachers have not changed what they do, and many new teachers are teaching the way their teachers taught them.

How can this be done? I think changing the name of the classes from Biology, US History, or Algebra II would be a good start. In my opinion, every class should be called something like Building Reading Skills in Science: Biology. Maybe a history class would be Learning How to Write for College: US History. All of the content can still be taught along with teaching the standards. We need to stop believing that learning certain content will help students once they enter college or that learning all of this information will build their confidence. If students believe that they can take what they are learning and apply it to any class anywhere, they will do better and work harder. They will believe it is important no matter what the content is. I think that a lot of these skills are taught at home indirectly (reading, becoming interested in a variety of academic fields, and writing college-level papers). Those skills were taught to me by my parents (we were not rich, but we were educated). Also, without the help of my parents, I would have had no idea how to apply for college or scholarships. Schools can do these things without adding a single dime to their budget. It would just be a shift in mindset.

The Gap is also widening between because college credit programs for high school students tend to be more beneficial for white students ( (I know I am running the risk of mixing race and socioeconomic class. I do not intend to say that being of a certain race automatically puts a family into a certain socioeconomic class). However, I would not say that schools should not offer these classes. As the article suggests, opportunities for teachers to be trained on how to teach the courses might be the trick:

"In Texas and Florida, for example, where the state provides funding for teachers to attend summer college courses to help them teach A.P. courses, Hispanic students have a higher participation in the courses and have demonstrated more success in the exams."

In general, I am just saying that just throwing out AP, PSEO, and CLEP as options is not necessarily going to close the Gap. Parents and students from lower socioeconomic levels need to have some other mechanism to help them gain access to and have success in these types of programs. If they are just offered somewhat haphazardly, they become merely another program that widens the Gap. If a school district does the work to think of ways it can get all interested students involved, they become programs that can close the Gap because the students earn free college credit with these types of programs.

I haven't mentioned Advocate Latino thus far. You can go to to start communicating with parents today about college readiness and other school issues today. We have a free trial.

Give me a call if you have any questions. Please leave comments about different ways school districts help widen or close the Gap.

Also, check out our new video. It's pretty funny.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Closing the Achievement Gap with Advocate Latino

I recently changed our tagline on Twitter to "We want to revolutionize the way school districts communicate with Latinos and other English language learners." This or something like it will be our new mission statement. Since I posted it, I have thought about the way we are revolutionizing communication.

I have cited many sources in this blog and on videos that have made it clear that boosting parent involvement helps Latinos and all other students succeed in schools. You can scroll down to see the videos and blogs that discuss this topic. It has also been shown that increasing parent involvement helps Latino students more than it helps other groups ( So, it is definitely worth it for school districts to put resources toward communication with Latino parents. Increasing parent involvement has been proven to help all students with the following:

1. Grades
2. Attendance
3. Staying in school
4. Behavior and social skills
5. Graduating and going to post-secondary institutions
6. Earning more credits

So, the question still remains: How does Advocate Latino help boost parent involvement in Latino families? How does it revolutionize the way school districts communicate with Latino families?

1. I have always been impressed when I see that a school district has a Spanish Hotline. The school districts that have this are usually large districts. With Advocate Latino, any district can have this hotline through us. Parents would be able to call us anytime between 7 AM and 7 PM central time. This way, parents can have contact with a Spanish speaker right away, and the questions and issues can be handled immediately.

2. If a school district subscribes to Advocate Latino, we will make monthly phone calls to the parents. A teacher or school district could use these phone calls for any purpose such as surveys, grade updates, behavior reports, announcements, reminders, or educating parents on a particular technique that will help their students succeed. As we gather information, we put it in a database. We can send the information gathered from the phone calls to the teacher or district at any time. In most cases, teachers, even if they do speak Spanish, do not have the time to do this type of valuable work. Most teachers also do not keep the type of communication records that we do.

3. Advocate Latino is the best deal around. I have estimated the cost for a school district with 10 Spanish-speaking students. It comes to around $1,200 for the entire year (maximum). A school district can estimate that it would spend around $120 per year per Spanish-speaking student when using Advocate Latino. This estimated price would include FaceTime interpreting for conferences and translations of documents. It may seem like a lot of money, but when you consider that a full-time liaison (in-district) would cost around $40,000 per year plus benefits, long distance charges, and possibly miles, it turns out to be an amazing bargain. Telephone interpreters, human translator services, and machine translating software (which doesn't work) are all much more expensive than Advocate Latino.

4. Because we have FaceTime, school districts no longer need to bring in expensive interpreters for conferences. Sometimes these interpreters can cost up to $35 or more per hour.

5. I have always considered it bad practice to use children as interpreters. I think most people would agree with me. Because Advocate Latino now exists, this does not need to be done anymore.

6. There are no usernames and passwords when a school district works with Advocate Latino. Everyone is treated as an important individual. Teachers and parents will see the difference. All of our customers will be treated with the utmost respect. Because you will work with the same people every time, there will be no need to update us on anything.

There is still time to start a free trial with Advocate Latino for the end of the school year. We would be happy to add you to our family. No school district/Latino population is too small!

Eric Goodman

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Achievement Gap

I don't necessarily want to focus on Latinos today because the problem cannot be solved if we just consider one ethnic group. I really think schools should look over this data during the summer and make some changes:

Minnesota has the largest achievement gap when it comes to Latinos graduating from high school. I would think that many would find this surprising news when we consider that Minnesota is a liberal state in general, and many consider it one of the best states for public education. The article that exposes Minnesota is here:

Why is this happening? It's not that the white graduation rate is sky high. It is only 84%. About 28 states beat Minnesota in this category. Everyone beats Minnesota in the Latino category. Everyone beats Minnesota in the Native American category as well. It doesn't get much better with African-Americans in Minnesota. Only Nevada has worse numbers than Minnesota.

I have a couple theories:

1. We talk a lot about how the system is set up so that white, middle to upper class, English-speaking families have the best chance to succeed in United States schools. Maybe this is more true in Minnesota than anywhere else. Maybe progressive Minnesota hasn't caught up with the other states yet. Minnesota really needs to work on integrating and educating families that are not white, middle to upper class, and/or English-speaking.

2. Minnesota has a metro area with poor inner-city neighborhoods and white, upper-class suburbs. Most cities have this, but it seems like there really are "Two Minnesotas" when one travels between the two. Minnesota also has rural areas that have had a hard time adjusting to the new cultures that have arrived in them. I think we don't want to believe that Minnesota is a closed-minded, racist, or classist state because of the "Minnesota Nice" thing, but maybe Minnesotans need to look at themselves and say, "Hey, we think we are awesome, but we are the worst in the country. Numbers don't lie." Every state in the South beats Minnesota in graduation rates for African-Americans. It's time to look in the mirror.

3. There aren't enough role models of color in the schools in Minnesota. This can be very powerful, but it doesn't seem like Minnesota is going out of its way to make this happen. I could be wrong. No, you can't blame it on college students not choosing the right fields.

One of the things schools can do while they wait for policy changes is get parents involved in their children's education. It has been proven that parent involvement leads to better graduation rates: 

Getting parents involved can start today. Most of them want to know that someone cares about them and their children. They want to know they have someone who will listen to their concerns. It happens one parent, one interaction at a time. There is no easy answer or quick solution, but an effort has to be made, especially in states like Minnesota.

Go to to start a free trial this spring. We've waited long enough.


Thursday, April 4, 2013