The graduation rate for Hispanic students has risen, but the dropout rate for Hispanic students is still the highest among their African-American, Asian, and White peers. This results in too few Hispanics enrolling in college or other higher education programs, which segues into low employment rates and a higher level of poverty within Hispanic families. Hispanics are the fastest-growing ethnic minority in the United States today. Hispanic children are an important part of America’s future. Taking into account their growing numbers, they are going to become a crucial part of the work force once they reach adulthood. They are going to be major contributors to the Social Security system of future generations of our society. A continued high drop-out rate among Latino can result in economic consequences for them and their families for the remainder of their lives. From their initial day of preschool to their graduation from college, statistics relay the message that Latinos, on average, do not do well in school. Currently, Hispanics have the largest and most rapid growing group of school-age children. The nation’s future looks to be headed for a bumpy ride if the drop-out rate is not addressed.
Statistics report that, the Latino public school population almost doubled between 1987 and 2007, increasing from 11 to 21 percent of all U.S. students (National Center for Education Statistics [NCES], 2009b). Approximately 10 million Hispanic students attend public school in the United States (National Center for Education Statistics [NCES], 2009b). The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that by 2021, one in every four American students will be come from a Hispanic background. In many Southwestern states, such as Texas and California, the Latino school-age population already makes up half of all students attending public school (Gandara, 2010). These states are already seeing the economic results of a minimally educated Latino population (Gandara, 2010). While the majority of Hispanic students live in "traditional" Hispanic states, the populations of Hispanics in "nontraditional" Midwest and Southeast states is rising (Kohler & Lazarin, 2007, p. 1). With such increasing numbers and evolving national presence, many Hispanics experience extreme financial challenges, which many scholars, Latino activists and educational policy makers state play a part in the why Hispanics do not attain educational achievement (Pew Hispanic Center, 2002).
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, the dropout rate of Latino youth between age 16 and 19 increased greatly from the ten year span in 1990 to 2000 (Fry, 2003). One-third of Hispanic students perform below grade level while more than 50 percent of Hispanic dropouts have less than a 10th-grade education (Fry, 2003). The dropout rate for Hispanics between age 16 and 19 who have poor English language skills is 59 percent, and nearly 40 percent of immigrant Mexicans are high school dropouts (Fry, 2003). This contributes significantly to the Latino dropout rate in high school, leaving Hispanics with high unemployment rates and low-paying jobs (Fry, 2003). Hispanic students are likely to drop out of school because they need to support their families (Deruy, 2013). Hispanic unemployment has remained high since the economic crash, and students whose parents are out of work often quit school to look for work (Deruy, 2013). According to the Pew Research Center, a survey concluded that close to 74 percent of Latino school aged children between 16 and 25 years old cut their education short because they had to support their families (Deruy, 2013). The survey also concluded that Latino students stop going to school because they have poor English skills, they dislike school, and they do not think they need school to get a decent job (Deruy, 2013).
The feeling of belonging plays a crucial role in the Latino students’ dropout rate. The attachment or connection is missing, which is a necessary component to building friendships. Latino students do not typically participate in extracurricular activities— sports, band, newspaper, and other clubs (Gandara, 2010). Most Latino students feel ostracized and perceive most extra-curricular clubs to be exclusive to White and Black students; likewise, they may need to work afterschool, have transportation, or the lack of funds needed for club activities (Gandara, 2010). Also, most Latino students live in poorer areas than their middle-class peers, so their chances of being invited to join a school club is slim (Gandara, 2010). Schools that effectively address the issue of “school attachment” find ways to incorporate clubs, sports, and other activities into school routines and bring the benefits of these activities into the classroom (Gibson, Gándara, & Koyama, 2004). For example, some schools mix students in heterogeneous classes and create conditions for students from different groups to interact in conditions in which they are more equal in status (Gibson, Gándara, & Koyama, 2004).
Another reason for the high drop-out rate among Latinos is that overall Latinos are have a higher percentage than any other minority group, 39.5 percent, to attend hyper-segregated schools (Gandara, 2010). In the large central cities in the west, more than 60 percent of Latinos attend hyper-segregated schools (Orfield & Frankenberg, 2008). The result is that other than what they see and hear from the media, many Latino students lack access to their mainstream cultured peers (Orfield & Frankenberg, 2008). This lack of access inhibits their first-hand knowledge of the standards and expectations of society (Orfield & Frankenberg, 2008). Since Latino students rarely come into contact with college graduates, they do not develop a need to attend college. It also means that Latino parents do not fight for better resourced schools and more qualified teachers, which augment a student’s desire to receive a higher education. These factors create a domino effect, presenting an even greater issue once Hispanic students reach high school age.
I contend that the problem of adequately educating the nation’s Latino students starts way before high school, causing many Hispanic children to experience low educational achievement in high school. According to the National Council of La Raza, only 39 percent of Hispanic three- to five- year-olds enrolls in center-based preschool education, compared to 59 percent of Caucasians and 66 percent of African Americans; 36 percent of Hispanics are enrolled in preprimary programs, as opposed to 45 percent of Caucasians and 65 percent of African Americans (Kohler & Lazarin, 2007). Data gathered from the 1998 Early Childhood Longitudinal Study show that only one-half as many Latino children as White children perform well at an early age in math and reading (Gandara, 2010). The reason is that most Latino parents are poorly educated themselves, not attaining the basic educational skills needed to assist their children with schoolwork (Gandara, 2010). Many studies have shown that school benefits poor children more than middle-class children (Alexander, Entwisle, & Olsen, 1997; Coleman, 1966). When primary school aged children do not do well early on, they become lost in the system. Hispanic parents are often intimidated by teachers and other educational personnel, so they do not provide the support system needed for their children to be helped out of remedial programs.
The number of Hispanic students graduating from high school is rapidly rising; however, overall the dropout rate is very high (Deruy, 2013). According to the U.S. Education Department, during the 2009-2010 school term, more than 70 percent of Latino students graduated on time (Deruy, 2013). This is an important change, and the Education Secretary Anne Duncan stated that, "It's promising that high school graduation rates are up for all ethnic groups in 2010 -- especially for Hispanics, whose graduation rate has jumped almost 10 points since 2006. At the same time, our high school dropout rate is still unsustainably high for a knowledge-based economy and still unacceptably high in our African-American, Latino, and Native-American communities" (Deruy, 2013). The graduation numbers for Latinos looks promising, but the high dropout rate among Latinos is still a problem. Once in high school, Hispanics tend not to enroll in advanced math and science courses like their White peers; only 31 percent take advanced math courses, compared to 47 percent of Caucasians. (Kohler & Lazarin, 2007). When Latino students are not in the classes they need to compete with their White, Black, and Asian peers, they do not feel adequately prepared to achieve in higher education institutions. This feeling results in low college enrollment overall among the Hispanic community.
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, despite the high dropout rate among Hispanics and the low enrolment of Hispanics in college, the educational profile of the Hispanic community has risen greatly in the last 30 years (Fry, 2003). Hispanics who have completed their secondary education has increased from 18 percent to 41 percent, while Hispanics enrolling in college has doubled from 9 percent to 18 percent (Fry, 2003). In addition, research shows that from 1988 to 2000, Hispanic students have been enrolling in college at the same rate as their White peers (Fry, 2003). When Latino students are provided with the basic and supplemental resources needed to excel in school, they achieve on the same level as their White peers. Resources and preparation provide a more than sufficient foundation, which will make the difference between a road to financial security or a life time of economic struggles.
Once the U.S. overall recognizes the significance the Hispanic community has on its development, it will have to do more to improve the quality of education for Hispanic students. Educational institutions must offer more academically challenging coursework for Hispanic students from a young age, provide tutorial services that will reinforce academic skills, and maintain funding for dropout prevention programs. The U.S. Education department must emphasizes the importance of school districts providing accurate research-based information on the progress of their Latino students, foregoing focusing on test score and more on retainment methodologies. Also, teachers need additional training in addressing the needs of a diverse Latino community, in that effective instruction includes distinguishing the learning styles of ethnic students. Teacher continuing education programs should push for teaching instructors effective instruction for English language learners.
There is a strong need for the U.S. education system to provide the Latino community with the educational resources it needs to move progress in the classroom setting, doing so will ensure overall economic success for Latino students, now and in the future. One way to do this is through Bilingual education programs. “Bilingual education programs are a proven way to transition English-language learners to English, while also teaching students substantive content in Spanish (AFT, 2014). “When taught by qualified teachers proficient in both languages as well as the content area, bilingual education has proven to be a very effective means of educating young ELL students” (AFT.org). Increasing the quality of education for Latino students should be a priority of the U.S. education system. A quality education will provide a balance, sort of like an equal opportunity, for Latino students. The U.S. education system has faced multiple challenges in educating its diverse population, but to invest in the largest growing population in the U.S. is a smart move. The intellectual potential of the Hispanic community is vast, but it will never be realized until the “powers that be” provide the funding to resource the schools that the majority of Latinos attend.
Delia Pompa, Senior Vice President of Programs at the National Council of La Raza, contends that the more education is talked about in the Hispanic communities, the higher the graduation rate in high school and college will become. She states, "Because of the advocacy of the community, we see programs more targeted to HispanicsIf you look at parents and their dreams and wishes, Hispanic parents have seen high school graduation as the pinnacle Parents do believe in their kids, they just don't always know how to help them get to high school graduation and then beyond that, to college graduation" (Deruy, 2013). More parent-outreach programs are needed. These programs offer parents the tools they need to help their children graduate from high school and higher education institutions. Surveys and statistics help educational institutions look at the problem more closely. Test-based education policies, such as the No Child Left Behind Act enacted under President George Bush, help increase graduation rates. Policies like this one increase the accountability of the local schools and teachers. When a particular group is not achieving, states and districts will feel the pressure to perform well. Policies like the No Child Left Behind Act focuses on demographics, which means the school district can see which group needs the most help. Once the group is targeted, more resources can be allocated to address the problem. Spending money on programs that incorporate Spanish-speaking parents is a suggestion.
Simply put, if Latino children are going to compete well with their peers, they must have access to high-quality education starting at the preschool level. Studies have shown that the effectiveness quality Head Start–type programs that provide needed services to Latino students and their families. The research on Head Start has demonstrated "moderate effects on pre-academic skills, greater parental awareness of the needs of their children and increased skills in meeting those needs, and provision of health and nutrition services and information" (Gándara & Contreras, 2009, p. 259). Early intervention is vital because it provides the foundation for the rest of a child’s academic career. Strengthening educational programs that service pre-k to 1st grade to monitor students’ progress is the only way to accurately address future education issues. “Some programs, such as Project GRAD (www.projectgrad.org), University of Chicago School Mathematics Project (http://ucsmp.uchicago.edu) and Success for All (www.successforall.net) have research-based intervention programs that follow students from K-12 (Gandara, 2010). These programs have seen great success, which alludes to student achievement (Gandara, 2010).
Another way to address the high dropout rate among Latino students is to establish more solutions dual-language and two-way immersion programs (Gandara, 2010). Bilingual programs benefit native Spanish speakers and non-native Spanish speakers, in that both groups develop a competence for a second language (Gandara, 2010). The goal of these programs is to offer a way to offer a level playing field to all of the nation’s children, at home and abroad. These programs offer an equal status to both Spanish speaking students and non-Spanish speaking students in that they are both struggling to master a foreign language. These programs also introduce Latino students to the world of their middle-class peers, widening their opportunity to form an attachment and sense of belonging through establishing friendships. Moreover, college oriented dropout prevention programs encourage Latino students to stay enrolled because they have a goal to reach for. These programs help Latino students manage personal and academic challenges. According to studies conducted by the Pew Research Center and other notable Hispanic organizations, the goal is success and effective dropout prevention programs share five elements: “(1) They provide at least one key person whose job it is to know, connect with, and monitor the progress of each student; (2) structure a supportive peer group that reinforces program goals; (3) provide access to strong curriculum that leads to college preparation; (4) attend to students' cultural backgrounds; and (5) show students how they can finance their education, providing scholarships when possible” (Gandara & Contreras, 2009).
When schools partner with other organizations and institutions, they offer supplemental and varied programming and instruction, which can close the divide in achievement. Fostering collaborations with health and social service agencies provides integrated services to Hispanic children and families (AFT,org) If a student’s needs for food, clothing, and shelter are met, as well as basic medical and dental services are performed regularly, that student’s emotional and physical health will not deter him or her from focusing in the classroom. Also, providing these basic services reduces the risk of teens engaging in unhealthy activities, such as drugs and alcohol. In turn, Latino students will remain in school and achieve competitive grades. While the needs of the entire diverse population of students needs to be met, stabilized funding for these programs will allow them to address the needs of the entire diverse student population. Placing health services in safe areas that are accessible through public transportation is a key as well. The services are useless if the targeted need based group cannot access the facilities the services are housed in. Also these programs can help educators reach out to the parents in the Latino community in culturally appropriate ways. Many studies have shown that a primary reason that Latino students do not complete college degrees is because they don't understand how to prepare for college or even why they should attend (Gandara, 2010). Their parents, who have often not completed high school in the United States, are even less familiar with these issues (Gandara, 2010).
Factors like health care, living in segregated areas, the lack of language translative services, poorly funded schools and even less resources seems like a lot for a typical school district to contend with. However, statistics have documented what the issues are, so it is reasonable to assume that with the resources available in the U.S. the problem of the high school dropout rate among Latinos can be addressed. It is easy for educational personnel to pass the blame for the low academic achievements of its Latino students, or to say that the language barrier deters Hispanic students from staying motivated to complete their education. However, the truth is that the education system in the U.S. is not prioritizing incorporating educational methodologies designed specifically for the Latino student population. Educators must take note of the fact that the majority of Hispanic students come from homes in which Spanish is the dominant language. Educators must also recognize the cultural differences in Latino students in comparison to their White peers. Traditional Hispanic families are very close knit, allowing for little competition between family and friends. However, the education system in the U.S. promotes competition and individual achievement, which is a foreign concept to most Latino families. Culturally, Hispanic families collaborate among themselves and their immediate communities to survive.
Schools also need to incorporate more positive aspect of Latino culture into the curriculum. Most Hispanic students do not want to listen to negative information about their cultural because they tend to self-actualize that information. Just as bad is not mentioning the Latino culture at all. African-American holidays, Jewish holidays, and White religious and ethnic holidays are often acknowledge in schools, while Latino holidays are disregarded. Such actions would show Latino students they are an important component to the development of the U.S., validating them and encouraging them to continue the progress of their ethnic community. Positive reinforcement is the key programs to improving the Latino graduation rate in high school and college. Combining and funding the efforts of schools, communities, organizations, and government services will be the support the Latino community so desperately needs to achieve in education and the world.
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