Educational achievement gap between Whites & Latinos still exists
When analyzing educational achievement statistics, it can become discouraging to focus on the Latino community because of the high drop out rates at the high school and college levels. The country’s largest minority group now outnumbers whites in many K-12 public schools in a handful of states, and many districts are already Latino majority. And while researchers, educators, and policy makers have all known that our community has been lagging in educational achievement for years, new data confirms that over the past two decades a wide achievement gap between Hispanic and white students persists.
According to a report released last week by the National Center for Educational Statistics using data going back to the 1990s, scores for math and reading for Latino students have gone up but they are still behind their white counterparts. As reported by Reuters:
“The NCES compared data on the achievement gap between Hispanic and white public school students in grades 4 and 8 at the national and state levels over the past two decades to 2009, the most recent assessment year.
The national average of achievement gaps between Hispanic and white students at grades 4 and 8 in mathematics and reading is roughly 20 points on the 500-point NAEP scale, according to the report.”
And the report reveals that poverty is definitely a factor in explaining the gap:
“The report also compared data for specific groups such as those eligible for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
Over 70 percent of Hispanic students at grades 4 and 8 are eligible for the NSLP as compared to less than 30 percent of white students.”
Gaps in income, family immigration status, and the quality of schools also factor into the data obviously. Yet it’s been over twenty years since President George H.W. Bush established the White House Initiative for Educational Excellence for Hispanics, and we still have a persistent achievement gap.
With the economy still lagging, which impacts parents’ earning ability and home life stability, I’m afraid that the impact of various school reforms will be lessened. If parents aren’t working or are working at levels where children qualify for free lunches, then the kind of attention that can be devoted to school aged children may be lacking.
The Latino community needs to drive home the message that when it comes to improving learning outcomes that we cannot wait for policy makers and leave it up to the schools to deliver. Educational Consultant Michelle Jensen has a great presentation on improving literacy with Latino families.
One simple thing that Latino families can do together is make time to regularly visit the local library for children’s story hour, as a quiet place to work on homework, and even as an alternative to sitting the kids in front of the television. Creating a word rich environment is paramount to improving literacy. Families who may not have as many books or tools at home can find plenty of resources at the local library. Additionally, many libraries have bilingual book sections for those who aren’t completely English proficient. Using available resources to augment classroom learning is key, especially in the summer when many students aren’t in class.