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Professor Manuel Hernández
Essays Collection

Address: : 2012 Ernest St. Kissimmee, Florida 34741

Manuel Hernandez was born in Sleepy Hollow, New York in 1963. He completed undergraduate studies at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus and finished a Master�s in Education from Herbert H. Lehman College (CUNY) in the Bronx in 1994. He has coordinated symposiums, produced and coordinated television interviews on the literature written by Puerto Rican and Latino/a writers from the Diaspora. He has done numerous presentations, workshops and seminars on how to integrate latino/a literature in the English classroom. In 2014, he participated in a TedxTalk (Connections) at Southern New Hampshire University. He is the author of three books, , Latino/a Literature in the English Classroom (Editorial Plaza Mayor, 2003), The Birth of a Rican (Imprenta Sifre. 2008) and Living the Kingdom with purpose (Imprenta Sifre, 2013). He is a Language Arts teacher at Osceola School District in Florida.

Focusing on the Academic Needs of Latino Students
By Manuel Hernandez-Carmona copyright

Focusing on the needs of Latino students should not only be a statement made by President Barack Obama but a top priority translated into real academic policies. There are some very significant statistics revealed in the presentation, “Educational Equity and the Latino Population of the United States” by Francisco L. Rivera-Batiz, presented at Teachers College, Columbia University on February 21, 2008 on the status of Latino education. About 20 percent of all school age students between the ages of 5 and 17 are Latino but only 13 percent obtain college degrees. Data obtained from Rivera-Batiz’ research depicts the Latino high school dropout at close to 30 percent. Because the Latino school population continues to surge at a fast and furious rate, the needs of Latino students must be met with a clear present vision in terms of what to do and how to tackle their academic needs.

The academic needs represented in numbers and statistics are alarming and reveal a huge difference between Latinos, their White counterparts and African-Americans. In 2007, 13 percent of Latinos 25 and over had earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. In contrast, 32 percent of Whites and 19 percent of African-Americans 25 and over had a bachelor’s degree or higher (Digest of Education Statistics, 2007, NCES, 2008, Table). Latinos are improving in educational achievement but not as rapidly as other groups. What happened to the dozens of thousands of Latinos that did not graduate from college? Why is the Latino high school dropout rate on the increase again? Despite the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Latinos continue to quit school and inadvertently fall behind in their quest of the so-called American Dream. What academic policies is the present administration creating as a result of the already shocking statistics?

In 33 or more American states, standardized exams and the S.A.T.’s are the gateway to higher education, but without a high school diploma, what kind of social, economic and academic horizons can Latino dropouts count on? How will they able to compete in America’s demanding workforce? When will the United States Department of Education make a serious recognition of culturally competencies and their ability to construct bridges to make predictions and outcomes about a poem, a story, an essay or a drama read in the English classroom? The United States Department of Education reading program is in dire need of a curriculum change. President Barak Obama’s past political campaign focused on the term, change. Why not get serious about changing our academic policies to help improve the quality of education that Latinos and other Americans deserve as well?

Scientifically based research has validated culturally based literature as key in the early stages of “learning to read”. Prior knowledge helps students to build bridges to make predictions and outcomes about the poem, story, essay or drama read in the English classroom. Reading for pleasure and identity encourages the recently arrived student to make personal connections. In a “learning to read” environment, pleasure and enjoyment form the initial jump-off point for further literary development. When students construct meaning from a personal standpoint, engagement with reading develops smoothly, and academic success is just a step away.

The US-DE reading program must make a transition from its hard-core traditionalist approach to a more integrated reading experience. States have the authority to design their own literature initiatives, but the Obama administration must set an example of the change in curriculum so desperately needed in schools throughout America. Even city, state and national standardized exams should include a more varied list of authors. How can you engage interest in a Latino adolescent by reading one poem from a Latino author during Hispanic Heritage Month? That’s preposterous! I am sure Martin Luther King was envisioning Barak Obama’s swearing in as President of the United States in 2009. That was a dream come true for billions of Americans, but Latinos dream today of a better and quality education that can really make a difference in their lives. This is the time to focus on the education of Latinos in America!