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!