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Professor Manuel Hernández
Essays Collection

Email: josejosue24@gmail.com
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.
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An Educational Assessment of Latinos:A Constructive View

by Manuel Hernández

Latinos believe that improving the American system of education is a top priority for their families. Although educational task forces have been confronted with ignorance, prejudice and disilussionment, Latinos have learned from past experiences and are walking forward to a present and future with educational empowerment. The National Hispanic-Latino American Agenda Summit (NHAAS) is a grassroots non-profit, non-partisan national coalition of Latino organizations, working professionals, community activists, government officials, religious and labor leaders, academics, students and interested individuals. The coalition strives to mobilize, empower and unite, through new technologies and traditional organizing methods, the US Hispanic-Latino/a community to achieve political, economic and social justice through political participation. One of its main concerns is the education of Latinos.

The educational outcomes of the contemporary American educational system has been to create critical thinkers who become pro-active participants in society. As a consequence, Latinos have become aware that the educational development of their community is intrinscally related to their struggles to achieve economic, social and political justice in the United States of America. However, Latino children struggle academically and do not meet the academic demands of city, state and national testing requirements.

For too many Latinos, the educational system has been a hurdle to high to jump and a revolving door for many as well. According to United States Census figures the Latino population is projected to increase from 9% of the total population in 1990 to 16% in 2020. There is no doubt that Latinos are the fastest growing minority. In New York City, 37.8% of the total enrollment in the public schools was Latino (Keeping Track of New York Citys Children, 2002). In North Carolina, the Latino population grew approximately 400% from 1990 to 2000. While 52% of the total North Carolina population is under age 35, 77% of Latinos are under that category. Limited English Proficiency (LEP) students in N.C. are predominantly Latino, and the need for these students to develop reading and writing skills is fundamental. In Oregon, Latinos grew 144% making them the largest minority in the state. Academically only 21.5% of Latino students met the 10th grade reading standard in 2000, compared to 55.4% of their Caucasian counterparts. These statistics are just needles in a haystack. Academics, scholars and researchers alike agree that the status of education for Latinos is in a state of crisis.

A mirror of assessment is imperative to depict and understand the issues and design a policy to enhance academic results. Understanding the issues will delineate the curriculum frameworks to set goals and objectives and apply the strategies and initiatives needed to improve the education of Latino children in the United States.

First, approximately 40 percent of the Latino children are below the poverty level. Less financial resources mean fewer opportunities for quality education. Second, teenage pregnancy rate is extremely high making the next generation of Latino teens more likely to have less parental support. Third, language proficiency is a problem. Many Latino immigrants enter the U.S. having limited proficiency in Spanish and as a consequence the teaching of English becomes a major task. Fourth, parent involvement in schools is minimum because of the language barrier and because the high cost of living forces the Latino parent to work a full-time job and at least one-part time at the same time. Fifth, the highest high school dropout rate amongst minorities is preventing Latinos to attain a higher education degree. As a matter of fact, although Latinos are a stunning 13% of the total US population, they are a mere 6% in graduate programs. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a college graduate will earn more over a lifetime period than a high school graduate. If Latinos are less likely to graduate from high school but continue to grow in population, the United States has an economic situation that needs serious attention and hands-on intervention. Sixth, Latino teens are scoring poorly in city, state and national testing requirements. How can students create interest in reading and interact with their writing when their choices of literature are far away from their every day reality? Last, the voucher issue is still an enigma in educational circles. It is an attempt to facilitate the education of Latino children and rescue them from failing school systems; especially those in inner-city neighborhoods are school voucher programs. The program proposed in states across the United States of America would distribute vouchers to parents, usually in inner-city school districts. Parents could then use the vouchers to pay for the cost of tuition at private schools of their choice. The program is innovative but has fueled fierce debate and animosity within educational circles in America.

This is the mirror, and it is just a reflection of sorts. There are many many more educational issues, but it is wise to limit aims and create an action plan with short and long term goals. The education of Latinos in the United States has been wholeheartedly related to the historical, cultural, political and socio-economic connections that exist between United States of America and its Latino inhabitants. The dislocation of a historical reality has dissuaded identity and has further promoted educational mishaps. Once the Bilingual Education Act was approved in 1968, a window of opportunities opened for the teaching of English as a Second Language, and it became a bridge to mainstream English. But then came the English Only movement in the 1980s and state by state ESL/Bilingual Programs were dismantled.

A constructive view of the education of Latinos requires a vision inclusive of four basic stages: an in-depth acknowledgement of the historical, cultural, social and socio-economic reality, a nation-wide public dialogue with teachers, students, administrators and parents, a consolidation plan in reaction to the first two and a clear, concise and constructive view of the education of Latinos as the final stage in the ladder of success. The vision is attainable, but it must be envisioned within the historical, social, cultural and socio-economic elements that paved the way for the education of Latinos in the United States. A vision demands human attention and more so, divine intervention, which translates into one word: love.

A constructive view is receptive to all ideas but reaches a consensus, establishes priorities, creates programs, designs pertinent proposals and demands accountability. Decisions must be reached, delivered and implemented. It is not a monumental task, but it will take a monumental effort. The education of Latinos needs to be enhanced with vision and knowledge on how to identify, tackle and improve our childrens interest in English, Spanish and in all subject areas. It is time to design a constructive view that will meet the expectations of all those involved in the educational community.