The Latino Nation: An Educational Vision
by Manuel Hernández
According to the United States Census, Latinos are the fastest
growing minority population projected to increase from 39
million to 63 million by 2030. By 2025, 25 percent of the
K-12 grades will be Latinos, though in some regions they already
make up a far greater percentage. Because of its size and
peculiar needs and challenges, many have taken to call Latinos
a nation within the Nation.
In many states within the Nation, Latinos have the highest
dropout rate and the lowest test scores, and many are not
prepared to enter institutions of higher learning. At the
present, only 17 percent of Latino fourth-graders at the national
level read at their grade level, and the percentage is even
lower in mathematics. As a consequence, the Latino nation
has become aware that the educational empowerment of their
community is intrinsically related to their struggles to achieve
economic, social and political justice in the Nation. The
educational develpment of the Latino nation will depend on
the enhancement of these conditions and the ability to meet
their needs in the classroom and have a positive influx on
both the individual and the United States as well. An educational
vision for Latinos must examine its jump off point to design
and create a path for others to follow.
First, approximately 40 percent of the Latino children in
the United States 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. Latinos accounted for 31 percent of total births
under 15 years of age in the year 2000; and 27.6 percent of
the total births from mothers between 15 and 19 years of age.
Third, language proficiency is a problem. Many Latino immigrants
enter the Nation having limited proficiency in Spanish and
as a consequence the teaching of English becomes a monumental
task. With the dismantling of ESL and High School Bilingual
Programs across the Nation, Latinos have fewer opportunities
to make a transition to mainstream academic courses.
Fourth, Research on class size reveals that while reductions
by just a few students (for example from 27 to 24 students)
may not result in dramatic differences in student achievement,
when class size is reduced to 15 to 20 students, Latino children
achieved academically on par with and often better than those
in larger schools; have stronger academic and general self-esteem;
lower drop-out rates and higher attendance and graduation
Fifth, the highest high school dropout rate amongst minorities
is preventing Latinos to attain a higher education degree.
Although Latinos are 13% of the total Nation population, they
represent merely 6% in graduate programs.
Finally, Latino teens are scoring poorly in city, state and
national testing requirements. Teens have difficulties reacting
and responding to literature that is far away from their modern
day American experience. There is no bridge to facilitate
the literary analysis of the classics. With this jump off
point, how do we design a vision to impact education?
The process of improving educational standards begins with
Latino parents. City, state and government must provide parents
with information, give parents a voice and encourage parental
partnerships with schools. Sexual education must be an integral
part of school curriculum. Research shows that teenagers who
receive sexual education that includes discussion of abstinence
and contraception are more likely to delay sexual activity,
use contraceptives when they do become sexually active, and
have fewer partners than those who receive abstinence-only
messages. (National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2001).
Let us get back to basics. An age/grade-appropriate transitional
bilingual education program, with a strong ESL component,
to new and recent arrivals is a must - develop strict identification
and placement procedures and implement reliable diagnostic
and assessment measures. Ensure a rigorous, content-enriched
academic program across disciplines with authentic and practical
young adult literature in English and continue to provide
linguistic/academic support for at least one year after mainstreaming
to ensure a successful transition.
Funding for ESL training is required across all disciplines
so that educators may incorporate ESL strategies and methodologies
into their daily instruction when faced with numbers of ELL
students in their mainstream classes.
The No Child Left Behind demands more testing, improved teacher
quality, and higher achievement scores that in turn require
better-trained teachers and principals, new and improved textbooks
and assessments. However, according to the House Appropriations
Committee, the 2004 budget under funds the act by $9.7 billion,
leaving local communities many of which are already facing
severe budget gaps to make up the difference. Educators know
that these types of programs can close the education gap:
highly qualified teachers and para-educators; sound professional
development; early childhood programs; all-day kindergarten;
small class sizes in the primary grades; highly involved parents,
guardians and community; mentoring and tutoring; and quality
summer programs. These services and programs will make a difference
in a child's ability to meet and exceed NCLB and establish
state and national achievement standards; but adequate funding
is necessary in order to achieve this.
An educational vision examines causes and effects and fosters
effective strategies to teach the Latino Nation to meet the
challenges and peculiar needs of the 21st century. With the
united efforts of Latino leaders of all walks of life, we
Latino Nation will help our community to become successful
today, tomorrow and forever.