Latino High School Education: A Nations Priority
By Manuel Hernandez
There has been a lot of talk about the President's New High
School Initiative, Other Proposed Programs Tackle Issues Important
to Hispanics. According to the U.S. Department of Educations
February 23rd Press Release, the President's budget focuses
on high dropout rate, teacher quality and college aid. There
is no doubt that the November 2nd elections defined Latinos
as the vote that defined the new administrations priorities
in education. The initiative proposes to increase funding
to make sure that every high school student reaches high standards,
including Latino teens.
The issue of Latino education is key to the Bush administration.
Statistics have confirmed that Latino teens are likely to
receive a quality education than most other Americans. The
New High School Initiative is a proclamation to enable high
school students to prepare to graduate with the skills they
need to succeed. The national Latino high school dropout rate
has not improved in the last thirty years, 27 percent in 2001
(February 23rd Press Release). Despite the fact, Latinos have
recently made some major gains, disparities still exist in
academic performance between Latinos and non- Latino White
Now that we all know that the Latino high school education
is a priority, where do we go from here? Carlsen and Sherill
(1988) have collected reading autobiographies from teachers
and have shared excerpts in a book titled, Voices of Readers,
an interesting collection of testimonies about reading habits.
Generally, most respondents stated their love for reading
occurred in spite of what was done in schools. Some developed
their appreciation of literature in school, but it usually
did not occur until very late in high school or even in college.
It seems that schools have accomplished just the opposite
of what they intend to do: they have turned students off from
reading. If we are to motivate Latino teens to develop interest
in reading, an alternative may be the integration of Latino/a
Literature in the English classroom.
Latino/a literature exposes students to issues such as language,
education, family, values, sex, self-esteem, self-acceptance,
conflicts in identity, varied approaches to race, domestic
violence and the preservation of culture and art which provoke
students to make their own reactions and responses to literature.
Latino/a literature in the English classroom is an alternative
to the teaching of literature and a tool that will prepare
students for reading and writing in high school and beyond.
In the English classroom, students feel a lack of personal
involvement, especially with isolated writing assignments.
Latino/a Literature is filled with contemporary issues, common
events, characters and situations and establishes the bridge
between reading and writing which connects students to ideas
and themes. Recently arrivals will see themselves in a mirror
and assess what, where, how and why they are, who they are
while they develop reading and writing skills necessary to
enter and succeed in college. How can students interact with
their writing when their choices of literature are far away
from their every day reality? Latino teens need a jump off
point before they are introduced to the American and British
classics. It is time to take advantage of the initiative by
proposing specific strategies to make sure that every high
school student reaches high standards, including Latino teens.