Various Factors Discourage Latino Students From AP Courses

Latino students may be discouraged from enrolling in Advanced Placement courses for a number of reasons.

Students’ perceptions can impact their decisions. They may have a lack of knowledge about the classes or have the impression that the classes will be too challenging.

Other factors are outside of students’ control: teachers and administrators may decide who is allowed–and not allowed– to enroll in such courses.

“Many teachers don’t truly believe that these programs are for all kids or that students of color or low-income kids can succeed in these classes,” Christina Theokas, director of research at The Education Trust, told the New York Times in an article on the subject.

Despite such discouragement, more Latino, black and low-income students are enrolling in AP courses than in the past.

There is criticism of the program, too. Some say AP courses have become watered down as more students have enrolled. Others question whether simply enrolling greater numbers of students in AP courses will make them perform any better in college.

If you are interested in delving further into data on Hispanic student performance, check out the College Board’s annual AP Report to the Nation.

In addition, you can also look into requesting data from your local school district on how many Hispanic students are enrolled in specific AP courses, and what their passing rates (generally considered a 3 or higher) are on the actual exam. Pay particular attention to how many students are taking AP courses in the areas of math and science.

Related Links:

“Pulling a More Diverse Group of Achievers Into the Advanced Placement Pool,” The New York Times.
9th Annual AP Report to the Nation, College Board.

College Early Admissions Program Aims to Boost Hispanic Enrollment

An innovative new program in Texas aims to increase the college-going rates of Hispanics by admitting students to college as early as the beginning of their junior year of high school.

The University of Texas at Arlington and the Arlington Independent School District recently announced the new “Bound for Success” program.

Students ranked in the top 20 percent of their class by the end of their sophomore year will be “pre-admitted” to the university. About 1,500 students are expected to qualify, and will receive acceptance letters in the coming days. There is a catch — the offer will only remain valid if they complete their high school graduation requirements.

Counselors from UT-Arlington also will work with students on the high school campuses weekly to guide them through their course selections, including dual-enrollment classes. The university will also become involved on campuses by offering families college-readiness and financial aid workshops. Students also will be welcome to attend activities and events at the university.

“We know that there are students who excel throughout their high school years but for a variety of reasons do not pursue a college education,” Dr. Marcelo Cavazos, Arlington school district superintendent, said in a news release from the university. “With this program, we are re-affirming that these students are prepared for success and that we are going to help guide them along their path to a college degree.”

The school district’s superintendent was motivated to create the program after he became concerned about a survey finding that 27 percent of Arlington’s Hispanic graduates had not applied to college, in addition to 20 percent of all graduating seniors.

In the 2011-12 school year, the Arlington school district had 64,592 students, of which 43 percent were Hispanic and 65 percent were economically disadvantaged.

The program is already challenging and raising students’ expectations of themselves.

“I didn’t even expect to go to college,” 17-year-old Luis Leroy, who will receive an acceptance letter, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I didn’t think I would go.”

By removing the process that students must go through to apply for college, will more end up attending college than previously? It will be interesting to follow this experiment and see.

Related Links:

“UT Arlington, Arlington ISD Launch ‘Bound For Success’ Early Admissions Initiative,” University of Texas at Arlington.

“Arlington School District Partners With University for Early College Initiative,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

New Report: High Suspension Rates for Pennsylvania’s Hispanic Students

Study after study shows that Latino and black students tend to be suspended at much higher rates than white students.

Yet another study recently grabbed news headlines making the same findings. In “Beyond Zero Tolerance,” the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania found that ten of every 100 Latino students in the state have received out-of-school suspensions at least once.

Latino students are three times more likely than white students to be suspended. Researchers concluded that Pennsylvania has one of the highest out-of-school suspension rates in the nation.

Although Latino students are about 8.4 percent of students in the state’s public schools they made of 14.5 percent of students receiving out-of-school suspensions.

The York City School District, which has a considerable Puerto Rican and Mexican student population, had the highest suspension rate in the state. The district was found to issue 91 suspensions for every 100 students. About 27 percent of Latino students there had been suspended at least once.

The ACLU criticized zero tolerance policies and the increasing reliance by school districts of police officers on campuses.

“Part of the problem is that under zero tolerance, a wide range of behaviors, from dress code violations to talking back, are now being punished as disorderly conduct, disruption, and defiant behavior,” Harold Jordan, author of the report, told Fox News Latino. “Those districts that have moved away from zero tolerance practices have found that other types of interventions can make a positive difference.”

The report makes a number of recommendations, including taking students out of class only if they pose a threat to school safety and examining policies for dealing with discipline for students with disabilities.

Researchers suggested that districts look at the “suspension gap,” or differences in suspension rates between groups. Just like the academic “achievement gap,” they feel that the discipline gap must also be closed.

Related Links:

“Beyond Zero Tolerance: Discipline and Policing in Pennsylvania Public Schools,” ACLU of Pennsylvania.
“ACLU: 1 in 10 Pa. Public School Students Given Suspensions,”
“High Number of Latino Students Suspended in Pennsylvania, ACLU Report Says,” Fox News Latino.
“ACLU: York City Has Highest Number of Out-of-School Suspensions in Pa.,” York Dispatch.

Seattle Public Schools Focus on International Schools Model

The Seattle Public Schools system is using an international schools model in an effort to focus on helping English language learners and students learning other languages.

The system’s international schools are taking a dual-language approach that allows students to study in their core subject areas in their primary and secondary language. A recent report by the group Alliance for Excellent Education credits the school system with creating a network of programs that is assisting ELLs with their language development.

“Networks of schools that have embraced cultural and linguistic diversity are producing far better outcomes than traditional schools, which have historically underserved students from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds,” the report says. “Districts are beginning to recognize the need to scale effective designs to support English learners.”

According to the report, district officials want the international schools to equip students with dual-language skills, to focus on preparing students for a global economy, and offer greater support to ELLs. They have targeted opening the international schools in neighborhoods where there are many ELLs and low-income students.

The study looked at two international schools in particular, Denny International Middle School and Chief Sealth International High School, which are located next to each other. They serve a student body that is about 60 percent low-income, and where one-third of students come from homes where languages other than English are spoken.

The high school program also offers the academically rigorous International Baccalaureate program and classes in Spanish, Japanese and Mandarin Chinese.

The report’s authors noted that in classes students discussed issues such as language, culture and social justice as they related to their own identities.

The report concludes with a number of policy recommendations for helping secondary schools to create positive academic outcomes for diverse students.

They include focusing schools around language development, developing teachers who value diversity, ensuring that teachers are trained on ELL strategies, and providing ELLs the opportunity to learn alongside non-ELLs.

Related Links:

“New Alliance Report Demonstrates How Seattle Public Schools Prepares English Language Learners for Success in a Globalized World,” Alliance for Excellent Education.

“Embracing Linguistic Diversity: The Role of Teacher Leaders in Building Seattle’s Pipeline of International Schools,” Alliance for Excellent Education.

Seattle Public Schools – International Education

Report Offers Portrait of Latino Infants and Toddlers

A recent report offers a snapshot of how Latino infants and toddlers are faring compared to their peers.

The McCormick Foundation and Child Trends offer some insights through the report, “The Youngest Americans: A Statistical Portrait of Infants and Toddlers in the United States.”

Among the most concerning findings — Latino toddlers are half as likely to be read to as their white peers. Additionally, they are a third less likely to be sung to or have stories told to them, another indicator that assists with language development.

Tellingly, Hispanic parents also are much more likely than white parents to be concerned about their young children’s development.

Hispanic toddlers and infants also are very likely to experience frequent moves between new homes as children. They are less likely to receive preventive medical care.

The report offers a myriad of statistics in a variety of different areas, which includes occurrence of asthma, parent education levels, and teen birthrates.

Related Links:

“The Youngest Americans: A Statistical Portrait of Infants and Toddlers in the United States,” McCormick Foundation and Child Trends.

“New Study Shines Light on Inequalities Among America’s Youngest Children,” McCormick Foundation News Release.

New Jersey Considers In-State Tuition for Undocumented Immigrants

New Jersey is moving closer to passing legislation that would give undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children the ability to pay in-state tuition and receive financial aid at state colleges and universities.

On Thursday, a state Senate committee voted to approve the legislation, sending it to a full vote next week.

The Star-Ledger reported that undocumented youth who have attended New Jersey high schools for at least three years and graduated would be eligible. To qualify for the benefit, individuals would have to sign affidavits saying they will work on seeking legal status.

One big piece of the proposed legislation that distinguishes it from similar laws in other states is that it would offer state financial aid to the undocumented students. Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for federal aid, which makes it difficult for many to attend college even with in-state tuition rates. reported that according to the state’s Office of Legislative Services, allowing undocumented immigrants access to tuition assistance grants and scholarships would cost up to $5 million more annually. reported that Giancarlo Tello, 23, would benefit from the bill. He is an undocumented immigrant who moved to the United Stated from Peru when he was 6 years old. He attended Rutgers University but left school because he could not afford the out-of-state tuition.

“If you consider me a fellow resident of New Jersey, if you believe I deserve an education, a chance at the future, then I urge you all to vote yes on this bill,” he told the committee before they approved it by an 8-3 vote.

A letter from the Federation for American Immigration Reform, known as FAIR, argued that granting in-state tuition would strain an already tight state budget.

“Many New Jersey schools, colleges and universities are experiencing severe budget shortages as a result of the weakened economy and the state debt crisis,” the letter said.

According to a report released in August by the Brookings Institution, the federal government received 14,273 applications from undocumented youth living in New Jersey for the deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) program as of March 22, 2013. About 58.5 percent had been approved.

The deferred action program is meant to offer temporary legal status to young people, often referred to as “Dreamers,” brought into the country illegally as children. They have to meet requirements that include entering the country before age 16. The New Jersey numbers show there are plenty of potential students who would benefit from in-state tuition rates.

When I was working as an education reporter in Texas, I occasionally submitted freedom of information requests to the state requesting information on how many students were benefitting from the in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants law, how many were attending each college and university, and how much state financial aid they received.

Texas was the first state in the country to create an in-state tuition law. Other states with similar laws include California, Utah, New York, Washington, Illinois, Kansas, New Mexico, Nebraska, Maryland and Connecticut, among others.

The information about the numbers of undocumented students attending Texas colleges and universities helped better inform my reporting, and it can be useful background in your articles about undocumented young people.

If your state does not have such a law, have you asked undocumented high school students how being denied in-state tuition impacts their educational goals?

Related Links:

“NJ Senate Panel Advances In-State Tuition Bill,” The Associated Press.
“N.J. Bill to Offer In-State TUition, Financial Aid to Immigrants in the Country Illegally Gains Momentum,” The Star-Ledger.

Latinos in California Choose Community College at High Rates

Latino high school graduates in California choose to enroll in community college at much higher rates than other groups — even those who graduate from the state’s top high schools.

About one out of three Latino graduates chooses community college, compared with about one out of four white, black and Asian students.

Additionally, about 46 percent of Latino graduates from the top 10 percent of California high schools enroll in community colleges — compared with 27 percent of whites, 23 percent of blacks, and 19 percent of Asians.

The article notes that discrepancies between groups could be attributed to factors such as low tuition costs, location, and program flexility.

“These findings display highly stratified patterns of college-going in California,” lead author Lindsey Malcom-Piqueux, a senior fellow with the Center for Urban Education at the University of Southern California, told Futurity. “They show that it’s not just preparation per se that’s driving students’ college decision making. There are a lot of other factors, from issues of cost and accessibility to state colleges limiting enrollment due to budget cuts.”

Why are talented Latino students considering community colleges even if they are qualified to attend more academically well regarded universities where outcomes are better?

It may be worth interviewing young people in your community about their own decisions. Are they impacted by family, finances or even bad counseling?

Related Links:

“Latina and Latino High School Graduates are Disproportionately Enrolled in Community Colleges,” The Tomas Rivera Policy Institute, USC.
“High Number of Latinos in California Choose Community College,” Futurity.

Latino Studies Programs Grow on College Campuses

Latino Studies programs are popping up in unexpected places.

Just this fall, Vanderbilt University announced the creation of a Latino and Latina Studies program. This occurred even though only about 8 percent of Vanderbilt students are Latino.

Community colleges are also considering such programs.

“In the last couple of years, there have been a number of community colleges asking for help in setting up programs,” Lourdes Torres, professor of Latin American and Latino studies at DePaul University, told Fox News Latino. “It’s not just four-year colleges, it’s two-year programs reaching out asking for help.”

Such programs can sometimes be a long time coming.

When I was an undergraduate student at Northwestern in 2000, some Hispanic students organized a protest calling on the university to create a Latino Studies program. It took nine years for the program to become reality.

Time likely will determine the direction that these programs will take.

Some programs are struggling. In March, KPBS — San Diego Public Radio — reported that the Chicano Studies program at San Diego State University in California was falling short of its course enrollment goals. That occurred despite the fact that the university is defined as a Hispanic Serving Institution.

The KPBS article noted that the “Chicano” label is no longer as popular with Mexican American students, and can have a negative connotation that may impact enrollment. Many Chicano Studies programs were born out of protests by activists in the 1960s and 1970s.

“Identifying as Chicano symbolized solidarity with a proud, sometimes even militant, struggle against second-class status — a struggle by Mexican-Americans to be recognized by politicians, employers, and by academia,” the article noted.

However, the article noted that in contrast, the nearby San Diego City College has more demand than space for its Chicano Studies courses.

So is it that important to replace Chicano with Latino or Hispanic? And what sorts of careers are students who earn degrees in these majors pursuing?

Related Links:

“Latino Studies Programs Taking Off In Colleges Across the Country,” Fox News Latino.
“New Vanderbilt Latino and Latina Studies Program Launched,” Vanderbilt University.
“Declining Interest in ‘Chicano Studies’ Reflects a Latino Identity Shift,” KPBS.

NAEP Scores Detail Hispanic Student Performance

Hispanic fourth- and eighth-graders made small gains in math and reading on the National Achievement of Educational Progress — known as the “Nation’s Report Card” — but achievement gaps remain a persistent problem.

The latest data released measured growth between 2011 and 2013.

Hispanic and black children still have not caught up to white children. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the achievement gaps are troubling, The Dallas Morning News reported. He used the opportunity to promote the expansion of preschool programs.

“The only way to significantly close the achievement gap is to stop playing catch-up (after students start regular classes) and increase access to early childhood education,” he said. “Why don’t we try fixing the problem before it begins?”

Hispanic fourth- and eighth-graders made progress in math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress between 2011 and 2013, according to new data. Additionally, Hispanic eighth-graders scored higher in reading in 2013 than two years earlier.

You can access online data for more detailed performance data by state.

Related Links:

“U.S. Reading and Math Scores Show Slight Gains,” The New York Times.

“U.S. Students Show Incremental Progress on National Test,” The Washington Post.

“Texas Hispanic Students Lag in ‘Nation’s Report Card,'” The Dallas Morning News.

National Assessment of Educational Progress

Report Emphasizes Importance of Latino College Completion in California

Latinos in California have “unacceptably low rates” of college completion that must improve in order for the state to have a strong future, a new report says.

The report, “The State of Latinos in Higher Education in California,” was conducted by the nonprofit group The Campaign for College Opportunity.

The most stark fact illustrating the challenge is that in 2011, only about 11 percent of Latino adults ages 25 or older held a bachelor’s degree in the state, compared with 39 percent of white adults.

On the positive side, Diverse Issues in Higher Education reported that Michele Siqueiros, executive director of the campaign, noted that “surveys continue to confirm that Latinos have very high aspirations. Latino parents are very supportive of their children getting a college education. In fact, 92 percent of them believe that a college education is very important.”

While more Latinos are graduating high school, that isn’t necessarily leading them to graduate from college.

While many Latinos feel attending college is important, the study points out several factors that hinder their chance of finishing. Among those potential barriers, Latinos are less likely to enroll in a four-year university, less likely to attend a selective college, less likely to enroll full-time, or to complete a bachelor’s degree.

The group makes a number of recommendations for improving outcomes for Latino students. The list includes creating a statewide plan for higher education, investing in student services, increasing funding for higher education, strengthening the state’s financial aid program, and improving the relationship between K12 and higher education entities.

The report also suggests that the state create benchmarks based on Latino enrollment and publicize progress made toward those goals.

According to the study, about 94 percent of California’s Latinos under the age of 18 were born in the United States. When Latinos attend college, they are more likely to attend community colleges. According to state data, of the state’s freshman Latino students in fall 2012, there were 118,727 enrolled in community colleges, 23,046 enrolled in the California State University system, and 8,747 in the University of California system.

Many Latino students who enroll in community colleges must take remedial courses in order to be college-ready, and studies show those students are less likely to finish college. According to California state data, only about four in 10 Latino students complete community colleges in six years. Additionally, of those Latinos who complete community college and enroll in the California State University system only about 63 percent earn a bachelor’s degree within four years.

Meanwhile, well-prepared Latino students attending the UC system fare better: almost 74 percent graduate within six years, and 46 percent in four years. Additionally, almost 82 percent of Latino community college transfers to the UC system graduate in four years.

Related Links:

– “The State of Latinos in Higher Education in California,” The Campaign for College Opportunity.

“California’s Low Latino College Completion Rate Imperils State’s Future,” Diverse Issues in Higher Education.

“For Economy’s Sake, Latinos Need College Push,” San Diego Union Tribune.