The Challenge for Latino Children in Illinois

The Chicago Public Schools have faced numerous difficulties in the past year: school closures, neighborhood violence and persistently high dropout rates. Latino children make up about 44 percent of the district’s enrollment.

On the Huffington Post Latino Voices blog, Latino Policy Forum Executive Director Sylvia Puente writes about the conditions in Chicago and Illinois, noting last year’s struggles.

“The eyes of the nation were fixed on our corner of Illinois — not just to follow the controversy, but also because as one of the country’s global, diverse cities, Chicago is [a] litmus test of educational realities across the country,” she writes.

Puente writes that improving outcomes for Latino children depends on increasing access to quality preschool programs. Additionally, as Illinois phases in required bilingual education for English Language Learners in preschool, more training is needed for teachers. Lastly, Latino students need access to quality teachers and more Latino teachers.

“Understanding the issues is step one,” Puente writes. “But action — in the form of investments in increased access to quality early care and education in Latino neighborhoods, resources for teachers to pursue linguistic credentials, and strong teacher preparation programs that encourage diverse talent in the profession — is critical, in Chicago, in Illinois, and across the country.”

Read more here.

Related Links:

– “Chicago’s Next Education Crisis Isn’t Limited to Chicago — Here’s Why,” The Huffington Post Latino Voices.

– Latino Policy Forum.


Latino College Enrollment Surges as Overall Enrollment Falls

Higher numbers of Latinos are enrolling in college than ever before — even as overall college enrollment in the United States is falling.

The findings were released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Tuesday. The number of Hispanics enrolled in college increased to 3.4 million in 2012, an increase of 15 percent over the previous year, Reuters reported. Hispanic students now make up 17 percent of college students.

Meanwhile, overall college enrollment fell by about 2.3 percent, to 19.9 million. Much of the decline came from older students.

The Pew Research Center details other recent positive news contained in the report. The Hispanic high school dropout rate is falling. In 2012, about 15 percent of Hispanics ages 18 to 24 had not completed high school. The percentage in 2000 was significantly higher, at 32 percent.

“Overall, the Hispanic dropout rate is falling more quickly than any other racial or ethnic group, resulting in a closing of the gap between Hispanics and blacks, white non-Hispanics and Asians,” Pew noted.

The Census Bureau report found that 49 percent of Hispanic high school graduates ages 18 to 24 are enrolled in college, compared with 47 percent of whites. Immigrant students and children of immigrants made up about 32 percent of college students.

More students are in the pipeline. About 24 percent of elementary school students in the U.S. are Hispanic.

The news is encouraging, but there still is a long way to go to close the education gap, demonstrated by another recent report by Pew focusing on the low college attainment rates of Latinos. The college attainment levels vary widely depending on which state you reside in.

An analysis of Census data by the Pew Research Center provides a state-by-state breakdown on the bachelor’s degree attainment rates of Latinos ages 25 and older in 2011. The national average for all Hispanics was 13.4 percent.

On the high end of the list was the District of Columbia (36.2 percent). The low end was Nevada (8.1 percent). Many of the most heavily Hispanic states fall under the national average. They include California (10.7 percent) and Texas (12.0 percent). Florida was an exception (20.4 percent).

The source of data was the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2011 American Community Survey data. It’s important to note that these number include immigrants with low levels of education from their home countries.

As you may recall, last May Pew released a study showing that a higher percentage of Hispanic high school graduates in the Class of 2012 (69 percent) enrolled in college than white graduates (67 percent).

Related Links:

– “After a Recent Upswing, College Enrollment Declines, Census Bureau Reports,” United States Census Bureau.

– “Hispanic Enrollment in U.S. Colleges up 15 Percent,” Reuters.

– “Among Recent High School Grads, Hispanic College Enrollment Rate Surpasses that of Whites,” Pew Research Center.

– “D.C., Virginia and Maryland Have the Highest Shares of College-Educated Latinos,” Pew Research Center.

– “Hispanic High School Graduates Pass Whites in Rate of College Enrollment,” Pew Research Center.

Survey Finds Parent School Preferences Vary By Ethnicity

A survey of parents of school-age children finds that their views of an “ideal” school often vary by race, ethnicity and economic status. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute surveyed more than 2,000 parents a year ago online for the “What Parents Want” study.

Despite differences, parents across different backgrounds agreed on core “must haves” such as a strong reading and math curriculum and emphasizing STEM (science technology, engineering and math) programs.

Elsewhere, the parents diverge.

Hispanic, black and low-income parents viewed an ideal school as having high test scores and strong preparation for the state exams more so than white and affluent parents.

Hispanic and black parents focused less on prioritizing learning good study habits and self-discipline than white parents. But minority parents were more likely to say that they wanted their child to be admitted to top tier colleges.

The report offers further details on how parents rated various factors.

Related Links:

– “Parents Favor ‘Niche’ Schools, Fordham Institute Market Study Finds,” Education Week.

– “What Parents Want: Education Preferences and Trade-Offs,” Fordham Institute.

Texas Study Finds ELL Students Face “Triple Segregation”

In Texas, poor Hispanic children who are English language learners often attend intensely segregated schools, a new study has found.

Such children face “triple segregation” because they are isolated by virtue of their ethnicity, socioeconomic background and language skills. The trend is found in both urban and suburban settings.

Education professors Julian Vasquez Heilig and Jennifer Jellison Holme from the University of Texas at Austin examined 2011 demographic data from the Texas Education Agency to make their findings in their study, “Nearly 50 Years Post-Jim Crow: Persisting and Expansive School Segregation for African American, Latina/o and ELL Students in Texas.”

The AP reports that in 2012, about 838,000 limited proficient children attended Texas schools. They made up about 16.2 percent of the total enrollment. In 2011, about 9 percent of Texas schools were found to be majority ELL, with most of those being elementary schools. The study reveals that of Texas schools with a majority ELL enrollment, 89 percent have a study body that is majority economically disadvantaged.

However, the study found a bright spot. Majority-ELL elementary schools were more likely to earn the state’s top ranking of “exemplary” than to be rated low-performing. The researchers found 72 “exemplary” and 15 low-performing majority-ELL elementary schools in Texas, noting that “the state should be applauded for these numbers.”

However, the researchers cautioned that those same children tend to go on to attend low-performing middle and high schools. And ELLs have very high dropout rates in Texas.

Researchers point out that Texas has a long history of segregating its Hispanic children. At first, this was accomplished by placing them in separate schools. Texas schools were targeted with lawsuits because of such practices long before the Brown v. Board case. Later, the state segregated children by placing them in separate classes within a school.

As a reporter, I visited many schools that had “triple segregation.” In Texas, bilingual education is required for ELLs when there is a large enough population and by nature of the program these children are placed in separate classes. Do bilingual programs inherently segregate? Are there benefits at all to this, however? The study acknowledges that this question has come up in debates over the instructional program.

“As the first-generation cases were resolved, the friction between bilingual education and desegregation became more apparent, as courts and districts sought to balance the need, on the one hand, to offer linguistically appropriate instruction for subgroups of students who do not yet speak English, and the danger, on the other hand, that such practices could result in racial and linguistic isolation of those students,” the study says.

Lastly, segregation has increased as overall districts and communities have become residentially segregated. Much of the residential segregation growth is happening in the suburbs.

This study is fascinating because it goes a step beyond racial segregation and examines a new type of segregation that has arisen based on linguistic isolation. It’s conversation worth having. It also raises the question, how does attending a segregated school impact how children learn English? And in a majority minority state such as Texas, are these trends just part of the demographic shift?

Related Links:

– “Study Shows Texas Segregated By Language,” Associated Press/Fox News Latino.

– “Study Shows Triple Segregation Persists in Texas Schools,” News Release, The University of Texas at Austin College of Education.

– “Nearly 50 Years Post-Jim Crow: Persisting and Expansive School Segregation for African American, Latina/o, and ELL Students in Texas.”

– “Cloaking Inequality” Blog (By Julian Vasquez Heilig)

Iowa School District Struggles With Teacher Diversity

As the Latino population boomed beyond major urban centers and border states, school systems  have struggled to keep up with their rapidly changing demographics — even in unexpected places such as Iowa.

The Sioux City Journal reports that in the Sioux City, Iowa, school system about 29 percent of students are Hispanic while only 1 percent of teachers are Hispanic. That gives students few adult role models of their own background to look up to. Similarly, 96 percent of all of the district’s teachers are white while only 56 percent of the students are white.

Those are not statistics that the district’s leadership is happy about, but keeping pace can be difficult when the diversity of the young population has grown so rapidly. Only about 2.2 percent of all of Iowa teachers were minorities in 2011-12. According to the 2010 Census, about 16.4 percent of Sioux City residents were Hispanic while only five percent of all Iowa residents were Hispanic.

“It’s not that we have a diverse candidate pool, and we are only hiring Caucasians,” Superintendent Paul Gausman told the newspaper. “Our candidate pool does not have the diversity we would like to make choices.”

The school district is hoping to build a grow-your-own pipeline by creating an education career cluster that will eventually result in minority graduates of the district who one day return to teach. I’m curious if they also will try tactics such as recruiting teachers from more diverse states, such as Texas or California.

In another reflection of the district’s growing diversity, the newspaper reported that the school board recently decided to prioritize lobbying efforts in the Iowa Legislature regarding English Language Learners.  In particular, they’d like better funding for instructional programs for ELLs.

According to the article, the district has 2,635 ELLs, making up 18.5 percent of its enrollment. To further illustrate the rapid change, the district had only 213 ELLs in 1988-89.

Related Links:

– “Sioux City Schools Looking for more Diversity in Teaching Ranks,” Sioux City Journal.

– “Sioux City Schools Adds Legislative Focus on Non-English Speaking Students,” Sioux City Journal. 

Virginia Protest Prompts Community Dialogue on Treatment of Hispanic Students

On the last day of classes at Huguenot High School in Richmond, Virginia, community members rallied outside of the school to protest the alleged discriminatory treatment of Hispanic students. The group included the valedictorian of the graduating class, Jessica Orsonio.

The day before, Richmond Times Dispatch columnist Michael Paul Williams recalled, Osornio delivered an emotional speech that explained some of the sentiment behind the protest.

““Immigrant students don’t know if their parents will be taken away and the families separated,” Osornio, a Mexican immigrant herself, told the crowd. “Every day we walk with fear as we try and just get through the day, never knowing what the future has prepared for us and our loved ones. The only thing we want is to be equal. In the past, that has maybe been too much to ask. But not today. We dream and hope for the best.”

The discontent had grown in part on Facebook, where students set up a “Latin@ Students Under Attack at Huguenot HS – Rally to Support Students and Families Fighting to Decriminalize Schools” page promoting the protest.

The page accused school officials of discrimination and accused faculty of threatening students with deportation, alleged school security guards and police targeted Hispanics, and that the school denied proper language services to parents.

At the actual protest, they distributed flyers calling for professional interpreting services for parents and students, translations of policies, and cultural sensitivity training for teachers and other staff.

One month later, the Richmond Times Dispatch reports that Richmond public schools officials have announced the formation of a multicultural task force to address the tension in the community prompted by rapid demographic changes.

According to the newspaper, the school system’s Hispanic enrollment has grown from about 2.3 percent of students in 2003-04 to about 8.8 percent last school year. The task force will in part be dedicated to improving the district’s inclusiveness, promoting diversity, putting together cultural exchange opportunities, and cultural awareness among students and staff.

Have similar flare-ups taken place in your school district? If so, what steps are school officials taking to address the issue?

Related Links:

– “Williams: Richmond schools must handle their growing diversity,” Richmond Times Dispatch.

– “Richmond educators looking for ways to better serve growing Hispanic population,” Richmond Times Dispatch. 

– “Latin@ Students Under Attack at Huguenot HS” Facebook Page.

Kids Count Report Measures Hispanic Children’s Well-Being

Latino children still have the lowest preschool attendance rate of any racial or ethnic group, The Annie E. Casey Foundation annual 2013 Kids Count report has found.

Between 2009 and 2011, about 63 percent of Hispanic children did not attend preschool, compared with 50 percent of white children.

The annual report measures the well-being of children across the nation, and provides a wealth of additional information on key indicators. It provides state-by-state information. Between 2005 and 2011, the child poverty rate increased from 19 percent to 23 percent.

The Associated Press reported that while education and health indicators are improving, economic indicators worsened.

“We hope as we go forward we’ll see continued improvement,” Patrick McCarthy, president of the Casey Foundation, told The Washington Post. “But we’re concerned about the longterm impact of the recession. Research suggests that children who spend extended periods of time in poverty are more likely to drop out of school, become pregnant and are less likely to [find permanent] work. Over the long term, they have a tough time transitioning to adulthood.”

Some additional information provides further context on the population:

– In 2011, about 34 percent of Hispanic children lived in poverty, compared with 14 percent of white children. The national average was 23 percent.

– Hispanic children were by far the most likely of any racial or ethnic group to have a head of household who lacked a high school diploma, as of 2011. About 37 percent of Hispanic children fell under this category, compared with 6 percent of white children.

– About 29 percent of Hispanic students did not graduate on time in 2009-10, compared with 17 percent of white students.

– In 2011, about 13 percent of Hispanic children did not have health insurance, compared with 5 percent of white children.

– About 42 percent of Hispanic children lived in single-parent homes in 2011, compared with 25 percent of white children.

Additionally, some states with significant Hispanic populations struggled. For the second year in a row, Nevada was ranked dead last in education. Additionally, New Mexico ranked worst in the nation in child well-being, after it was found that about 30 percent of children there are living in poverty.

Related Links:

KIDS COUNT 2013 Report

– “Report: Economic well-being of US children slips,” Associated Press. 

– “Children living in poverty longer, putting their futures at risk,” The Washington Post.

Hamptons Suicides Prompt Focus on Latino Community

Three suicides by Latino teenagers in recent years have prompted introspection at the academically highly regarded East Hampton High School in New York State.

The New York Times recently reported that the rapid growth of the Hispanic population in the community has created tensions that may have been a factor in the students’ suicides. According to the article, the student population in the East Hampton Union Free School District was 41 percent Hispanic in 2012, up from 21.7 percent ten years earlier.

Daniel Hernandez, 16, an Ecuadorean immigrant, died after hanging himself last September, following Homecoming. In the aftermath of the tragedy, the district emphasized a renewed focus on reaching out to Hispanic parents. The district also hired a graduate of the high school to help and work as a community liaison, 23-year-old Ana Nunez, a Columbia University graduate who is of Ecuadorean descent.

She has helped parents learn how to understand student report cards and addressed concerns about students being absent for extended periods during out of the country trips.

The article acknowledges that a myriad of issues were at play in the suicides. For example, the article said Hernandez had questioned his sexuality and had allegedly been bullied by other Hispanic students.

Many school districts have chosen to hire liaisons to focus on involving Latino families. How is your local district handling outreach?

Related Links:

– “In Hamptons, Ethnicity, Class and Suicide Lead a Hamptons School to Reach Out,” The New York Times.

– East Hampton Union Free School District

– “Officials respond to student suicides,” East Hampton Star.

Ads Promote Autism Awareness Among Latinos

A new ad campaign from the group Autism Speaks is reaching out to Latino and African-American parents to generate greater awareness about autism and encourage earlier identification.

The “Maybe”  PSA campaign includes TV and print ads in both English and Spanish. The ads outline key warning signs and behaviors a child with autism may exhibit, such as a preoccupation with objects and avoiding eye contact.

Last year, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a study showing large increases in the number of Latino and black children identified as autistic. The CDC estimated that there were about 7.9 diagnosed cases of autism per 1,000 Latino children, an increase of 110% over 2002. Despite that increase, prevalence is much higher among white (12.0) and black (10.2) children. The report noted that the wide variation between groups could be attributed to awareness levels in the communities.

The average age of diagnosis is four to five years. But the average age of diagnosis is higher among Latino, black and low-income children.

“Earlier diagnosis [is] so important because if we can get a child by 2 years old, in most cases, with help that child can go to regular kindergarten,” Liz Feld, president of Autism Speaks, told NBC Latino. “The window between 2-5 years old is the most important time to deal with treatment.”

Related Links:

– “Aiming Autism Ads at Hispanic and African-American Parents,” The New York Times.

– “Autism Cases Identified Among Hispanic Children on the Rise, CDC Says,” Latino Ed Beat.

– “Autism Speaks launches new campaign to reach Latino, black parents,” NBC Latino.

– “Prevalence of Austin Spectrum DIsorders in Hispanic and non-Hispanic White Children,” Pediatrics.

– Autism Speaks

Pew: Latinos Making Dramatic Gains in College Enrollment

Latino high school graduates in the Class of 2012 were more likely to enroll in college than their white counterparts, a new Pew Hispanic Center study has found.

About 69% of Hispanic high school graduates enrolled in college the following fall, compared with 67% of their white peers. The data used for the study comes from the U.S. Census Bureau.

“This is the maturation of a big second generation among Latinos — native born, and educated in American schools,” Richard Fry, the report’s author, told The New York Times.

The Pew report also suggests that the struggling economy and the availability of fewer jobs could make college seem like a more appealing choice to young Latinos.

The announcement comes after the release of other reports in recent months showing that the educational outcomes for Latinos are looking brighter. More Hispanics are graduating from high school, although there is still plenty of room for growth and an achievement gap with whites persists.

In January, the National Center for Education Statistics released a report finding that the Latino high school graduation rate increased to 71.4% in 2010, up from 61.4% in 2006.

Similarly, an analysis by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center found that the Latino graduation rate for the Class of 2009 was 63%, representing a 5.5% increase from the previous year.

We should not minimize the fact that too many Latinos are still not making it to the high school graduation finish line, and they are not being factored into the Pew Hispanic Center’s percentages. Pew measured the college-going rates of the actual graduates, and does not include the students who started high school the same year but dropped out.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, in 2011 about 14% of Latino 16- to 24-year-olds were high school dropouts, down from 28% in 2000. The white high school dropout rate in 2011 was 5%, in comparison.

Pew has a few other caveats, as well. Just 56% of Hispanic college students are enrolled in four-year colleges and universities, compared with 72% of white students. Hispanic students are therefore more likely to attend community college, less selective schools, and are more likely to be part-time students — all factors that contribute to the fact that they are less likely to complete a bachelor’s degree.

But certainly, strides are being made and justifiably, celebrated.

Related Links:

– “Hispanic High School Graduates Pass Whites in Rate of College Enrollment,” Pew Hispanic Center.

– “Record rate of Hispanic students heading to college,” USA Today.

– “As Latinos Make Gains in Education, Gaps Remain,” The New York Times.

– “Latino High School Graduation Rate Sees Large Increase,” Latino Ed Beat.

– Diplomas Count, Editorial Projects in Education Research Center.