SAT Scores Show Hispanics Lag in College Readiness

The SAT college entrance exam picture for Hispanic students is mixed, based on 2013 data released Thursday by the College Board.

Hispanics have increased to 17 percent of test takers. Yet only about 23.5 percent of Latino students were deemed college ready based on their scores, a slight increase over the prior year.

The overall national average is also frustrating. For the past five years, the overall average college readiness of test takers has hovered at 43 percent.

The board set a benchmark score of 1550 as the score, the score they say at which there is a 65 percent likelihood that a student will have a college freshman year GPA of B- or higher. The overall average score was 1498 out of a possible 2400.

Students who tested ready for college were more likely to have taken a core curriculum, AP courses, high-level math courses such as calculus, and be in the top 10 percent of their graduating class.

Hispanics tended to lag in being academically prepared for the SAT exam. Among Hispanics who took the SAT exam, about 70 percent took a core curriculum, 56 percent reported taking AP courses, and 36 percent reported that they had “A” average grades.

College Board officials continue to push to increase the participation rates of minority students. Their efforts are not without criticism. Bob Schaeffer of Fair Test told National Public Radio that the board’s efforts are a marketing ploy.

Reflecting the country’s shifting demographics, the Texas Education Agency reported that more Hispanic public school students took the exam than white students. There were 59,294 Hispanic students taking the exam and 58,307 white students. Hispanics already make up the majority of students attending Texas schools.

Also on Thursday, The New York Times reported on a new program being launched by the College Board that is seeking to motivate more minority and low-income students to apply to elite colleges and universities.

The board is sending information packets including application fee waivers to six colleges to 28,000 high school seniors with an SAT or PSAT score in the top 15 percent of people tested but the bottom quarter of income distribution.

Recent studies have shown that even high-performing Latino, black and low-income students do not apply to the competitive admission colleges that they are qualified to attend. The Times reported that a recent study by University of Virginia researchers found that providing more college information in mailed packets to low-income students influences college application decisions.

At the time, College Board President David Coleman told the Times, ““We can’t stand by as students, particularly low-income students, go off track and don’t pursue the opportunities they have earned.”

Related Links:

“2013 SAT Report on College & Career Readiness”
“College Board ‘Concerned’ About Low SAT Scores,” NPR.
“Record Number of Minorities Take SAT But Lag in College Readiness.”
“A Nudge to Poorer Students to Aim High on Colleges,” The New York Times.
“A Simple Way to Send Poor Kids to Top Colleges,” The New York Times.

College Board Reveals Advanced Placement Data on Latinos

Every year, the College Board releases its Advanced Placement Report to the Nation. It’s a virtual treasure trove of data on the college preparatory course exams, with information broken out by race and ethnicity, economic status, state and subject area.

According to the College Board’s recently released report, Latinos made up about 18% of AP-exam takers in the Class of 2012.

Among the graduating class of 2012, there were 169,521 Latino graduates who took an AP exam during high school. About 41% of the exams taken by Latinos earned a three or higher, typically considered passing. In comparison, about 63% of exams taken by white students resulted in scores of three or higher.

While Latino participation in AP courses is growing by leaps and bounds, they still are not well represented in math and science coursework.

The Spanish Language exam remained the most popular exam among Latinos in the graduating class of 2012–63,329 students took the course. That means that about 37% of graduating Latinos who took at least one AP exam, had taken an AP Spanish course.

And Latinos made up about 64% of all the Class of 2012 students who took the AP Language Exam. Meanwhile, Latinos made up about 13% of the students who took AB Calculus.

Many educators argue that the class is a gateway to other AP classes for Hispanic students–once they perform well, they tend to go on to enroll in other classes. Students often take the class in middle school and pass the exam. But there are others who are critical of the fact that many of the students already speak Spanish when they are tested.

The four courses behind Spanish in popularity among Latino students were English Language and Composition (59,597), United States History (52,740), English Literature and Composition (50,028), and United States Government and Politics (32,410).

The lesson here is, don’t just ask your school district for an overall passing rate by ethnicity.

If your district is touting that more Latino students are taking AP courses–what courses are they taking and are they passing the exams? Also, what AP courses do the campuses even offer?

Enjoy digging through the data!

Related Links:

– Advanced Placement Report to the Nation.

– “More Latinos taking AP courses, but numbers are still low,” NBC Latino.

Puente Project Improves Latino Student Outcomes in California

The California-based Puente Project has worked to bridge the gaps between Latino youth and college enrollment since 1981. The program’s goal is to increase the number of Latinos graduating from four-year colleges, and then to urge those graduates to return to their communities and give back as mentors.

The program’s success was highlighted in a webinar Thursday hosted by the College Board Advocacy & Policy Center discussing college readiness programs for young men of color. The discussion was the third in a series discussing the challenges young men face.

Counseling, mentoring and teaching are the three main components of the organization. The program trains high school and community college educators to work with students and guide them toward transferring to four-year colleges. Students have the same counselor consistently through their high school career and then again in community college.

Once enrolled in community college, they take a class together on Latino and multicultural literature. “The shared experience gives them buy-in into the program,” Puente program trainer and coordinator Martin De Mucha Flores said during the webinar. “They become critical thinkers.”

De Mucha Flores speaks from personal experience: He was a Puente program student himself.

The project’s work addresses solving a significant problem in California– the poor transfer rates of Latino, black and low-income students from community colleges to universities. Earlier this year, The Civil Rights Project at UCLA noted that just 20 percent of transfer students in 2010 were Latino or black.

The program serves thousands of students, and operates at 61 community colleges and 34 high schools in California. This year, it opened sites at South Texas community colleges in El Paso, McAllen and San Antonio.

The Puente Project was also recently highlighted as a successful program with young men in a policy brief appearing in Perspectives: Issues in Higher Education Policy and Practice. The policy advocacy group Excelencia in Education also named the group as one that’s successfully working to improve Latino graduation rates.

“We’re a tried-and-true program,” said De Mucha Flores, who noted that academic journals have vetted and proved that the model works.

Related Links:

Puente Project Web Site

– “Webinar Series-  Young Men of Color: Charting a  Way for Educational Success.” College Board Advocacy & Policy Center. (Video and presentation links)

National Science Foundation Funds Research on Teaching Science to English Language Learners

The National Science Foundation has stepped forward to assist with efforts to close the achievement gap for English language learners in science and math by funding 32 active research projects in the area.

Julio López-Ferrao, program director of the education and human resources directorate at the National Science Foundation, spoke about the issue at the recent “Prepárate: Educating Latinos for the Future of America” conference sponsored by the College Board. He noted that the NSF’s ELL focus has only developed in the past five years. “How do we do better with English language learners?” Lopez-Ferrao asked. “The National Science Foundation has a mission to promote research of high quality. There is a national problem and other agencies need to jump in the pool.”

So far, the majority of projects focus on Spanish-speaking students, more than half focus on middle-school grades, and the projects usually collect data from at least two school districts. The issues addressed include student learning, assessment, curriculum and professional development.

Lopez-Ferrao said the largest and most successful project so far has been the five-year Promoting Science among English Language Learners, or P-SELL project in Florida led in part by  Okhee Lee. The P-SELL, which offers a elementary school curriculum and teacher professional development, is being used in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Lopez-Ferrao said that students in the program performed better on assessments than those not in the program and the achievement gap also shrank.

Another NSF project–this time in Texas– the Middle School Science for English Language Learners or Project MSSELL, led by Rafael Lara-Alecio and Fuhui Tong of Texas A&M University, is examining middle school performance.

The latest results of the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) of eighth-graders showed that English language learners performed far below other student groups in science and have not made progress over the past couple years. ELLs averaged a score of 106 out of 300 points, compared with 137 for all Latino students, 163 for white students and 129 for black students. Proficient is considered a 170.

Are you curious whether there is research under way in your area? The NSF has a searchable database of active research projects  online. If you search under the key words “English language learners”  you’ll find some hits.

Related Links:

– “Grim NAEP Science Results for English Learners.” Learning the Language blog, Education Week.

– Promoting Science among English Language Learners (P-SELL) (Florida)

– Project Middle School Science for English Language Learners (MSSELL) (Texas)

– National Science Foundation: Directorate for Education and Human Resources. 

– The Nation’s Report Card: Science 2011 (NAEP).

College Board Releases Resource Guide for Undocumented Immigrant Students

For the first time, the College Board has released a resource guide intended to help undocumented immigrant students seeking to pursue a college education.

The guide includes information on college admission, financial aid,  scholarships and support groups for students residing in states that provide in-state tuition rates to undocumented immigrant students attending public colleges and universities. Summaries of the states’ in-state tuition laws and how to qualify also are included. Web site links and email contacts for various support organizations and information sources located in those states are provided, too.

The report was released on Thursday at the organization’s “Preparate” conference in Miami. The College Board organization administers the SAT exams and the Advanced Placement program.

The guide does not include state-specific resources for students residing in areas without in-state tuition laws on the books. It also does not address the policies of private universities.

Fourteen states currently have laws that allow undocumented immigrant students to pay in-state tuition. The state-specific resources listed in the guide cover eleven of those states: California, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.

Despite backlash against undocumented immigrants in many parts of the country, some states have expanded benefits for such students. Connecticut, Maryland and Rhode Island just passed in-state tuition laws in 2011. In addition, California and Illinois have expanded undocumented students’ access to state financial aid programs.

In much of the United States, undocumented immigrant students must pay higher out-of-state tuition rates that can make it difficult to pursue a higher education, particularly because they cannot qualify for federal financial aid.  However, a number of universities have decided to provide financial aid to undocumented students with their own institutional funds.

The guide was created by Alejandra Rincon, an immigrant rights activist who holds a doctorate in education administration from the University of Texas. The document’s release comes as the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrant students, has repeatedly failed to pass in Congress. The College Board organization strongly supports the act, and submitted statements in support of its passage when Senate hearings were held last year.

There has been some political movement around these issues. On Wednesday, Florida Republican representative David Rivera introduced an alternative, the Studying Towards Adjusted Residency Status Act, or STARS, which would allow undocumented students brought to the United States at a young age to apply for a five-year non-immigrant status.

Related Links:

– “Repository of Resources for Undocumented Students,” The College Board. 

“Young illegal immigrants coming out of the shadows.” The Associated Press.

“Florida Republican introduces DREAM Act alternative in House.” The Hill.

– “Almost-deported valedictorian Daniela Pelaez helps introduce immigration reform bill.”

“Colleges look at policies for illegal immigrants.” USA Today.