Blog: Latino Ed Beat

America’s Children Report Provides Statistical Goldmine

If you become a regular reader of this blog (and I hope you will), you will quickly discover that I am not very big on stat-heavy or policy-centered stories. Instead, I believe strong education stories focus on the people at the core of education–the students, educators and parents.

However (and this is a big however), understanding policy and finding good statistics will often lead to stories about real people and–when used skillfully–can strengthen any story we write.

If you’re looking for new facts and figures about the nation’s children, a federal report released last week might be a good place to start digging. America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being 2011 is a compendium of data gathered by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, a collaboration of 22 government bureaus. The statistics in the report measure factors such as family make-up, economic status, education, health care and social environment.

Among its findings relating to Latino children:

  • The percentage of Hispanic children has grown from 9 percent of the child population in 1980 to 23 percent in 2010 — faster than any other group.  And that number will continue to grow, with 39 percent of U.S. children projected to be Hispanic by 2050.
  • In 2010, about 61 percent of Hispanic children were living with two married parents, down from 75 percent in 1980.
  • About 66 percent of school-age Hispanic children spoke a language other than English at home in 2009, compared to 6 percent of white (non-Hispanic) and black (non-Hispanic) children. About 16 percent of Hispanic children spoke another language and had difficulty with English, compared to 1 percent of  white (non-Hispanic) and black (non-Hispanic) children.
  • Hispanic youth still lag behind white and black youth when it comes to high school completion, but the Latino completion rate has increased significantly–going from 57 percent in 1980 to 77 percent in 2009.
  • College enrollment rates for Latinos are also showing improvement, with their average increasing from 47 percent in 1999 to 62 percent in 2009.
These numbers alone could yield an interesting article about the state of Latino children, but taking the reporting a step further — finding the people behind the statistics–can tell the reader even more. For example, who are the Latino two-parent families in your coverage area? Are they newly arrived immigrant families scrambling to get by, or are they well-established, upper-middle class second- or third-generation Latinos?
What about the second-language speakers? Are schools addressing the needs of students who lack English skills, or are ELL classes being hit by budget cutbacks (as they are in some school districts)? How do Spanish-speaking parents cope when their children start to learn English, a change sure to upset the family dynamic?
Much has been written about the Latino students struggling to finish school or dropping out before getting a high school diploma, but as these statistics show, many Latino students are graduating and going on to college. Who are they and what made the difference in their lives?