Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Back-to-School Brainstorming

In Houston, the temperature is the 100′s, the leaves are turning brown and auburn (from a stubborn drought), and kids are stocking up on pencils, notebooks and backpacks.

That can only mean one thing: The school year is starting again. In the next few weeks, classes will kick off in districts around the country. So where are good story ideas lurking for education writers and others covering Latino communities?

Here are some thoughts and possible resources:

1. The burgeoning Latino student population. As the white population shrinks and the Latino population grows through immigration and births, school demographics are undergoing a major shift. The changes in the student body will affect curriculum, resources, funding, and the racial/ethnic make-up of the teacher corps. How is your district handling an evolving student population? Is it straining under the additional costs of non-English speaking students? Has it created innovative programs to meet the needs of Latino students? This Brookings Institute report looks at the growing diversity of the child population.

2. Reading lists. By now, most K-12 English and  language arts departments have mapped out reading lists for the year. Do the lists stick to the white European canon–or do they include Latino and other non-white writers? It’s worth comparing the student demographics and the classroom curriculum (in English and other content areas). Do they reflect each other? Talk to teachers, students, and parents about the books students will be reading this year. Go to a local Barnes & Noble and check out the books-for-school pile; that will give you a good idea of what schools in your area are planning. Another source could be the National Council of  Teachers of English.

3. Programs for college-bound kids. Not all Latino students are newly arrived immigrants with poor English skills who struggle in school. Many are honor roll students headed for college, or kids striving to be on that path. Remember to include that cohort in your beat coverage by looking at programs geared for the college-bound. Do Advanced Placement classes include a representation of Latino students? If not, is your district doing anything to reach out to those students? If your school offers AVID, a college readiness program that targets kids in the “academic middle” and first-generation college-bound, take a look at the results (how many go on to college) and the demographics of participants (almost half of AVID students nationwide are Latino).