Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Covering Latino Students Who Succeed

There’s been some good news on the Latino education front.

A new study from the Pew Hispanic Center shows that Latino college enrollment jumped by 24 percent — or nearly 350,000 students — from 2009 to 2010, outpacing black and Asian enrollment. For the first time, the study showed, Latino students on campus outnumbered black students.

The number of Latinos graduating from high school is also continuing to increase, as did the share of Latino high school graduates who are attending college.  According to the report, the Latino high school completion rate hit its highest level on record — 73 percent — in October 2010.

Population growth -- through high birth rates and immigration -- accounts for only a part of the growth, which means that progress is being made in closing the college attainment gap.

It also means that there are stories to be told about the Latino students who are striving for and getting to college, students who are often overlooked in our efforts to cover the all-too-pressing educational struggles facing the Latino community.

As a high school teacher, I found that my honors classes were filled with college-bound Latino students. They were in the National Honor Society, on student council, involved in athletics, theater, and community service organizations. One of my students, in the country only a few years, was one of the few in the school to score a 5 (the highest score) on the A.P. English exam. Another had her road map to college carefully planned out. Their parents expect and encourage them to go on to higher education.

My classrooms were not aberrations. According to the College Board, the number of Latino students enrolling in Advanced Placement courses nationwide has steadily been rising. And, as the Pew study shows, more Latino students see college as a goal.

Who are these students? What is the story behind their success? What role do their parents play in their achievement? What is it like for them to see repeated stories about the failure rate of Latino students? Do those images affect their interaction with teachers and counselors?

Not only do the answers to those questions make compelling personal narratives (many of my students were children of immigrants, and often the first in their families who would be going to college), they also provide a different angle for examining what works in Latino education.