Latino Student Progress Means U.S. Educational Progress
President Barack Obama has made it a goal to produce more college graduates than any other nation in the world. In the opening session of the Education Writers Association’s second annual Spanish-Language Media Convening, Modesto Abety-Gutierrez presented a picture of the Latino student population in the United States. Abety-Gutierrez is a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.
Given the number of Latinos in the United States and their increasing share of the student population, Abety-Gutierrez said it’s clear there’s no way to reach Obama’s goal without Latinos. Fully one-quarter of public school students in grades pre-K through 12 are Latinos, and they are the fastest growing demographic group among children from birth to 4 years old.
In many Latino families, however, there is a lack of awareness about the critical importance of early childhood education. The percentage of 3- and 4-year-old Latinos in early childhood programs in 1990 was not quite 30 percent. It has gone up to 45 percent, but Abety-Gutierrez pointed out that still leaves out more than 50 percent of Latino children. “If you’re going to communicate something to our people,” Abety-Gutierrez said, “the importance of early childhood education is one of the most important things.”
The importance of reading is another. Research shows if children are not reading at grade level by the time they are 8, there is a 90 percent chance they are not going to graduate on time. A child’s reading ability in third grade, Abety-Gutierrez said, practically predetermines their chances of graduating high school. There are schools and community programs doing a great job serving Latino families, helping improve student performance and outcomes. Abety-Gutierrez highlighted several:
- More than 230 “Bright Spots in Hispanic Education” were all recognized by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics in September.
- Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors is a leadership program that helps Latino parents of children from birth to 5 years old develop strategies to support their children’s long-term education success.
- Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tenn., has offered $12 million in scholarships for undocumented students.
Looking for data? The Children’s Trust in Miami has researched program outcomes for pre-K, after care, early college, summer programs, and programs for kids with special needs.