Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Study Highlights Academic Hurdles Latino Students Face

A new report looking at Latino achievement levels from the Council of the Great City Schools covers some familiar territory: lower reading proficiency rates on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, greater dropout rates and risks, lower levels of “readiness to learn.”

But “Today’s Promise, Tomorrow’s Future: The Social and Educational Factors Contributing to the Outcomes of Hispanics in Urban Schools” also includes some interesting tidbits that often escape the scrutiny of education reporters.

According to the report, Latino students take fewer Advanced Placement courses and score lower on SAT and ACT exams, putting them at greater risk of not getting into college. For example, only 20 percent of Latinos took an AP exam in 2010, compared to 60 percent of white students.

Since college recruiters are increasingly considering AP classes and exam scores as criteria for admission, the lack of advanced courses can pose major obstacles for students planning to go to college. Are Latino students simply not enrolling in available classes, or do the schools they attend not offer AP courses? Do their families lack the money for exam fees? If so, do schools offer financial help for struggling students?

The report also looks at “school experience,” finding that Latino students are “less likely to participate in academic clubs, more likely to be suspended from school, and more likely to be retained in a grade than their White peers.” In addition, Latino students were more likely to work more than 20 hours per week than their classmates.

Once again, these factors can play a major role in postsecondary options. Extracurricular, community-service and other school-related activities are often key in gaining admission to a selective college. If Latino students are not engaged in those activities, they can be at a disadvantage when it comes to applying to college.

Likewise, working long hours can result in lower school performance and less time for those prized extracurricular activities. One way to illustrate the hurdles many Latino students face might be to simply shadow a student during a typical school day or school week. Are they juggling work, school and family responsibilities? If college is a goal, what is standing in the way? What kind of help is available?


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