As Hispanic population grows, so must urgency around improving their educational attainment

The status of the education of Hispanic students in the US is a hot topic of discussion. In this week's Ohio Education Gadfly, I reviewed a report from the Department of Education, Winning the Future: Improving Education for the Latino Community. The report described the recent rise in Hispanic population while highlighting the troubling status of education for them, including low participation in early education childhood programs and low graduation rates. Then today I read an article by Andy Rotherham that echoes a similar message of a rise in population, and a need for education reform for Hispanics. With all this recent talk I decided to dive into this topic a little bit and figure out what it means for our country and the State of Ohio.

Consider a few facts about the rise in the Hispanic population.

  • Between 2000-2010 the national Hispanic population grew by 15.2 million people ? accounting for over half of the overall population growth during that time period!
  • The Hispanic community is a young one with 17.1 million Hispanics under the age of 17
  • Hispanic students comprise 22 percent or one in five of all prek-12 students

The recent rise in the Hispanic population combined with their youthfulness makes them a vital component to the future success of our nation. However, educational achievement for Hispanic students is far from satisfactory. Rotherham states:

Only 17 percent of Hispanic 4th-graders score proficient or better on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (a national test given to samples of students each year) while 42 percent of non-Hispanic white students do. Nationally, the high school graduation rate for Hispanic students is just 64 percent, and only 7 percent of incoming college students are Hispanic, according to the Alliance for Excellent Education.

If the US is going to keep up in an ever-growing global and technology-focused world then it would only make sense that our fastest growing minority group would be a crucial component to our success. However, with the educational statistics mentioned above we won't be able to compete for long. But what is leading to discrepancies between Hispanic and non-Hispanic students? Rotherham suggests that it is a combination of having low access to highly effective teachers and a college prep curriculum, and the fact that they are more likely to attend a poorly funded school.

According to the recent 2010 Census data the Latino population in Ohio increased by 63 percent since 2000, and they now represent 3.4 percent of Ohio's total population. The rising Hispanic population and subpar educational achievement that is being played out nationally also rings true in Ohio. The Hispanic graduation rate in Ohio is 61.4 percent and the third-grade reading proficiency rate is well below the state average -- only 63.4 percent of Hispanic third-graders are proficient, compared to 78.4 percent statewide.

Rotherham also says Hispanic students are more likely to attend poorly funded schools. Three of the top five districts in Ohio in terms of the percent of students who are Hispanic also had below average ($10,564/pupil) per pupil expenditures. For example, Clearview school district has a Hispanic population of 20.89 percent but a per pupil expenditure of $8,511 (over two thousands less than the state average).

More money won't automatically rectify the problem. Other factors such as highly effective teachers that are equipped with skills and techniques to teach English Language Learners is equally as important. However, it's certain that as the Latino population continues to grow nationally and in Ohio, policy makers and educators must find ways to improve their educational attainment.

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