Libertad de la Educacion: School Choice Solutions for Closing the Latino Achievement Gap

Lori Drummer and Don Soifer
Lexington Institute
June, 2010 

Latino children are twice as likely as white children to score “below basic” in reading on both the fourth and eighth grade NAEP tests; this figure has remained relatively unchanged over the past decade. Latino students also drop out at high rates and are less likely to go on to earn college degrees. In Libertad de la Educacion, Drummer and Soifer lament these data and argue for school choice strategies to close the achievement gap between Latino students and their white peers: specifically, online education, school vouchers, and special education scholarships.

Online learning – which allows for a more individualized study plan for each student, as well as access to qualified faculty regardless of geographic location – is especially beneficial for poor and rural Latinos who may lack access to highly effective instructors or robust curricular offerings.

Vouchers to send low-income students to private schools can help improve Latino performance, as well. If the experience of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (the nation’s oldest tax-payer-supported voucher program serving over 20,000 children) is any indication, Latinos are well served. According to the University of Arkansas’ School Choice Demonstration Project, MPCP students outpaced their counterparts in almost all indicators by eighth grade – and 15 percent of the students served are Latino. Latino students using MPCP vouchers scored higher than their peers in all content areas. Expanding Ohio’s EdChoice Scholarship (which recently reached its 14,000 cap) could serve Latino students well, especially as the Ohio Department of Education is now collecting data on the academic performance of EdChoice students which can be broken down by racial group.

Ohio’s Autism Scholarship Program applies only to the parents of children with autism (other states, like Florida, allows the scholarship to serve children with all disabilities). Overall, minority students – including Latinos – have higher rates of learning disabilities. Expanding Ohio’s special education scholarships would open opportunities for Latino students to receive the type of education they need.

Latino students in Ohio underperformed their white peers at every grade level and in every content area on 2009 state tests. If the Buckeye State is serious about lifting the performance of Latinos, the school choice recommendations laid out in this report are a good starting point. Read it here.

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