Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Education: A Report

The following report was written, revised and submitted by: Manuel Hernández, Education Issues Chairperson, Erika Robles, editor and contributor and Burt Posner, contributor, to the National Hispanic/ Latino American and Migrant Agenda

This report is the culmination of numerous hours of hard work by the
members of the committee. After a series of regional meetings and a
national conference, which was held in Chicago last June, the report was
voted on and approved by the Summit participants. Recommendations are
made at the end of the report. The report will be included in its
entirety.The report was part of a macro-report presented to The President of The United States, George Bush.
The Hispanic/Latino American and migrant preschool, elementary,
secondary and high school population is growing and has now become part
of an important story of the largest minority ethnic group in the United
States. Much of the recent rise in minority enrollment in elementary
and secondary schools may be attributed to the growth in the number of
Hispanic students.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that Hispanic/Latinos have recently made
some major gains, disparities still exist in academic performance between Hispanic/Latinos and non-Hispanic/Latino White students.
Gladly, dropout rates among Hispanic high school students has declined
somewhat giving testimony that, despite the many social, cultural and
economic barriers thrown their way, Hispanic/Latino parents have been
giving the education of their children a high priority. School delinquency and failure is strongly linked and related to the length of time a Hispanic family has lived in the United States and to the family'scountry of origin. Furthermore, educational advancement is a correlation of and positively associated with employment and earnings of Hispanic/Latino parents, yet earnings and employment rates are lower for these individuals than for their non Hispanic
white counterparts with the same amount of education. There is a positive relationship between education and salary for all racial/ethnic groups but the incomes of Hispanic/Latino men are lower than those of White men at most educational levels. About 2 of 5 Hispanic/Latinos 17 years old and over participate in adult education.
Interestingly enough, Hispanic/Latino students are less likely than their non Hispanic white counterparts to take advanced math and science courses but are just as likely to take courses in foreign languages.
Evidence indicates this may be due to the fact that the mathematical base is lost at the early stages of primary education. Knowing the Spanish language at home is not always a guarantee for these students to take what may seem an obviously easy course since the Spanish spoken at home is usually different from the “Castellano” taught at the school.
Hispanic/Latino students have retention and suspension/expulsion rates
that are higher than those of Whites, but lower than those of Blacks.
Despite the lower numbers of drop outs, Hispanic/Latino students still
have higher high school dropout rates and lower high school completion
rates than White or Black students.
On the other side of the coin, Hispanic/Latino students had higher NAEP
reading, mathematics, and science scores in 1999 than in the 1970s,
though their NAEP performance remains lower than White students. 1998
Hispanic/Latino high school graduates earned more credits than did 1982
graduates, especially in academic subjects. They also narrowed the gap
with Whites on academic credits earned. Hispanic/Latino students are
more likely than White and Black students to complete advanced foreign
language classes. More Hispanic/Latino students than in previous years
are taking Advanced Placement (AP) examinations. Over one-half of Hispanic/Latino students speak mostly English at home. Hispanic/Latino students are about as likely as non Hispanic white students to make the immediate transition from high school to college.
The birth rates of Hispanic/Latino female ages 15 to 19 are higher than
females from other racial/ethnic groups. Hispanic/Latino enrollments in
colleges and universities increased between 1980 and 2000, though a
smaller proportion of Hispanic/Latinos complete college compared to
Whites and Blacks. The most popular fields of study in which Hispanic/Latinos earned bachelor's degrees were business, social sciences/history, psychology, and education.
The role of teachers make a profound difference in educating children
and the use of bilingual teachers have been part of the tremendous
strides that have been made in educating Hispanic/Latino students.
Research shows that talented and dedicated bilingual teachers are the
single biggest contributor to the educational development of these
children especially in areas where role models are far and few between.
Teachers all too often do not get paid adequately for the professional
job they do. Worse is the lack of administrative and logistical support
that they need in order to deliver good academic performance from their
students. It is a sad state of affairs that there is no comprehensive
reward compensation system for teachers who perform well to increase
student educational achievements.
We need to recruit quality teachers for high-need schools and for
subject areas like math and science by offering pay hikes and also
establish a new teacher corps for recent college graduates. We also
recommend the implementation of high-quality mentoring programs that
pair new teachers with experienced teachers in the same subject area .which
will improve accountability. While every teacher should have protection
from arbitrary dismissal, no dysfunctional and inept teacher should
have a lifetime guarantee on their jobs. States should be encouraged to
develop efficient, prompt and equitable procedures for improving or
replacing teachers who do not perform well on the job.
We are especially concerned with recent tax code changes and funding
formulas that are impacting on our capabilities to afford the many
changes that will become imperative if we are to compete with the rest
of the world with a highly educated and highly trained work force.
Careful reconsiderations must be given to the establishment of
priorities for government spending especially in wasteful defense
spending, pork barrel projects and tax cuts that is draining our ability
to intelligently invest in our children’s education.
Parental involvement opportunities programs such as Local Family
Information Centers would help parents of English language learners make
informed decisions about their children’s education, such as which
program of study is best for helping them learn English and academic
course work.

Manny Hernandez contributes commentary on education issues to Puerto Rico Sun. He may be reached at
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