Latino Education Crisis

The book The Latino Education Crisis: The Consequences of Failed Social Policies, co-authored by Patricia Gándara, Professor of Education at UCLA) and Frances Contreras (Associate Professor of Education at the University of Washington), is one that Raymund Paredes, Commissioner of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, mentioned specifically as a must-read for Texas teachers. Click here for an excerpt from the Introduction to the book, courtesy of Harvard University Press.

In the past thirty years, college graduation rates have gone up, however slightly, for all ethnic groups except Latino/a students (mainly those of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent; Cuban-American children outperform their Anglo counterparts). What’s the big deal? When non-English speaking immigrants come to the U.S., it may just take longer for the next generation to catch up, right?

Wrong. Gandara cites studies that show that native-born Hispanic students struggle more than some immigrants. In other words, “bilingual students–generally immigrants and children of immigrants–earned better grades and accumulated more course credits than either students who were still learning English or the native-born Mexican-American students” (3). Who do teachers usually focus more energy on? The ELLs who can’t speak fluent English. The students who have grown up speaking English may lack skills in reading and writing the language, however, and this is what shows up on high-stakes tests.

It’s not just the students who come to school speaking Spanish who need mentoring and additional help. All Latino/a students, even those who are making good grades, need encouragement to go on to college, preferably a four-year university–75% of California’s Latino students go to a two-year college, and their chances of earning a bachelor degree would be better if they went straight to a four-year institution (24).

bilingual story time at Harris County Public Library

image of bilingual story time from Harris County Public Library under a Creative Commons license: 

If you’re a future Texas teacher, are you planning to get a Bilingual Education Supplemental certificate? That’s great. Are you also planning to take any classes or actually learn the appropriate pedagogies? Texas’s system of certification works efficiently for picking up additional areas of “expertise,” but it also means that a teacher can be certified to teach, say, special education, without ever taking a SPED class! Certified does not necessarily mean qualified–I’m just being brutally honest here.

Plus, it’s not just Spanish-speaking students who need help. In HISD, there are schools full of ELLs whose native languages are Vietnamese or Urdu. There are theories and approaches to second-language acquisition that you should know, simply because you’re a teacher in the United States and you’re bound to have a student who struggles with English, even if s/he exited ESL instruction five years earlier.


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