Three reasons to be pessimistic on improving Latino academic achievement

LatinaLista — Tonight, Univision will air at 7 p.m. an education town hall meeting featuring President Obama addressing students, teachers and parents, which was filmed this afternoon at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington, DC.

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The purpose of doing this town hall meeting with Univision is to emphasize the critical importance for the long-term health of the nation that Latino students do well in school.

As a result of the meeting, the White House released, or maybe the correct thing to say is re-released, the administration’s fact sheet of goals for improving educational outcomes for Latino students.

In reading the fact sheet, I can’t help but be pessimistic for three reasons:

1. Most of the programs and objectives that are recognized by the administration as being essential to the success of student learning are those very same programs and objectives on the chopping block in Congress, in state legislatures and local school districts because of budget shortfalls.

2. While everyone acknowledges that each child is unique and has their own distinct learning style, the Latino student population holds a distinction unlike other student populations. Depending on how long they’ve been in the country, their economic status and their language proficiency, the students’ needs, within the greater Latino student population, are different and require different approaches and cultural awareness in interacting with them.

3. Just as the children are different, Latino parents are also different. While it’s often used as an argument that no Latino parent wants to see their child fail in school, by the same token, depending on their attitudes and their own educational backgrounds, the truth is that not all Latino parents are supportive of education for their children.

In my opinion, while the administration wants to target rebuilding failing schools, it’s just as important to start building an appreciation of the value of education in a lot of Latino families.

As long as poor Latino parents depend on their children to work to help pay the bills, there will be no progress.

As long as Latino students are allowed to leave elementary school without knowing how to read or do basic mathematics, there will be no progress.

As long as Latino parents don’t see the long-term value of an education and, in turn, don’t support their children’s academic aspirations, there will be no progress.

As long as Congress doesn’t pass immigration reform and/or the DREAM Act, so young Latino students can see that they do have a future if they stay in school, there is no progress.

As long as Congress doesn’t pass immigration reform, so local communities can start legally recognizing the undocumented among them and help them to know better what expectations the nation has of its citizens or citizens-to-be, there is no progress.

It’s a scary thought that the United States could very well one day resemble more our neighbors to the south that have low schooling among the majority of their citizens and higher poverty rates than retain the edge as a world-leading country with high rates of graduations and innovation.

Yet, it’s a path this nation is already on — and that’s the only progress being made.

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