LatinaLista -- Latino youth are not living up to their academic potential. It's an undeniable fact and a bold statement. But it doesn't just place the blame on Latino families, like a recent speech by the President and CEO of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank; it also acknowledges the two-way street that exists when educating any student.
While Latino families do need to understand the importance an education has for their children's, and the nation's, future, so too must the system offer viable educational choices for Latino families.
Giving Latino families no option but to send their children to overcrowded schools, with dilapidated equipment, buildings in disrepair, shortage of textbooks and technology and in an environment where students easily intimidate one another and teachers see their positions as nothing more than an 8-3 job, rather than a career dedicated to bringing out the best in their students, is not a strategy for educational success among students considered to be the most at-risk.
The White House recognizes this and has created the President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. Notable educators and business people have been coming together to create strategies on how to address the educational crisis that is deepening among Latinos -- but it's a big job.
It's the kind of job that demands more members of the Latino community, independent of the President's advisory committee, step up and explore possible solutions.
The Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options (HCREO) is one organization that wants to help find a solution by hosting educators and policy makers in a daylong event titled A Coalition to Ensure Educational Opportunities for Hispanic Children to Succeed.
Julio Fuentes, president of HCREO, explains his organization's efforts to give more Latino families educational choices and more Latino children a chance to succeed.
By Julio Fuentes
The history of our education system is marked by pivotal opportunities when leaders and policy influencers joined forces to bring about improvements and policy changes for the betterment of students. From public school desegregation to teacher quality measurements and standardized testing, the landscape of education has evolved and matured to best serve students and their families.
Last week, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan urged parents, educators and school leaders at the local, state and national levels of government to seize the next of these pivotal opportunities -- specifically, he said, we must make Hispanic educational excellence a national priority.
Duncan noted that the Obama administration's goal of having the world's highest share of college graduates by 2020 will not happen "without challenging every level of government to make the educational success of Latinos a top priority. America's future depends on it."
Duncan's call to action came in response to a new report from the National Center for Education Statistics, the U.S. Department of Education's statistical center, which outlines in grave detail the Hispanic achievement gap that has long been of such concern to my organization and others. Hispanic students are the largest minority group in our nation's schools, but they continue to fall behind.
The report, for example, found that while fourth- and eighth-grade mathematics and reading scores for Hispanic students have increased over time, the gap between Hispanic students and their white counterparts on the National Assessment of Educational Progress has not changed since the 1990s. Other educational data tells us that Latino high school students lag behind their white counterparts in graduation rates, dropout rates, literacy rates and college preparedness rates.
The Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options, the only Hispanic national public policy organization dedicated solely to K-12 education reform, believes that these alarming education statistics point clearly to the need for more school choices.
Families want opportunities. They want a better education. They want their school policies and state laws to provide them with programs that push their children to their maximum potential.
Hispanic CREO advocates for options that open the door of opportunity to every child. Every parent has the right to choose a learning program in which his or her child can be stimulated academically and challenged to succeed in life.
As Duncan stressed: "Race and ethnicity shouldn't be factors in the success of any child in America ... We must expand their educational opportunities at every level of the PreK-12 system to compete with the rest of the world."
Hispanic CREO and an historic coalition of fellow education leaders, families and elected officials are heeding the White House's call to action with an historic gathering of businesses, policy leaders and educators on July 15 in Fort Lauderdale.
With forums and roundtable discussions featuring state lawmakers as well as former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, we will outline a plan for working together to make Hispanic educational excellence a national priority.
We will face the Hispanic achievement gap head-on and develop strategies and recommendations for bridging it. This is no small agenda, no small task. But we embrace this challenge because our students are counting on us.
We embrace this challenge because in tackling it successfully, we will have seized a pivotal educational opportunity that makes our nation stronger.
Julio Fuentes is president of the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options.