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Latina Lista: News from the Latinx perspective > Life Issues > Children > Two separate reports show urban Latino students drowning in failure because of the schools

Two separate reports show urban Latino students drowning in failure because of the schools

LatinaLista — It’s long been known and accepted as historical fact that “white-flight to the suburbs” took hold in every major city in the country. Left behind in the shadows of the city’s skylines were families of low-income and usually of color who were left with little of the infrastructure their suburban counterparts enjoyed — convenient grocery stores, gas stations, shopping malls, good roads, etc.

But the most important difference between urban and suburban families was the schools.
Suburban schools were newer, better equipped and had decent student-teacher ratios.
Urban schools were the opposite in every way — especially when it came to the number of students enrolled in the schools.
It’s now accepted among educators and researchers that class size can directly impact a student’s performance in school.
Given the high drop out rate among Latino students, it has always been assumed by educators and critics that Latino students and their families lacked the motivation to go to school. We now know that is false and two reports, coincidentally released about the same time, show that Latino students, for the most part, are set up for failure at urban schools.


The nonprofit America’s Promise Alliance released a report titled Cities in Crisis 2009: Closing the Graduation Gap.
The report, a follow-up to a 2008 analysis of national high school graduation rates, found that while some cities have improved in closing the graduation gap between students of urban and their respective suburban school districts, the “average graduation rate of the 50 largest cities is well below the national average of 71%, and there remains an 18 percentage point urban suburban gap.”
On top of that, “only about half (53%) of all young people in the nation’s 50 largest cities are graduating from high school on time.”
In reviewing the Cities in Crisis 2009 paper, I found that the paper only analyzes the differences in graduation rates and makes a rather bold conclusion:

As this report and other research have shown, two very different worlds exist within American public schooling. In one, earning a diploma is the norm, something expected of every student; in the other, it is not.

There has always been an assumption that Latino and black children have been subjected to low expectations. While that may be true from the educators in their lives, I argue that it’s not necessarily true of the children themselves or their families.
As one young dropout told me once in the course of conducting research on teenage dropout moms, “it’s not like I went to school every day thinking this was the day I was going to make myself flunk out. It’s just that nobody cared about me. The teacher didn’t even know my name.”
A separate report issued this week by the Chicago-based United Neighborhood Organization or UNO, School Overcrowding: Limiting Hispanic Potential validates, in part, this student’s feelings by illustrating how the overcrowding problems of Chicago’s urban school system adversely affects Latino students.
What’s true in Chicago can be found in every major metropolitan city school system where there is a sizeable student of color population.

Total enrollment in overcrowded schools (adjusted by subtracting students not belonging to the school’s attendance area) consists of 62,978 students. Of these, 77.5% are Hispanic.
The shortage of “seats” (i.e. the capacity needed to bring utilization rates to 80%) is 16,552, the equivalent of 552 classrooms, or approximately 28 schools. When this shortage is distributed proportionally to the ethnic make-up of students enrolled at these schools, the Hispanic share is 79.4%.

Recognizing that the overcrowded conditions are playing a huge part in enabling Latino children to fall within the cracks of Chicago’s educational system, local Latino leaders plan to travel to their state capitol frequently this legislative session and talk to legislators about getting more financial aid to build schools that are needed to accommodate their growing student population.
Anecdotally speaking, whenever I speak to Latino students who have dropped out of school, the same reasons surface:
“Nobody notices if I’m not there.”
“Nobody takes time to talk to me.”
“None of my teachers care about me.”
While some will argue that teachers are burdened enough with job responsibilities to get personally involved or take a personal interest in students, we know, via every success story of an at-risk student, that it was that one teacher who took the time to notice and encourage that student, that made all the difference in the world in the life and future of that student.
Latino parents do not send their children to school with the expectation for failure.
Latino students do not start school with the expectation of becoming dropouts.
However, some Latino students never finish school because they have a natural need to be recognized for who they are and not just another face in a brown crowd. Without the simple recognition that they matter — a hi from a teacher, praise for something — there’s little encouragement for them to stick around.
And encouragement can go a long way to changing how a person sees him/herself.

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Comment(9)

  • Maegan la Mala
    April 23, 2009 at 10:41 am

    I would add another layer to the way in which Latino children are often set up for failure and havd low standards set for them in schools. Many times, Latino children are tracked into ESL classes when they are bilingual. While there is nothing wrong with being in an ESL program, the misplacement of students who don’t need these services takes the seat away from someone else who needs the help. On the flip side of the coin the way most ESL programs work is that students are pulled out the mainstream classroom missing important lessons that they are rarely given the time or help to catch up on.

  • Marisa Treviño
    April 23, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    Very true Maegan. I’ve seen quite a few cases of this in Texas. The reason I was always given as to why it was so easy to put the kids in those ESL classes but a nightmare to get them out of was because for every child that left an ESL class, federal dollars followed that student out of the school.

  • Carolina
    April 23, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    This is true to a certain extent, but I have seen first hand the apathy many Latinos have for education. I grew up the only brown kid in my gifted and talented program and in my AP classes. It was quite clear that many of my fellow Hispanic classmates simply DID NOT CARE about school. They cared about their friends and partying. Latinos have to HELP THEMSELVES and STOP BLAMING OTHER PEOPLE for their failures. To try to make a point out of the fact that someone dropped out of high school simply because their teacher did not know their name is beyond ridiculous and is condoning their lower class behavior.

  • Karen
    April 24, 2009 at 11:33 am

    I think it can be difficult when people don’t see themselves reflected in the curriculum. That absence creates a disconnect that causes the apathy. It’s not normal to learn about everybody except yourself. I also think that if people don’t master English at a very young age, they won’t be able to do well in school later on. That frustration also contributes to the dropout rate.
    When they do teach about us for instance in classes like Chicano Studies, they only focus on the last 150 years, which is incomplete. We have thousands of years of history just like everybody else.
    Read “The Miseducation of the Negro,” by Carter G. Woodson. It’s about blacks and the school system and it was written in 1932, but its lessons can be applied to how the education system treats Latinos today.

  • Panchito
    April 24, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    Carolina,
    You are so right! The attitude towards education is shaped at home. Parents and family members bear the responsibility for the child’s success or failure in school.
    Unfortunately, we have become a nation of whiners. Everybody wants to blame someone else for their lack of success or misfortune.

  • Horace
    April 25, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    Concur with Panchito and Carolina. What they’ve said is applicable to other ethnic and racial groups as well.

  • Karen
    April 25, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    Re: “Parents and family members bear the responsibility for the child’s success or failure in school.”
    The school has a responsibility too. In wealthy areas, when large numbers of children don’t do well, they replace the teachers and make other improvements. In inner city schools with young, uncertified teachers, overcrowded classrooms, and a poor curriculum, they blame the children and their parents.
    It’s stupid.

  • Amanda
    April 25, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    Carolina, you disappoint me. I was also the only “brown kid” in gifted classes, honors, AP, etc. And I saw apathy on the part of my Latino brothers and sisters, but I couldn’t blame them, when, as the article notes, they were SET UP TO FAIL. Did you ever question yourself, why did they not care about school? Had they always been that way, or was it a learned attitude, reinforced by years of prejudicial media messaging and racist undertones (and overtones) in schools?
    This article isn’t about Latinos “blaming others” for our problems; it’s about solid research. If you can provide some empirical evidence that your school system is the exception to the rule in this case, maybe there is some credence to your claim. Unfortunately, I highly doubt that. That is why I am proud to be a 2009 TFA Corps Member teaching bilingual education.

  • Irma
    April 29, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    Carolina,
    I also was the only “brown” kid taking
    Physics, Chemistry etc. NO AP classes for me, they didnt offer them in my school. You dont need them , by the way – I got SAT scores high enough to get into all the major private universities in Texas. I went on to get a PhD.
    Yes, I was different from most of the other Latin students, but I take issue with the idea that they don’t value education.
    Success in secondary school is highly dependent on being able to read easily.
    I was fortunate, reading was a breeze for me – I was reading at 4th grade level a few months after I learned to read in the first grade. School was a breeze after that. Not everyone is so fortunate, and if there are no support systems at home or at school – failure in the school system is practically guaranteed.
    Young Latinos need your support, not your disdain.

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