California’s high drop-out rates of Latino and black students are not surprising — it’s “expected”

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LatinaLista — The California Department of Education released a report detailing how the true(er) drop-out rate for California’s high school students stands at 24 percent. What was not so interesting was the breakdown by ethnicities:

The new data revealed high dropout rates for minority students: 41.3 percent of black students, 31.3 percent of Native Americans, 30.3 percent of Hispanics, and 27.9 percent of Pacific Islanders. White students had a 15.2 percent dropout rate, while Asians had a 10.2 percent rate.


Uninteresting because it’s the same story that’s always heard. In fact, when the day comes that African Americans and Latino students surpassed their Anglo and Asian peers, that will be a big story.
Why?
Because somebody will finally see that the key to reversing this dismal tradition has to do with a simple word but a complex concept — expectations.


Too often when talk centers on black and Latino dropouts, the reflex analysis is that these were lazy kids. They didn’t want to do the work.
Slowly, it’s being learned that that assumption is not a-one-size-fits-all. Sure, for whatever reason, there are students of any ethnic group for whom school is a waste of time but that doesn’t explain the high numbers of black and Latino students who choose to opt out rather than stay and learn.
In a separate article titled Why do Asian students generally get higher marks than Latinos?, students were brought together to talk about the racial achievement gap.
What was revealed is that certain students were expected to do better, while others were not. I’m not talking about parental expectations but faculty expectations.
As was noted in the article:

But as one student said in a separate interview, many Latino students are responding to cues. Johana Najera, 17, said the Academic Decathlon offers a not-so-subtle cue about who belongs.
“We already know that it’s Asian, and they kind of market it more for Asians,” Najera said. She noted that the shirts for the Academic Decathlon team have a logo done in the style of anime, Japanese animation. “It appeals more to Asian students,” she said.

Over time, the students, subconsciously or not, internalize these low expectations and they evolve into self-deprecating remarks that attribute low academic performance to “being Mexican” or “being brown.” Just as the flip side to this is how Asian students are assumed to be all high achievers and honor students.
The unfortunate truth that has emerged from these years of “expectational conditioning” (a phrase I made up) is that Asian students are assumed to graduate and go on and study math, biology or engineering while Latino students are either expected to get pregnant, join a gang and drop out.
But it doesn’t have to be this way, and more than ever, academic attitudes need to change if we are to survive with a profitable economy in this country.
A 2006 labor study reveals that 500 of the largest U.S. companies will lose 50 percent of their senior management by 2011.
With so many students dropping out of high school, and that’s only California, it is highly probable that there won’t be enough qualified professionals to fill the positions that are coming vacant in three years.
Whenever the topic of dropouts is discussed, debate always centers on improving the physical campus, equipping the teachers with better facilities and tools and offering more challenging and robust curriculums.
Yet, the simple answer is that teachers, counselors, principals and everyone who walks into that school should expect ALL of the students to excel. But that expectation has to start from preschool and sustained throughout these children’s academic careers.
Because when teachers and school officials believe these children can succeed and do better, the parents will believe it too. The sad thing is that most kids, at one time, knew they could do it but when no one believed they could succeed, and only fail, it was easy to comply because that was the expectation.