San Francisco, California — The college graduation rate
for Latinos in the United States has made little improvement in the past
30 years. The educational achievement gap between Latinos and most other
students is enormous, and, in many cases, growing. Because Latinos are
the country's largest and fastest growing minority group, this lack of
progress has serious repercussions for employers, communities, and
In The Latino Education Crisis: Rescuing the American Dream , Patricia
Gándara, Co-Director of the Civil Rights Project at the University of
California, Los Angeles, observes that, in 2008, Latinos were about half
as likely as African Americans and a third as likely as Whites to obtain
a college degree. Especially in states like California and Texas, where
Latinos make up half of the public school students, these statistics
translate to a huge segment of the population being ill- equipped for
the education-intensive careers of the 21st century. Gándara explains
how student achievement is highly correlated to household income and
parental academic attainment — two areas in which Latinos trail other
groups as well.
The interventions Gándara proposes to help overcome this crisis
acknowledge the interconnectedness of homes, schools, and communities.
She cites research that schools with integrated health care services,
for example, reduced risky teen behaviors and met many basic needs
associated with school performance. Gándara draws on work showing how
housing policy can lessen school segregation and frequent moves, two
factors that adversely affect student achievement. Her research findings
show a strong connection between improved student outcomes and policy
with a systemic focus.
In this WestEd paper, Gándara makes a case for how the following known
policy interventions can help significantly improve the academic
achievement of Latino students nationwide:
· Early and continuing cognitive enrichment, especially building on
Latino students' existing language and content knowledge.
· Housing policies that promote school integration and residential
stability, including subsidized homes for high-quality teachers in urban
· Integrating social services such as physical and mental health
programs into schools.
· Recruiting and preparing extraordinary teachers to lead and innovate
in two-way and bilingual programs.
· Building on the Latino linguistic advantage to create multilingual
citizens, instead of viewing speaking Spanish as an impediment to
· College preparation and support programs encompassing not just
financial aid but also creating peer study and social groups and
extending support programs beyond the freshman year.
This and other Policy Perspectives papers are available for viewing and
downloading at www.wested.org/policyperspectives . The Policy
Perspectives series from WestEd presents visiting experts' views and
research on issues relevant to schools and communities nationwide.
About the Author
Patricia Gándara is Co-Director of the Civil Rights Project at the
University of California, Los Angeles. She has been a bilingual school
psychologist, social scientist with the RAND Corporation, and a
Professor of Education in the University of California system.
Gándara has written and edited several books and more than 100 articles
and reports on educational equity for racial and linguistic minority
students, school reform, access to higher education, the education of
Latino students, and language policy. Her two most recent books are The
Latino Education Crisis: The Consequences of Failed Social Policies
(2009, Harvard University Press) and Forbidden Language: English
Learners and Restrictive Language Policies (2010, Teachers College
Gándara received a Ph.D. in educational psychology from the University
of California, Los Angeles. She can be contacted at
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