Latino students face barriers to opportunity

Added October 13th, 2014 by Alicia Guevara Warren | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Alicia Guevara Warren

As Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations come to an end, we must recognize the ongoing struggles of Latino children—a growing component of Michigan’s next workforce.

A recent report revealed that over the past decade, reading and math scores for Latino students in Michigan have fallen when compared to other Latinos across the country, a direct reflection of the state’s insufficient investments in educational programs that work for all students.

Mexican artist Diego Rivera's "Detroit Industry" mural at the Detroit Institute of Arts

From 2010 to 2013, the Hispanic population grew by nearly 7% while the non-Hispanic population in Michigan actually declined. And, Latinos in Michigan are young with the vast majority being school-age children and a median age more than a decade younger than the non-Hispanic population. Plus, almost half of all Latinos over the age of 5 speak a language other than English at home.

Approximately one of every three Michigan Latino children lives in poverty and with an adult without a high school diploma or higher. These numbers reflect the significant barriers to educational opportunity for Latino students.

Not surprising then is that national assessments show that only 21% of Hispanic fourth-graders are proficient in reading and only 14% of Latino eighth-graders are proficient in math. Ten years ago, Latino students in Michigan ranked near the top half on national reading and math tests. Now these students rank near the bottom. We are failing these children and in turn, dooming our economic future.

While reinvesting in schools is essential for helping all students reach their potential, improving outcomes for Latinos requires concentrated efforts in health and educational programs and expanded learning opportunities for students who are migrants, dual language learners, and/or immigrants. Additionally, to help close the gap we need to ensure that our professional teaching staff reflect the diversity in their classrooms and are trained in cultural competency, informed on current best practices, and connected to available resources.

So, as we wind down to the end of the celebrations for Hispanic Heritage Month, let’s keep in my mind that improving educational outcomes for one of the fastest growing populations in Michigan will be key to a full economic recovery and future in our state.

— Alicia Guevara Warren

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