Educating Hispanic Students

Education is the key to individual opportunity, the strength of our economy, and the vitality of our democracy. In the 21st century, this nation cannot afford to leave anyone behind. While the academic achievement and educational attainment of Hispanic Americans has been moving in the right direction, untenable gaps still exist between Hispanic students and their counterparts in the areas of early childhood education, learning English, academic achievement, and high school and college completion.

Hispanics will represent more than one-quarter of school-age children in the United States by 2025. These children are more likely than others to be educationally and economically disadvantaged. Presently, 36 percent of Hispanic students live in families whose income is below the poverty line. As a result, Hispanic students are concentrated in high-poverty, largely racially isolated schools, and they often have limited access to the resources needed for academic success, such as highly qualified teachers, small classes, 21st century technology, and modern school buildings.

As the fastest growing racial or ethnic group in America’s public schools, Hispanic students have the unique potential to positively affect the economic and cultural future of the United States. Ensuring the promise of this diverse group of learners requires the attention and commitment of the entire country. We must work harder to close the educational achievement gaps between Hispanic students and the nation as a whole. This must begin with high expectations for achievement, clear goals for what must be accomplished, and specific benchmarks to measure our progress.

The first goal for us as educators should be: Eliminating Achievement Gap Provide a high-quality education with appropriate resources and support to ensure equal opportunity for all students in order to eliminate the achievement gap between Hispanic students and other students on appropriate state assessments and other indicators. Percentage of fourth graders who scored at or above the proficient level on the reading section of the NAEP test. [ 4 ] 1998 13% 31% Percentage of fourth graders who scored at or above the proficient level on the mathematics section of the NAEP test. 5 ]1996 8% 22% Percentage of eighth graders who scored at or above the proficient level on the reading section of the NAEP test. [ 6 ]199815%33% Percentage of eighth graders who scored at or above the proficient level on the mathematics section of the NAEP test. [ 7 ]1996 9% 24% Students’ average mathematics SAT score. [ 8 ] 1999 458 511 Students’ average verbal SAT score. 1999 457 505 Goal 2: Eliminating the Gap in High School Completion Increase the high school completion rate for Hispanic students.

Percentage of 18- to 24- year olds who had either a high school diploma or a GED. [ 9 ] 1998 63% 85% Percentage of students ages 15 to 24 in grades 10-12 who were enrolled in high school the previous October but were not enrolled and had not graduated by the following October. [ 10 ] 1998 9% 5% Percentage of students ages 16 to 24 born outside the U. S. [ * ] who were not enrolled in school and did not complete high school. [ 11 ] 1997 39% 24% Percentage of first generation [ * ] students aged 16-24 born within the U. S. ho were not enrolled in school and did not complete high school. 1997 15% 10%

Goal 3: Incresing Postsecondary Completion Increase the percentage of Hispanic Americans who earn associate’s and bachelor’s degrees. Percentage of individuals ages 25- to 29 who held a bachelor’s degree or higher. [ 12 ] 1998 10%27% Percentage of individuals ages 25- to 29 who held an occupational or academic associate’s degree. 1998 6% 9% Percentage of high school graduates who completed four years of English and three years of mathematics, science, and social studies. [ 13 ] 1998 40% 55%

Percentage of individuals ages 16 to 24 who had graduated from high school in the preceding 12 months and were enrolled in college the following October. [ 14 ] 1998 55% 66% Percentage of all 18- to 24-year-old high school graduates who were enrolled in institutions of higher education. [ 15 ] 1998 34% 45% Percentage of all 18- to 24-year-olds who were enrolled in institutions of higher education. 1998 20% 37% Research on the learning styles of Hispanic- Americans is extremely limited. Within the Latino groups, the majority of studies have focused on the learning styles of Mexican-American elementary school children.

Several investigations have compared various ethnic groups of students in elementary school through college levels using a measure that identifies 21 elements of learning style grouped into five categories. Environmental learning style elements include sound, temperature, design, and light. A cool temperature and formal design were identified as important elements for Mexican- American elementary and middle school students. Emotional learning style elements include responsibility, structure, persistence, and motivation. Studies reported that Mexican-Americans required a higher degree of structure than did other groups.

Sociological learning style elements are concerned with the social patterns in which one learns. Learning alone (as opposed to in groups) was preferred more by Caucasian students than by Mexican-American children. Mexican-American students required significantly more sociological variety than either African-Americans or Caucasians. Mexican-American males were authority-oriented and Mexican-American females were strongly peer-oriented. Physiological learning style elements relate to time of day, food and drink intake, perception, and mobility.

Puerto-Rican college students exhibit a strong preference for learning in the late morning, afternoon, and evening. The time-of-day preferences of Mexican-Americans are less clear. Studies have found that Caucasians preferred drinking or eating snacks while learning significantly more than did Mexican- Americans. Studies also reported that Latinos’ strongest perceptual strength was kinesthetic. Both Caucasians and African-American were significantly more auditory and visual than Mexican-Americans. The studies indicated that Caucasian students exhibited a higher need for mobility than did Mexican-American students.

Contrary to the findings for the U. S. general population, Mexican-American females had a significantly higher need for mobility than their male counterparts. Psychological learning style elements relate to global versus analytical processing. The construct of field dependence/independence is a component of this learning style. Field dependent individuals are more group-oriented and cooperative and less competitive than field independent individuals. Research generally has indicated that Mexican- American and other minority students are more field dependent than nonminority students.

Studies have found that Hispanic middle and secondary school students were more field dependent than Anglo students; Hispanic female (and African-American male) students had a greater internal focus of control than other groups; and Hispanic male (and African-American female) students had a greater external focus of control than other groups. In closing, an expanding body of research affirms that teaching and counseling students with interventions that are in cooperation with the students’ learning-style preferences result in their increased academic achievement and more positive attitudes toward learning.


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