We Can’t Afford to Let Latino Students Fall Behind

Author: Paul J. Luna, President and CEO

June 12, 2015

Recently, America’s Promise released their annual report, “Building a Grad Nation:  Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic.”  According to the report, the national high school graduation rate hit a record high of 81.4 percent and for the third year in a row, the nation remained on pace to meet the goal of 90 percent on-time graduation by 2020.

What is most encouraging about these numbers to me, is the fact that these gains have been made possible by raising graduation rates for groups of students who have traditionally struggled to graduate and were most likely to drop out – i.e. low-income, minority and special education students.  In fact, the Latino population has made the greatest gains of all, and is also on track to hit the 90 percent mark by 2020.

However, despite this progress, the Latino graduation rate is currently 75.2 percent, compared to 86.6 percent for white students.  And of the six states that collectively educate more than 70 percent of the nation’s Hispanic/Latino students—California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois and Arizona—only three have graduation rates above the national average for these students.   Florida’s Latino graduation rate is above the national average, Arizona’s is not. 

Across the country, American public schools are experiencing a major demographic shift. Latino students are our fastest growing student population, projected to account for 30 percent of public school students by 2023.  Furthermore, current projections expect the U.S. to become a majority-minority country by 2044.  With Latino youth today poised to become the leaders of our workforce tomorrow, we must do more to keep them from falling behind.

Simply put, if Latino students in this country don’t succeed, then we as a country won’t succeed. The student population in American public schools is changing dramatically; it’s time that the systems we put in place to support them adapt with them.

The report indicates that strong leadership, education reforms and multi-sector efforts at state, district and school levels have driven the increases in graduation rates.  It’s also an indication that implementing a focused and concentrated effort can, in fact, have a positive impact on ensuring student success. 

As a Foundation focused on creating opportunities for individuals to achieve postsecondary education success, we recognize the importance of ensuring that all students graduate from high school and are ready for college and career.

We must pay attention to the data that is before us.  We must celebrate the progress that is being made while also accepting the fact that there is more work to do.  In addition, we must change the conversation and engage our community leaders – both civic and private sector – to embrace the concept that all students deserve access to a high quality education.

Category: Education Issues

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