In 2014, our nation's high school graduation rate topped 80 percent for the first time in U.S. history.1 Hispanic/Latino students were the subgroups with the greatest improvements in graduation rates. Between 2006 and 2012, the graduation rates of Latino students grew 15 percentage points. This fast-growing student population also increased 4.2 percentage points from 2011 to 2013 in Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (ACGR) reporting, according to "Building a Nation, Executive Brief: Overview of 2012-13 High School Graduation Rates."
Unfortunately, despite these gains, the high school graduation rates of Hispanic/Latino students still fall below the national average of 81.4 percent. According to the National Education Association, 52.4 percent of Hispanics age 25 and older had a high school diploma in the 2000 consensus, whereas 85.5 percent of white people had a high school diploma. Furthermore, 10.4 percent of Hispanics had bachelor's degrees at this time and 27 percent of whites had bachelor's degrees.2 Our nation, academic communities and educational leaders have a responsibility to continue to strengthen the position of our Hispanic and Latino students in order to achieve the nationwide goal of a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020.3
Educating Our Latino Communities
The Latino population has made up more than half of the total U.S. population growth within the past decade, NCSL reports,4 and Latino populations more than doubled in nine states. The 2010 Census reported that 50.5 million Americans identified themselves as Latinos. Our nation's economy is dependent upon meeting the needs of and improving education outcomes for this growing population. Jobs increasingly require a postsecondary degree or certificate, and our nation's largest population is being held back.
Latino students who graduate high school and earn a college degree can ultimately earn higher wages, improve their quality of living and boost their financial contribution to state and national economies. Although addressing the educational disadvantages of Latino students is a matter of social justice and equality, it's also necessary to boost our country's competitiveness in the 21st century workforce, according to Gabriel Sanchez Zinny, president of Kuepa.com and The Huffington Post contributor.5 Educating the Latino community supports a prospering economic future.
To help support this fast growing population of Latino students, high schools have a responsibility to implement solutions that meet the needs of Latino students, setting them up for success. High school administrators, counselors and educators can help improve the educational experiences of Latino students with these strategies:4
- Setting expectations in the classroom to show instructors believe all students are capable of meeting these standards.
- Inspire and motivate faculty to invest in the performance of their students.
- Deliver a curriculum designed for career and college readiness.
- Identify what career or college options make the best next step for high school students after graduation.
- Help students make a connection between education and high-demand, high-paying job opportunities; create value and relevancy around completing education.
- Foster community outreach aligned with appropriate cultural understanding. For instance, identify which local employers that appeal to your students.
- Provide effective student outreach on college opportunities and preparation.
- Offer mentorship, peer support, tutoring and work-study programs.
- For those interested in college but weary of the expense, emphasize that many colleges are easily accessible with low-cost, financial support and flexibility. Inform families of financial options are available for college and ensure step-by-step assistance is accessible.
By implementing these strategies and educational models customized to Latino students, high schools can better prepare this cohort for graduation and continuing education. Educating this community of accelerated growth can subsequently help our nation achieve a 90 percent high school graduation rate and sustain our country's economic prowess.
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Resources: (1) For the first time, the U.S. high school graduation rate tops 80 percent, report finds (2) Hispanics: Education Issues (3) Building a Grad Nation (4) Ensuring Latino Success in College and the Workforce (5) As Latino Community Increases, College Education Numbers Decrease (6) Wealth inequality has widened along racial, ethnic lines since end of Great Recession (7) Latinos and Education: Explaining the Attainment Gap