NOTE: This is Part I in Kaitlyn’s series on the topic of U.S. Latinas/os in education.
I am in my mid-twenties; I work as a para-educator in schools, and am a senior in Portland State’s Speech and Hearing Science program. Throughout my college experience, I have maintained a strong interest in the area of cultural competence, and the institutional injustices rampantly prevalent in our country. Becoming the mother of a beautiful, little girl (who is ¼ Jamaican), I became even more motivated to take a stand, and to do what I can to make a better world for her to grow up in. I take classes where I have the opportunity to delve deeper into the rabbit hole of issues facing the minorities of our country, whether it is based on: sex, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, age, culture and so on. Beyond my personal interest, I feel I have professional responsibility (for my current and future career) to be aware of cultural differences, and how they can affect my assessment/intervention. Recently I took a Latina Studies class, prompting my research into inequities in education for Latina/os.
Part 1: K-12
The Latina/o population is the fastest growing population in the United States, the largest minority (making up almost 20% of Americans), and currently the most highly segregated (Arias). They also sport the lowest representation of high school, and college graduates—less than half that of white counterparts (NEA). According to the Christian Science Monitor, the achievement gap between “Hispanic students” and “non-Hispanic white students” has not narrowed in 20 years
Like any real problem, there are a lot of factors and influences that play into this. Poverty is perhaps the biggest leech on equal education. We see this time and time again, but there are other influences.
I recently read, “The Changing Face of Racial Discrimination: Hispanics as the Dominant Minority in the USA-a New Application of Power-Threat Theory,” by John Markert. Markert (2012), talks about the fact that since the 1970’s the news media has increasing focused on the illegal immigration from Latin American countries. This focus creates hostility toward all Latina/os, despite the fact that about 85% of Latina/os are legal U.S. citizens (Markert, 2012). This hostility has shaped public opinion, which then translates to public policies that neglect Latina/o children.
One such public policy allows “less than 2.5% of English Language Learner (ELL) instructors [to] possess a degree in English as a Second Language (ESL) or bilingual education (NCES, 2007). It also means that these children are segregated into schools with minimal exposure to native English speakers. As a result, according to the National Education Association (NEA), “of the ELL tested for reading comprehension, less than 20% tested at or above the norm.” Literacy, English fluency, and exposure to the expectations of the “dominant culture” are necessary for success in American schools.
So, why are we setting these children up for failure?
Read the justification for ELL Segregation in one school.
Read for the reality of ELL segregation.
Learn about the excessive referrals of ELL to Special Education, and Speech Language Pathologists.
Learn more about Myths about “Hispanic” Immigration
Learn for how we can Close the Achievement Gap