For the second year in a row, high school graduation rates in the United States have increased, thanks in part to the rise in the number of Hispanic graduates, reports U.S.News.
The most recent data available shows Hispanics graduation rates increased by 5.5 percent between 2008 and 2009, an improvement that helped bump the national graduation rate average up by 1.7 points to 73 percent.
As one of the fastest growing minorities, it’s no wonder an increase in Latino graduations would lead to an increase in the national numbers. The population boom within the Hispanic community will eventually lead to 1 in 4 school children being of Hispanic descent by the year 2020, predicts Education Week, making the Latino population a priority in the President Obama administration’s education plans.
“The president has made it very clear that the future of our country is at stake if we don’t provide a quality education to our Latino students,” said José A. Rico, the executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.
Hispanics still behind
Despite the increase in number of graduates, Hispanic students continue to lag behind other demographics with the highest school drop-out rates.
In 2009, for example, evidence shows that 17.6 percent of Hispanics between the ages of 16 and 24, were high school drop-outs, compared to 5.2 percent of whites and 9.3 percent of African-Americans.
Among the 24- to 65-year-old group, data from the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center revealed 64 percent of Hispanics had finished high school or received a certificate of equivalency, compared to 90 percent of whites and 85 percent of African-Americans.
Of the Latinos with completed high school education, few went on to college, with only 14 percent earning a bachelor’s degree or higher.
The educational gaps are concerning for some experts who believe Latinos are key to the United States’ future prosperity.
“It’s on the brink,” said Delia Pompa, senior vice president of the National Council of La Raza. “The demographic imperative and the numbers of students we are talking about have pushed people to understand that to improve achievement overall, we’ve got to improve achievement for Latino students.”
That achievement would come about easier, says Pompa, if the schools and the teaching staff were better evaluated when it comes to Hispanic students. It’s not necessarily socioeconomic factors that influence education choices, she says, but what educators expect and demand.
Peers can also play a role in how advanced a student becomes, suggests Patricia Gándara, an education professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a co-director of the university’s Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles.
“Peers are huge,” she remarked. “If you are exposed to peers who are college-oriented, you are naturally going to hear things from them about how to get over the ivy walls. Latinos are not getting the kind of access to college-bound peers who are oftentimes the biggest agents for information and motivation.”