Poverty, language skills widening achievement gap for Hispanics

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    Reading is one of the factors thought to influence the achievement gap. (Shutterstock photo)

    The success of Hispanics is not solely dependent on education, but may also heavily rely on socio-economic factors, indicates a new report put together by the Formar Foundation. The first paper in the report is designed to analyze which factors influence Hispanic achievement at the state level.

    According to Gabriel Sanchez Zinny, Managing Director at Blue Star Strategies in Washington, D.C. and co-author of the report, the research found significant evidence that differences in socio-economic status, and poverty in particular, have a dramatic impact on the achievement gap between Hispanic and non-Hispanic students.

    The achievement gap is particularly concerning, states Zinny, because Hispanics are the “largest, youngest and fastest growing minority in the United States.” The Hispanic population is increasing at a faster pace when compared to the non-Hispanic white population, and there are more than 11 million Hispanic children between the ages of five and 17.

    Achievement gap for Hispanics

    For the millions of Hispanics in the U.S. education system, the Formar report points out a number of trends which have become apparent:

    • Hispanic students disproportionately attend lower-quality schools with large populations which consist of large groups of minorities.
    • Hispanic students have some of the highest dropout rates.
    • Hispanic education achievement levels are some of the lowest out of all minorities.
    • Hispanic children have low enrollment numbers in kindergarten and early education programs.
    • Hispanic teachers are underrepresented in the school system.
    • Hispanics have several major barriers when it comes to college education: a lack of qualification for four-year programs; an increased likelihood to attend community colleges or less prestigious undergraduate programs; and a high college dropout rate.

    “These dispiriting statistics suggest that factors beyond the education system itself are driving low achievement, and our model attempted to measure the strength of the correlation between academic success and various socio-economic conditions,” wrote Zinny. “We found that the most evident correlation in this area was that between the reading test gap and child poverty—the greater the difference between Hispanic and white children living in poverty, the wider the achievement gap.”

    achievement gap

    There are more than 11 million Hispanic children between the ages of five and 17. (Shutterstock photo)

    Zinny adds that an increase in one percentage point in Hispanic children living in poverty was equal to an increase of 0.87 points in the achievement gap.

    Factors affecting achievement gap

    The study found other factors beyond school also affected the achievement gap, including:

    • Birth weight
    • Lead poisoning
    • Hunger
    • Nutrition
    • Reading to young children
    • Television watching
    • Parent availability
    • Student mobility
    • Parent participation
    • Rigor of school curriculum
    • Teacher experience and attendance
    • Class size
    • School safety
    • Technology-assisted instruction

    “In this paper we attempted to shed some light on the relationship between education reforms, Hispanic student achievement, and socio-economic factors,” stated the report. “Our hypothesis was that poverty levels, lack of language skills and other social issues have impacted the quality of education among Hispanics, and that education reform polices alone would ultimately not be enough to solve the education deficit.”


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