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Hispanics: Education Issues

Hispanic communities face educational issues similar to other minority groups, including the need for adequate funding for schools serving minority and disadvantaged students, as well as other issues with a special impact on the community:

  • Student achievement gaps need to be aggressively addressed. For example, the percentage of Hispanics age 25 and older with a high school diploma or more was 52.4 percent in the 2000 census, compared to 85.5 percent for Whites. In addtion, the percentage of Hispanics with bachelor's degrees or more was 10.4 percent, compared to 27 percent of Whites.

  • According to census data, approximately 80 percent of all English Language Learners (ELLs) in the U.S. are Hispanic. The majority of these students were born in the U.S. Nationwide, approximately 2.5 percent of teachers who instruct ELL students possess a degree in ESL or bilingual education (NCES, 1997). The absence of ELL programs and teachers impacts ELL student academic achievement. In 2000-2001, of the states that tested ELLs in reading comprehension, only 18.7 percent of ELLs were assessed as being at or above the norm. in the same year, almost 10 percent of ELLs in grades 7-12 were retained. There is a critical need for more ELL programs and a need to train and recruit more ELL teachers to serve this rapidly growing student population.

  • Many schools throughout the country are implementing strategies to meet the unique needs of Hispanic students. Using sensitive planning, cultural understanding, community outreach, parental involvement, and appropriate pedagogy, Hispanic students are experiencing academic success. Increased use and distribution of these models would assist greater numbesr of Hispanic students.

  • Although there are exceptions, students from poor family backgrounds tend to do poorly in school. They usually attend schools with inferior resources, lack access to health care, and often live in families that can't advocate for them. The 2000 census reported the poverty rate for Hispanics was 22.6 percent. Because Hispanics tend to have larger families than other groups, the poverty rate for Hispanic children in 2004 was 28.6 percent. Parental involvement, summer learning programs, and access to social services, including health care, are especially important to poor Hispanic children.

Student Achievement

Hardworking Texas District Strikes Balance Where U.S. Meets Mexico
Nintey-five percent of students in Brownsville are categorized as "economically disadvantaged." There's also a high percentage of first-generation Hispanic students from families who can't read or write English, and 43 percent of students are ranked limited English proficient in need of special services that stretch the district's budget to the limit. (2008)

Missouri Teacher's Work Earns NEA Award for Boosting Hispanic Graduation Rates
Not willing to accept the growing Hispanic dropout rate at Springfield's (Mo.) Central High School, Alicia Traub, a daughter of American missionaries raised in Argentina, launched a Latino Bulldog Club for Hispanic students considered academically "at-risk." (2007)

NEA Study Reveals Challenges to Hispanic Students
Check out A Report on the Status of Hispanics in Education: Overcoming a History of Neglect  to see how language, cultural, and socioeconomic obstacles impede the academic achievement of students. Hispanics have poverty rates that are two to nearly three times higher than whites; and 40 percent of their population is foreign born. (March 2007)

Resources from other organizations

Pre-K and Latinos: The Foundation for America's Future  (PDF)
This report shows that, by providing Latino children with culturally and linguistically appropriate services in high-quality, pre-k-for-all programs, educators and policymakers can help close the achievement gap and make a major contribution to realizing this growing population's remarkable potential. (July 2006) 
Executive summary - Spanish  (PDF) 

Social Security Privatization: A Bad Deal for Hispanic Communities
Individuals with identical earnings histories are treated the same in terms of benefits. However, Social Security Administration statistics show that due to certain demographic trends, Hispanic communities benefit from the Social Security program in several ways.

'Focus On' Series

Special Education and English Language Learners (PDF, 390 KB,  6pp) -
Research shows that 80 percent of the referrals to special education are generated from teachers’ concerns over reading problems (Snow, Burns, and Griffin.1998).
Previous research indicated an overrepresentation of English language learners in special education classes (Yates & Ortiz, 1998). However, current research suggests
that educators appear to be doing a better job distinguishing a learning disability from language differences. (2007)

Learning about Each Other's Culture (PDF,161 KB, 2pp) 
Before embarking on a brief review of U.S. immigration history as it affects Hispanics, let’s dispel some myths and falsehoods about earlier generations of immigrants. (2006)

Closing the achievement gap and breaking down barriers to learning (PDF, 149 KB)
Today’s Hispanic children will be a significant percentage of tomorrow’s working adults in little over a decade. The importance of educational performance has never been more important for Hispanic communities, families, and individuals and for the nation as a whole. (2005

Lesson ideas

  • Lessons for Hispanic Heritage Month
    Each year from September 15 to October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month. From a Spanish phrase book to letters to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, check out these eight interdisciplinary lessons for all grade levels. They'll help students learn about the cultures and contributions of people of Hispanic heritages.
  • Celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month: September 15 - October 15
    Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month, from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.
  • Lesson Idea: Write a Hispanic Folktale
    Grades 3-8 write a folktale modeled after tales from Hispanic cultures read and heard in class.
  • Lesson Idea: For the Beans
    Students grow vegetables, such as corn, beans, squash, and chilies, often used in recipes in Hispanic cultures.
  • Education Terms Translated
    Check out this English-to-Spanish glossary of education terms.
  • Math Lessons in Spanish
    AAA Math offers more than 2,500 activities.
  • Bilingual booklist
    In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month (celebrated September 15 - October 15) NEA's Read Across America shares this bilingual reading list of titles for K-12.
  • Bilingual and ESL Resources
    You'll find articles, newsletters, curriculum resources and helpful Web sites.


Hispanic Programs, Scholarships, and Teaching Resources


  • anc_dyn_linksBoosting Hispanic Graduation Rates