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Latino Students: A Portrait In Numbers

Latinos are by far the fastest growing chunk ofthe U.S. school population. A new report by the National Council of La Raza gives a fascinating snapshot of this fast-growing population.

Here are some highlights:

Demographics

  • Over the last 15 years, Latino enrollment has significantly outpaced that of whites and African-Americans.
  • Latinos under the age of 18 now total 18.2 million, a 47 percent jump since 2000.
  • Though white children are still the majority in this age group — 52 percent — Latino children are projected to make up about a third of total pre-K-12 enrollment by 2023.
  • The percentage of Latino children whose parents were born in the U.S. now dwarfs the number of Latino children whose parents were foreign born, 46 to 6 percent. States in the southeastern U.S., led by Tennessee and South Carolina, have seen the most dramatic increases in second-generation Latino children. In other words ...
  • Immigration is no longer the primary factor driving Latino population growth. Overall, 95 percent of Latinos 18 and younger are U.S. born.

Achievement: The Good News

  • By all accounts, school-age Latinos are doing better academically today than 15 years ago.
  • Eight out of 10 are graduating from high school on time.
  • Six out of 10 come from households where the mother also earned a high school diploma. Thats good news because a mother's level of education is a key predictor of children's academic success.

The not so good news from the NCLR report is that Latino students still face big challenges.

  • Latino children are more likely to live in poverty and lack health care.
  • Two in five Latino children between ages 10 and 17 are overweight or obese. Diabetes, asthma and depression are growing problems too.

All of this, of course, has far-reaching implications, not just for Latino youth but for the nation's schools.

This is probably most evident/pressing in the challenge of educating English Language Learners (ELLs).

  • Of the more than 5 million ELL students in the U.S., more than 4 million are Spanish-speaking.

In a section titled "Education and Language," the NCLR study points out that even Latino children who start school speaking English are struggling, in part because too many are concentrated in low-performing schools with poorly trained teachers.

Poverty may not be destiny, but it sure does have an impact on teaching and learning.

Achievement: Challenges Remain

  • Only 21 percent of Latino eighth-graders read at a "proficient" or "advanced" level, compared with 44 percent of white eighth-graders, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
  • The numbers for eighth-grade math are no better.
  • Latino children ages 3 to 5 are significantly underrepresented in preschool programs, compared with white or black children. The research shows that this "school readiness" gap has long-term consequences.
  • More than 20 percent of Latino teenagers do not graduate from high school.

The NCLR report doesn't offer much that's surprising, but looked at overall, it paints a troubling picture. The data points put in context the ways in which the Latino population is evolving and maturing.

And given its implications for the future, it's data that educators and policy-makers should take seriously.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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