Date of Award

5-2013

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Public Administration and Policy

First Advisor

Jose Cruz

Abstract

As policies surrounding immigration are in the forefront of our political discourse, this paper seeks to address the experience of Latino students in the US education system and the resulting impacts. After a thorough review of scholarly literature on the matter as well as data from the US Census Bureau and research institutions, this paper finds that Latino students are being left out of the US education system. Latino students across the country are dropping out of high school at rates greater than their white counterparts. This disparity in high school graduation rates has created a barrier in the education pipeline for Latino students. This paper examines the negative feedback loop created with the factors of immigration patterns, educational attainment, and economic success. As Latinos are immigrating to the United States in large numbers every year, their population is projected to make up 31% of the population by the year 2050. However, in our schools, many Latino students, especially in areas with a high Latino population, are failing to attain high school degrees. Dropping out of high school has impacts at the individual, community, and societal level. Students find it more difficult to obtain gainful employment, communities are more likely to face criminal activity, and the entire society faces the challenge of increased poverty and the loss in contribution to the US economy. The point in which an intervention is most likely to stop this feedback loop is in the education system. Public schools have the opportunity to prevent a cultural and economic divide in this country by properly addressing the diversity of needs in the modern student body. In an effort to present viable intervention options for state governments and local school districts, this paper reviews several intervention policies in the United States. Most policies geared toward increasing graduation rates among Latino students specifically address English Language Learners (ELL). This paper finds that many of these programs are unsuccessful as they may isolate ELL students from their peers and fail to address the language and cultural aspects of English as a second language. Moreover, some states have robust ELL education requirements, but not the will or capacity to ensure compliance. The ELL programs are also found to be indicative of other intervention programs. Successful programs are those at the community level that engage the students’ culture and promote an appreciation of diversity—teaching all students in the one classroom both English and Spanish language and culture. However, these great successes at the community level are not easily transferable to other communities. Furthermore, intervention attempts from the national level are found to be out of touch with the needs of the localities. This paper proposes a network-based approach to Latino education that provides communities the resources to share knowledge and transform their schools in a way that best suits that particular area. With the increase in attention to the Latino vote during each election cycle as well as the current immigration debate, the political will exists for discussion and legislation to stop the negative feedback loop and allow all students to have an equal opportunity to continue along the education pipeline.

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