DEMOGRAPHICS AFFECTING EDUCATION IN THE 21ST CENTURY
United States, along with many other countries, has experienced
considerable immigration over many decades and particularly in the
past 20 years. While the general U.S. population grew at a rate of
17% (from 227 million to 275 million) from 1980 to 2000, the rate of
growth varied tremendously across the different ethnic/racial groups
in the U.S., and will continue to increase at different rates in the
educational significance of this demographic shift is that many
immigrants are children, or are adults who gave birth to children,
who enter the school system speaking little or no English. In the
U.S., an estimated 9.9 million of the total 45 million school-aged
children, live in households in which languages other than English
are spoken, a statistic which represents a 35% increase since 1980.
Spanish continues to be the language of two-thirds, or six million
children, who speak a language other than English at home.
of today's unprecedented racial and ethnic diversity in American
Issues affecting our students:
changes resulting from war,
language and academic needs,
coping with a strange educational system.
HISPANIC AMERICAN LEARNERS IN THE SCHOOL
On reaching an understanding of the social and cultural
characteristics of Hispanic American children and adolescents,
educators can proceed with understanding the learner in the Hispanic
culture. Research suggests "Nationwide, United States Hispanics
agree that the single most crucial problem they face today is
considers Hispanic American learners and looks for answers to
several questions related to their educational progress. What
special school-related problems do Hispanic learners experience? Do
European American expectations and stereotypes penalize Hispanic
learners? Are Hispanic learners labeled? How do learning styles of
Hispanics differ? What school practices might impede Hispanics'
progress? As we explore these and other questions, we caution
readers to consider the intracultural, generational, and
socioeconomic differences between individual learners when reaching
Understanding of Hispanic Americans
There is among Hispanic and other linguistically and culturally
different groups a new and not-so-young population that must be
considered. They are the immigrant children from countries of war,
who come to the United States and are expected to attend school and
learn the language and subject matter just as any other child would.
Many of these children are not performing well in schools where a
different language is spoken and things are done in a way that is
foreign to them.
to know the strengths and weaknesses of learners, teachers and other
school personnel need to know the individual.
REVERSAL OF THE AMERICAN DREAM: HISPANIC POPULATION IS NOW THE
Census Bureau data indicate that Hispanics in the United States are
growing poorer. Between 1989 and 1998, annual income for Hispanics
dropped 14%, from approximately $26,000 to less than $22,900.
Hispanics = 24% of the poor in this country, a
figure grow 8% since 1985.
exceed the poverty rate of blacks
A number of
researchers believe lack of education is responsible for the
downward trend. Hispanics have the highest high school dropout rate
in the nation: according to the 1990 Census, only 78% finish high
school, compared with 91% of whites and 84% of blacks. A majority of
Hispanics receive less schooling than their parents did. In 1994,
only 9% of Hispanics over age 24 had college degrees, compared with
24% of non-Hispanics.
low number of Hispanic American students is eligible for college. By
the senior year, only 31 percent of Hispanic American high school
students are enrolled in college preparatory courses. Of the
Hispanic students graduating from high school, only about 10 to 15
percent are academically qualified to enter slate universities
ASPIRATIONS OF MINORITY YOUTH
Grace Kao and
Marta Tienda (1998) analyze how educational aspirations are formed
and maintained from eighth to twelfth grade. They conclude that
ethnic groups differ in the extent to which educational aspirations
are maintained. They also found that family socioeconomic status
contributes to ambitious aspirations in eighth grade and also to the
maintenance of high aspirations during the high school years.
Because African and Hispanic American youth are less likely to
maintain their high aspirations throughout high school, owing to
their lower family socioeconomic status, Kao and Tienda conclude
that their early aspirations are less concrete than those of white
and Asian American students.
Kao and Tienda
also believe an ethnic group can compensate for the liabilities of
minority group status by overachieving scholastically; on the other
hand, the lack of opportunity can lead to educational
underperformance if a racial or ethnic group becomes skeptical about
the value of educational success as a means of upward mobility,
The researchers theorize about why despite their high educational
aspirations, African and Hispanic youth underachieve scholastically,
but Asians overachieve relative to their ability and material
resources. Some students believe their parents' financial status
makes college an impossible dream, and others believe they can
obtain a full scholarship simply because they are Hispanic or
athletes. They conclude that the lack of information about college
and admissions procedures may also drive some ambivalent students
not to apply.
researchers described Hispanic Americans' academic achievement this
Hispanic students score lower than do their white, middle-class
counterparts on tests of academic achievement. They are more likely
to fail one or more grades in school, be placed in special
education, and drop out altogether. Attitudes toward school are
negative, with Hispanic students reporting a higher degree of
alienation and disenchantment with school and school personnel.
Educators need to recognize that the differences in
educational aspirations among ethnic groups call for a methodical
plan to remedy this situation.
Educators need to provide informational sessions for
all students (and especially African and Hispanic Americans) to
inform them about colleges, admission procedures, and financial
Adolescents who think they might receive college
scholarships simply because they are Hispanic or athletes should
be informed of the keen competition for scholarships, both
academic and athletic.
Educators who understand the relationship between
socioeconomic status and educational aspirations should be careful
to avoid making assumptions based on students' ethnicity.
Kao, G., & Tienda,
M. (1998), Educational aspirations of minority youth- American
fourrwl of ion 106(3). 349-384.
Youth Gangs and the Meaning of School
Tellez and Estep (1997) maintain that despite widespread
condemnation of gangs, few studies direct attention to gangs in
schools, particularly Latino gangs. These researchers interviewed
eight male former or active gang members to determine their
schooling experiences and found they did well in school when they
had a "good" teacher and that they had a favorite subject in school.
Tellez and Estep suggest that the school curriculum can make a
difference in helping gang members through secondary schooling and
on to more traditional lifestyles.
Schools take several approaches to gang membership. They ignore the
gangs, get tough on gangs, or provide self-esteem training that
supposedly prevents gangs-Implementing the Research
On the basis of their research, Tellez and Estep conclude and
A great majority of teachers understand little about gang life or
how to encourage gang members to stay in school.
Implementation suggestion: Provide in-service training (and
other training in diversity) for teachers by Latino experts who know
Latinos' cultural backgrounds, strengths, and challenges.
Curriculum. The curriculum has few ideas interesting to Latinos
and never addresses their lived experiences.
Implementation suggestion: Revisit the curriculum to
determine how it can be changed to reflect Latino experiences,
especially those of Latino adolescents who might be prone to join
out. All the Latino interviewees had dropped out, except for the
Implementation suggestion: Conduct additional studies (as
Tellez and Estep have done) to determine other reasons that Latino
gang members drop out of school. Plan school programs and curricular
experiences that might keep them in school and career education
options to capture their interest,
Segregation. Most interviewees went to schools that many other
Latino gang members attended. They should have had more
opportunities to attend more diverse schools,
Implementation suggestion: Study the possibility of sending
some Latino students to magnet schools (again as Tellez and Estep
recommend in an effort to have a more diverse student body and for
students to see options and life possibilities other than dropping
out of school,
& Estep, M, (1997). Latino youth gangs and the meaning of school.
The High School Journal, 31(2),69-81.