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UCLA Study See Inequities for Latino Students

Latino students lag far behind White and Asian students on every indicator of school success — achievement, high school graduation, and college preparation, according to a study by the University of California-Los Angeles Institute for Democracy, Education and Access.

The study said, “The result is that Latinos are dramatically underrepresented in California’s public institutions of higher education, in high-paying jobs, and in middle-class lives.”

“California’s Latino students also have limited access (both in absolute terms and in comparison to White and Asian students) to the resources and opportunities they need to graduate from high school prepared to succeed in higher education and careers, and to be ready for significant participation in public life,” the report summary said.

The study by the institute directors, Jeannie Oakes and John Rogers, found that many African-American and Latino students are attending “segregated” schools, those with enrollments that are more than 90 percent or more Latino and African-American students.

It was part of a larger study, the California Educational Opportunity Report 2007, (, which also included a supplemental report on opportunities for African-American students. The main report released Nov. 8 revealed a “national opportunity gap,” maintaining that California lags behind most other states in providing fundamental learning conditions and students outcomes and permits “systematic inadequacies and inequalities” that leave California students from all backgrounds unable to compete with their counterparts elsewhere.

One supplement traced the progress of Latino high school students in the Class of 2006 into college, using publicly available state data, comparing the educational resources and opportunities that California high schools provide to Latino students and those who speak Spanish and are learning English. The report compares Latino high school students’ experiences to those of White and Asian students and examines the opportunities provided in 90 schools with large concentrations of Spanish-speaking Latino students who are still learning English.

“English Learners are at a particular disadvantage,” the report said. “Schools with high concentrations of English Learners require additional and specialized resources (teacher training, professional development, instructional materials, etc.) than other California schools. Yet, California’s high schools serving the highest proportion of English Learners are less likely than other California schools to have quality learning conditions in place.”

The study also found that:

  • California’s 743,654 Latino high school students are distributed across the state’s high schools and make up 42 percent of all public high school enrollments. 
  • Although 99 percent of California high schools (1078 out of 1089) enroll Latino students, 89 percent of all Latino high school students are enrolled in just 16 counties out of 58. 
  •  Fifty-one percent of California Latino high school students attend high-poverty schools.
  • Almost 260,000 Latino students (or 35 percent) attend overcrowded high schools, more than twice the proportion of White students attending these schools. 
  • Latino high school students are two and one-half times more likely than white students are and more than three times more likely than Asian students are to experience serious shortages of qualified teachers.
  • Sixty-five percent of Latino students attend high schools with too few college preparatory courses for all students to enroll in them.
  • Nine out of 10 California public school students enter high school with plans to graduate and enroll in college. Yet, for every 100 Latino 9th graders in 2002, 54 graduated high school four years later and only 15 graduated having completed the required college preparatory coursework. 

“We conclude that closing the Latino ‘achievement gap’ in California will require the state to close the Latino ‘opportunity gap.’ However, closing these disparities should not be considered an effort made on behalf of a “minority” group in California. Given the demography of California, the condition of Latino education is the condition of California education, generally. Closing the gaps in achievement and opportunity for Latino students will go a long way toward closing the gaps between California and most other states. All Californians stand to benefit,” said the study authors.

The report noted that Latinos were the fastest-growing segment of California’s population. It said one of every three people in California is Latino; and by 2042, the proportion is likely to increase to one of every two. More than three million Latinos attend California’s public schools, representing 48 percent of all K-12 students and 42 percent of those in high school. The study said expected increases “make clear that, both today and in the future, Latinos’ educational opportunities and attainment are vital to the state’s economy and to the quality of public life for all Californians.”

–Diverse Online staff


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