Five Specific Steps to Improving Hispanic Achievement
One of the things I have learned traveling across America is just how diverse Hispanic America is, something that a lot of Americans really don’t know yet. I think there is a common core of values around family and community and work and faith, but Hispanic America is growing more diverse every day with different challenges and, unfortunately, still different opportunities. There are still a lot of gaps we all want to close.
The first step to closing the gap is to believe, as I do, that high expectations are for all students. I believe intelligence is equally distributed throughout the world, but opportunity is not.
Hispanic students are showing in this academic success, but still, too many are lagging behind in ways that I find deeply troubling. A recent study by my Council of Economic Advisors shows that the average educational level of native-born Hispanics has increased substantially over the last several decades, and the gap between Hispanics and Whites has declined.
Compared to 1993, Hispanic students are scoring higher on math tests; greater percentages are completing high school, graduating from college and getting advanced degrees. Since 1993, the percentage of Hispanics with four or more years of college has increased, but only by about 2 percent. Over the next decade, the number of jobs requiring at least four years of college will more than double.
The study shows that Hispanics, who represent 11 percent of our work force, hold down just 4 percent of the jobs in information technology. When the fastest-growing demographic group in our country is under-represented in the fastest-growing employment sector, it means less opportunity and a violation of the values that we all share. It also means that, sooner or later, our economy will have a shortage of highly skilled workers where we really need them.
According to the report, Hispanics who graduate from college enter the information technology industry at about the same rate as non-Hispanics, and earn about as much. The problem, therefore, quite simply is that not enough Hispanics are getting college degrees. That can be remedied only by raising the educational achievements of Hispanic students in schools, and by making sure that no person is ever denied access to college because of cost. We know that we can make college more accessible. What I think is always helpful is to translate what we wish to do into specific goals to close the Hispanic student achievement gap over the next 10 years.
First, let’s make sure that in 10 years, young Latino children are enrolled in quality early childhood programs at the same rate as other Americans. Second, let’s make sure that in 10 years, every Hispanic student graduating from high school will have demonstrable proficiency in English. Third, let’s make sure that in 10 years, there is no gap in test scores and other assessments between Hispanic students and their peers. Fourth, let’s make sure in 10 years 90 percent of Latino students complete high school. And fifth, let’s make sure that over the next decade, the percentage of Hispanic students who earn college degrees will double what it is today.
Now, these goals are very specific and ambitious, but clearly achievable. Closing this achievement gap is a challenge that may seem daunting now, but it will seem inevitable once we do it. And when we do it, if we work hard, stay together and stay focused on the goal, America will be a better, stronger place in the 21st century.
— Excerpted from Clinton’s remarks at the White House conference on Hispanic student achievement in June
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com