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Pew Report: Latinos More Likely Than Blacks, Whites

Pew Report: Latinos More Likely Than Blacks, Whites
To Attend the Largest Public High Schools

Hispanic teens are more likely than Blacks and Whites to attend public high schools that have the most students, the highest concentrations of poor students and highest student-teacher ratios, according to a new Pew Hispanic Center analysis. The findings came in one of three studies released earlier this month by the center that examined youths in high schools and colleges.

The report found that more than half of Latinos (56 percent) attend the nation’s largest public high schools — those schools whose enrollment size ranks them in the 90th percentile or higher. That’s compared with 32 percent of Blacks and 26 percent of Whites.

The report also found that about 37 percent of Latinos attend the 10 percent of schools with the highest student-teacher ratios. Just 14 percent of Black students and 13 percent of Whites attend those schools, which have a student-teacher ratio greater than 22-to-1, compared with the national average of 16-to-1.

While much of the research on the achievement gap between Hispanics and Whites has focused on student characteristics, the new study examines the structural characteristics of the high schools attended by different racial and ethnic groups.

“The characteristics of high schools matter for student performance,” says Dr. Richard Fry, senior research associate at the center and the author of the three reports. “Hispanic teens are more likely than any other racial or ethnic group to attend public high schools that have the dual characteristics of extreme size and poverty.”

A second report released by the center on the high school attendance of foreign-born teens points to the importance of schooling abroad in understanding the dropout problem for immigrant teens. The report found that immigrant dropouts had already fallen behind in their education before coming to the United States. Immigrant teens contribute disproportionately to the overall number of the nation’s dropouts, often calculated as the number of school-aged teens not enrolled in school.

In a third report, the center found that the number of young Hispanics going to college is increasing. But the study, which examined the latest available enrollment data from individual colleges, found that the number of Whites enrolling in four-year colleges is increasing even more rapidly — widening an already large gap between White and Latino college populations in key states. “When it comes to college enrollment, Hispanics are chasing a target that is accelerating ahead of them,” Fry says.

Key findings from the three reports:

– One-in-four Hispanic high school students attends one of the 300 public high schools that are in the top decile in size of student enrollment and also have a high proportion of students eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches. That’s compared with fewer than 1-in-10 Black students and just 1-in-100 White students.

– Only 8 percent of the nation’s teens are foreign-born, but nearly 25 percent of teen dropouts are foreign-born. Nearly 40 percent of these foreign-born dropouts are recent arrivals who interrupted their schooling before coming to the United States.

– Nationally, there was a 24 percent increase in the number of Latino freshmen in postsecondary institutions in 2001 compared with 1996. Among four-year colleges, Latino freshmen enrollment increased by 29 percent while two-year colleges experienced a 14 percent increase.

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