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Community Must Help, Hispanic Study Argues

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"Curriculum changes alone will not solve the problems of minority students at risk," argues the National Commission on Secondary Schooling for Hispanics, whose report will be released this week. "If these young people are to meet the higher standards we all support in principle, then schools must adapt and respond to the life situations of the students."

In a series of recommendations designed to encompass the circumstances outside the classroom that negatively affect Hispanic students' academic performance, the 16-member panel calls on parents, potential employers, and other community leaders to work with schools to encourage Hispanic students to complete their education.

Students Found 'Frightened'

The commission found that Hispanic students are "frightened" by the anonymity of large inner-city schools and want more daily contact with adults. "Hispanic students almost unanimously identified 'someone caring' as the most important factor in academic success."

"Across the country," the panel's report adds, "we found that the most successful schools for Hispanics were those that had strong, enduring links to the communities they served and that encouraged--indeed required--that parents become partners in teaching and learning."

The "least successful schools," the commission notes, "were those that left their students feeling alienated, unchallenged, and unappreciated, and their families feeling unrecognized and irrelevant to the education of their children."

The panel recommends that Hispanic parents be made to feel welcome in schools and that schools take the responsibility for communicating with them, "in Spanish if necessary." In particular, it urges that parents, students, and school staff members work together to identify and address both school and community needs.

'Role Models' Needed

The commission also suggests that schools expand the ranks of Hispanic teachers, administrators, and counselors. "If there are insufficient numbers of credentialed individuals to fill slots," the commission wrote, "schools should seek alternative ways of increasing the number of Hispanic role models and mentors to whom students can relate in the junior- and senior-high-school setting, while schools work to correct the balance on regular staff."

The report notes, for example, that some schools used regular lectures by members of the Hispanic community, part-time employment of retired neighborhood residents as "grandparent monitors," and community, social, and recreational programs on school grounds to bring more adult Hispanics into contact with Hispanic students.

Work and School

The commission also concludes that too little attention has been paid to the relationship between work and school in the lives of Hispanic students. It notes that:

41 percent of Hispanic males who leave school cite economic reasons as the cause;

25 percent of Hispanic females, in addition to the one-third who drop out because of marriage or pregnancy, leave high school to go to work; and

Hispanic males work more hours per week while attending school than do members of any other group. Of Hispanic males in the 1980 "High School and Beyond" study who left school before graduation, more than 25 percent said they dropped out to accept an offer of work.

The commission found that part-time employment tends to keep students in school and to maintain or improve their grades. It also concluded that most successful work-study programs for students involve the business community.

Consequently, it recommends that the business community and schools work together in designing part-time and summer programs that link school and work; that youth legislation be created to subsidize minimum-wage jobs for teen-agers who are still in school; and that local private-industry councils and other job-training agencies become more involved in developing and funding work projects for students.

Federal Cutbacks

In addition, the commission notes that federal budget cuts and new formulas for distributing block grants have substantially reduced federal support for inner-city schools. "The federal government's diminished role in offering direct support to school districts has adversely affected low-income students and those who do not speak English," the panel's report contends.

Although commission members do not favor a "complete resumption of the old categorical programs in education," the panel urges the Congress to be more precise about targeting block-grant monies to students with special needs. It also suggests the renewal of targeted funding and vocational-training programs for students with limited proficiency in English, increased funding for the Title VII bilingual-education program, and resumption of separate funding for innovative school-desegregation efforts.

Essays, Statistical Profile

In addition to findings and recommendations, the panel's two-volume report includes a demographic profile of Hispanics from the Hispanic Policy Development Project's 1984 Hispanic Almanac and five essays on topics related to Hispanic education and employment.

The commission's work was supported by grants from CBS Inc., the Atlantic Richfield Foundation, Time Inc., and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Members of the commission included:


Patricia V. Asip, marketing programs manager, Hispanic Markets-Corporate Marketing, JC Penney Company Inc.; Adrienne Y. Bailey, vice president for academic affairs, the College Board; Jean Fairfax, director, division of legal information and community service, naacp Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc.; the Rev. Patrick F. Flores, archbishop of San Antonio; Josue M. Gonzalez, associate superintendent, office of international/multicultural education, Chicago Board of Education; Richard R. Green, superintendent, Minneapolis Public Schools; Peter C. Hutchinson, vice president for public affairs, the Dayton Hudson Corporation; Mari-Luci Jaramillo, co-chairman, former U.S. Ambassador to Honduras, and associate dean of the College of Education, University of New Mexico; William Maloy, principal civilian adviser, Naval Education and Training Command; Nathan Quinones, chancellor, New York City Board of Education; Angel Quintero-Alfaro, professor, school of graduate education, Inter-American University; Robert A. Reveles, vice president, government affairs, Homestake Mining Company; Tomas Rivera (deceased), former chancellor, University of California, Riverside; Juan Rosario, executive director, aspira of America Inc.; Dorothy Shields, director of education, a.f.l.-c.i.o.; and Paul N. Ylvisaker, co-chairman and dean emeritus, Harvard Graduate School of Education.

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