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Regional Studies Document Educational Plight of Nation's Hispanics

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Three regional studies of the educational needs of Hispanics confirm national findings released last winter that Hispanics as a group experience serious academic difficulties, high dropout rates, and a declining rate of enrollment in colleges and universities.

In addition, a new national compendium of statistics on Hispanic education notes that "by almost any measure, Hispanics are the most undereducated group of Americans."

A New York State report from Gov. Mario M. Cuomo's Advisory Committee for Hispanic Affairs addresses all phases of life for Hispanics in the state, and the picture it paints is grim.

In its study, "New York State Hispanics: A Challenging Minority," the panel found that members of the Hispanic population have a greater chance of being both poor and poorly educated than do whites, blacks, or the population as a whole.

According to the report, 1980 census data show that 66.3 percent of the state's population age 25 or older are high-school graduates, compared with 42 percent of the Hispanics in that age group statewide.

In the same age category, the data reveal that 17.9 percent of all state residents are college graduates, while only 6.8 percent of the Hispanics--fewer than half as many proportionately--have college degrees, the report states.

Blaming the Victims

Olga Mendell, who teaches Spanish at D'Youville College in Buffalo and chaired the advisory committee's education subcommittee, said the study's results offer proof "that schools have not done the job that they could have in educating minorities."

"It's important to stay away from blaming the victim," Ms. Mendell said in an interview. With Hispanic children, education efforts "have to be different, and have to be better."

Ms. Mendell said she favors early intervention, "even at the preschool level," to improve education for Hispanics. "The sooner you start, the smaller the investment you have to make," she said.

Students in California

A new California State University study comes to a similar conclusion. The report, titled "Hispanics and Higher Education: A csu Imperative," calls on university officials to get involved in elementary and secondary schooling, to try to interest more Hispanic students in college.

Hispanic students are "seriously underrepresented" in the university system, in part because of poor preparation in the lower grades, the report states. Hispanic students represent about one-fourth of the state's K-12 population, but only one-tenth of csu students, according to the report.

The report notes that, in addition to making adjustments at the col-lege level, "postsecondary education must intensify its efforts to work with elementary and secondary schools to improve the academic performance and educational progress of Hispanics."

The middle-school years are particularly critical, the csu study suggests. An effort by college and university personnel to "encourage and assist Hispanic students in grades 6 through 9 to plan for college is absolutely essential to achieve substantial changes in the college-going rate of this group," the report states.

Corporate Partnerships

A third report, "A Call to Action: Puerto Rican New Yorkers," published by the Association of Puerto Rican Executive Directors, discusses the low educational level of Puerto Ricans in New York City.

Emelicia Misio, senior policy analyst for the association, said the report contains several recommendations for improving educational opportunities for the city's Puerto Rican population. One recommen-dation calls for partnerships between the government and the corporate sector that would develop educational-research models and work-study programs.

National Statistics

Another report, "The Education of Hispanics: Selected Statistics," synthesizes nationwide statistics on the education of Hispanics from a variety of sources, including previously published reports and 1980 census data.

"The existing data reveal that Hispanics do not benefit from or participate in the nation's educational system to the same degree as other population groups," notes the report, compiled by the National Council of La Raza. "From kindergarten through college, proportionately fewer Hispanics than either blacks or whites are enrolled in school."

All four reports echo the findings of a December 1984 study by the National Commission on Secondary Schooling for Hispanics. (See Education Week, Dec. 12, 1984.)

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