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Published in Print: June 21, 2000, as White House Proposes Goals For Improving Hispanic Education

White House Proposes Goals For Improving Hispanic Education

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A persistent lag in high school and college graduation rates for Hispanics will lead to lower prosperity for this rapidly growing segment of the U.S. population and a dearth of qualified workers for the new technology-based economy, a White House report released last week warns.

Hispanics will make up nearly one-quarter of the U.S. population by the middle of the century, according to a study by President Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers.

Yet the high school completion rate of Hispanics is only 63 percent, compared with approximately 88 percent for both whites and blacks. And the percentage of Hispanics who graduate from four-year colleges is less than half that of whites.

For More Information

Read the report, "Educational Attainment and Success in the New Economy: An Analysis of Challenges for Improving Hispanic Students' Achievement," online. (Requires Adobe's Acrobat Reader.)

In response to those numbers, the Clinton administration has proposed five national goals for Hispanic students over the next decade, including: ensuring that Hispanics have equal access to high-quality early-education programs; making certain that all students who graduate from high school are proficient in English; closing the achievement gap between Hispanics and other students on state assessments; eliminating the disparity between Hispanics and other students in high school graduation rates; and increasing the graduation rate of Hispanics in two- and four-year colleges.

"We know the achievement levels can be raised—the question is whether we have the will to do what we know works," President Clinton told educators and policymakers gathered for a June 15 meeting on Hispanic education hosted by the White House. "If we're going to set high expectations of students, we must have high expectations of ourselves to do what it takes to make sure all our students can make the grade."

The administration announced several new initiatives aimed at improving education for Hispanics, including $25.8 million for 76 new development grants to be given over five years to eligible colleges for faculty development, administrative management, and improvement of programs and facilities.

Rebeca M. Barrera, the president of the Austin, Texas-based National Latino Children's Institute and a panelist at the White House conference, praised the administration for proposing a new course for Hispanic education.

"These goals are probably going to take us in the right direction if we can make all of them happen," Ms. Barrera said, "but it's going to take a lot of new thinking to change programs."

'Lifetime of Disadvantage'

Educational disadvantages for Hispanics appear to start early and in the home. Studies have shown that 3- to 5-year-old Hispanic children are less likely than non-Hispanics to be read to at home or taught letters, words, or numbers. Those children are also less likely to be enrolled in early childhood programs.

Another factor driving the achievement gap between Hispanics and non-Hispanics, according to the study, is the low education levels of many Hispanic immigrants. And other indicators trace the gap to differences in household income and parents' education.

"This evidence suggests that the ethnic disparities in high school completion and college attendance stem in large measure from a lifetime of disadvantage," the White House report concludes. "The existing disparities must be addressed among disadvantaged students well before they reach the ages at which they are most likely to drop out of high school."

To highlight the potentially damaging effects of Hispanics' lags in education attainment, the Clinton administration's report looks at the technology sector of the economy—where the higher-paying jobs are increasingly found.

While Hispanics make up 11 percent of all employed workers, they account for only 4 percent of workers in five technology-sector occupations. The Hispanic "digital divide" in turn contributes to a general salary gap between non-Hispanics and Hispanics, the report says.

Vol. 19, Issue 41, Page 9

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