Hispanic Dropouts Face Higher Hurdles, Study Says

By Debra Viadero — August 06, 1997 2 min read

Hispanic dropouts on average have more work to do to complete a high school education than do black and white young people who have quit school, a federal report says.

The report, released last week by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, is the eighth in a series of annual snapshots of the nation’s dropout problem. This year, the report includes new data on Hispanics, a group that has had exceedingly high dropout rates since at least the 1970s.

In 1995, 30 percent of Hispanics between the ages of 16 and 24 had either dropped out or were not enrolled in high school, the study says. That figure was more than twice the rates for blacks or whites in the same age group.

Even more troubling, the researchers found, was that the Hispanic dropouts typically had completed fewer years of schooling than dropouts from other racial and ethnic groups. More than half of all Hispanic dropouts between the ages of 16 and 24 had less than a 10th grade education as of 1995, suggesting that they had farther to go to catch up.

Language a Barrier

The high dropout rate for this group also masks the large proportion of Hispanic dropouts--almost a third of the total--who are immigrants and who never attended school in the United States. Among these young people, almost 80 percent never progressed beyond the 6th grade in their native countries.

Language remains a barrier to finishing school for large numbers of Hispanics, according to the report. Regardless of where they were born, Hispanic students who spoke English well were less likely to be dropouts than students with a poor command of English.

In fact, Hispanic students who spoke Spanish at home and were also good English speakers were as likely to remain in school as their peers from homes where only English was spoken.

Of young people who were struggling with English, only 27 percent had taken any English-as-a-second-language classes.

“It’s still the case that, for Hispanic youth in the most positive of circumstances--those who were born in the U.S. and who spoke English at home--the dropout rate, while reduced to about 20 percent, is still substantially higher than it is for their white or black peers,” said Marilyn M. McMillen, the primary author of the report and a senior technical adviser at the NCES.

Hispanics are among three dropout-prone groups that the report focuses on this year. The other two are students with disabilities and students who had been retained a year or more in school.

For More Information:

Single copies of “Dropout Rates in the United States: 1995,” are free while supplies last from the National Library of Education, U.S. Department of Education, 555 New Jersey Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20208; (800) 424-1616.

A version of this article appeared in the August 06, 1997 edition of Education Week