Hispanic Students’ Performance on NAEP

By Mary Ann Zehr — October 10, 2007 2 min read
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U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Raymond J. Simon told a roomful of Latino leaders yesterday that the No Child Left Behind Act is working because it “has driven dramatic gains in math and reading achievement.” Mr. Simon spoke at a meeting on Latino education held in Washington by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund.

He cited examples of gains on the National Assessment of Educational Progress as evidence that the federal education law is working for Hispanics as well as for all students. He said scores for 4th grade reading and math, for instance, “are higher than ever, including those of Hispanic students.” My colleagues Sean Cavanagh and Kathleen Kennedy Manzo have written an article citing experts on what the 2007 NAEP gains mean. The article includes the views of people who contest the Education Department’s argument that the rise in scores can be attributed to the NCLB Act, or to any single education program.

I take the opportunity here to relay a viewpoint by Richard Rothstein, a former education columnist and a research associate at the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute, that didn’t make it into the Education Week article about NAEP. Mr. Rothstein included this view in a Sept. 26 e-mail message to Ms. Kennedy Manzo.

“I think that the Hispanic scores on NAEP are utterly meaningless,” Mr. Rothstein wrote. He said: “The composition of the Hispanic student population (immigrant, second generation, third generation, etc.) has been changing; we should not expect the same outcomes from recent immigrants as from third generation and beyond Hispanics, who should be fully, or nearly fully, assimilated. NAEP should drop reports of Hispanic scores, unless it can disaggregate such scores by mother’s place of birth (data that is not presently collected, but which would be easy to collect from the NAEP sample).”

It’s an important point to remember in looking at any data about Hispanic students that they are very diverse. Forty-five percent of Latino children, according to an issue brief by the National Council of La Raza, are English-language learners. An increasing number of those English-language learners are born in the United States rather than in a foreign country.

I see a need for more talk about how to improve education for Latinos who were born in this country and who, after years in U.S. schools, still don’t have the literacy skills to get out of the category of being ELLs.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.