Mass. Study Examines Hispanic Diversity

By Mary Ann Zehr — June 03, 2009 2 min read
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A study of how Hispanic 10th graders are performing on mathematics and English-language arts tests in Massachusetts compares the test scores of various subgroups of Hispanic students. It also compares Hispanic students in general with non-Hispanic students.

Overall, Hispanic 10th graders’ scores are significantly lower than those of non-Hispanic students in the state, but the average scores for Hispanic students did increase by a statistically significant amount, which has helped to narrow the achievement gap.

One of the findings of the study, which looked at test scores from the 2002-03 school year to the 2005-06 school year, is that Hispanic girls scored significantly higher than Hispanic boys on the English-language arts test, but males scored significantly higher than females on the math test. That finding mirrors the trend for all students, Maria Teresa Sanchez, a researcher for the Education Development Center Inc. and an author of the report, told me in a phone interview today.

Not surprisingly, Hispanics who were from low-income households, in special education, or who were English-language learners or former ELLs scored significantly lower on the tests than did Hispanic students without those characteristics.

The study also compares subgroups of Hispanic 10th graders from different countries of origin. Those from Caribbean countries, Central American countries, and Mexico scored significantly lower on the English-language arts test than did U.S.-born Hispanics. Students from South American countries (other than Brazil) had significantly higher scores on the math test than did U.S.-born Hispanic students.

Hispanics students in schools with higher attendance rates performed better on tests than did such students in schools with lower attendance rates.

The study is a response to a request by Massachusetts policymakers for a better understanding of why Hispanic students consistently score lower than those in other subgroups in the state on standardized tests. It was conducted by the Regional Educational Laboratory at Education Development Center Inc., and doesn’t provide recommendations for how policymakers should apply the findings.

But Sanchez gave me a couple of ideas for how they might be used. Educators in schools with a low attendance rate would go a long way toward raising it. Also, she said, since Hispanics who are former English-language learners are doing worse on tests than Hispanics who aren’t, educators might want to explore how they can give more support to former ELLs after they are placed in mainstream classrooms.

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