Equity & Diversity

Latino and African-American Academic Success Improves, But Gaps Remain

By Caralee J. Adams — July 09, 2014 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The number of Latinos who leave high school having taken the ACT has nearly doubled in the past five years. Still, fewer than half of Latino graduates who took the ACT met any of its college-readiness benchmarks.

The volume of Latino high school students sitting for at least one Advanced Placement exam has tripled between 2002 and 2012. Yet, among Latino students with high potential for success in AP math, just three out of 10 took any such course.

Despite gains in access, when they finish high school, Latinos are more likely than their white peers to attend for-profit colleges or community colleges, as opposed to four-year univerities where graduation rates are typically higher.

These are some of the statistics included in a new brief, “The State of Education for Latino Students,” released by The Education Trust June 30. It paints of picture of both progress and challenges ahead, as does the companion publication that came out June 23 on education for African-American students. Last fall, the Washington-based education advocacy group released a similar document on the status of native students.

Together, Ed Trust officials hope these documents will be useful tools for policymakers working to close the ongoing achievement and opportunity gaps between these minority groups and their white counterparts.

Latino students are seeing more gains than African-American students, said Daria Hall, director of K-12 policy development for Ed Trust in a phone interview. “The data are clear about gaps in opportunity. Across the board, we are providing African-American students less of everything we know contributes to achievement in schools,” she said. “Those gaps in opportunity cause gaps in achievement.”

The Ed Trust report notes that while 15 percent of graduates in the class of 2013 were African American, they make up only 9 percent of those who took AP tests. Looking at all students who passed an AP exam, just 5 percent were African-American.

Hall said schools need to be more intentional in identifying students who could be successful in rigorous courses and providing support to help them succeed. Also, creating more fair and consistent disciplinary policies would keep students in school for more days and could help solve the problem.

For Latino students, in particular, Hall said schools that have been successful tended to focus on vocabulary and background knowledge for students who are English-language learners. Also, schools should be creative about use of time. This might mean expanding instruction before and after school, using time differently within the day, and grouping students for needed intervention and support, she said.

Ed Trust is also working to provide students with equitable access to strong teachers who have content knowledge and effective classroom strategies to help close these gaps, added Hall.

A version of this news article first appeared in the College Bound blog.