Equity & Diversity

Reports Spotlight Latino Dropout Rates, College Attendance

By Mary Ann Zehr — June 18, 2003 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A report by the Pew Hispanic Center provides new insight into the troubling statistic often cited by the federal government that one of every three Latino youths in the United States is a high school dropout.

But, by analyzing the trends among subgroups of Latinos who make up that stunning dropout rate, the study shows that not all news about Hispanic dropouts is bad.

“Hispanic Youth Dropping Out of U.S. Schools: Measuring the Challenge” is available from the Pew Hispanic Center. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

“With Diploma in Hand: Hispanic High School Seniors Talk About Their Future” is available from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.

For example, the dropout rate for U.S.-born Latino youths between the ages of 16 and 19 has slightly improved, declining from 15.2 percent in 1990 to 14 percent in 2000, according to the report.

Released last week, “Hispanic Youth Dropping Out of U.S. Schools: Measuring the Challenge” was written by Richard Fry, a senior research associate for the Washington-based center.

Meanwhile, another report released last week spells out characteristics that may affect college attendance of various groups of Latino high school seniors.

That report, “With Diploma in Hand: Hispanic High School Seniors Talk About Their Future,” is based on focus groups conducted with Latino parents and 50 high school seniors. It was published by the opinion-research organization Public Agenda, based in New York City, and the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, located in San Jose, Calif.

Important Distinctions

The Pew report looks at one of the important distinctions between various groups of Latino dropouts: whether they ever attended U.S. schools.

One of the most frequently used dropout statistics is that one of every three Latinos between the ages of 18 and 24 living in the United States is a high school dropout. That figure has been cited by the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, and is based on data from Latino youths taken from the October 2000 Current Population Survey of the U.S. Census.

But Mr. Fry notes that the use of such a wide age span includes huge numbers of young Hispanic adults who have immigrated to the United States to work and never attended schools here.

Rather than use the Current Population Survey, Mr. Fry uses a larger set of data provided by the Census 2000 Summary File 3 and the Census 2000 Supplementary Survey, and he sticks to a smaller age range—only youths between 16 and 19.

By doing so, he found that the overall high school dropout rate for Latinos in that age range was 21 percent, considerably lower than the statistic from the president’s commission or the 28 percent quoted by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. The NCES figure is based on data for 16- to 24-year-old Latinos.

But even with the smaller age range of 16 to 19, Mr. Fry still found that one in three of the nation’s more than half-million Hispanic dropouts is an immigrant who has had little or no contact with U.S. schools. About 80 percent of those youths do not speak English, the data showed. Those youths have high rates of employment—two- thirds have jobs—and tend to earn more money than other groups of dropouts in the U.S. labor market.

By contrast, nearly all of the U.S.-born Latino dropouts from 16 to 19 years of age are fluent in English, but fewer than half of them are employed.

Mr. Fry recommends that this country’s K-12 education system spend most of its dropout-prevention money on U.S.-born or immigrant Latinos who have already had a lot of exposure to U.S. schools.

“The needs of the Latino youths who have never been in U.S. schools are probably better addressed by adult education, basic language training, and workplace programs,” Mr. Fry said in an interview last week.

Poised for College

The “Diploma in Hand” report looks at the characteristics that influence college attendance by Hispanic youths.

It recommends that U.S. schools help Latinos understand what it takes to get into college. Specifically, the report says that Hispanic youths need a better understanding of the logistics involved in applying to college and the process for seeking financial aid.

Based on what was learned by interviewing students, the report’s author, John Immerwahr, divided Latino high school seniors into three groups: those who resemble college-preparatory students from upper-middle-class families and will almost surely attend college; those who come from poor families with no tradition of attending college, are poorly prepared academically, and don’t plan to attend college immediately after high school; and those whom the report calls “college-maybes” who may have an opportunity to go to college but face obstacles.

Among the college-maybes, the report finds some are badly misinformed about the steps it takes to get into college.

One young woman, for example, didn’t question a college-age student tour guide at a university who told her she could wait until the end of the summer to apply to universities in her state for entrance in the fall, when, in fact, the application deadline was July 1.

The report found that a single adult can make a huge difference for some of the college-maybes by helping them understand the steps to get accepted into college.


Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Achievement Webinar
Mission Possible: Saving Time While Improving Student Outcomes
Learn how district leaders are maximizing instructional time and finding the best resources for student success through their MTSS framework.
Content provided by Panorama Education
Reading & Literacy K-12 Essentials Forum Writing and the Science of Reading
Join us for this free event as we highlight and discuss the intersection of reading and writing with Education Week reporters and expert guests.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Opinion The Report of Gifted Education's Death Is Greatly Exaggerated
Few low-income kids and kids of color make it into gifted programs. James R. Delisle explains effective ways to address that problem.
James R. Delisle
4 min read
Smart black child student boy holding white empty banner arrow on chalkboard background with science formulas
Vanessa Solis/Education Week + iStock/Getty
Equity & Diversity Q&A A Formula for Creating More Equitable Gifted and Talented Programs
Anthony Vargas in Manassas, Va., has nearly doubled the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds in the district's gifted program.
4 min read
Anthony Vargas, the supervisor of gifted and talented and advanced programs, judges and advises 6th grade student projects prepared for the National History Day contest at Baldwin Intermediate School in Manassas, Va., on December 6, 2022.
Anthony Vargas, the supervisor of gifted and talented and advanced programs, judges presentations by 6th graders at Baldwin Intermediate School in Manassas, Va. The students, in the gifted education program, were preparing for a National History Day contest.
Valerie Plesch for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Leader To Learn From A Leader Who's Busting Down Barriers to Gifted Education
Anthony Vargas has nearly doubled the share of poor and Hispanic students in gifted education in Manassas, Va.
8 min read
Anthony Vargas judges projects presented by 5th grade students at Baldwin Intermediate School in Manassas, Va., on Dec. 6, 2022.
Anthony Vargas judges projects presented by 5th grade students at Baldwin Intermediate School in Manassas, Va.
Valerie Plesch for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Opinion Educators, We Must Defend AP African American Studies
In an open letter to colleagues, a former Florida educator urges teachers to speak out. "No one will save us."
Monika Williams Shealey
5 min read
Illustration of many hands are raised against a giant hand stopping them
Vanessa Solis/Education Week + Getty Images