White House: Latino Students’ Education Key to Nation’s Future

But the president's market-driven school reforms are more punitive than promising.

By Julianne Hing Apr 29, 2011

The White House clearly knows how to diagnose an urgent need. The success of students of color is crucial to the success of the country. From its newly released report on education for Latino students:

Latino students face persistent obstacles to educational attainment. Less than half of Latino children are enrolled in any early learning program. Only about half of all Latino students earn their high school diploma on time; those who do complete high school are only half as likely as their peers to be prepared for college. Just 13 percent of Latinos have a bachelor’s degree, and only 4 percent have completed graduate or professional degree programs.

It’s something that President Obama has identified when he signed an executive order last October establishing the White House Initiative on Education Excellence for Hispanics:

Today, Latinos make up the largest minority group in America’s schools– more than one in five students overall–and they face challenges of monumental proportions. Latino students are more likely to attend our lowest-performing schools, more likely to learn in larger class sizes, more likely to drop out at higher rates. Fewer than half take part in early childhood education. Only about half graduate on time from high school. And those who do make it to college often find themselves underprepared for its rigors.

Now, Obama’s tacked the success of Latino students on to his broader theme of "winning the future" which he introduced at this year’s State of the Union. But there’s a gap between the diagnosis and the prescription, which in the Obama administration’s case, rests on a set of market-driven school reforms–education reform is one of the places where you’d be forgiven if you think you’re in a corporate board room, so common are phrases like "accountability," "turnaround," "outcome-driven," and "takeover"–that are punitive and narrow, and heavily focused on standardized testing.

"Yes, we want to ‘win the future,’ but for many the concern now is surviving the present," UCLA education professor John Rogers said back in January. He underlined that these days, there are many other structural factors beyond schools that influence children’s success. The fear is that current school reform policies are not equipped to address the totality of those pressing issues, and especially not for communities of color who are both experiencing the brunt of the current recession, and being targeted with the most drastic school reform measures.

"How do young people who are growing up in families that are really facing difficult economic circumstances survive the present without a whole host of social supports that are being eroded or eliminated outright?"