By Jose Enriquez, National Institute for Latino School Leaders Fellow
Current data trends show that the Latino educational pipeline is improving—within the last decade, both high school graduation rates and college enrollment rates have improved for Latino students. However, there are still challenges to closing educational gaps.
Until recently, data showed that for every 100 Latino students, 21 will go to college, eight will earn a graduate degree, and less than 0.2% will earn a doctoral degree. According to Pew Research Center, 49% of Latino high school graduates in the United States enrolled in college in 2012, while high school dropout rates continued to fall. This positive trend may be representative of Latino students moving through the education system more smoothly than before. Despite such promising trends, in comparison to other ethnic groups, Latino college students are:
- Less likely to enroll in a four-year university.
- Less likely to attend a selective college.
- Less likely to enroll in college full-time.
- Less likely to complete a bachelor’s degree.
The potential to further improve the Latino educational pipeline takes on a new iteration with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The law seeks to “ensure all children receive a high-quality education and close student achievement gaps.” ESSA empowers state and local stakeholders to develop plans to improve educational outcomes for all students. Key provisions of the act also provide opportunities for the implementation of innovative practices to create a more comprehensive approach to education. As it pertains to the Latino educational pipeline, I believe that how stakeholders use ESSA’s key provisions in the coming years will be crucial in increasing college enrollment and completion rates of Latino students.
So how do we help our Latino students and communities as ESSA is implemented? As educational leaders, it is important to ensure our Latino students are college- and career-ready while facilitating the transition from high school to postsecondary education. In doing so, addressing the following issues must receive our attention: 1) increasing the number of Latino teachers in the Latino educational pipeline, 2) changing parent involvement practices for meaningful inclusion of the Latino parents and families, and 3) removing barriers to college access and completion that exist for Latinos.
- ESSA does away with No Child Left Behind’s “Highly Qualified” rules. Under ESSA, in Title I schools, teachers are only required to meet a state’s licensing requirements. This provides more flexibility to fill teacher shortages, but it also provides opportunities for potential Latino teacher candidates to enter the profession. Latino students need Latino role models in school settings more than ever.
- ESSA requires that parents and family members of low-income students must be included in decisions regarding how funds will be used in the implementation of effective family engagement strategies. The Latino voz must be heard; inclusive practices are needed to “increase positive influence that Latino parent involvement has on Latino students throughout the educational pipeline.”
- The use of other indicators of student success or school quality can be leveraged to identify and address barriers that Latino students face in K–12 settings and in transitioning to postsecondary education. Educational leaders must be proactive and innovative as they employ research-based indicators to streamline the educational pipeline.
As an educational leader, former Title III program coordinator at the state-level, and executive director of Latinos in Action (LIA)—a nonprofit organization that serves Latino students in K–12 settings and higher education institutions—I strongly believe that as ESSA rolls out, we need to get all hands on deck and have nuestra voz heard. We need programs that facilitate the three components mentioned above in order for change to happen.