Success in education is necessary for upward socioeconomic mobility. However, not every student has an opportunity to access higher education. In particular, Latino and English language learner (ELL) students--large and growing populations in the U.S. school system--tend to graduate from high school without the skills and knowledge necessary to meet the demands of college and a globally competitive workforce. Currently, only 56% of Latino students graduate from high school on time with a regular diploma, compared to 77% of their White peers. This record undercuts the increasing demand in the United States for highly educated and trained individuals who can compete in the global economy.
Notably, a significant portion (40%) of Latino schoolchildren are also ELL students. While ELLs constitute a little more than ten percent of the nation's total public school population, ELL student enrollment has increased at nearly seven times the rate of total student enrollment.
The economic consequences of denying today's students the adequate preparation to be tomorrow's workforce can be devastating for both the nation and local communities. For example, if half of the Latino students who dropped out of school in the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas metropolitan area would have graduated in 2008, this graduating class would have earned an additional annual combined income of $92.8 million. These additional educated workers would have likely produced an increase of $67.5 million in spending and $25.3 million in investment during an average year. Nationally, if half of the Latino students who dropped out in 2008 would have graduated, they would have contributed an additional $1.3 billion of combined income and pumped $931.7 million into the nation's economy through spending and an additional $325.2 million in investments!
The large and growing overall Latino student population and the subset of ELLs, are effectively changing the face of the American student body and could have a significant economic impact. Our nation's educational systems must respond to this challenge with intentional, robust policies, practices, and supports for all children to succeed. For example, ELLs often lack access to rigorous curricula, appropriate assessments, and effective teachers who are equipped with the tools and resources to teach ELLs. The alignment of high-quality state assessments to high content standards is critical for measuring the true academic achievement of ELLs, who must simultaneously learn academic content and English.
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Initiative represents an opportunity for Latinos, a large and growing share of the U.S. student population who are disproportionately affected by low standards. If implemented appropriately, CCSS will ensure that historically underserved students are taught to high standards that will prepare them for college and careers. Adopting CCSS is move toward delivering a high-quality education to our Latino students, regardless of where they live.
In the push to adopt CCSS, parents, communities, and neighborhood representatives play a role in shaping effective implementation of the standards. These important stakeholders must speak out for their communities in the implementation discussions, to make sure that the resulting policy drives better outcomes for all students.
Grassroots efforts around the country are raising awareness and promoting action around CCSS among communities of color. Organizations like the California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE), the Urban League of Philadelphia, and the Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia are working with parents, students, and neighborhood representatives to effectively and fairly implement CCSS. And national organizations like NCLR and the Campaign for High School Equity (CHSE) are promoting civil rights and education reform in Washington, DC, and throughout the country, including partnerships with national CCSS implementers to bring the voices of communities of color to the process of designing, adopting, and using these revolutionary new standards. Stanford University is currently creating English language proficiency (ELP) standards aligned to CCSS that will outline what ELLs should know and be able to do in the academic content areas at different English proficiency levels. The development and alignment of ELP standards promise to properly support ELLs at varying grade and proficiency levels.
Latino and ELL academic success is critical to the strength of the U.S. economy as these students represent a large and growing share of the U.S. student population and future workforce. Implementing high standards and holding the school system accountable for meeting those standards is essential to bring about critical improvements in the school system for these students.
This blog was first published at the NCLR Blog