Starting right

One in five children under the age of eight comes from a Latino family, reports the Washington Post.

Latino children nationwide tend to start kindergarten knowing less about letters and numbers compared with their non-Hispanic white peers. Many never catch up. Improving early childhood education is one of the best ways to narrow the achievement gap, educators say, citing such programs as the family book club. But many Latino families face economic, linguistic, educational and even cultural barriers.”It’s partly about parents not understanding the American system,” said Eugene E. Garcia, an Arizona State University administrator and chairman of the National Task Force on Early Childhood Education for Hispanics. “Hispanic parents think school is good and education is good. They just don’t have the tools they need.”

About 40 percent of Latino 3- and 4-year-olds (and 5-year-olds not yet in kindergarten) are enrolled in pre-kindergarten programs, compared with about 60 percent of white and African American children, according to the District-based advocacy group Pre-K Now. In addition, a new report from Garcia’s task force noted that Hispanic mothers generally read and talk less to their children compared with white parents. Hispanic families also tend to have fewer children’s books at home.

Educators are trying to enroll more Hispanic children in quality preschools. They’re also working with immigrant mothers.

The amount of time parents spent reading and telling stories to their children and interacting with them mattered more, (Michael) Lopez said, than the education level or income of the adults.

In Arizona, a Latino policy group wants to bar school districts from issuing certificates or diplomas when students complete eighth grade for fear it sends a message that their education is complete. In Mexico, it probably would be.

The hope is to take aim at the state’s high dropout rate and communicate to families, especially immigrant families, that completing eighth grade is really not that big of a deal.

In a visit to a San Jose middle school with a large immigrant enrollment, I noticed that the principal had banned limos and formal wear at the eighth-grade graduation. He said many students assume it’s the last graduation ceremony they’ll attend. It’s not that students don’t know they’re expected to go on to high school; they just don’t believe they’re likely to earn a diploma.

About Joanne


  1. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Perhaps the Catholic Church should get into pre-school. Nothing improves attention like a ruler slap from a Nun.

  2. It’s odd that Walter Wallis has prefaced my comments. Unfortunately, the Catholic Schools have been unsuccessful in reaching out to “Latino” families. And I have to tell you it is — in their mind — a sense these families do not in general put an emphasis on education. Mind you, that stereotype is taking place within regions where other immigrants, India, Persian and Vietnamese, are paying tuition and getting the benefits of a Catholic parochial education. Vietnamese are told by certain priests to not waste their money on Catholic schools but attend the “free” ones. Free? Public education costs $10,000. per year per child. Catholic tuition for K-8 averages $3,700. Go figure!

    That said….

    About five or six years ago, Peggy Noonan wrote in Opinion Journal about her theory that cellphones were a major cause of the lack of assimilation of immigrants in America. She used as evidence the constant hum of foreigners in New York — owners of shops and people just mingling on the street — talking on their cell. In her mind all were on a call back home where they didn’t have to worry about verb tense, accent, or vernacular. They didn’t have search out new friends or channels. But their new place to live wasn’t likely to become their new country as long as the connection to the homeland remained so easy. I thought her case was worthy of attention but was shouted down by a local Congressman turned talk show host.

    We have ballots in some cities offered in various languages. Where I live they include Cambodian, Vietnamese, Spanish, English and in Beverly Hills Farsi. Yet one of the criteria for citizenship is “knowing” English.

    And the Post writer wonders why the kids aren’t ready when they arrive at school.

  3. wahoofive says:

    Anything that reduces the overblown “graduation” hoopla for middle, or even elementary school (not to mention kindergarten) is a good thing. But eighth graders weren’t renting their own limos or tuxes: it must have been their parents renting them. Is it because those parents think it’s the last graduation their child will ever attend? Maybe, but I can think of other possible motivations, such as an urge to fit in, since TV routinely portrays graduation ceremonies as looking like weddings.

  4. Wayne Martin says:

    > I noticed that the principal had banned limos and
    > formal wear at the eighth-grade graduation.

    During my youth, there were no such things as “graduations” from middle school. Another good example of how things have gone wrong in the public schools.

  5. Latino parents should start considering preschool and other education program for young children. Some studies clearly show that early education is good for the children’s development. I don’t know why they don’t regocnized the advantages of early education.

  6. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Perhaps the failure to require them to learn english isolates them from other social pressures, too.

  7. This note is for Geri.

    Sue Shellenbarger, who writes WORK & FAMILY for The Wall Street Journal, points out today a study that ties behavior problems in sixth graders to too much time in child and preschool care. It has to do with parents’ assumption that kids in groups will learn to work out problems with sharing versus the more natural “getting your way.”

    I have to laugh here because one of the complaints I often hear from parents when quizzed about home school is that their kids won’t learn social skills if they are educated at home.

    [A note about my post above. The priests directing Vietnamese families to forgo the expense of Catholic School were Vietnamese. Yes, it is odd.]

  8. Preschool care is certainly having a lot of issues regarding it’s effects to children. Some studies show that behavior is causing good behaviors to children orther bad bahavior. It only confuses parents.
    I think it’s all up to parents if they want their children to join preschool. If they think that their children are prepared and ready for education even at a young age, then they should consider preschool.

  9. 48% of the students in California’s schools are Hispanic. Given that, it seems to me we need to pay very close attention to this population. If they’re not well served by our educational system we will be dealing with the consequences of that for a very long time.