Hispanic students aren't catching up

Hispanic fourth and eighth graders didn’t catch up in math and reading from 1990 to 2009, concludes Achievement Gaps, a National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) report issued yesterday. Hispanic students improved, but so did non-Hispanic whites.

Nationwide, the average Hispanic student is working two or more grade levels below the average white student, notes the Christian Science Monitor.  (Ten points on NAEP is the equivalent of one grade level.)

In fourth-grade math in 2009, the average Hispanic score of 227 corresponds with the “basic” skill level, and it indicates that students can make a pictograph of given information, and can determine, in a multiple-choice question, how many given pieces cover a shape.

The white average score of 248, on the other hand, is just one point shy of reaching the “proficient” skill level, and it indicates that these students can subtract a two-digit number from a three-digit number and solve a word problem involving quarts and cups.

Hispanic school enrollment in grades 4 and 8 tripled in the last two decades, growing from 7 percent to 22 percent by 2009.  Some 77 percent of Hispanic students come from low-income families.

Thirty-seven percent in fourth grade and 21 percent in eighth grade are not fully proficient in reading English. Not surprisingly, Hispanic students who’ve achieved proficiency — which is measured by scoring well on tests — do much better than those who aren’t proficient.

For Hispanics who already know English, the gaps with whites have narrowed. That gap was 15 points in Grade 8 reading, for instance, while ELL Hispanics scored 39 points lower than non-ELL Hispanics.

Among low-income students, the gaps between Hispanics and whites have narrowed in reading and eighth-grade math since 2003.

Florida boasts a significantly smaller Hispanic-white achievement gap. Other school systems with smaller-than-average gaps are Kentucky, Missouri, Wyoming and the Department of Defense schools. California, sadly, has a larger-than-average achievement gap.

About Joanne


  1. Joanne, how do achievement levels for Hispanic students look when you disaggregate them? for example, US-born vs. foreign-born? ELL vs. English speaking? 1st generation vs. 3rd generation? low-income vs. middle class?what I’m getting at, of course, is that it would be foolish to expect newly-arrived children of monolingual (Spanish-speaking) parents living in poverty NOT to have an achievement gap, but you’d also expect to see no gap at all for 3rd generation, English speaking middle class Hispanic students (of whom there are plenty).

  2. Richard Aubrey says:

    By the time there’s no trouble–third generation, for example–they’re hardly Hispanic except in name.
    We had a Mexican kid with us one year. He was having trouble early on understanding the assignment. Not what he was supposed to know, but which chapter/question thing in the textbook. “Oh,” says the teacher, “Amber Martinez can explain it to you.” Wrongo. Amber was a very nice girl. She was not Hispanic. She was a cheerleader. Did not speak Spanish, and her father very little. Her mother was from the Eastern Europe demograph, or whatever you call it. Her brother, sporting the famous Hispanic name, “Brandon”, looked like a chubby, freckled little irish kid. Brandon, if you’re reading this, it was twenty years ago and I’m sure you’re tall and ripped. Whatever that is.

  3. Could it be these kids are being tested without being given the years needed to obtain an academic understanding of English?

    If there are any politicians or non-educators writing the testing eligibility rules then most probably.

  4. By the time there’s no trouble–third generation, for example–they’re hardly Hispanic except in name.

    Fourth-generation Mexican immigrants still have a large difference in educational achievment from Americans of European ancestry.  Whatever causes the deficits, it’s not something that goes away despite half a century or more of time to assimilate.

  5. Sean Mays says:

    I wonder about the degree of assimilation. When my relatives came over it was a one way trip. Pretty much the same for any European immigrants of several generations ago. Many of my immigrant students return to the “old country” on a routine basis, summer, Christmas break, etc. I wonder how that qualitatively changes the notion of immigration/assimilation if the ties back home aren’t substantially severed.

  6. you’d also expect to see no gap at all for 3rd generation, English speaking middle class Hispanic students (of whom there are plenty).

    As Engineer Poet points out, this is wishful thinking. The gap is well-documented.

  7. Cardinal Fang says:

    It’s wishful thinking that there’s no gap between whites and English-fluent Hispanics. However, according to the report, the gap is closing, both for math and for reading. That is, Hispanic English language learners still lag behind whites, but English-fluent Hispanics are catching up.

  8. Richard Aubrey says:

    Sean Mays has a point.
    I think there was a short story, or perhaps a series, called The Education of Hyman Kaplan. Actually, I think the letters were all in caps and separated by asterisks. Old book, probably pre WW II, of American humor.
    Assimilation was the purpose of the education and of the folks in the classes.
    Today? I know of La Raza and MechCa and so forth. But do we now have more homeland consciousness than we used to? I recall going to the Ukrainian Hall with some friends for some kind of party in the Sixties or late Fifties. Near Detroit. There is or used to be a Polish legion of American Veterans post near Flint. Don’t know if they are still in business or what their homeland consciousness effort, if any, was.
    However, if there is more homeland consciousness than there used to be, the first language will hang on longer and the cultural assimilation will take more time.
    Working with some libprotestants on social justice issues, I heard a double line. Sure, immigration is good. See how well previous immigrants assimilated. Nothing to worry about. Why would anybody want to assimilate with this racist, misogynist, greedy, crime-ridden culture run in accordance with murderous rules laid down by old DWEM, most of whom owned slaves. And I know of active resistance to attempts to assimilate. “active” being speaking against it in meetings and discrediting those who were for it.
    So, resistance to assimilation by Americans is probably new, and an addiitonal factor.
    Long way ’round to the impact on education.