Today, nearly one in four students in our nation’s public schools is a Hispanic youth. Making sure Latinos have the opportunity to achieve their dreams isn’t just the right thing to do for the Latino community —it is also the right thing to do for our country.
In just the next few decades, Hispanics will represent nearly one in three American workers. It’s clear; the future of our nation is inextricably linked to the future of our Hispanic communities.
From September 15 through October 15, our nation observes Hispanic Heritage Month. Each year, especially during this time, we celebrate the incredible contributions of the Hispanic community, honor its heritage, and look ahead to even more progress for Latinos across America. But this year is unique.
The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, established in 1990 to address the educational disparities faced by the Hispanic community, is celebrating its 25th anniversary. In honor of this historic milestone, the Initiative launched a year of action in October 2014 to highlight the tremendous progress Latinos are making in education and the challenges that remain to ensure true educational opportunity for all and ensure their educational success is a shared responsibility between all sectors.
Latinos are in fact doing better. For example:
Our nation’s high school graduation rate is the highest in history, and Latinos, the fastest growing population of students, have made the greatest gains – at 76 percent – in graduation rates. From 2011 to 2013, Latino graduation rates have improved by more than four percentage points. Our nation’s high school dropout rate is at a historic low, with the Hispanic dropout rate half of what it was in 2000. And more minority students, including Hispanics, are enrolling in higher education at higher rates.
But the work does not stop there. At only 16 percent of Latinos who hold a Bachelor’s degree or higher, we can and must do better. To help build the national narrative on Latino progress and to share promising practices the Initiative called for nominations for Bright Spots in Hispanic Education. These Bright Spots are evidence-based organizations, models, or initiatives that are helping to close achievement and opportunity gaps, from cradle to career, for Latinos.
Earlier this week, we were proud to recognize more than 230 Bright Spots in Hispanic Education that are working to increase the educational attainment of the Latino community in key areas, including: early learning; K-12 and college access, science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education; Latino teacher recruitment; and postsecondary completion.
We know that identifying and implementing strategies and solutions that support Hispanic students is critical to ensuring their success. We also hope that by highlighting work that already is happening across the country, we can encourage more programs, groups, and individuals to collaborate; share data-driven approaches, promising practices, and peer to-peer advice; and build effective partnerships, ultimately resulting in increased educational outcomes for Hispanic students, and all students.
You can find all of the Bright Spots in this national online catalog, and here is a sampling of what’s there:
- LAUP, based in CA, has prepared more than 105,000 children for kindergarten and beyond by funding, rating, and raising the quality of preschool programs.
- The ARMAS program in NM was created to increase the number of Hispanic students earning a bachelor of science degree in STEM and offers supplemental instruction and tutoring in STEM courses.
- The Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement (VIDA) Project, based in TX, provides extensive wraparound support services and financial assistance so that the students can attend college full time.
- The ALBA school in WI works with local universities to create a pipeline to teacher certification, encouraging teacher assistants and parents to pursue credentials to become fully certified educators.
- The Dream Project in VA is addressing the needs of undocumented students striving for higher education.
It is critical to continue to identify and highlight asset-based, solutions-oriented innovations that are helping to close achievement and opportunity gaps for Latinos. Throughout Hispanic Heritage Month, the Obama administration is celebrating Latino progress and highlighting the work and investment put it in by parents, community leaders, educators, and students to ensure Latinos achieve.
Alejandra Ceja is Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics