PAJARO, Calif. December 22, 2013 (AP)
By MARTHA MENDOZA Associated Press National Writer
As Hispanics surpass white Californians in population next year, the state becomes a potential model for the rest of the country, which is going through a slower but similar demographic shift.
But when it comes to how California is educating students of color, many say the state serves as a model of what not to do.
In California, 52 percent of the state's 6 million school children are Hispanic, just 26 percent are white. And Hispanic students in general are getting worse educations than their white peers. Their class sizes are larger, course offerings are fewer and funding is lower.
The consequence is obvious: lower achievement.
Just 33 percent of Hispanic students are proficient in reading in third grade, compared with 64 percent of white students. By high school, one in four Hispanic 10th graders in California cannot pass the high school math exit exam, compared with 1 out of 10 white students.
And while overall test scores across the state have gone up in the past decade, the achievement gap hasn't changed.
... Nationally, an achievement gap is also showing up as Latino enrollment has soared from one out of 20 U.S. students in 1970 to nearly one out of four, and white students account for just 52 percent of U.S. first graders.
"We're falling behind," said Antioch University Los Angeles provost Luis Pedraja. "Ultimately we will face a crisis where a majority of the U.S. population will be economically disadvantaged, which will reduce their spending power and contribution to taxes and Social Security, impacting all segments of society and our country's economic health."
There are many factors contributing to California's educational divide; many Hispanic students are children of Mexican immigrants who did not complete high school and who cannot provide the academic and social support and advocacy of their white counterparts. The state also has a tax system that allows communities to increase local taxes for their schools — thus wealthier communities have wealthier schools.
That's why there is no achievement gap in the giant Los Angeles Unified School District; it's all one huge community.
All too often, black and Latino students are disproportionally taught easier material than white or Asian kids, said Alan A. Aja, who teaches Latino studies at Brooklyn College.
"No one wants to see themselves as racist," Aja said, "but educators have this ingrained belief that black and Latino kids are cognitively inferior and they lower expectations. It's racialized tracking. So if they assume these kids are going to underachieve, if they assume they don't have capacity to tackle hard topics, well, no wonder there's an achievement gap."