|Office of the Chancellor / Public Affairs||
Monday, November 15, 2004
North County Times 11-13-04
Report shows minority students face big challenges
Although they are a majority of students in San Diego County, Latinos face a bleak academic environment, according to a report released Saturday by the county Office of Education.
The report, presented at the ninth annual Latino Education Summit in San Diego, showed that Latino students have disproportionately higher dropout rates, lower test scores and less preparation for college than their white and Asian peers.
Much of the report focused on 13 of the county's school districts that account for some 85 percent of Latino enrollment in San Diego County. Four North County districts ---- Oceanside Unified, Vista Unified, San Marcos Unified and Escondido Elementary ---- are among those.
Oscar Medina, a bilingual education coordinator with the county and a member of the San Diego Latino Coalition for Education, which helped prepare the report, said the data should make community members feel "uncomfortable."
Among the report's findings:
Latinos make up 41 percent of students in the county ---- more than 203,000 of nearly 500,000 pupils. That number continues to grow and has recently outstripped white enrollment, which has steadily declined over the last decade.
About half of Latino students are not fluent in English.
Latino students have a graduation rate of 66 percent, compared with an average of 79 percent for all students. Dropout rates are higher for males than females.
When it comes to meeting the prerequisites for admission to California's public colleges, about 20 percent of Latino students complete all of the required courses, compared with 44.5 percent of whites and 55 percent of Asians. Similarly, Latino students are less likely to be enrolled in programs for advanced students.
Much of the information presented was not news to the 200 or so educators, community members, parents and students who attended the presentation. They later broke up into groups to develop strategies for closing the gaps in Latino performance and increasing opportunities at the county's schools.
Much of the discussion focused on improving bilingual education and ensuring equal access to educational opportunities from kindergarten through college.
Medina, the county coordinator, said preserving a student's native language strikes at the heart of promoting success.
"It's an issue of identity that has to do with a student's notion of self-worth and self-esteem," Medina said. "It also allows access to grade-level curriculum and helps guarantee academic success."
Some attendees said that while it was important to examine the obstacles to higher academic performance and college admissions that face Latinos, eliminating those discrepancies ultimately rested with focusing on the needs of individual students.
"We have to move one step beyond that and mentor, and counsel and encourage them," said Carol Herrera, a trustee of the Vista Unified School District. "We know that for any child, praise and encouragement is a big factor in academic success."
Herrera said the report's finding that only 8.4 percent of Vista's Latino students had completed the necessary requirements for college admission was "unacceptable."
She said she was interested in consulting with other nearby districts whose rates, while all below 27 percent, were at least double those of Vista's to see what changes her district could implement.
One of those neighboring districts, San Marcos, has produced a steadily growing number of Latinos prepared for college over the past decade, according to the report.
That success may be due in part to the GEAR UP program at Palomar College, which works with San Marcos students beginning in the sixth grade to help get them and their families focused on college.
Part of that program's success was working with all of San Marcos students, even while it focused on the district's Latino majority, according to GEAR UP's director, Calvin One Deer Gavin.
"What we did is we raised the expectation of the whole school,"
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