They’re the fastest-growing ethnic group but the most poorly
educated. Do we have what it takes to close the gap?
From their first day of kindergarten to their last day of school, Latinos, on average, perform far below most of their peers. They now constitute the largest minority group in the United
States and the fastest growing segment of its
school-age population. As such, they are inextricably bound up with the nation’s future.
The Latino public school population nearly
doubled between 1987 and 2007, increasing
from 11 to 21 percent of all U.S. students
(National Center for Education Statistics [NCES],
2009b). The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that by
2021, one of four U.S. students will be Latino. In
key states in the U.S. Southwest, such as Texas
and California, the Latino school-age population
is already approaching one-half of all students. In
these states, the future is already here.
© SUSIE FITZHUGH
© JOHN BOOZ
Behind at the Start
Can schools close these gaps?
It is instructive to look back to
the first days of schooling to
see the differences that exist at
that point. Data from the 1998
Early Childhood Longitudinal
Study show that only one-half
as many Latino children as
white children fall into the
highest quartile of math and
reading skills at the beginning of
kindergarten, and more than
twice as many fall into the
lowest quartile. The gap is even
wider between Latino and