By 2020, one in four children enrolled in America's K-12 public schools will be Latino.
Of those Latino students, more than half will be second-generation Americans, born in the United States to at least one parent who is an immigrant. Another third will be at least third-generation Americans, the children of parents who were also born in this country, according to projections from the Pew Hispanic Center, a Washington-based research organization. The remainder will be immigrants themselves, though they will be part of a diminishing stream of young Latinos moving to the United States from Spanish-speaking countries.
With such strong and growing numbers, the educational achievement of this diverse community of students -- who increasingly live in states and communities where Latinos were virtually nonexistent even a decade ago -- has implications for the national economy, local labor markets, and prospects for upward social mobility for millions of Hispanic Americans.
To meet President Obama's goal of making the United States the world leader in the share of college graduates by 2020, more than half of the 9 million postsecondary degrees it will take to reach that target must be earned by Latinos, says Jose A. Rico, the executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.
"The president has made it very clear that the future of our country is at stake if we don't provide a quality education to our Latino students," Rico says.
But right now--just eight years before President Obama's deadline--educational outcomes for Latino students lag behind those of most major ethnic and racial groups by many of the most critical measures. That's despite some modest gains in recent years and robust efforts to drive down dropout rates for all of the nation's most vulnerable students. For example:
--Among Hispanic 16- to 24-year-olds in the United States, 17.6 percent were high school dropouts in 2009, compared with 9.3 percent of African-Americans and 5.2 percent of whites in the same age group, although the rate for Hispanics has steadily improved, according to The Condition of Education 2011, published by the U.S. Department of Education.
--Among Hispanic 25- to 64-year-olds, the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center found that 64 percent have finished high school, either by earning a standard diploma or a General Educational Development credential, compared with 90 percent of whites, 85 percent of African-Americans, and 89 percent of Asian-Americans. The EPE Research Center's graduation-rate analysis puts the on-time high school graduation rate for Hispanic students in the class of 2009 at 63 percent--slightly higher than the 59 percent rate for African-American students.
--Roughly 37 percent of Hispanic 25- to 64-year-olds had completed some college coursework or an associate degree, trailing non-Hispanic whites at 63 percent, African-Americans at 53 percent, and Asian-Americans at 74 percent, according to the EPE Research Center.
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--Latino students who make it to college are far less likely than their black, white, and Asian-American peers to finish. In 2010, among Hispanic 25- to 29-year-olds, 14 percent had earned a bachelor's degree or higher, compared with 19 percent for African-Americans, 39 percent for whites, and 53 percent for Asian-Americans, according to The Condition of Education 2011.
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