MIAMI — Changing demographics mean challenges facing Latino students are of importance to the entire nation, a senior U.S. Department of Education official presenting a report in Miami said Wednesday.
“Our numbers have grown so large that the future of the U.S. is inextricably linked to the future of the Latino community,” said Juan Sepulveda, director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans.
Latinos are the largest minority group in America’s public education system, numbering more than 12.4 million in Pre-K through high school, according to the latest enrollment figures available. Nearly 22 percent of all Pre-K through 12 students enrolled in America’s public schools is Latino. Still, Latinos lag behind other groups in many indicators and have the lowest levels of education attainment.
Obama administration officials discussed the report by the White House initiative at Miami Dade College, which graduates the largest number of Hispanics in the country. It also will be where President Obama will give a commencement speech on Friday.
With the Hispanic population at 50 million and growing, officials have stressed the need to strengthen and expand educational opportunities for Latino students in order to meet the president’s goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.
“The same issues continue to plague the Hispanic community. There is a formula we need to follow to improve Hispanic performance,” said Frank Alvarez, president of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund.
That formula — awareness, preparation, financial access and retention — is going to equal success, he said.
The number of Latinos enrolled in technical and adult education programs has increased during the past two years, but Alvarez stressed the importance of supporting vocational schools that are attached to work related occupation, so that Hispanics can get certificates that lead to better salaries. Latinos who receive technical and adult education certificates are more likely to get their associates degree, “which is a shorter step to a bachelor’s degree.”
Obama officials also said there needs to be an increase in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education in order for students to remain competitive in a globalized world. Recent results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed few students proficient in science, and scores among minorities were even lower.
The nation’s Hispanic population increased by 15.2 million in the past decade, accounting for more than half of the nation’s total population growth. The report shows that Hispanics will drive the growth of the labor force over the next several decades, accounting for 60 percent of the nation’s growth between 2005 and 2050.
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