7 ways districts can improve academic achievement for Latino students

A new report exposes the lingering inequities caused by the pandemic that have negatively impacted the steady academic growth and success of Latino students in K-12 schools.

Over the past three years, COVID-19 has caused a dramatic impact on academic achievement for K-12 students across the U.S. This is especially true for English-learning Latino students, who were already at a disadvantage before the pandemic.

While COVID seems to be slowing down and schools begin returning to normal operations, occasional quarantines and canceled school events have caused a significant delay in academic achievement and a decline in mental health for these Latino students.

A report from UnidosUS released this week highlights the lingering inequities within America’s school systems resulting from the pandemic. It also provides suggestions for district leaders on how to better support their Latino student communities to improve their academic achievement and close the learning gap.

Latino students are the largest ethnic group in schools across the country. By 2030, the percentage of Latino students is expected to increase to 30%, an 8% increase since 2009. In addition, a large number of these students are learning English. More than 75% of U.S. English learners (5.1 million students) are Latino. This only emphasizes the importance of well-qualified teachers and successful practices to support English proficiency.

According to the report, 12 states have an English-learning population that is greater than 10% of the overall student population. However, native language skills are often seen as another obstacle to overcome in order to obtain English proficiency. Instead, these skills should be recognized as an asset that can help all students.

Unfortunately, the pandemic only worsened these existing barriers in America’s education system. Remote learning was significantly more detrimental for English-learning students. Most of them come from low-income families and most parents of English-learners have limited levels of education.

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Research shows that English learners see greater learning loss over the summer compared to their peers. When many schools were forced to close during the pandemic, a large number of students from those schools were unable to access essential resources and technology to communicate with their teachers and classmates, duplicating the effects of summer break.

These students are also more likely to be without a home, leading to a smaller chance of having access to high-speed internet essential to remote learning. Furthermore, Latino students were also challenged with at least one of the following hurdles after the start of the pandemic:

  • Having to work on a cellphone
  • Lack of computer/internet access
  • Forced to use public WiFi to complete assignments

Another weakness found in K-12 schools is the disproportionate Latino student-teacher ratio. According to the report, Latinos make up 28% of K-12 students, but only 9% of teachers. Increasing the percentage of Latino teachers would lead to greater academic achievement and engagement in the classroom.

Addressing these issues is key to ensuring steady growth and success for Latino students. UnidosUS offers seven ways district leaders can provide a more successful education for Latino students:

  1. Make actionable data and student-centered accountability a priority.
  2. Increase Title I dollars to ensure funding for low-income students.
  3. Support and build upon multilingual learners and increase Title III funding.
  4. Make responsive and welcoming schools accessible for all students.
  5. Push “anywhere, anytime” learning.
  6. Increase communication with families about education resources and policies.
  7. Help ensure that students stay on track for postsecondary education.
Micah Ward
Micah Wardhttp://districtadministration.com
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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