Hispanic Academic Advancement Theory: An Ethnographic Study of Urban Students Participating in a High School Advanced Diploma Program

Article excerpt

This emergent theory describes the relationships and factors within the context of home, school, and community that enabled six Hispanic students to participate in an advanced diploma program. The research is in keeping with the mandates from several federal initiatives to develop "asset-based" paradigms for educating Hispanic youth. Grounded theory and ethnographic methodologies were used in collecting the data from the purposive sample. Several sub-factors emerged, that served to describe, explain, and predict the development of the Hispanic Academic Advancement Theory. Those sub-factors will be explained and implications of the findings on the education of Hispanic students will be discussed.


Creation of new theoretical paradigms to engage and retain Hispanics in the educational pipeline is important in light of various demographic and educational statistics and federal initiatives (President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, 2000). While there is evidence that the Hispanic student population continues to increase, there is also evidence that there has been a dramatic increase in the Hispanic dropout rate. The dropout rate of 24-28% for Hispanics has more than doubled the 14% for Blacks and is more than three times the 8% dropout rate for Whites (President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, 2000). In regards to academic progress, the percent of Hispanic parents earning a high school diploma increased from 23% in 1972 to 45% in 1997 (President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, 2000). Encouraging as this fact might appear, the number is quite low when compared to the educational attainment rate of 98% for White parents. These findings have created an urgency that has led to some federal initiatives that emphasize new paradigms in education.

One such initiative was the creation of the President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans (2000) by President Clinton in 1994. This led to another initiative, the creation of the U.S. Department of Education Hispanic Dropout Project (1998). Former United States Secretary of Education, Richard Riley, stated this about the education of Hispanic students:

   The promise for Latino education will
   come from emerging paradigms that are
   based on lessons learned and on models
   which focus on the assets of the Hispanic
   community, rather than on deficits. We
   need teachers who, when they see a
   Latino child or any other student, have
   high expectations and visualize great
   achievements for that child (p. 7-8)

While federal initiatives have provided the necessary policy, it became important to examine the existing theories that explained Hispanic students' educational attainment. Abundant theories existed for the "at-risk" Hispanic student, however, few theories existed that identified "at promise" (Rodriguez & Villareal, 2000) factors within the school, home, and community context that contributed to the academic success of Hispanic students in advanced academic programs in non-border environments. The advanced academic program was selected as the setting for this study because it permitted investigation of the academic resources and attributes that assisted students to be enrolled in college level course work while still in high school. Academic resources (Adelman, 1999) have been identified as correlating highly with the ability for students obtaining a higher education, obtaining higher paying jobs, and having a wider range of career choices (U.S. Department of Education/Hispanic Dropout Project, 1998). Adelman (1999) added that the "High school curriculum reflects 41% of the academic resources students bring to higher education; test scores, 30%, and class rank/academic GPA 29%" (p.2). Hence, there is a need to examine how the homes, schools, and communities of Hispanic students in high poverty and high risk areas provide students with the support, motivation, and education necessary to develop academic resources that advance the participation of Hispanic youth in higher education. …