Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Helping Latinos Become College- and Career-Ready

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Helping Latinos Become College- and Career-Ready

Article excerpt

Vast numbers of Latino students are not prepared for postsecondary education and careers, according to a repon from the Association, of Latino Administrators & Superintendents (ALAS) and McGraw-Hill Education. The two organizations have collaborated on a position paper, building Bridges to the future for latum Students, which calls for innovative approaches that break down the school-to-work transitional barriers. The paper examines the causes behind Lalino unprepareduess and advocates tor more emphasis on personalized learning, college and career planning, and the utilization of digitili learning tools.

"Educators must promote Latino students' success through planning, defining aspirations, clarifying interests, exploring career requirements, and connecting high school to a future of college and careers," said Jeff Livingston, senior vice president of college and career readiness at McGraw-Hill Education and collaborator on the study.

The report, which notes that Latinos are the largest percentage of the nation's high school dropout population, cites the significant disparity in graduation rates for Hispanic students as compared to their Asian-American and Caucasian counterparts. Only 56 percent of Hispanic students graduale on time with a traditional high school diploma. This compares to 81 percent of Asian-American students and 77 percenl of Caucasian students.

The study further explores the gap between the skills and abilities needed to earn a high school diploma and those needed to be successful in college or a career. Latino students fidi even further behind in tliis transition. As Livingston points out, this is why so many sUidents who enter college need remediation in English or math or both.

"Requirements for completing high school and entering college are ont of sync," he said. ''For example, there is a hig gap between the reading level of a high school text and the reading level of a college textbook. For many students, these academic gaps are too challenging and the leap of going to college is just too great. So they drop out."

The ALAS report describes three major barriers for Latino students who are planning for career and college: 1) lack of guidance; 2) lack of relevancy of high school courses to career or college; and 3) lack of challenging courseworkthat improves research, writing and critical thinking skills.

"Without direction, students enroll in a variety of basic courses lacking rigor and lacking alignment to career or college requirements," states the report.

Statistics show that less than 50 percent of Latino students take collegepreparatory classes. Many of diese students are unaware of the steps needed to prepare and apply to college. Because high school students rely mosdy on family and friends for information about college requirements, first-generation Latinos are at an added disadvantage. Once Latino students get into college, they report having less information about requirements than other students.

"When we ask students how they leam about college, most say from a brothel" or sister or family member," said Livingston. "This includes everything from the application process to financial aid to what it's like to live in a dorm, but minorities often come from families where they are die first to go to college, so those conversations are not taking place at home."

The information gap often is combined with a lack of understanding about the role of coursework in preparing for college or careers. One of Ihe must common questions that Livingston receives from studenls is: Why do I need tins course?

"We try to make them understand how their academic requirements are relaled lo a career choice Ihey are interested in, such as algebra for a business career or biology for a medical career," he said.

To bring about change and motivate students, Livingston and others are proposing an approach lirai seeks to engage youth, especially minorities, in school and career opportunities. …

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