Parent Engagement Is Essential for Latino Youth to Beat Their College Odds

By Catalina Kaiyoorawongs, National Institute for Latino School Leaders Fellow, NCLR


The White House announcement released during the 2011 Latino Heritage Month states, “The Latino community’s ability to thrive is vital to the future of our nation and is critical to our out-educating, out-innovating, and out-building the rest of the world.”

Considering that one in every four newborns in the United States is Latino, innovation and progress can only happen if Latinos themselves progress. In Florida, specifically, Latino students make up 24 percent of the total K–12 student population in Florida.

Yet, only 6.2 percent of full-time college students (both undergraduate and graduate students) in October 2010 were Latino. Only 14 percent of the Latino population 25 and older had obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2010.

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Juntos, Learning and Teaching

Aug Escalera training 078_REV-2

By Felicia Medellin, NCLR Escalera Program Manager

On August 13–14 in Chicago, the NCLR Education team convened 22 Affiliates for training of the Escalera Program, a 15-month college- and career-readiness program for high school students.

The training focused on the program’s senior-year curriculum and began with asking the Affiliates to reflect on what they have learned thus far. One attendee said, “I appreciated having the opportunity to learn from my peers and hear about their struggles and successes with the program.” Attendees had fun selecting a song or movie title that reflected their experience with the program and sharing it with the group. They also had the chance to co-teach lessons with their peers, sharing teaching and developmental strategies to apply with their specific student populations. Another attendee said, “I most benefitted from the opportunity to develop lessons as a group and get immediate feedback.”

Research demonstrates that culturally-competent support services, such as those offered by NCLR Affiliates, can ensure that Latino students do well in their studies and are prepared for 21st century career success. NCLR will continue to support the Affiliates’ program implementation efforts through site visits, webinars, and other meetings. This initiative is a long-term commitment to ensure that Latino youth are prepared for academic and career success and have equal opportunities for economic advancement.

The senior-year curriculum tool kit consists of 41 lessons grouped in 13 module units. The lessons guide students through the process of applying for college, scholarships, and financial aid, while others focus on leadership skills, financial literacy, and practical job training. This skills development is a continuation from the junior/summer curriculum consisting of 52 lessons in 15 modules. Together, NCLR has created a robust curriculum to assist its Affiliate Network with changing the lives of more than 700 Latino high school seniors.

El Día de los Niños: A Day to Celebrate Benchmarks and Help Our Children Reach Even Higher

Yesterday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that the nation has reached an important milestone in education: in 2012 (the latest year that statistics are available), the national high school graduation rate reached 80 percent. Even more encouraging, researchers believe that if this trend continues, that number will increase to 90 percent by 2020.

The story for Latino students is just as positive, with graduation rates increasing by 15 percent. This impressive jump is great news not only for the Latino community but for the nation overall. Latinos will constitute close to 20 percent of the nation’s labor force in 2020, and educated workers are essential to ensuring that our economy remains robust and competitive.


The notable improvement in graduation rates can be attributed to several factors. Teachers, parents, and students are finding better ways to partner and communicate, giving children a greater chance at academic success. We believe new education standards are also a key component in making our kids ready for college and able to step into the career path of their choice.

In an increasingly competitive marketplace, our country can no longer be satisfied sitting in the middle of the pack when it comes to academic performance among industrialized nations. In the last test given by the Program for International Student Assessment, in 2012, 29 countries ranked higher than the U.S. in math and 22 in science. This means that while it is great news that our graduation rates are improving, it will take much more to prepare our children for the jobs of the future. That’s why we are encouraging innovation, creativity, and the broader thinking skills necessary to compete in a global job market.

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are setting higher benchmarks and improving the way our kids learn. Rather than simply memorizing facts, they are being taught to connect what they learn in the classroom to the world around them, sharpening their analytical skills, and reawakening a love of learning. Fewer, higher, and clearer standards are also allowing our teachers to be creative in the classroom and dive deeper into subject areas, imparting a greater breadth of knowledge.

The CCSS lay out clear guidelines that provide parents with a better understanding of how to best support their children’s learning. They are ensuring that, regardless of race, ethnicity, or ZIP code, all youth are given the same opportunity to succeed. These new standards are elevating what and how we teach our children, a vital component to maintaining the graduation rates we celebrate today and seeing them rise in the future.

Preparing Our Students for 21st Century and College and Career Readiness Standards

By Janet Alvarez, Principal, Para Los Ninos Middle School
(Cross-posted from the National Institute for Latino School Leaders blog.)

GraduationI was recently asked what I think the most important aspect is to prepare our Latino students for the rigor of 21st Century Learning and College and Career Readiness Standards.  As I thought more, it isn’t the arts, literacy, science, technology, or math that we integrate into every content area. Rather, it is the inquiry and curiosity that we nurture, demonstrate and practice through our approach.

Our students are curious about the world around them, hungry for more information about why things work the way they do and how to make them work even better.  This curiosity is what ignites a thirst for learning in our students and energizes them to be innovative thinkers.

Typically, 21st Century and College and Career Readiness Skills, are referred to as; critical thinking, communication, creativity and collaboration. These skills are extremely important, and the structure and tools to practice them in school are crucial.

I would like to add two more “C’s” to that list: curiosity and confidence.

Curiosity is a student’s fundamental motivation for learning.  Without it, students would never wonder, never question, and never try again after failing.  Our students need to see curiosity in action through demonstration. They need the time, structure, and devices to guide their curiosity into inquiry, exploration and learning. They also need meaningful ways to reveal their innovations, challenges and thoughts along the way.

Building confidence in our students is one of the most powerful “C’s” of all.  Acknowledging student accomplishments privately, and in front of a group boosts their belief in their capabilities. Further, allowing students the opportunity to self-select their own activities will help them build their self-worth.

Encourage students, when they are performing a task or getting involved in an activity, to do better than they did before, NOT better than someone else!  And finally, express a positive attitude toward our students so they see that they are worth your time and attention.

How about you?  How are you encouraging 21st Century skills for our students?