Hispanics now comprise 16 percent of the United States population and the Census Bureau estimates they will account for 30 percent in 2050. This obviously means the number of Hispanic students in our public schools is increasing as well. From just 2001 to 2008, the percent of Hispanics in public schools grew from 17 to 21 percent. In Texas, Hispanics already comprise a majority of public school students.
You’d think those numbers would grab the attention of policymakers and educators and spur action—but you’d be wrong. Our public schools are woefully unprepared to deal with the fastest-growing ethnic group in the United States. Only 17 percent of Hispanic 4th-graders score proficient or better on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (a national test given to samples of students each year) while 42 percent of non-Hispanic white students do. Nationally, the high school graduation rate for Hispanic students is just 64 percent, and only 7 percent of incoming college students are Hispanic, according to the Alliance for Excellent Education.
These two tectonic issues—our rocketing Hispanic population and the inadequate education of Hispanic students—are on a collision course that could either end in disaster or in another story of successful assimilation in America. The stakes are clear: How we meet this challenge will impact our politics, economy, and our society itself.