‘Mega-State’ Study Looks At Hispanic Ed in Biggest States

A report looking at the data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress finds that academic performance of Hispanic students varies greatly state-to-state. The report looked at the data from five states with the highest populations of students in the country: California, Florida, Texas, Illinois and New York.

In California, where more than 50% of all 8th-graders taking the NAEP exams were Hispanic, only about 14% were deemed proficient in reading and a mere 13% were proficient in mathematics. The Hispanic students in the state had the worst performance of five studied populations. However, their failure wasn’t out of step with California’s academic performance as a whole, as the state has long been ranked below average in terms of student academic outcomes.

The report looked at more than just the performance of Hispanic students. The authors stressed that studying these “Mega-States” was important since they were not only the most populous in the country, they also had some of the highest percentage of students who are English language learners and were also home to a relatively high proposition of low-income households.

Therefore, they could serve as models for any educational policy proposals that target the disadvantaged students or that are aimed at closing demographic achievement gaps.

The Mega-States are at the forefront of the demographic shifts in our nation. California, Texas, New York, and Florida had the largest increases in the immigrant population over the last decade. Illinois had the sixth largest increase.

Most of our ­nation’s ELL students are being educated in the Mega-States. California enrolls nearly 1.5 million ELL students—the largest number in the nation. That’s more than twice the amount of any other Mega-State.

More than one-third of all families below the poverty line live in the Mega-States. About 9 million families in the United States reported income below the poverty line in 2011; 3.4 million of them were in the Mega-States.2

The performance of 4th- and 8th-graders varied across the Mega-States, with California performing worse than the national average in all three tested subjects – mathematics, reading and science – while Texas students scored higher in 8th-grade math and science while underperforming in reading.

The finding that is likely to draw the most attention in the coming weeks will be the fact that the amount spent on education per student doesn’t appear to correlate well with academic performance.

New York, whose 8th-graders underperformed in mathematics and science, spent nearly $18,000 per student per year on education – by far the highest of all five states studied. Meanwhile, Texas, where student performance was the best, spent less than half that – $8,562.