Officials Ponder Plans As Hispanic Enrollment Surges

The Hispanic student population is on the rise in a number of states across America, leading government official and education leaders to query how best to try to boost the academic performance of this burgeoning group.

As previously reported on this site, Hispanics have become the majority of enrolled students in Texas, and that state – second in the US in population – will be two-thirds Hispanic by 2050.

Next door in Louisiana, a surge of Hispanic students has taken some schools by surprise.  New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Shreveport lead the surge in students classified as English Language Learners (ELL). In Caddo Parish, which includes Shreveport, ELL growth over the past nine years is at 293% according to a story by TV station KTBS.

The growth is tempered by a state study from earlier this decade that postulated that 30% of Hispanic students in Louisiana ultimately drop out.  To combat this trend, Louisiana lawmakers are battling to break the language barrier:

“ELL students can have accommodations on the state test, anywhere from a word to word dictionary; to small group testing to test read aloud, but the federal government has also given us a way that if a student has been here for less than a year; the test can be coded so that it doesn’t count. If they’ve been here for longer than a year than the test can be coded and they can be waved from one of the high stakes testing from fourth to eighth,” said Cathy Gallant, Caddo curriculum development director.

The trend isn’t limited to the Gulf Coast, however.  Earlier this month, a White House committee met in Miami to discuss improving performance of Hispanic students.  In the 2010 US Census, the greater Miami-Dade County area was 70% Hispanic,  up from 18% 50 years previous.

According to a report by Miami’s Local 10, Hispanic students are the fastest growing group in the country’s public school population, but obstacles such as higher rates of poverty and lower achievement scores are slowing down their graduation rates.