For the first time in over three decades, a new study found that the Latino on-time graduation rate in 2010 surged to over 70% in a major ten-point jump from four years before.
The increase in Hispanic high school graduation, combined with an increase among other groups, has led the national dropout rate to fall to just 3% of all American high school students.
Although Latinos are still dropping out of high school in unsustainably high numbers, at more than double the rate of their non-Hispanic counterparts, these findings may represent a welcome turn in the right direction. Far more than before, young Hispanic students are making the decision to stay in school until graduation day.
“While we are excited about this new increase in high school graduation rates, our ultimate challenge remains to ensure that more Hispanic students are prepared to be accepted and succeed in our colleges and universities. We must see more Latinos enroll in college each year with the skills they need to graduate and obtain a degree,” said Delia Pompa, Senior Vice President of Programs at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR).
What does this change mean for a growing Latino community during a time when many states are cutting school resources in the name of fiscal austerity?
Despite both cultural and linguistic setbacks, we know that Latino children can achieve educational goals whether in preschool or in high school and should not be written off at any point along the educational pipeline. Every day, talented and hardworking Hispanic students overcome stereotypes and personal adversity and succeed in realizing dreams of both high school and college graduation.
“NCLR works with school administrators, teachers, and parents to ensure that they not only graduate from high school but are prepared to face rigorous college coursework. Through programs like “What If?” and the Escalera Program, NCLR supports student-focused programs that provide tools for Latino students to be better prepared for acceptance to postsecondary institutions and thrive in a college environment,” said Pompa.
As Latino unemployment still hovers around 10% nationally, many Hispanic teens may be consciously deciding to stay in school, recognizing that without a degree their employment prospects are scant in an already difficult job market.
While an increase in graduation rates is a strong step forward, the study finds that nearly 30% of Hispanic high school students dropped out of school during the 2009–2010 academic year. This is still unacceptably high, and we must work together this year to redouble our efforts to ensure that every Latino student has the opportunity to succeed and earn a high school diploma.