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Monday, May 2, 2016

Gains in Reading for Hispanic Students Overshadowed by Achievement Gap

From U.S. News & World Report

By Lauren Camera
March 28, 2016

In some states, Latino students are more than three grade levels behind their peers in reading.

Fourth graders work on an assignment in Illinois, in January. Almost a quarter
of Latino students are still not proficient in reading, according to a recent report.

Latino students have made impressive academic gains over the past decade, but almost a quarter are still not proficient in reading – and in some states, they're more than three grades behind their peers.

Those are just some of the findings in a new report from the Child Trends Hispanic Institute, which examined the progress Latino students made in reading from 2005 to 2015, using data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests.

"Seeing that many Latino students struggle in reading is troubling, in part because having good reading skills is so fundamental to understanding what's being taught in school, and to success in many jobs," said Manica Ramos, a research scientist at Child Trends and lead author of the study.

Indeed, students who are still poor readers by the end of third grade are less likely to understand what is taught in later grades, the report notes. And reading achievement in fourth grade is a reasonably good predictor of high school graduation rates.

Despite the increase in scores from 2005 to 2015, only 21 percent of Latino fourth-graders reached the "proficient" level in reading in 2015. This compares to 46 percent of white students, and 35 percent of fourth-graders overall.

Those scores varied by state. For example, the 2015 gap in reading scores between white and Latino students at fourth grade ranged from the equivalent of about one grade level in Louisiana, to more than three grade levels in Pennsylvania and Minnesota.

The findings are particularly troubling, the researchers note, because Hispanic students represent the single largest minority group. Today, 1 in 4 U.S. children is Hispanic, and by 2030 the proportion will be 1 in 3.

Notably, Latino students themselves are a diverse student subgroup, representing several national origins, various family immigration statuses and amounts of time spent in the U.S., as well as location within the country.

To get a more holistic look at their achievement in reading, the researchers broke out the finding by country of origin, which is self-reported by students on the NAEP tests.

The researches found that at grades four and eight, increases for reading achievement over time were similar for all measured subgroups of Latinos. But at eighth grade, the achievement of Cuban students spiked by about one grade level, while scores for Mexican and Puerto Rican students decreased significantly.

Still, Ramos said she's encouraged by the overall upward trajectory of scores and especially by the work being done in a handful of states and big urban school districts.

Indiana and Tennessee had the largest improvement for Latinos in fourth grade, while Hawaii, Oklahoma and California had the largest for those in eighth grade.

Among the urban school districts included in the study, students in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and the District of Columbia were among the top performers. Boston, in particular, saw an improvement among fourth-graders amounting to 1.5 grade levels between 2005 and 2015.

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