Educators, legislators meet to discuss Latino student success
This much we know: Latinos are quickly becoming the majority in Nevada's public schools, and already are in Clark County elementary schools, but they also do not graduate from high school or obtain advanced degrees at the same rate as other ethnicities.
In the coming years, Latinos will continue to make up a large portion of the state's workforce.
So a growing question before Nevada's educators, from kindergarten to graduate school, is: How do they prepare for and improve the outcomes of the growing population of Latino students?
At a forum on improving Latino student success Friday, legislators, teachers and administrators from all levels of Nevada's education system came together at the College of Southern Nevada's Charleston Campus to both discuss the situation and explore ideas for improvement.
Deborah Santiago, of Excelencia in Education, an organization that promotes college for Latinos and conducts research on the higher education system, discussed the ramifications of becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution, a federal designation based mostly on Hispanic student enrollment that opens up avenues for funding. The federal government recognizes just over 300 Hispanic Serving Institutions, which are defined as degree-granting, not-for-profit, community colleges and undergraduate schools with a full-time student population that is at least 25 percent Hispanic. There are no Hispanic Serving Institutions in Nevada, but five - College of Southern Nevada, Nevada State College, Truckee Meadows Community College, UNLV and Western Nevada College - are closing in on the enrollment requirement.
"A lot of the programs developed to help Hispanic students help all students," Santiago said, noting that 40 percent of current Hispanic college students are the first in their families to seek an advanced degree. "Creating learning communities to help first-year students can help. ... With declines in the economy, retention has become more difficult, and retention councils can help all students stay in school. For first-generation college attendees, it's not enough to say we built it and they will come."
Santiago emphasized that colleges cannot simply enroll Hispanic students; they must "serve" them.
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