Why Some Schools with Latino Children Beat the Odds &and Others Don't

Center for the Future of Arizona & Morrison Institute for Public Policy
March 2006

Latinos are the fastest growing population sector in Arizona, but their graduation rates in that state in 2004 lagged behind those of white, non-Hispanic students by close to 18 points. If those numbers don't improve, upwards of 10,000 Arizona Latino students per year could fail to graduate high school by 2012. This new study pinpoints key factors that contributed to improving performance in 12 predominantly Hispanic and low-income Arizona schools. Researchers compared these 12 schools to others similar in all but performance, looking for factors that led to academic success. Six elements stood out in successful schools: a clear bottom line (emphasizing achievement for every student); ongoing assessment (tracking student performance data); a strong and steady principal; collaborative solutions (effective work teams of consultants/teachers); sticking with the program (carefully choosing an educational program and "sticking with it"); and "built to suit" (customized instruction/intervention for students). For example, at Wade Carpenter School, students take online quarterly tests that track their academic progression, and teachers use these data to plan instruction around the "content clusters" in which students are weakest. This border school with almost 100 percent Spanish-speaking, low-income students has improved its test scores by almost 20 percentage points. Beat the Odds would've been much stronger if it presented in-depth profiles of the individual schools, rather than brief, snapshot examples. But overall, this is a useful report. It shows that targeted education reforms within schools can work, and that they can narrow the achievement gap for Latino students. Read the report here.

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