Next Generation Charter Schools: Meeting the Needs of Latinos and English Language Learners

Melissa Lazarín and Feliza Ortiz-Licon
Center for American Progress
September 2010

Charter schools that make it their mission to reach the most underserved students must not forget the needs of Latino students and English Language Learners (ELLs). This is topic of the Center for American Progress’s latest report.

Next Generation Charter Schools first outlines the need to serve this student sub-group. Latino students represent one in every five public school students nationally, which equates to around ten million Latino students (with this number projected to grow by 160 percent by the year 2050).  Furthermore, 28 percent of Latino students currently attend chronically underperforming schools, compared to just nine percent of white students. 

Next, it outlines state policies that affect Latinos and ELLs. For example, while most states have lottery procedures for oversubscribed charters, just a few have proactive recruitment and enrollment policies to attract more Latino students. It also points out unfairness in some charters’ access to Title III funding (federal dollars for ELLs and immigrant students) if the number of such students is too low to meet the funding threshold.

The remainder of the report highlights four high-performing charter schools serving large percentages of Latinos/ELLs and exceeding achievement goals among this traditionally hard-to-serve subgroup: El Sol Science and Arts Academy (Santa Ana, California), YES Prep Gulfton (Houston, Texas), the Raul Yzaguirre School for Success (Houston), and International Charter School (Pawtucket, Rhode Island). Drawing on their success, the report identifies several best practices, such as:

  • Simultaneously delivering teaching as a second language and core academic studies;
  • Expanding instruction time;
  • Instituting high expectations for all students, including ELLs;
  • Equipping all teachers and staff (not just ELL teachers) with strategies to better serve this student group.

While charter schools tend to have more freedom and flexibility in many areas, the lessons in the report can also be applied to traditional public schools.  Currently in Ohio 2.3 percent of students are ELLs.  The graduation rate last year among Hispanics was 61.4 percent compared to 88.6 percent for White students.  Furthermore, only 33 percent of Hispanics are proficient in math and only 26 percent of English Language Learners reach proficiency.  There is significant room for Ohio schools to consider the policy recommendations and best practices presented in this report.

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