Study: Latina Girls Have Highest Dropout Rate

BySuzanne Gamboa

W A S H I N G T O N, Jan. 25, 2001 -- Hispanic girls have a higher high schooldropout rate than girls in other racial or ethnic groups and arethe least likely to earn a college degree, according to theAmerican Association of University Women.

Schools must do more to recognize cultural values that saddleHispanic girls with family responsibilities, such as caring foryounger siblings after school, that take away from educationalendeavors, researchers said in a report released Wednesday.

"If we want Latinas to succeed as other groups of girls have,schools need to work with and not against their families andcommunities and the strengths that Latinas bring to theclassroom," said Angela Ginorio, the study's author.

The report, citing Census Bureau statistics, said the dropoutrate for Latinas ages 16 to 24 is 30 percent, compared with 12.9percent for blacks and 8.2 percent for whites.

Only 10 percent of Hispanic women completed four or more yearsof college, compared with 13.9 percent of blacks and 22.3 percentof whites, according to the National Council of La Raza, anumbrella organization for Hispanic groups.

"Many Latinas face pressure about going to college fromboyfriends and fiances who expect their girlfriends or future wivesnot to be `too educated' and from peers who accuse them of `actingwhite' when they attempt to become better educated or spend time onacademics," the study said.

A Woman’s Responsibility

At the University of Texas at El Paso, the Mother-DaughterProgram targets sixth-grade Latinas, using tutoring and "bigsisters" to encourage the girls to graduate from high school andattend college. It also helps Hispanic mothers return to school.

"Part of the dropout rate problem has been the belief that thegirl has to work to help the family and besides, she's going to getmarried anyway so why go to college?" said Josefina Tinajero, theprogram director.

"I think there needs to be a tremendous awareness incommunities about this, especially in those that have smallernumbers of Hispanics," she said. "They need to know how to workwith this population."

Latinas are the country's fastest-growing female minoritypopulation, while Hispanics as a whole will account for 25 percentof the nation's school population in 2030.

The researchers recommended educators pay closer attention tothe cultural issues faced by Hispanic girls, recruit Hispanicteachers who can serve as role models and involve entire familiesin decisions about college.

Study’s Other Findings

Hispanic girls are underrepresented in gifted and talented andadvanced placement courses.

Hispanic girls are less likely to take the SAT college entranceexam than their white or Asian counterparts, and those who do scorelower on average than the other girls.

Among Hispanics, more girls than boys take the SAT exam, butthe girls score lower.

More Hispanic women than men obtain associate's, bachelor's andmaster's degrees, but more men earn professional and doctoratedegrees.

Raul Gonzalez, National Council of La Raza education policyanalyst, said having qualified teachers and rigorous curriculumsare the best ways to improve the performance of Hispanic girls andboys.

"I think the bottom line is we need to improve schools forHispanics altogether," Gonzalez said.

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