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Bridging the Hispanic Achievement Gap

Project Overview

Class curriculum created that combines Latino heritage, Spanish and English, and essay writing to help bridge the Hispanic Achievement Gap. 

Identifying the Problem

The achievement gap in academic performance between academically at-risk minorities and white students has concerned many for decades now. It's a troubling fact that Latino Americans and African Americans, for example, earn lower grades on average than their white peers and are much more likely to drop out of high school. Part of the problem of supporting students from bilingual households comes from curriculums that downplay the vital interaction of the two languages, English and Spanish, in the brains of students who live in predominantly Spanish-speaking or bilingual households.

The failure to make any progress in moving more Latino students successfully through college suggests that what we have been doing to close achievement gaps is not working. This fact has enormous consequences for the United States, as the job market continues to demand more education and Latinos continue to make up a larger and larger portion of the workforce. But when it comes to how our educational system is educating students of color, many say it serves as a model of what not to do.


Many of the students Esmeralda serves today are Latino - some are immigrants and most of them have decided that college - or even high school - is not for them. Currently, the dropout rate among Hispanics is about 18 percent - nearly three times the rate of white students and 8 percent higher than black students, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Native-born Hispanics have a 10 percent dropout rate, but the dropout rates are even higher for Hispanic students in urban schools across the nation, often approaching 35 percent in Los Angeles schools.

Creating A Solution

Esmeralda's inspiration for this project sprang from her own personal experience with the education gap and from many of the students she serves who continually fail out of school. Below is a description of both her experience as well as some statistics from the national center for Educational Statistics. 

Esmeralda was educated in an inner city school in South Bronx. At thirteen, she wanted to believe that any kind of education was valuabl and if she worked hard enough, she could repay her mother for the opportunities she had lost by earning a college degree. Above all, Esmeralda wanted to believe that she could get past the education gap. According to Esmeralda, this goal was passionate, but naive. Speaking further on her experience, Esmeralda says that upon getting to college, the education gap hit her hard and heavy. She says didn't realize something as simple as lacking a library in high school would affect her. She didn’t realize the segregation in her high school classrooms would lead to an ignorance of others' experiences. Her high school classrooms separated Carribbean Latinos and Black students. Esmeralda goes on to say that she did not know the lack of a quality education in high school could impact her enough to fail out college - thus preventing her from achieving her mother's goal of Esmeralda earning a college degree. She wasn't even able to read her college assignments. 

Although this is a problem on a large scale, Esmeralda's project chose to target a small group of 15 senior Latino students with a high possibility of not graduating high school. Her project was to create a one class curriculum that combines Spanish and English and prepares students for college. During this class, students were encouraged to combine their identity with politics, as well as talk in whatever language they please. Students felt comfortable enough to learn the nuts and bolts of our Democracy. It may go without saying, but not everything was covered. However, students learned enough that they felt inclined to vote and demand more Latino representation in our government. Following the class, students pledged to finish high school.

In order to complete the project, Esmeralda had to create a curriculum that combined Latino heritage, Spanish, English, and writing. Her curriculum targeted politics because she felt it was the best way for students to gain knowledge and demonstrate the need for better education in the Latino community. Once the curriculum was completed, it was pitched to an alternative school called Mt. Scott Learning Center. Here, the school counselor determined which students would benefit from the six hour class.

Lessons Learned

Esmeralda says she was continuously surprised by students' willingness to try harder and achieve more. She found that this was poissible with love, knowledge and opportunities.


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About This Project

HIA Program:

Netherlands Netherlands 2015

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