Washington State K-12 Education and Latinos: An Examination of Policies and Practices

Devan Schwartz
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My report examines the relationship between Latinos and the Washington State K-12 education system. The catalyst was the implementation of the Washington State Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) as a graduation requirement. This implementation influenced my examination of the potential achievement gap between Latino and non-Hispanic white students and the efficacy of programs educating Limited English Proficient students (LEPs) who are predominantly Spanish-speaking in Washington State.

Methods:

  • Scholarly Research: My reading focused on nation and state-wide analyses of the successes and failures of different types of K-12 LEP education, support or criticism of the WASL, and the state of Washington’s Latino students.
  • Personal Involvement: In the Walla Walla Public Schools I visited a number of facilities and met with students, teachers, and administrators.
  •  Interviews: Interviews provided a concrete and in-depth exploration into the ways in which the K-12 education system affects Latinos through school and family experiences.

Findings:

Achievement Gap: 

  • There is a significant achievement gap between Latinos and non-Hispanic whites, with Latino’s educational attainments and test scores typically found to be much lower.
  • An especially low percentage of Latinos graduate from high school in Washington (47%).

Secondary Language Instruction

  •  The best systems for educating LEP students include significant primary language instruction, a gradual transition to English, and instructors certified to teach LEPs. Latinos typically receive none of the three in Washington State schools.

WASL

  • Research shows that the state assessment test provides little or no gains in average student achievement, and this is especially true for Latinos.
  • The WASL uses millions of dollars in funding from the state of Washington.
  • The test is offered only in English, though Latino students typically score better and feel less overwhelmed by the transition to English when early tests are offered also in Spanish.

Recommendations:

  • Latinos should receive more primary language instruction, observe a slower transition to English, and be taught by better-qualified teachers.
  •  If some of the money used for the WASL was reallocated to schools and teachers there might be better results for Latinos students and it might help to close the achievement gap.
  • The WASL, if it remains, should be offered in other languages besides English.

Community Partner: Andrea Valencia, Bilingual Teacher, Green Park Elementary School

 

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