ERIC Identifier: ED316616
Publication Date: 1989-00-00
Author: Wells, Amy Stuart
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Urban Education New York NY.
Hispanic Education in America: Separate and Unequal. ERIC/CUE
Digest No. 59.
School desegregation efforts in the United States have traditionally been
aimed at providing black students with equal access to quality education.
Although the Supreme Court's 1973 decision in the Keyes case clearly stated that
Hispanic students also have a right to desegregation remedies, few attempts to
integrate Hispanic and non-Hispanic white students have been made. In fact,
while the level of black student integration has remained relatively stable
since the late 1960s, Hispanic students are more segregated today than they were
20 years ago.
Meanwhile, gaps in educational attainment and earnings between Hispanics and
non-Hispanics continue to widen, offering strong evidence that segregated
schools are not preparing the rapidly growing Hispanic student population to
succeed in a predominantly non-Hispanic society.
GROWTH OF THE HISPANIC POPULATION
According to the U.S.
Census Bureau, the nation's Hispanic population has grown almost five times
faster than non-Hispanic populations in the last ten years. Should the current
demographic trends continue, Hispanics will become the nation's largest minority
group by 2020.
This growth has particular consequences for the nation's public schools. In
1968, there were about two million Hispanic school-age children in this country;
by 1986, that number more than doubled to 4,064,000 (Orfield, 1988). While
Hispanic students made up 4.6 percent of the school-age population in 1968, by
1988 they comprised 10.5 percent of that population (National Council of La
In addition, the U.S. Hispanic population is highly concentrated in certain
regions and major cities. Three-fifths of Hispanic students attend school in
either Texas or California (Orfield, 1988). Still, many large urban areas
outside the Southwest--New York, Chicago, and Miami, for example--also have very
large, concentrated Hispanic populations. With 87 percent of Hispanics living in
metropolitan areas, they are the nation's most metropolitan population (National
Council of La Raza, 1985).
Orfield's demographic studies of
school enrollments (1989) demonstrate that Hispanic students have become
steadily more isolated in virtually all parts of the country since 1968, the
first year in which separate data on Hispanic enrollments were collected. For
instance, 54.8 percent of Hispanic students attended predominantly non-white
schools in 1968, and 18 years later, 71.5 percent of Hispanic students were in
such schools. This mirrors the rise in the percentage of Hispanic students
enrolled in "intensely segregated" schools--more than 90 percent minority
enrollment--from 23.1 percent in 1968 to 32.2 percent in 1986.
In fact, while the average black student is still more likely to be in a
segregated school than the average Hispanic student, this trend has been
reversing at an accelerated rate since 1980 (Orfield, 1989).
A recent study looking at school enrollments in the Houston Metropolitan area
(Ponicki, 1989) shows a steady increase in the segregation of Hispanic students
within the Houston Independent School District since 1968, when the percentage
of white students in the class of the average Hispanic student was 38 percent.
By 1986, that percentage was only 14 percent. Ponicki also found Hispanic
students enrolled in suburban schools were much less segregated.
Orfield's data show that in spite of the differences in education levels,
income, and political power of students from different Hispanic
backgrounds--Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, and Latin American--all Hispanic
Americans face increasing levels of school segregation in all parts of the
country (Orfield, 1989).
Orfield (1989) attributes this growth in Hispanic segregation not only to
rising Hispanic enrollments, but also to the disproportionate concentration of
Hispanic students in urban school districts with large minority enrollments and
a lack of any significant initiatives for desegregation.
Part of the explanation for the increase in segregation lies within the
Hispanic community itself. Castellanos (1980) suggests that, because racism has
not been institutionalized in Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Cuba, many
Spanish-speaking immigrants to the U.S. do not see the issue of desegregation as
a priority. They don't mind that their children go to school only with other
Latinos, and they are more comfortable dealing with schools in which the
majority of the parents and students share their common culture, language, and
values. Further, they may fear of loss of power--political and economic--as a
result of a diffusion of the Hispanic community.
The main reason why Hispanic parents and leaders have not pushed as hard for
integration as have black leaders is that many believe Hispanic students are
better served in a predominantly Hispanic schools where extensive bilingual
educational services are more likely to be offered.
According to Fernandez and Guskin (1981), while blacks and Hispanics publicly
espouse similar goals in terms of equal educational opportunities, the means by
which the two groups promote these goals often appear to be in conflict.
Desegregation for blacks and bilingual education for Hispanics have emerged as
the respective symbols by which these two communities judge improvement of their
educational condition. For the most part, Hispanic participation in
desegregation cases has been limited to attempts to protect the integrity of
existing bilingual programs; ensuring the successful integration of Hispanic and
non-Hispanic students has not been a concern (Fernandez & Guskin, 1981).
THE NEED FOR DESEGREGATION
Such concerns on the part of
Hispanic leaders are not adequate explanations for a lack of action in the area
of Hispanic school desegregation for two reasons. First, the Supreme Court
stated in the Keyes decision that Hispanic students are entitled to both a
desegregated education experience and bilingual education programs. Second, the
data on the Hispanic educational attainment demonstrate that segregated schools
are not providing Hispanic students with an equal opportunity for success.
Rights of Hispanic Students. Historically, the segregation of Hispanic
students was not as pronounced as it was for black students, although both Texas
and California did, at one time, maintain separate schools for
Mexican-Americans. Not until 1970, 16 years after the Supreme Court's Brown
decision declared racially segregated schools unconstitutional, did a Texas
district court judge rule in Cisneros vs. Corpus Christi that Mexican-Americans
should be treated as an identifiable minority group, and that the combination of
two minority groups apart from white students did not achieve desegregation.
The 1973 Supreme Court decision in Keyes v. Denver School District addressed
the language needs of desegregated Hispanic students. The Court stated that a
meaningful desegregation plan must not only physically integrate Hispanic
students, but must also help them proficient in English. In other words,
bilingual education can be derived as a component of a desegregation remedy, but
it cannot be the remedy for a segregated school system (Institute for Research
on Educational Finance and Governance, 1981).
Educational Outcomes. Even in schools with predominantly Hispanic student
populations many students are not receiving the bilingual education that they
are entitled to under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
According to a report by the Network of Regional Desegregation Assistance
Centers (1989), many state education agencies' bilingual education departments
do not closely monitor school districts for compliance with the Title VI
requirements. Consequently, many bilingual students in this country--about 84
percent of whom are Hispanic--do not receive the services they need in order to
A study by the Children's English and Service Society found that only 36
percent of children identified as Limited English Proficiency (LEP) had been
assessed by their schools as such, and that two-thirds of those identified LEP
students between the ages of five and 14 received no special language services
(National Council of La Raza, 1985).
In addition, the evidence exists that the isolation and segregation has had
several detrimental effects. First, Hispanics have the highest dropout rate of
any ethnic group in this country. One-half of all Mexican-American and Puerto
Rican students do not graduate from high schools (National Council of La Raza,
1989). In 1986, when Hispanics represented almost 10 percent of the nation's
students, they were only 5 percent of all college students. Although the total
number of Hispanic students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities has risen
slowly in the last decade, because of the enormous rise in the total number of
college-age Hispanic students, there has been an actual decline in the
percentage going on to higher education--from 35.8 percent of all Hispanic
18-to-24 year olds in 1976 to 29.4 percent in 1986 (Orfield, 1988).
Hispanic students' isolation from the educational mainstream in high school
causes few Hispanic students to be prepared for college in the way that many
white and Asian students are. Their curriculum, and teacher expectations for
them, are often of a considerably lower level (Orfield, 1988). According to the
National Council of La Raza (1989), 38 percent of Hispanic high school seniors
are enrolled in remedial mathematics classes, and 75 percent have been placed in
low-level curricular programs that make college education improbable.
Meanwhile, the income gap between Hispanic and non-Hispanic families
continues to increase, with more than one-fourth of Hispanic children living in
poverty. Orfield (1988) notes that children living in neighborhoods with large
concentrations of low-income children are likely to attend schools with lower
levels of competition, more distractions, and less qualified and less
experienced teachers. Many Hispanic students attend school districts with low
per-pupil expenditures, high pupil-teacher ratios and limited resources. If
current practices continue, Hispanics are not only destined to become the
nation's largest minority group, but also the most disadvantaged.
Castellanos, D. (1980, February). Bilingual
education versus school desegregation: Reconciling the conflict. NJEA Review.
Fernandez, R., & Guskin, J. (1981). Hispanic students and school
desegregation. In Willis D. Hawley (Ed.), Effective school desegregation:
Equity, quality, and feasibility. London: Sage Publications.
Institute for Research on Educational Finance and Governance. (1981).
Bilingual education for Hispanics: Issues of language, access and equity.
Stanford, CA: Author.
Metropolitan Opportunity Project. (1987). Minority and low-income high
schools: Evidence of educational inequality in metro Los Angeles. Working Paper
#8. Chicago: Author. ED 290 828
National Council of La Raza. (1985, July). The education of Hispanics:
Selected statistics. Office of Research Advocacy and Legislation. Washington,
National Council of La Raza. (1989). Multiple choice: Hispanics and
education. Washington, D.C.: Author. ED 262 121
Network of Regional Desegregation Assistance Centers. (1989, June).
Resegregation of public schools: The third generation. Andover, MA: Author.
Orfield, G. (1988, July). The growth and concentration of Hispanic enrollment
and the future of American education. Presented at National Council of La Raza
Conference, Albuquerque, NM.
Ponicki, W. (1989, October). School segregation in metropolitan Houston.
Chicago: Metropolitan Opportunity Project, University of Chicago.