ERIC Identifier: ED252637
Publication Date: 1984-03-00
Author: Ascher, Carol
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban Education New York NY.

Helping Hispanic Students to Complete High School and Enter College. ERIC/CUE Digest Number 20.

Hispanic students tend to be more poorly prepared for college than non-Hispanic white students for several reasons. First, a higher percent of Hispanic seniors is in vocational or general programs rather than academic programs. Second, fewer Hispanic seniors than other Whites have enrolled in such academic courses as trigonometry, calculus, physics, chemistry, or third year English. Third, a higher percentage of Hispanics than non-Hispanic Whites take neither the SAT nor the ACT, the standardized tests usually necessary for college admission. Of those who do take the standardized tests, lower percentages of Mexican Americans (66 percent) and Puerto Ricans (65 percent) than other Whites (80 percent) identify themselves as in academic or college preparatory programs--that is, they have not prepared appropriately.

Both Hispanic and non-Hispanic White seniors agree, more or less, that their school work is inhibited because:

School doesn't offer courses I want to take....I don't feel part of the school...poor teaching...poor study habits...I find it hard to adjust to the school job takes too much time (Duran 1983).

On the other hand, hard courses, lack of help from teachers, health problems, and transportation difficulties are cited 5 to 10 percent more frequently by Hispanic seniors than by non-Hispanic White seniors.

Finally, the greatest discrepancy between Hispanic and non-Hispanic White seniors has to do with the compatibility of students' home life with schooling. One-third of Hispanic seniors, at a level at least 10 percent higher than non-Hispanic whites, worry about money problems, family obligations, a lack of a good place to study at home, and parental disinterest in their education.


Based on cultural stereotypes about Hispanic students, many teachers see lower potential and expect lower performance. In a study of Mexican-American students, teachers were more likely to show disapproval toward Spanish-dominant than English-dominant students and to attribute negative characteristics to students who spoke accented or nonstandard English or nonstandard Spanish. Another study found that teachers attributed such negative characteristics as low social status, low educational attainment, and low intelligence to Hispanic students who had accents or who were nonstandard speakers.

A United States Commission on Civil Rights study showed that teachers direct praise or encouragement at Anglo students 36 percent more often than at Mexican-American students; build on the spoken contribution of Anglo students 40 percent more often; and ask Anglo students 20 percent more questions than they ask Mexican-American students.


A number of factors clearly depress the test performance of Hispanic students. First, the lower socioeconomic and educational level of Hispanic families generally correlates with low test performance, regardless of ethnicity. Second are problems within the testing situation: cultural differences, which hinder guessing or interpretation; text anxiety; a relatively slower speed of test taking that decreases chances of test completion; unfamiliarity with the accepted nuance of test vocabulary; and, possibly, culturally different test-taking strategies. According to Duran,

Neither high school grades nor admissions test scores alone or in combination ought to bear the sole burden of evidence for making decisions to admit Hispanic-background students to college.... Admissions personnel need to be provided with a broader range of information on Hispanics' background, language, and culture in weighing admissions decisions.


Hispanic students rely less on their guidance counselors and parents for career information than do other groups of students and, instead, resort more frequently to books, magazines, and former students, as well as classroom teachers, librarians and career specialists. Hispanics also tend to be more vulnerable to both the positive and negative influences of school personnel than are middle-class, non-Hispanic White youth.

Though research on counseling Hispanics is scarce, existing research indicates that what counselors fail to do is just as significant as what they do. In interviews, Puerto Rican students cited counselors' failure to explain adequately the college-going process as preventing these students from applying to colleges.

High schools that are successful in getting Hispanics into college combine a number of strategies:

--High expectations and a strong academic curriculum challenge both teachers and students and have far-reaching effects.

--Early identification of college-bound students enhances chances for better preparation. But early identification should not be rigid, should avoid tracking, and the selection of college- bound students should not be left entirely to school personnel, or be based entirely on test scores and grades. Given a proper explanation of the expectations and responsibilities, students should be allowed to enter the college process at any point in their high school careers.

--A well-developed information system needs to alert students about visits from college recruiters, test deadlines, college days/nights, college fairs, college orientation days, scholarship deadlines, and other events. Teachers need to be attuned to these activities in order to plan lessons accordingly and to provide assistance whenever necessary. Parents need to be aware in order to provide a role of support and encouragement. And counselors need to be sensitive to the community's language preference--and to accept the fact that some information may need to be disseminated in both Spanish and English.

--An organized effort to prepare students for standardized testing, college admission, and financial aid application is essential. Students need not only information on deadlines and visits, but an understanding of their importance in getting into college. Activities should be designed to help students successfully complete each step.

--A well-defined role for resource groups, including parents, teachers, college recruiters, ex-students, and community organizations, should be creatively designed to fit the needs of the individual school.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This Digest is based on Richard P. Duran's HISPANICS' EDUCATION AND BACKGROUND: PREDICTORS OF COLLEGE ACHIEVEMENT (New York: College Entrance Examination Board, 1983) and Gilberto Ramon's THE COUNSELING OF HISPANIC COLLEGE-BOUND STUDENTS (New York: ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban Education and Las Cruces, NM: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools, 1984).

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