While this crisis in south Texas does reflect a compositional effect of the presence of immigrants, equally or more important is the lack of access to preparation and testing sites, and the availability of preparation and testing in Spanish.
Hispanic High School Dropouts Less Likely to Pursue GED
May 20, 2010
Hispanic high school dropouts are far less likely to receive a GED
than their white or black counterparts, according to a report released
last week by the Pew Hispanic Center.
The study's statistics, which detail the low levels of education
attainment for Latinos, are grim news for the nation's largest
minority group. They also are particularly pertinent to the Rio Grande
Valley, where linguistic barriers deter hundreds from attaining the
General Educational Development (GED) credential, higher education
"We have a crisis of undereducated Latinos and Latinas in the Rio
Grande Valley, and it is a crisis with a capital 'C,'" said Tony
Zavaleta, vice president of external affairs at the University of
Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College. "We are not keeping
our students in school, and once they are out it is very hard to
attract them back into education."
Only 1 in 10 Hispanic high school dropouts has a GED, while 2 in 10
black high school dropouts and 3 in 10 white high school dropouts hold
the credential, according to newly available 2008 U.S. Census data
analyzed in the study.
Or put differently, out of the 41 million estimated high school
dropouts nationwide, only 9 percent of Hispanics in 2008 attained a
GED, versus 20 percent of black high school dropouts and 29 percent of
white high school dropouts.
The numbers are especially significant for Latinos, who make up 47
million, or 15 percent, of the nation's population and have a much
higher high school dropout rate than do blacks or whites, according to
the study. About 41 percent of Hispanics age 20 and older do not have
a regular high school diploma, compared to 23 percent of comparably
aged blacks and 14 percent of whites in the same age group.
"Part of the reason that the educational prospects of Hispanic high
school dropouts are dimmer than others' prospects is the large
immigrant presence among Hispanic adults," Richard Fry, senior
research assistant for the Pew Hispanic Center, states in the study.
Hispanic immigrants are one of the country's least educated groups,
Fry writes, and data suggests it takes longer for newly arrived
immigrants to learn about the educational system in the United States,
including testing for the GED.
About 52 percent of foreign-born Latino adults are high school
dropouts, compared with 25 percent of the native born -- and among
Hispanic dropouts, some 21 percent of the native born have a GED,
compared with 5 percent of those born outside of the country, as shown
by the study.
The Valley has some of the "highest testing and passing rates (of the
GED) for Hispanics, said Julie Harris-Lawrence, deputy associate
commissioner for the Texas Education Agency. But obstacles for area
Since December, for instance, Hidalgo County has had to make do with
just one GED testing location, after the state education agency's
Region One Education Center shut down its Pharr exam site. Now, to
take the GED all residents in the area must travel to Mercedes, where
the test is administered only twice a week and can be taken by only 18
people at a time.
Harris-Lawrence said the situation would improve soon when a larger,
state-of-the-art testing center opens at South Texas College by the
end of next week. The center will "open doors" to increase the number
of sites in the Valley, she said.
But the agency only focuses on providing enough testing sites, Harris-
Lawrence said. The other side of the coin is for communities to
provide residents with locations to prepare for the GED exam.
"Getting ready to take the test is a much bigger stumbling block than
getting quickly to a testing site," she said.
In the Valley, experts said, there are plenty of locations to take
preparation classes for the exam, but most are offered in English,
which keeps hundreds more from taking the exam. In Brownsville, the
only GED preparation program offered in Spanish has faced difficulties
from lack of funding.
UTB-TSC officials are currently working to restructure the GED program
to offer courses in English and Spanish that are combined with a
certificate or associate degree program, said Irv Downing, vice
president for economic development and community affairs at the
"The end goal of this is employability," Downing said. "We want to
make sure (people) are really viewing the GED as a starting point
rather than an ending point."
Source: Copyright (c) 2010, The Brownsville Herald, Texas