The Rise of the Latino Student

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The Huffington Post recently published a very important article from Sylvia Puente, the executive director of the Latino Policy Forum, about demographic changes she sees in the Chicago Public Schools and how they could affect the rest of the country.

A quick summary of some staggering statistics she shared have implications for just how quickly the Latino population has risen to prominence. At CPS, Latino students make up 44 percent of the population; the largest single cohort in the district. Unfortunately, those students have a 60/40 chance of graduating versus dropping out.

Those rising numbers reflect changes across Illinois and raise the question of what we can do to help these students experience more success. Ms. Puente offers some suggestions, including better access to preschool for Latinos, and they tend to focus on language learning and the role it can play in the future of American education.

Latino might not mean ELL

Ms. Puente points out that “Latino” does not necessarily mean ELL, with two thirds of Illinois’ Latino students not qualifying for the classification. Of the students that are ELLs, 81 percent are Spanish speakers. Their bilingual ability will make those students valuable members of tomorrow’s economy—especially if they are trained to develop those skills correctly. This points to the possibility of a bilingual curriculum for the students and an increase in the number of teachers qualified to teach the remaining third of Latinos who are ELL.

What teachers and students need

A bilingual curriculum is made difficult when, in the Latino-majority CPS, only 18 percent of teachers are Latino. This obviously requires new standards for training non-Latino teachers to work in these programs, as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Students for whom a bilingual program may not be an option can be reached earlier in an effort to get them more comfortable with English, speeding the process toward dual-proficiency and success across the curriculum.

The best strategy moving forward

The answer to meeting these needs lies in language learning that utilizes the latest state-of-the-art technology, like that found in solutions from Rosetta Stone. Teachers have very little time to engage in more training. Latino students only have a short window to make learning gains before they lose their chance at dual-proficiency.

Efficient use of proven technology can target background learning gaps and address them correctively, while also giving students an opportunity to interact with native speakers. Online learning that is available anywhere, anytime creates less stress on schedules already stretched to capacity.

Leveraging technology-based language-learning is not only cost-effective but also a more likely solution than hiring the thousands of qualified teachers CPS needs to address their growing demographic challenges..

The Next Level

How would you assess your ELL skills and those of the colleagues around you? Share your ideas in the comments section below.

For more information about how Rosetta Stone® language learning is used to prepare teachers for ELL students, click here to visit our ELL resource page.

And to find out more about the Rosetta Stone TOTALe® PRO solution for language-learning classrooms, please visit our K-12 website.

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