AUSTIN, TEXAS – A new study from the Southern Education Foundation, SEF, highlights the challenges faced by Latino, Black, and Low-Income students across Texas. The report is called Economic Vitality and Education in the South (EVES), and it demonstrates that in the year before the pandemic, Latino students lagged behind white students in average student achievement, and Latinos were more likely to face discipline at their school. The report ultimately finds that in order to see more equitable education outcomes, policymakers need to focus on the social factors outside of the classroom affecting education.
One metric clearly shows the divide is overall educational attainment. The EVES study found that in Texas, 60% of Hispanic adults age 25 and older have not attained any degree beyond a high school diploma, compared to 38% of Black and 29% of white adults age 25 and older. This education gap correlates to income, as 19% of Hispanic Texans live in poverty as opposed to 8% of white Texans.
The gap in overall outcomes is reflected in data about student experience and performance. The EVES study found that Hispanic students were disproportionately referred to police for disciplinary action and were more likely to face a school-related arrest. In turn, this impacts the performance of Hispanic students, who were more likely to perform below grade level on NAEP tests, according to the study.
In a video published along with the report, SEF President and CEO Raymond Pierce explains the need to rethink education policy and look at the social determinants of education outcomes: “The EVES report looks at all of the determining factors outside the school that negatively impact a child’s education attainment level all the way to graduation. So you just cannot deny the economic status of the parents, the zip code where the parents live, the incidences of crime in a neighborhood, food deserts … you cannot deny all of these factors and their impact, so a formula or vision that looks at the whole child and everything that surrounds that school would be the most profitable approach to increasing educational attainment levels.”
The EVES study focused on the year leading up to the pandemic, but COVID-19 has also been a major factor impacting children’s ability to learn. With schools going through periods of remote learning to try to stop the spread of the virus, students now need reliable internet access and a quiet place to focus just to have a chance of keeping up with what’s going on in their classes. A recent survey of Dallas ISD found that Hispanic students were most likely not to have access to high-speed internet.
The social determinants impacting the education of Latino youth are complex, and Texas needs to make strides to address educational inequities on multiple levels. We need easier access to the internet, as well as affordable childcare, healthy foods, and safe neighborhoods. These are just a few areas needing to be improved alongside addressing the quality of schools and retaining veteran teachers.
In order to see these changes, we have to elect policymakers who will prioritize a holistic approach to education and child wellness. To make that vision a reality, we have to mobilize our communities to work together and make sure we have a voice at the table.
Jolt is committed to providing students with access to leadership development and civic education propelling the next generation of Latinos to success. That’s why we developed the Young Leaders Club for high school students and Jolt Student Chapters for college students to connect with each other, our culture, and be empowered to become the next generation of Texas leaders.