1 in 5 Students Is Latino

The growth of Latino students poses challenges for many school districts nationwide.

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A new study by the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research group in Washington, contains some eye-popping statistics about the growth in the number of Latino children enrolled in public schools. Since 1990, the number of Latino students nationwide has nearly doubled, reaching 10 million in 2006. That number is expected to swell to 28 million by 2050, which would mean Hispanic students will outnumber white children in public schools, according to the study. Today, 1 in 5 public school students is Hispanic.

The growth of Latino students—driven by immigration and higher fertility rates—is certain to pose challenges for educators, especially in so-called new or emerging Hispanic states like Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia, among others. Already, these states are grappling with how to educate English learners, handle undocumented Latinos, and address a persistent achievement gap. Expect some of them to look to the Southwest for guidance. According to the study, California has the largest concentration of Latino children, where they now make up nearly half of all public school students, a 36 percent increase from 1990. Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas are also home to high numbers of Hispanics.

Despite having more experience dealing with Latino students, these states still confront major challenges. Latino students are less likely to have college-educated parents and more likely to live in poverty than white students, according to the PHC study. That means more of the burden will fall on educators to steer and prepare more Latinos for college and high-skill jobs—a task that will need to take on even more urgency if the U.S. is to remain a force in a global economy.

The Pew study does contain some surprising and encouraging news, too. For example, 82 percent of Latino students speak English fluently, even though 70 percent speak a language other than English at home. Review the full report here.

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