President Obama Speaks About Educational Attainment and College Preparation for Hispanic Students and English Language Learners

On March 28th, President Obama participated in a televised town hall meeting at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington, D.C. with students, parents, and teachers to discuss Hispanic educational attainment. The event was part of Univision's "Es el Momento" (The Moment is Now) initiative, which is focused on creating a college-bound culture in the Hispanic community.

Between the school years of 2006–07 and 2019–20, the number of Hispanic public high school graduates is projected to increase 60 percent.[1] As Obama stated during the town hall meeting,

“…one out of five students are Latino in our schools, and when you look at those who are 10 years old or younger, it’s actually one in four.  So what this means is, is that our workforce is going to be more diverse; it is going to be, to a large percentage, Latino.  And if our young people are not getting the kind of education they need, we won’t succeed as a nation. Now, here’s what’s also important -- that eight out of 10 future jobs are going to require more than a high school education.  They’re going to require some sort of higher education, whether it’s a community college, a four-year college, at the very least some job training and technical training -- all of which means nobody -- nobody -- can drop out.”

Unfortunately, Hispanic youth are almost four times more likely than White students and twice as likely as African American students to drop out of school.[2] While the status dropout rate  for all students in 2008 was 8 percent, the dropout rate for Hispanic students was higher at 11 percent for native-born Hispanics and 35 percent among foreign-born Hispanics.[3]

President Obama made specific mention of the importance of supporting English language learners so that they are able to learn English while participating in a rigorous school curriculum at the same time:

“And specifically with respect to young people who are coming to school and English may not be their native language, we’ve got to make sure that we continue to fund strong programs, both bilingual education programs but also immersion programs that ensure that young people are learning English but they’re not falling behind in their subjects even as they are learning English. And there’s a way to do that that is effective. We have schools that do it very well; there are some schools that don’t do it as well. We want to lift up those models that do it well. And parents should be demanding and insisting that even if your child is not a native English speaker, there is no reason why they can’t succeed in school, and schools have an obligation to make sure that those children are provided for. They have rights just like everybody else.” 

Read the town hall transcript:
Watch the town hall video:


Note: This blog post was originally authored under the auspices of the National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The National High School Center’s blog, High School Matters, which ran until March 2013, provided an objective perspective on the latest research, issues, and events that affected high school improvement. The CCRS Center plans to continue relevant work originally developed under the National High School Center grant. National High School Center blog posts that pertain to CCRS Center issues are included on this website as a resource to our stakeholders.

[1] National Center for Education Statistics. (2011). Projections of Education Statistics to 2019. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.

[2] National Center for Education Statistics. (2007). Dropout Rates in the United States, 2005. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.

[3] The “status dropout rate” is the percentage of 16- through 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in school and have not earned a high school diploma or equivalency credential such as a GED certificate.
National Center for Education Statistics. (2010). The Condition of Education 2010 (NCES 2010-028), Indicator 19. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.


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