Uprooted to Grow

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Uprooting to Grow

When one thinks about Hispanics, all too often the image of a field full of migrant workers picking fruit in the hot sun comes to mind. This has become the stereotypical picture of a people whose determination and character are strong enough to create a new beginning. For each immigrant family an education was the "ladder by which the children of immigrants climbed out of poverty into the mainstream." (Calderon & Slavin, 2001, p. iv) That idea has not changed, as the population of Hispanics in the United States reaches numbers that are finally drawing that attention of schools, state offices, the federal government, and the marketplace. As the new, largest minority, as well as the largest bilingual group, in the United States, Hispanics are finally being recognized as a group of people with the potential to greatly impact economic, social, and education reform. Children of immigrant families account for nearly one-in-four children in the U.S. making them the fastest growing population of children, and they are leading the nation’s racial and ethnic revolution. Through an understanding of the Hispanic culture and the motivation behind the Hispanic population, the American education system will be able to overcome the natural hindrances of a diverse society. Before examining the educational issues surrounding Hispanics, an understanding is essential of the population numbers that the United States and public school systems are seeing. According to Census 2000, the Hispanic population of the United States was slightly more than 35.3 million, or 12.5 percent of the total population. The number of Hispanics has quickly surpassed that of African-Americans as the new, largest minority in the United States. Of the statistics presented in Census 2000, the most significant to education are those of population age. Census 2000 found that 35 percent of Hispanics were less than the age of 18 with an average age of about 26. Only 25.7 percent of the entire U.S. population was found to be under the age of 18 with an average age of about 35. (U.S. Census Bureau) Children in immigrant families are very important because their numbers are growing faster than any other group of children in the nation; as of 2005, nearly one-fourth (23%) of children lived in immigrant families. Still the numbers of children in immigrant families continues to swell in almost all rich nations and this process will not be reversed any time soon. This fast growth, combined with the large population, is transforming the race-ethnic composition of America, and will first become a reality, among the immigrant children. Immigrant children face a serious educational challenge even before they enter the public school systems. An inconsistent number of them have parents with little education and limited English fluency, both of which are associated with poor school readiness among their children and with consequential educational difficulties. Several national studies show that there is an achievement gap between immigrant children and native children (those born in the United States to U.S. parents) opens during the preschool years and does not close during the primary or middle school years. Of the educational issues facing Hispanic students, who have the lowest rates of educational attainment compared with other groups, the language barrier is the most challenging. According to an article by Alicia and Jay Scribner in an analysis of schools that serve Hispanic students, "students whose first language is not English often run the risk of being referred for special services." (Slavin & Calderon, 2001) All too often the parents of these students are discouraged from speaking in their native tongue in order for the student to encounter less interference with the English learning development. Unfortunately, what these teachers do not understand is that “the delicate balance of communication between the parent and the student is gradually...
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