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Monday, April 23, 2018

Columns

Texas education system has failed Hispanic children


A trail of local middle school students swarmed the counter of Shasta’s Cones & More last week, a few repeatedly saying “vanilla,” while pointing at the coconut ice cream.

Many of them read the labels but could not clarify which flavor they wanted, and from behind the counter, I was startled when it took them several seconds to read the flavor “Butter Pecan.”

These 12 and 13-year-old children were barely capable of reading English.

The students were from Hartman Middle School. According to the Texas Tribune, it’s segregated with a 76.1 percent Hispanic population and 22.4 percent African American population, and 20.2 percent of their 1,357 students have “limited English proficiency.”

Houston Independent School District, the district in which Hartman is located, has an even higher rate at 30.3 percent. Of HISD’s 215,627 students, 65,334 have limited English proficiency. While this number also includes 106,727 students in elementary schools, where these students still have more than half a decade to learn English, the problem persists at the high school level, too. 

At Austin High School, 18.6 percent of students have limited English proficiency. At Davis High School, 14 percent.

People with limited English-speaking capabilities are at an obvious disadvantage in U.S. society. While the number of Spanish speakers had dramatically increased to 37 million in 2013, 88 percent of U.S. nationals do not speak Spanish. That’s 248.9 million people.

In other words, those who are not English proficient cannot effectively communicate with 88 percent of the population. This drastically limits the job opportunities and upward mobility of Spanish-only speakers. 

If a student graduates from high school without the ability to speak to a majority of the population, the education system has failed that student and these kids haven’t been put in a position where they can most likely succeed.

According to HISD’s facts and figures, 49 percent of their students passed the English I STAAR test, and 53 percent passed the English II test (2015-2016 academic year). However, 86 percent passed the U.S. History STAAR test, 84 percent passed the Biology test and 72 percent passed the Algebra I test.

That’s a 38 percent difference in the passing rates from English I to Algebra I, 50 percent between English I and Biology, and 27 percent between English I and U.S. History.

On average, that’s a 38.33 percent difference between the English I tests and non-language tests.

These kids understand the material; the test scores prove that. But they have not been given the proper tools to exercise their intelligence. The possibility of a student becoming a biologist or mathematician in the United States hinges on their English capability.

The Texas Tribune states HISD’s accountability rating has “met standard.” If HISD has met the standard when 51 percent of their students fail the English I STAAR test, there’s something severely wrong with the education system — it’s failed.

Sports editor Leonard D. Gibson III is a sophomore English major and can be reached at [email protected]

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