Latinos are by far the fastest growing chunk ofthe U.S. school population. A new report by the National Council of La Raza gives a fascinating snapshot of this fast-growing population.

Here are some highlights:


  • Over the last 15 years, Latino enrollment has significantly outpaced that of whites and African-Americans.
  • Latinos under the age of 18 now total 18.2 million, a 47 percent jump since 2000.
  • Though white children are still the majority in this age group — 52 percent — Latino children are projected to make up about a third of total pre-K-12 enrollment by 2023.
  • The percentage of Latino children whose parents were born in the U.S. now dwarfs the number of Latino children whose parents were foreign born, 46 to 6 percent. States in the southeastern U.S., led by Tennessee and South Carolina, have seen the most dramatic increases in second-generation Latino children. In other words ...
  • Immigration is no longer the primary factor driving Latino population growth. Overall, 95 percent of Latinos 18 and younger are U.S. born.

Achievement: The Good News

  • By all accounts, school-age Latinos are doing better academically today than 15 years ago.
  • Eight out of 10 are graduating from high school on time.
  • Six out of 10 come from households where the mother also earned a high school diploma. Thats good news because a mother's level of education is a key predictor of children's academic success.

The not so good news from the NCLR report is that Latino students still face big challenges.

  • Latino children are more likely to live in poverty and lack health care.
  • Two in five Latino children between ages 10 and 17 are overweight or obese. Diabetes, asthma and depression are growing problems too.

All of this, of course, has far-reaching implications, not just for Latino youth but for the nation's schools.
This is probably most evident/pressing in the challenge of educating English Language Learners (ELLs).

  • Of the more than 5 million ELL students in the U.S., more than 4 million are Spanish-speaking.

In a section titled "Education and Language," the NCLR study points out that even Latino children who start school speaking English are struggling, in part because too many are concentrated in low-performing schools with poorly trained teachers.
Poverty may not be destiny, but it sure does have an impact on teaching and learning.

Achievement: Challenges Remain

  • Only 21 percent of Latino eighth-graders read at a "proficient" or "advanced" level, compared with 44 percent of white eighth-graders, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
  • The numbers for eighth-grade math are no better.
  • Latino children ages 3 to 5 are significantly underrepresented in preschool programs, compared with white or black children. The research shows that this "school readiness" gap has long-term consequences.
  • More than 20 percent of Latino teenagers do not graduate from high school.

The NCLR report doesn't offer much that's surprising, but looked at overall, it paints a troubling picture. The data points put in context the ways in which the Latino population is evolving and maturing.
Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit