Latino achievement in California’s schools

From September 15–October 15, National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates Latino and Hispanic achievements and contributions to American culture. Both groups have had a long presence in California, dating to the days it was a Spanish territory known as Alta California, and continue to be critical to the state’s prosperity and cultural life. California’s K-12 public schools are important to this process as they prepare Latino students for success in college, career and civic life. Below is snapshot of Latino student data and achievement in California.

  • Of the six million K-12 students who attend California public schools, just over half — 3,376,591 million (54 percent) — are Latino.
  • 40 percent of school districts have a majority Latino student population — and half of these (198) have a concentration of 75 percent or more Latino students.
  • Latino students are the most socioeconomically disadvantaged ethnic student group in California — 80 percent of Latino students are socioeconomically disadvantaged, compared to 31 percent of white students and 75 percent of African-American students.
  • The majority of Latino students come from households where a language other than English is spoken at home, providing a useful bilingual advantage for college, career and an increasingly global world.
  • English learners are a priority group under the Local Control Funding Formula, which provides supplemental funding to target extra supports for this group.
  • Downey Unified School District in Los Angeles County had one of the highest graduation rates among Latino students in 2017, with 96 percent, compared to 80 percent of Latino students statewide.
  • The Latino dropout rate in 2017 was 10.4 percent, half what it was in 1994, and the number of Latinos earning associate’s and bachelor’s degrees has more than doubled in the last decade.
  • Despite pockets of excellence, achievement gaps remain for Latino students. 2016–17 Smarter Balanced Assessments in English language arts and math showed:
    – Just 37.3 percent of Latino students met or exceeded grade-level expectations in ELA, compared to 75.5 percent of Asian students and 64.3 percent of white students.
    – 25.2 percent of Latino students met or exceeded grade-level expectations in math, compared to 72.7 percent of Asian students and 52.9 percent of white students.

For more about Latino achievement in California, see Latino Students in California’s K-12 Public Schools, Latino Students in California’s K-12 Public Schools CSBA Fact Sheet.


CSBA English Learners Governance Briefs

CELA Toolkit for Undocumented Students and Families

The Education Trust–West: The Majority Report: Supporting the Success of Latino Students in California