Latino Students in California: A Snapshot

4 Oct
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Latino student

Latinos are an important part of California’s cultural fabric and are central to the state’s future and economic prosperity. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, which is celebrated from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, we are taking a look at some key demographic and achievement data for Latino students in California’s K-12 public schools.

This information is also available in a printer-friendly fact sheet here.

Latino Students’ Enrollment

Over half of the 6.2 million students who attend California public schools are Latino — 3,360,562 students. This student population has constituted the majority of the state’s public school students since the 2009–10 school year.

The number of Latino students varies greatly between counties and even within districts. For instance, while Alpine County only has six Latino students, San Benito County’s Latino students compose 72 percent of all students served within the county.

K-12 enrollment chart

Economic, English Learner and Special Education Status

Latino students are the most economically disadvantaged ethnic student group in California — 80 percent of Latino students are economically disadvantaged, compared to 28 percent of white students and 74 percent of African-American students. Many Latino students (57 percent) attend schools where at least 75 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-price meal programs.

Student Meal Eligibility
A majority of Latino students come from a household where English is not the primary language spoken. Bilingualism has a wide array of benefits for students; however, the rate at which ELs are reclassified as English proficient can be improved. In the 2015–16 school year, one in three (34 percent) Latino students were English learners. The proportion of Latino students who are English learners drops as they move up the grade levels — 52 percent of first grade Latino students are English learners, compared to 31 percent by sixth grade and 21 percent by ninth grade.

Within special education programs, Latino students are identified at a comparable rate to their white peers — 12 percent of Latino and white students are identified for special education. By comparison, 15 percent of Native-American and 18 percent of African-American students are identified for special education.

Academic Achievement

According to the 2015–16 California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) results in math and English language arts, a significant achievement gap persists between Latino students and their white and Asian peers across all tested grades. For example:

  • Among sixth-grade students that met or exceeded standards in math, there is a 30-percentage-point gap between Latino students and their white peers, and a 49-percentage-point gap between Latino students and their Asian peers.
  • Among sixth-grade students that met or exceeded standards in English language arts, there is a 27-percentage-point gap between Latino students and their white peers, and a 40-percentage-point gap between Latino students and their Asian peers.

Latino CAASPP results
Moreover, 11th grade results suggest that only 20 percent of Latino students are ready or conditionally ready for college-level math coursework, compared to 45 percent of white and 70 percent of Asian students. In English language arts, 50 percent of Latino students are ready or conditionally ready for college-level coursework, compared to 71 percent of white and 81 percent of Asian students.

Latino CAASPP results

High School Graduation Rates

According to 2014–15 four-year cohort graduation data, nearly 79 percent of Latino students graduated from high school, compared to 88 percent of white and 93 percent of Asian students. Despite these gaps, cohort graduation rates have improved for all students since the 2009–10 school year, with the gap closing slightly between Latino students and their white and Asian peers. However, despite the progress in high school graduation rates, only 35 percent of Latino students that graduate from high school do so having completed the courses required for entrance to a University of California or California State University campus — compared to 50 percent of white students and 72 percent of Asian students.

Latino graduation rate

CSBA Resources

To view a downloadable, printer-friendly version of these facts, check out CSBA’s Latino Students in California’s K-12 Public Schools Fact Sheet.

To access our research and policy briefs, including a series on English learners, visit: http://csba.org/GovernanceAndPolicyResources/GovernanceBriefs.aspx.

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