Report points to why Arizona Latino students have been falling behind academically

Jan 28, 2022, 4:35 AM | Updated: 11:05 am
(File Photo by Mario Villafuerte/Getty Images)...
(File Photo by Mario Villafuerte/Getty Images)
(File Photo by Mario Villafuerte/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — A new report shines a light on factors that for decades have been causing Latino students in Arizona to lag behind many of their peers.

Poverty, healthcare, housing and food insecurity are just some of those factors that determine whether Latino students are able to go to school prepared to learn, according to the latest MAPA report.

“We are calling these factors the social determinants of education,” said Stephanie Parra, executive director of the advocacy group ALL in Education.

She added they mirror the social determinants of health that experts use to show how a person’s health outcomes are impacted by various social and economic factors.

Parra’s group held a summit Thursday to dive deeper into this and to release the latest report that outlines Latino education in Arizona.

“We know that if a child is hungry, if they are worried about where they’re going to sleep tonight, if they are worried about whether or not their parents are under threat of deportation, they’re not going to be ready for teaching and learning at eight o’clock in the morning,” Parra said.

The MAPA report looks at the results of the AzM2 statewide assessment students took last school year and concludes “Latino student academic outcomes have fallen to unprecedented levels.”

“The data demonstrates a significant drop in 3rd grade reading levels and 8th grade math scores for all students but especially for Latino students,” the report states, adding that 20 years of progress in reading and math scores among Latinos have been set back.

“We ask, ‘Why is this important?’” Parra said during Thursday’s summit. “‘Why should we be prioritizing Latino students in Arizona?’”

She stressed Arizona’s future economic growth and stability are dependent on the success of Latino students because they make up a large portion of the K-12 student population.

Latino students currently make up 45% of those attending K-12 public schools throughout Arizona. That percentage increases to 65% among K-8 schools.

Yet, only a small fraction of those serving in key education roles identify as Latino.

According to the MAPA report, 14% of state education board members are Latino. That includes the Arizona State Board of Education, the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools and the Arizona Board of Regents.

Parra said these numbers show critical decisions impacting Latino students are being made without the community’s perspective.

She called for the need to increase Latino representation not just in boardrooms, but also in schools and classrooms. The MAPA report finds 16% of teachers and school administrators are Latino.

“If we are going to close the opportunity gaps that exist in the education system, our theory at All in Education is that we have to start by closing the representation gap,” she said. “We need more leaders of color that represent and reflect the community in decision-making roles.”

There’s a growing body of research that indicates students of color do better in school when they have teachers of their same race or ethnicity.

Read the full MAPA report here.

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Report points to why Arizona Latino students have been falling behind academically