Study: Hispanics More Likely to Attend Poorest Schools

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Hispanic children are much more likely than white or black students to attend the nation's largest and poorest public high schools, a new analysis shows.

More than half of Hispanic teens, 56 percent, attend schools with enrollments of roughly 1,800 students — schools that rank in the 90th percentile in terms of size. Only 32 percent of black children and 26 percent of white children attend schools that large, according to the Pew Hispanic Center (search), a nonprofit research group that studies the Latino population.

At the same time, Hispanics are more likely to be in high schools that have the highest concentrations of poverty and largest ratios of students for every teacher. Hispanics can be of any race, but in this report, the groupings of whites and blacks included no Hispanics.

The study also found that almost four in 10 Hispanics go to high schools with a student-teacher ratio of greater than 22 to 1, while less than two in 10 white students or black students go to such schools.

"Hispanic teens are more likely than any other racial or ethnic group to attend public high schools that have the dual characteristics of extreme size and poverty," said Richard Fry, senior associate at the center and the author of the new research.

The Pew Hispanic Center's data are from an Education Department (search) survey that collects data on every public high school in the country. The figures come from the 2002-03 school year.

School size matters, Fry said, because research shows students in large schools have higher dropout rates and more trouble making academic gains.

As the president, Congress and governors give more attention to high school, Fry said, Hispanics may have the most to gain by efforts to reshape schools into smaller environments.

The number of Hispanics surpassed the number of black people in the U.S. in the 2000 Census (search), making them the largest minority group in the country.

Much of the research on the achievement gap between Hispanics and whites has focused on family income, parents' level of education and the ability of students to speak English.

But Fry said educators and policy-makers have significantly more control over changing the characteristics of the school buildings than they do the traits of the students themselves.

Most Hispanic students are concentrated in seven states that tend to have larger high schools: California, Texas, Florida, New York, Arizona, Illinois and New Jersey.

The number of young Hispanic students attending college is rising, according to another report released by the Pew Hispanic Center on Tuesday.

But that study, based on enrollment data from colleges, found that the number of whites enrolling in four-year college is growing even faster. "When it comes to college enrollment," Fry said, "Hispanics are chasing a target that is accelerating ahead of them."