Posted by: Generación Latina | June 19, 2014

Improving Opportunity for Latino Youth in Montgomery County, Maryland

On June 19 at Gaithersburg High School, the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region and Identity presented the findings of a research study that identifies the main reasons that increase the likelihood of disconnection from school and ultimately workforce entry opportunities.

In the study, the Community Foundation, a Montgomery County-based non-profit that serves Latino youth and families, conducted a survey of 900 Latino youth between the ages of 14 and 24. The study included those who are in school, have dropped out of school, are not working, or have recently graduated from school. The purpose of the study was to find the answer to three specific questions:

  • What are the predictors of disconnection from the school system?
  • What are the predictors of disconnection from the labor market?
  • What are the needs and assets of disconnected Latino youth and Latino youth on the verge of disconnection in Montgomery County?

Latinos represent about one-fifth of the population of Montgomery County, however the dropout rate among Latinos is almost 15% higher than it is for white non-Hispanic students. The main reason for youth disconnection is low educational attainment, which only increases the indicators of poverty in the county.  The Community Foundation suggests that long-term success for the Latino community in the county needs to undergo a positive change across a broad mix of youth and adult-serving agencies, nonprofits, funders, and institutions.

The first recommendation proposed by the project to tackle this issue is a liaison between Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) and the community, along with other stakeholders in order to develop action plans that would lower the Latino dropout rate and close the achievement gap. For example, youth in the survey that reported low expectations from their teachers and their counselors were more than 3.5 times more likely to drop out of school. One way MCPS could improve this issue is by providing academic support and intervention for students with a grade point average below 3.0.

The second recommendation is to improve workforce development efforts for students in school and those who are not in school but lack the work-ready skills. In order to improve this, the study recommends more career coaching and exploration programs, internships, and an increase in youth awareness of said programs.

The third recommendation is to improve the opportunities for members of the community, especially parents, to increase their civic engagement and become more involved in their children’s education. In order to change this, the organization proposed mapping out civic engagement in the community and creating more opportunities for parents.

When it comes to predicting when a student might disconnect from the school system, the study found that foreign-born youth were over 1.5 times as likely to report being dropouts compared to American born youth. Youth who reported having been pregnant or had become a parent were almost 3 times as likely to report being dropouts. Youth who reported having been arrested were almost 2 times as likely to report being dropouts as youth who had never been arrested. Those students with GPAs of 2.5 or lower were over 5 times as likely to report being dropouts than students with a 3.0 or higher during their senior year of high school. Repeating a school year also accounted for almost 3 times as likely to report being a dropout. Other factors such as not speaking English well in school, low parent expectations and absence of connections heavily accounted for student disconnection.

The problem with being a school dropout is that it stays with a student for life. Identity’s survey results predict a grim future of employment opportunities for Latino youth. Seventy-seven percent of the high school dropouts in the survey had never received any job training. Even among the high school graduates who were not employed, the percentage that had never received any type of job training was closed to 62%. Among the most common reasons Latinos reported having been fired from a job were: missing workdays, fighting with a supervisor, and criminal charges. The most common reasons for quitting included: dissatisfaction with a co-worker or supervisor, lack of interest, having to take care of the household and salary discontent.

 

To read the report in its entirety please visit the following link: www.thecommunityfoundation.org

 

This is a step in the right direction to improve academic opportunities for the Latino community in Montgomery County, and can set a precedent at a national level! Stay informed.

 

Vicente Saez

Assistant Producer

Generación Latina


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