Jorge Vargas is a sixth grade Mexican-American student who has a diagnosed learning disability. His
parents have been invited to attend his annual IEP conference. The teacher, Ms. Franklin, waits
expectantly for them in the conference room and has set up three chairs, one for herself, and two for
the parents. When the parents do arrive ten minutes after the scheduled appointment time, three other
people are with them, a grandmother, an aunt, and an infant. In exasperation, the teacher attempts to
find some additional chairs.
Mr. and Mrs. Vargas are Mexican migrant farmers who have had to reschedule this conference on at
least two other occasions. When they do arrive, it becomes apparent to the teacher that the parents do
not speak English fluently. Ms. Franklin is at a loss in terms of strategies for communication but
continues by explaining Jorge’s progress and goals for the coming school year. She uses a lot of technical
jargon to describe and explain Jorge’s academic objectives. She does pause to ask if the parents have
any questions, but they stare at her blankly and then smile. In an effort to communicate more
effectively, Ms. Franklin talks extremely loud and in a slow cadence. This behavior puzzles the family
Training Activity 3.7
Ms. Franklin addresses a concern she has about Jorge’s attendance. Last month he was absent for an
entire week without notifying the school. And this month he has already missed three days of school.
The parents confirm that he was absent on the occasions cited. At the conclusion of the conference, the
parents sign the necessary paper work, the teacher thanks them for coming, and the family shakes her
hand and leaves.
1. Because of the proximity between the United States and many parts of Central and South America, a
considerable number of Latino immigrants find themselves returning to their countries of origin for
regular visits. The collective orientation among many traditionally oriented Latino families may mean
that family obligations take precedence over a child’s education. The seasonal nature of migrant farming
may result in frequent moves among Latino children. Educators may work to secure services from local
homeless education agencies to assist in meeting the educational needs of transitory children.
2. Acculturative stress refers to the challenges that immigrants experience as a result of attempting to
adapt to a new cultural milieu. These stressors often include high unemployment and poverty rates,
health factors, difficulty securing assistance from schools and agencies, language barriers, culture shock,
a sense of grief and loss of the homeland, etc. School-age children may often be called upon to assist
with the family transition process by serving as interpreters and negotiating bureaucratic agencies,
which frequently occurs during school times and results in high rates of absenteeism.
What systemic resources can schools rely on to insure that children spend more time in school?
3. Many Latino parents experience difficulty negotiating American educational institutions and,
consequently, avoid contact with school officials for fear they will embarrass themselves or their
children. These families often regard education as the school’s domain and feel their responsibility
involves addressing issues of behavior. The educational preparation and exposure that governs the
parenting styles of many middle class American families may not be understood or even function as a
priority given other pressing needs for survival. Moreover, many immigrant Latinos may reside in this
country illegally and harbor apprehensions that they may be deported if school officials uncover this
information. Such fears may reduce interactions between the school and the family.
Nomenclature. The term Hispanic refers to people whose ancestry stems from a Spanishspeaking
country. Historically, this term has embodied the legacy of Spanish colonial rule and therefore includes
European immigrants from Spain. As a result of the complex history of Latin America, Hispanics
comprise several different racial groups that include people of European, African, and Indian ancestry.
For this reason, Hispanic people more closely approximate criteria established for an ethnicity versus an
actual racial group. The U.S. government originally imposed the term Hispanic as a means of classifying
people and dispersing federal resources.
Many individuals regard the term Hispanic as woefully inadequate because it obscures the distinctive
political, social, personal, historical, and language identities of people throughout Central and South
America, as well as the Spanish-speaking Caribbean (Stavans, 1995). For example, the term may not be
adequate because people from Brazil have Portuguese heritage and speak Portuguese as opposed to
In a qualitative analysis of how the Hispanic label impacts people, Oboler (1995) found that many study
participants felt the term Hispanic homogenized people and several respondents attributed more
salience to their nationality than to a classification system based loosely on language and geographic
origin. In fact, one informant disclosed that she did not realize she was Hispanic until she immigrated to
the United States. For the purpose of this document, the term Latino will be used unless authors whose
works are cited use other terminology.
Demographics. In 1990, 9% of the U.S. population consisted of Latinos. Within a tenyear period, the
Latino population increased by 57.9% to account for 12.5% of the U.S. population (U.S. Census Bureau,
2000c). For the first time in history, Latinos have now surpassed African Americans as the largest
minority group in this country. Increases in the Latino population have been attributed in large measure
to changes in U.S. immigration patterns and to birth rates (Driscoll, Biggs, Brindis, & Yankah, 2001).
Currently, immigrants from Latin America and Asia tend to have the highest birth rates.
Latinos in this country represent a very heterogeneous group whose origins stem from at least 20
countries. Although most Latinos are united by Spanish language, this factor can be misleading. For
example, as mentioned, Brazilians speak Portuguese. Further, among Latinos definite language
differences exist in the amount of Spanish spoken, and there is the tendency among some Latinos to
combine both languages and speak Spanglish, as well as varying dialects that exist throughout
Spanishspeaking countries (Robinson & HowardHamilton, 2000). There is a great deal of geographic
diversity in this population as well. According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2000c), 66% of Latinos residing
in this country are Mexican, 14.5% hail from Central and South America, 9% are Puerto Rican, 4% have
Cuban origins, and 6.4% are of other Latino backgrounds.
Although we live in the most developed country in the world, poverty remains a pervasive social issue
that severely jeopardizes the health, educational outcomes, and economic well-being of children and
families. In 1989, 32.2% of Latino children lived in poverty. Currently, the fact that 40.3% of Latino
children live in poverty serves as a source of growing concern (Children’s Defense Fund, 1998).
Children who experience poverty are 2.8 times more likely to have had inadequate prenatal care, two
times more likely to repeat a grade, 3.4 times more likely to get expelled, and only half as likely to earn a
bachelor’s degree. If education is the great equalizer, then educational
opportunities must improve for children from minority groups.
In a national profile comparing the percentage of public school teachers to student enrollment, the
National Center for Education Statistics (1995) reported that in the 1993-94 school year 4.1% of teachers
and 11.5% of students were Latino. Although it is not necessary for students and teachers to share the
same heritage in order for successful learning outcomes to occur, students do benefit when teachers
understand and incorporate cultural elements into their teaching repertoire (Delpit, 1995).
According to Education Watch (1998), Latinos accounted for 13.5% of public school enrollment
nationwide, yet only 6.3% of the gifted population. School-age Latino children represented 11.6% of
students receiving special education services and 13.1% of all school suspensions. A somewhat different
picture emerges at the state level. Latinos accounted for 3.2% of school-age children in Virginia, 1.6% of
students identified as gifted and talented, 3.3% of students receiving special education, and 3.0% of all
suspensions (Education Trust, 1998).
Latinos accounted for 34.7% of high school dropout rates (National Center for Education Statistics,
1995). The large majority of Hispanic students who drop out of school do so before the tenth-grade
(Nicolau & Ramos, 1990). Dropout rates for this population often provide misleading information,
however. For instance, when examining dropout rates for U.S.-born Latinos, as opposed to all Latinos in
the United States, the dropout rate hovers around 20% (Government Accounting Office, 1994). The fact
that many immigrant Latinos have lower rates of educational attainment can be accounted for by
examining their purpose in coming to the United States. That is, a vast number of immigrants seek
employment as a priority over education and consequently do not enroll in or complete school (Driscoll
et al., 2001). Many of these immigrants work as migrants in low-paying service occupations and their
income often supports families residing both in the United States and in their countries of origin.
Social and educational issues. Because Latinos have their origins in several different countries
throughout Latin America, they do not necessarily share universal social, historical, or cultural
backgrounds. Each group has had a varied and unique experience in this country, which includes their
reasons for migration, relationship to this country, and their social and educational experiences.
For instance, Mexicans have a longstanding history with the United States. In fact, portions of the
Southwestern United States originally belonged to Mexico prior to the MexicanAmerican War. In the
1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo following the war, Mexico ceded California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah,
and parts of New Mexico and Colorado to the United States (Samora & Simon, 1993). This treaty
guaranteed U.S. citizenship to Mexican inhabitants. More recently, many Mexicans have fled their
homeland to seek employment opportunities in this country.
Among other Latino groups, Cubans arrived on the shores of the United State largely due to Fidel
Castro’s overthrow of the Cuban government and installation of a communist regime in 1959. Puerto
Rico is a commonwealth of the United States, so its citizens automatically have U.S. citizenship. Civil war,
political strife, and poverty are among the reasons why many people from Central and South America
chose to emigrate from their homelands.
Despite their varied histories and compelling reasons for entering this country, many, if not most,
immigrant Latinos have, at some point, had to cope with the burden of language acquisition in a country
that shuns individuals who do not speak English fluently. The Supreme Court and a host of researchers
have addressed the issues surrounding bilingualism.
In 1974 the Supreme Court ruled in Lau v. Nichols that all non-English speaking students were entitled to
a meaningful education. This mandate resulted in the proliferation of bilingual education programs
throughout the country. Oddly enough, the concept of bilingual education has been shrouded in
controversy since its inception, particularly because there is a tendency to equate English proficiency
with patriotism. To complicate matters, many people have mistaken notions of even the definition of
Bilingual programs involve children receiving instruction in their native tongues for at least a portion of
the day with the intent that they transition into English-speaking classes within
two to three years (Nieto, 1996). As an advantage, bilingual programs permit students to remain abreast
of the curriculum through instruction in their native language while simultaneously learning English. The
success of bilingual education programs can be attributed to the fact that students’ native tongue is
used as a bridge for learning English.
Other approaches to second-language acquisition include English-as-a-second-language (ESL). Typically,
ESL programs provide non-native English-speaking students with language skills so they can function
adequately in an English language class. ESL teachers are not necessarily proficient in the students’
native language because ESL programs are predicated on the fact that students will learn the rudiments
of English. ESL approaches to learning are particularly useful for students from low-incidence groups in
which there are not enough speakers of a particular language to warrant a bilingual program. Many
Asian languages fall into the low-incidence category. Unfortunately, students have the potential to
flounder in ESL programs because they do not receive instruction in the content areas while learning
Proposition 227 resulted in the elimination of bilingual education programs in the state of California. As
it stands now, students for whom English is a second language receive one year of transition services
followed by placement into an English immersion program (Sue & Sue, 1999). In 2000, Arizona voters
enacted a similar initiative banning bilingual education. Washington state provides transition services
that permit students to receive bilingual services for three years before shifting them to all-English
classes. The controversy surrounding English acquisition has placed stumbling blocks in the path of
language-minority students who routinely confront:
x Discrimination x Negative perceptions about their ability x Low expectations from educators for
achievement x Inadequate funding for instructional programs x Resentment and opposition from those
who wield power in educational and political arenas
In an ethnographic study of 97 classrooms spanning a period of six years, Ortiz (1988) compared the
educational experiences of Hispanic and non Hispanic children. Some very disturbing findings emerged
regarding the instructional quality provided for these two cultural groups. For example, teacher
informants in the study openly acknowledged individual acts of both covert and overt racism. Individual
teacher behaviors that could be described as discriminatory included a pattern of low expectations,
deprecating remarks about Hispanic students’ background and language proficiency, and instances in
which exemplary student performances were questioned or attributed to some anomaly.
Other examples included the fact that when supply shortages occurred, Latino students did not receive
materials or were asked to share supplies with other Latino students. When questioned about these
practices, teachers responded that Latino students tend to be more cooperative than other students
and do not mind. Ortiz also noted that teachers frequently avoided eye contact and close interactions
with these students, praised mediocre performances, and expressed exasperation when students did
not respond directly to questions. Surprisingly, teachers, who volunteered for interviews and whose
classes were observed, obtained high profiles on three separate attitudinal measures that assessed
sensitivity towards cultural difference.
In Ortiz’s study, teacher attitudes and behaviors seemed to be reinforced by institutional practices.
Within several schools regular education teachers regarded bilingual teachers with contempt and
hostility. Ortiz even documented a disturbing incident in which regular education teachers requested
not to eat lunch with bilingual teachers for fear that they would converse in Spanish among themselves.
Worse yet, building-level administrators honored these requests. This example suggests that
buildinglevel administrators who are expected to remain impartial out of a sense of ethical responsibility
opted instead to reinforce and condone intolerance and bigotry.
Ortiz also documented policies and decisions that reinforced a system of bias on the basis of culture and
race. In this study, bilingual classes were often situated in remote areas of the building and instructional
supplies tended to be scant. Frequently, teachers in bilingual classrooms were younger and more
inexperienced. It was not uncommon for teachers without any formal training in bilingual
education to serve bilingual students. Moreover, bilingual education curriculum was not aligned with
the regular education curriculum, although students were expected to perform according to national
These factors emanate from and persist within larger social structures that point to the complicity and
interaction of individuals, institutions, and societies in maintaining systems of inequality for students
from devalued cultural groups. Uncontested, such practices contribute to the continued subordination
of minority groups through the perpetuation of social and economic stratification, and injustice (Patton,
1998). This study does not reflect a single perspective. In fact, similar findings have been documented
elsewhere (Darder, 1995; Hilliard, 1992).
Nicolau and Ramos (1990) noted that many Latino parents are not aware of strategies for promoting
academic achievement and success. To complicate matters, Latino parents and school personnel are
often estranged from one another and do not know the other’s expectations. Many immigrant Latino
parents are frequently more attuned to the importance of developing social skills in their children than
Further, the U.S. educational system differs markedly from school systems in their homelands. In their
native countries, the school and families performed very different and distinct roles. For instance, the
school assumes responsibility for providing learning resources and parents prepare students to behave
appropriately by instilling social competencies in their children. Social competence may include
behaviors such as deference to teachers, silence, and cooperation. In an educational system where
verbal fluency is highly regarded, this strategy is not very appropriate.
In a study of extreme and acquiescent response styles among Latinos, Marin, Gamba, and Marin (1992)
found that less acculturated and less welleducated Latinos tended to provide responses that agreed
with the examiner. As acculturation levels increased, the tendency to acquiesce decreased. The
researchers suggested that an acquiescent response set may be related in part to cultural values such as
simpatia, or an emphasis on the collective. In addition, extreme and acquiescent response styles may be
consistent with power differentials that exist between individuals in a dominant and subordinate role
and shape the level and depth of social interactions.
Altarriba and Bauer (1998) noted that, because of the proximity between the United States and Latin
America, many Latinos retain their language and values. Low-income Latino children frequently suffer
delayed language development (Nicolau and Ramos, 1990). Curiously, immigrant children are often
discouraged from speaking Spanish in school, which has complex consequences on their ability to
develop a healthy bicultural identity (Darder, 1995; Espin, 1987; Ortiz, 1988).
More specifically, the devaluation of Spanish language contributes to cultural subordination and has
negative consequences on the ability to develop a healthy ethnic identity.
Frequently, immigrant groups, who are expected to conform to dominant cultural values, are regarded
as outsiders and viewed as intruders in mainstream American society ...
Purchase answer to see full