A Stronger New York City: Increasing Latino College Access, Retention and Graduation

As the youngest and fastest growing community in New York City, Latinos represent in many ways the hope and promise of La Gran Manzana (The Big Apple). However, the continuing failure of our educational system to prepare Latino youth for college success threatens the future prosperity of the Latino community and New York City as a whole. According to Lumina Foundation, just 23 percent of Latino New Yorkers between 25 and 64 years old had at least a two-year college degree, compared to 52 percent of whites. This educational gap is startling and requires immediate action.

In response to this crisis, Hispanic Federation (HF) and the City University of New York (CUNY) have partnered with community-based and education non-profits, educators, public policy stakeholders and business leaders to launch the Latino CREAR (College Readiness, Access and Retention) Coalition. The Coalition is focused on promoting and advancing policies and practices that improve Latino educational equity and access, and lead to college success. CREAR represents an investment in the future of Latinos and New York City.

Crisis can equal opportunity, especially with New York City undergoing a major leadership change, and new voices calling for a progressive reimagining of our schools and education. At the same time, the introduction of Common Core State Standards brings a new urgency to the work of improving Latino academic performance. Increased standards mean that Latino students will be confronting a challenging and changed academic environment.

The following pages contain the Latino CREAR Coalition’s top eight action priorities for improving Latino college access, retention and graduation. These recommendations are rooted in an understanding that achieving college readiness and success for Latinos will require a renewed collective effort, reliable funding and high-quality monitoring, and that many different adjustments, both large and small, must be made.

Establish a NYC College Readiness & Success Commission

Two-in-five Latino students do not finish high school and, of those who graduate, just 15 percent are deemed “college ready.” A NYC College Readiness & Success Commission must be charged to develop an action plan of legislative and budgetary reforms and investments that will increase rates of educational success for Latino and all students.

Strengthen Parent & Family Engagement

We expect parents to assist their children with homework and ensure their attendance, but do not recognize and support parents’ roles as primary educators. In order to close the Latino college readiness and success gap, we must revamp the way schools are reaching out and connecting with parents and families. To that end, it is vital that we expand parent-teacher nights to serve as community open houses, increase the role and training of parent coordinators, promote innovative home visit model programs, and enhance parent access to resources. Equally important, the NYC DOE must have the full support of the mayor and sufficient funding to close the breach between policy and practice.

Forge Relationships Between Latino-Serving Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) and Schools

CBOs provide critically needed services and programs,including academic tutoring, leadership development, social and economic opportunities, arts and culture, fitness training and more. Building Community Schools, Beacon Programs and After School Programs with CBO partners will provide students and their parents with an integrated set of services including academic, health, workforce, immigration, nutrition and family assistance. Hiring a Senior Operations and Community Manager in every school will be instrumental in helping schools forge relationships with CBOs and achieve much greater community and parental involvement.

Demand Excellence in English Language Learner (ELL) Programs

The lack of certified ELL teachers, appropriate educational assessments and high-quality programs continue to undermine the education of ELL students in NYC. To address this, we must expand bilingual teacher recruitment, improve the curricula of the schools of education that prepare teachers and create an ELL parent academy. We also need to significantly increase the range of high-quality ELL programs in NYC, including dual language, transitional bilingual and English as a Second Language (ESL).

Make College Accessible Regardless of Immigration Status

Despite attending city schools from kindergarten through 12th grade, New York’s undocumented students are left in limbo after graduating high school, ineligible to receive federal and state tuition assistance, scholarships, grants or loans. Championing the passage of the NYS Dream Act, pushing for progressive tax reforms and making targeted investments to increase the number of guidance counselors will go a long way towards making the dream of a higher education a greater possibility for our immigrant students.

Support Educators’ Need for Professional Development

Teachers play a critical role in our children’s education. In order to improve educational outcomes for Latinos and all students, teachers must have the tools they need to be their most effective. That includes smaller class sizes and continuous professional development opportunities. We must also invest in recruiting and developing highly qualified Latino bilingual teachers to ensure our teaching force reflects the diversity of New York City.

Support NYC Department of Education (DOE) and City University of New York (CUNY) Curricula Alignment

The twin urgencies of the remediation crisis and the implementation of the more demanding Common Core State Standards require high- level attention and support from the mayor’s office. The Latino CREAR Coalition recommends that the mayor support efforts among DOE and CUNY staff to align curricula and to make culturally-relevant curricula available throughout NYC’s education system.

Fund College Persistence and Completion Programs

College persistence and completion programs such as CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) and HF/CUNY’s innovative CREAR Futuros initiative help provide much-needed support systems for our academically at-risk students, including peer mentoring, comprehensive advisement, tutoring, financial aid, and social services.

It is our hope that this document will inform the priorities and decisions of the city’s political and educational leadership in the months and years ahead. Closing the Latino college gap is within our reach if we have a common vision, a common path, and a long-term focused commitment. We know that the investments we make to improve Latino college access, retention and graduation will positively touch every aspect of our community and help build a stronger New York City.

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