New Directions: Assessment and Preparation of Hispanic College Students
reviewed by Maria Roberts - June 19, 2019
Title: New Directions: Assessment and Preparation of Hispanic College Students
Author(s): Alfredo de los Santos, Jr., Laura I. Rendón, Gary Francisco Keller, Alberto Acereda, Estela Mara Bensimón, & Richard J. Tannenbaum (Eds.)
Publisher: Bilingual Press, Tempe
ISBN: 1939743249, Pages: 268, Year: 2018
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The number of Latino students entering higher education continues to grow exponentially, extending the designation of Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) to thousands of colleges and universities. Living in a space between two cultures, Latinos have learned to use their own strategies to survive and remain resilient in an educational system designed to serve a primarily white, middle class population. Latino students progress has also been hampered by tracking, inequity in access to a college-ready curriculum, assessment policies, and policies that ignore their need for support services based on their cultural and ethnic background. Hispanic-Serving Institutions must acknowledge that current outcome measures used to report success as an HSI do not truly reflect the institutions success in providing effective pedagogical experiences and high levels of degree completion for Hispanics. They must also address the ineffectiveness of current efforts to prepare and transition Latinos from community colleges to the university environment, as many current practices are contradictory to Latinos success. They must also ask: what else can HSIs do to change the dismal trajectory of success rates for Latinos completing their higher education degrees?
New Directions: Assessment and Preparation of Hispanic College Students responds to this question through its various qualitative and quantitative research-based articles. The book promotes effective educational practices and pathways for Latinos, as they are the future of this country. Authored by prominent Hispanics who have engaged in the study of factors impacting Latino academic success and edited by research, academic, and assessment experts recognized for their advocacy for equity and social justice for Hispanic students, ideas and strategies for improving the education of Latinos are presented across 12 chapters. These are divided into two sections: Assessment, with Chapters One through Five, and Academic Preparation, with Chapters Six through Twelve.
The five chapters that comprise the first section provide data showing a pattern of neglect when it comes to preparing Latinos and other underserved students for success in higher education. Authors also offer possible strategies and frameworks to interrupt this pattern. Chapter One presents data on the present status of Hispanics in higher education. It emphasizes the need to develop new methods to increase Hispanics knowledge and skills in order to be competitive in the global economy. The authors, known for their work in the testing industry, introduce the concept of digital badges, which students can earn and display online to signify their skills in specific areas.
Chapter Two, a mixed methods study, calls higher education faculty and staff in STEM fields to action through the use of multicontextuality, wherein various forms of content and process are used to develop student understanding in environments that are compatible with the high-context learning styles of underrepresented students. Specific examples of low- and high-context cultural activities are provided to ensure the readers thorough understanding of the concepts.
Chapter Three is a reiteration of statistics and demographic trends in the Latino population, their educational progress over time, and the cultural, familial, linguistic, and socio-economic factors that impact their educational success. Chapter Four is perhaps the most salient article in the book. It presents the Five Design Principles for Equity and Excellence in Hispanic-Serving Institutions with specific examples of how to implement them. This framework is applicable to all levels of education and requires much reflection from all faculty and staff.
The final chapter of the first section relates the experiences of faculty in higher education and how they maneuvered themselves through the maze of preparation and entering the profession. The respondents in this qualitative article also suggest various issues Latinos should consider before entering the academy. Authors recognize that increasing the number of Hispanic faculty is important in providing role models and points of academic support for students when they are caught in those areas of conflict between the college environment and their cultural and familial context.
The second section, Academic Preparation, elaborates on various factors impacting the education of Latinos and offers suggestions for higher education leaders to engage Latinos and support their advancement toward degree completion. The authors of Chapter Six bring to the forefront the lack of alignment between most K-12 systems and higher education in terms of providing equitable resources and appropriate assessment for college-ready curriculum and progression through higher education. They assert that tracking remains the modus operandi in secondary schools and higher education and that this contributes to the high percentages of underrepresented students who drop out before degree completion.
The authors of Chapter Seven interview 17 high-achieving Latinas to determine how they arrived at their choice of college with the intention of providing an overview of the inequity in educational opportunity even for the highest performing Latinos. Looking at their participants experiences through the lens of Critical Race Theory, the reader is led through the decision-making process of Latinos as they determine which higher education institution to attend.
Chapter Eight is another data article enumerating the low completion and progression rates for students in the California community college system, the largest system of community colleges in the nation. Based on the lack of student degree completion, the authors suggest that other markers besides persistence and accumulation of 30 credits should be used to assess the effectiveness in HSIs in meeting the educational needs of Latino students.
Chapter Nine continues the narrative for Latino success, calling for college-ready curriculum in the K-12 system. The authors use a drop out/stop model to present data showing how placement at various levels below transfer level predetermines failure rates in college-level courses in community colleges. Recommendations are provided to replace common practices antithetical to Latino student success. Effective pedagogy that uses students strengths, organizational support through tutoring, counseling, financial incentives, and insistence on college-ready curriculum in secondary schools is advised.
Chapter Ten begins with an explanation of the characteristics of Latinx students and their overrepresentation in community colleges. It then introduces two frameworks for increased transfer rates of students from community colleges to the university level, followed by strategies used by six Texas universities to bridge the gap between community college and university enrollment and completion. Although the universities have many programs in place and perhaps meet the five elements of the Emerging Transfer Culture Model, which simply provides transfer activities for all students, the authors propose that the universities do not meet the Latinx Transfer Culture Model. This latter model requires the implementation of culturally responsive programs and activities that address Latino families cultural, linguistic, economic, and emotional perspective in society. Their message is that effective transition programs for Latinx students must incorporate all seven components of the Latinx Transfer Culture Model.
Chapter Eleven introduces various asset-based theoretical models that can be used to support the successful matriculation and academic achievement of Latino students. Well-known models, such as the Funds of Knowledge, the Mestiza Consciousness, Validation Theory, and Liberatory Pedagogy, as well as less familiar concepts such as Pedagogy of the Home and Community Cultural Wealth, are presented for use in higher education. Assets emerge from students experiences in the home and community and are used by Latinos as they persist in their determination to succeed in an educational system that works against them. Various tables are used to help the reader understand these asset-based models of education.
The final chapter promotes the authors use of a Latina/o Excellence Framework, which he suggests should be incorporated into higher education pedagogy to provide models of excellence that students can aspire to reach. The model involves the entire educational community in developing the criteria and choosing the students or educators who meet those criteria and serve as models of excellence to emulate.
The book is an excellent resource for higher education and K-12 educators and leaders hoping to adopt innovative and proven strategies to increase Hispanic success in higher education and the global job market. The reader will find some chapters redundant in their presentation of data, perhaps due to the editors belief that each article should be able to stand alone. Some assessment data references should be more recent to paint a better view of current performance. Overall, however, the book provides an outstanding variety of best practices to effectively educate Hispanics, address the achievement gap, and promote social justice through equity in education.