Monthly Archives: September 2011

The Expectations Gap

My son started 4th grade this year.  It’s notable for me because my most vivid memories of school start about this time.

My son and I have been spending a lot of time together lately. We work on homework, read, and especially talk about the “enormous” challenges of 4th grade. Depending on the day, we spend at least 45 minutes a day doing “school stuff.”

When I was nine, there wasn’t such an opportunity. As soon as I could fling my school uniform onto the closet floor, I was out the back door and playing with my friends.

“Como te fue en la escuela?”


“Y la tarea que?”

   “No tengo! Bye!”

Of course, I was telling my mother a lie. I always had homework but chose never to do it. But then my mother was too busy cooking, cleaning, washing, and distracted to check. My father, who usually worked the night shift, slept when I got home from school so there wasn’t a good time to do “school stuff ” with him either.

Frankly, even if there was time, today it’s hard to imagine how they could’ve helped with reading and writing homework. Even at nine, I knew more about English grammar and math than they did.

I don’t blame my parents for their lack of involvement. They were too focused on managing a household. It also didn’t help that I disliked school intensely back then.

When I reflect back to my 4th grade experiences, it’s hard not to compare them to my son’s experience now.

It’s easy to see the massive gap that exists between his experience and mine: the expectations gap.

For me, the expectations gap had a cumulative effect which followed me into middle school, high school, and eventually college (there wasn’t an expectation of attending). It’s the expectations gap that exists today in many Latino families for many of the same reasons.

There is no question that parent expectations can positively impact children’s academic performance; however, our children will only rise to the challenge when it’s presented to them.

Photo: Yours Truly, 4th Grade, Our Lady of Loretto Grammar School

A Shared Vision

MSNBC’s José Díaz-Balart moderates a discussion on preparing Latinos for college and the 21st century workforce. It’s a nice balance of frank discussion, practical illustrations, and potential strategies. A consistent theme in the discussion is “stopping the blame.” As a community, we have to take responsibility for engaging, advancing, and monitoring our progress.

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Numbers Don’t Lie

About six years ago I remember reading an article by demographer Steve Murdock that suggested about the United States would be facing an educational crisis if, as a nation, we failed to educate ALL of our population.

Minority students who do get through high school face even greater obstacles in earning a bachelor’s degree. Because many come from low-income families, they have been hit especially hard by the shift in student financial aid policy away from need-based grants toward loans and merit scholarships that favor the middle class. So just 10% of students from the bottom quartile of family income brackets earn a BA by the time they’re 24, …vs. 81% of those from the top quartile.

Fast forward to 2011, it seems like unheeded advice –  via an interview with NewsTaco:

It’s clear that Murdock believes education is the answer to our future here. His empirical evidence doesn’t only serve to counter argue those in disbelief about how current trends will show a change in our nation, but the evidence serves to bring new light to the way we are solving our issues. It supports the value of creating a new model for education, job creation and law reforms through businesses, and the changing cultural views of race and perspectives, of those that view our markets as an opportunity to take action for their dreams.

Long-Term Goal for the Latino Workforce?

Jose Mas, CEO at MASTEC, sums it  up nicely:

But ultimately, in order for Hispanics to play a stronger role in the private sector – whether it’s sitting on corporate boards, entering fields with low Hispanic representation, improving success rates for Hispanic small businesses, or creating more employment opportunities for Hispanic workers – we, as a community, will need to make the necessary changes to create this reality.  This requires a strong family and community foundation, as well as access to reliable academic and professional networks.  Hispanics are certainly not lacking in ideas, ambition or ingenuity, but we need to make sure that the necessary steps are being taken to ensure that Hispanics are fully represented in all sectors of our fast growing and diverse American society.  Education and digital literacy skills are crucial in this effort.

Assigning a Wingman

As a first-generation college student many (many) years ago, I can relate to Latino college students that often don’t have that “role model” or mentor they can rely on for advice. And while I had many non-Latino mentors during my college years and career, it’s hard to genuinely connect with someone who can’t grasp growing up as a Latino.

So it’s wonderful to see programs like this one at Mercy College, The Personalized Achievement Contract (PACT) program, which assigns first-generation college students to a mentor:

PACT students are assigned highly trained mentors who provide integrated support for academic, career and personal growth. Together, they create a customized plan designed to guarantee academic excellence.

Innovative. Simple. Effective. Valuable.

(h/t Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education Magazine with a great write up on the program)

Our Government’s Diveristy Problem

The lack of Latino representation in the federal government precludes our country’s ability to develop inclusive, reasonable, fair, and practical policies for the Latino community. The Center for American Progress just released a report that indicates the government’s Senior Executive Service (SES) fails to reflect the nation’s racial and gender composition. The representation gap is astounding and appears to be only getting worse.

Money quote related to the Latino workforce:

Hispanics will be vastly underrepresented in the Senior Executive Service. In 2030 we project it will be 6.8 percent Hispanic—less than a third of the likely representation of Hispanics in the civilian labor force according to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, which predicts that 23 percent of the civilian labor force will be Hispanic.

The Lost Generation?

There was great discussion today via the Diane Rehm Show regarding college admissions and disappearing financial aid. Many interesting topics in the hour show including how low income students are at risk – given that many take the community college path:

And the reality is that in many states, university systems are putting caps on enrollment, which means that low-income students and many others have to attend community colleges. They’re an absolutely essential ingredient of our both learning the human capital formation strategy and our workforce strategy. They are relatively inexpensive. The problem is that they are so under-resourced.

Many highly-qualified low income students are losing hope – not to mention the debt many of them end up carrying due to the 6+ year graduation rates.

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Fifteen in Thirty Years

Jose Fernando Lopez (via Latino Voices) highlights the lack of Latino C-Level representation in Fortune 500 companies. Currently, there are seven Latino CEOs.

 And according to Timothy Pratt, who is cited in the article, there have only been 15 Latino CEOs at Fortune 500 companies since 1981.

Repeat: there have been only 15 Hispanic CEOs at Fortune 500 companies – since 1981.

Pratt notes the numbers are even more dismal when you expand to include Fortune 1000 organizations.

Posted without comment.

Raising the Degree Bar

Some number crunching by economist Matthew Slaughter of Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business shows that only those with advanced degrees are seeing an increase in wages during this economic environment.

Interestingly, I’d have to agree. Since obtaining my doctorate a couple of years ago, many more opportunities have presented themselves. Moreover, the opportunities have come in many forms not just one: teaching, writing, consulting, and development.

In fact, new Census Bureau data show that if you divide the population by education, on average wages have risen only for those with graduate degrees over the past 10 years.







(Graphic via Wall Street Journal – David Wessel)