Progress in Action: Celebrating Hispanic Educational Achievement

Crossposted from the President Obama and the Hispanic Community blog.

The following article was published on You can read the original article in Spanish HERE.

Each year, in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month we recognize and celebrate the rich histories and significant contributions made by Hispanics throughout this great nation. With over 54 million people, Hispanics are the largest, youngest, and fastest-growing minority group, and will represent 70 percent of our nation’s population growth between 2015 and 2060. From preschool to postsecondary education, Hispanic representation is palpable. Hispanics now make up the majority of students in our public schools, with 1 out of every 4 students in K-12 grades. Similarly, college enrollment is up more for Hispanics than any other group.

Earlier this year the President said that 2014 would be a “year of action”. In this spirit, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics (Initiative) officially launched our “Anniversary Year of Action” – a call to action to expand upon the progress and achievement made in Hispanic education.

As a community, we have made significant progress. According to the Census Bureau (2011), the Hispanic high school dropout rate has been cut in half from 28 percent in 2000 to 14 percent in 2011.The  Hispanic graduation rate has increased to 76 percent – an all-time high. College enrollment among Hispanics reached a record high and continues to increase. In 2012, the college enrollment rate among 18-to-24-year-old Hispanic high school graduates was over 49 percent, up from 31 percent in 2002.

We recognize there is more work to do and that it’s a shared responsibility—everyone will have a role to play in ensuring the continued success of our community. Over the coming year we will highlight “Bright Spots” that are providing a quality early childhood education, robust and rigorous K-12 education experiences, supporting increased participation in STEM courses, promoting promising practices, partnerships, and institutions of higher education that are graduating more Latinos ready and prepared to enter the competitive workforce, preparing more Hispanics into the teaching profession, while highlighting collaborative efforts supporting our young Hispanic girls and boys through the President’s initiative My Brother’s Keeper.

We will continue working towards the President’s 2020 goal of once again leading the world in college completion. Over the last 12 months, the Initiative has been deeply committed to amplifying the Administration’s education agenda, building partnerships and expanding commitments to support education for Hispanics, while also highlighting the Hispanic community’s progress. Through a number of activities – from national policy forums and back-to-school tours to webinars and twitter chats – we reached over 100,000 stakeholders around the United States and Puerto Rico. We heard from parents, students, non-profit, state and local government, business and philanthropy leaders, and educators about their work and challenges. Through strategic outreach and engagement, we learned that the Hispanic community is not only making great strides but eager to reframe the narrative.

We look forward to building on previous successes and producing more helpful tools like our “¡Gradúate! A Financial Aid Guide to Success”, published this May. The bilingual guide – designed to help students and families navigate the college enrollment and financial aid process includes key information about federal financial aid resources available and on scholarships supporting all Hispanic students, including those granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and non-U.S. citizens. We will continue to work towards increasing the number of Hispanic teachers through innovative strategies, such as our #LatinosTeach social media campaign launched this month.

And just this Monday, the White House, as part of Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations, honored Latino Educators “Champions of Change” who are doing extraordinary work to educate the next generation of Americans. These Champions have distinguished themselves by devoting their time and energy to creating opportunities for young people to succeed, particularly in low-income communities. The event showcased these leaders and the exceptional contributions to this country. Because, we know that by highlighting progress in action, we will ensure a bright future for the Hispanic community.

Alejandra Ceja is the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics

Hispanic Males in Education: What the Numbers Say

The President recently launched the My Brother’s Keeper initiative to build ladders of opportunity for all youth, including boys and young men of color. The effort aims to improve measurably the expected educational and life outcomes for youth and address the persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color, including Hispanics. The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics (Initiative) is working to advance the goals of My Brother’s Keeper for the Hispanic community. To carry out its mission, in January the Initiative convened a roundtable discussion with a group of academics, researchers, practitioners, funders, and thought leaders whose work addresses issues Latino males face.

In the Initiative’s initial research – confirmed by the dialogue at the roundtable, something became clear; there is a lack of sufficient exploration of this issue for the Hispanic population. The amount of data collection and analysis, of scholarship, of resources invested, and of general public awareness about the situation of Hispanic boys and young men needs to increase, to remove barriers that prevent young Latino males from contributing fully to their communities and society.

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BRIGHT SPOTS: Educational Excellence in Action

The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics (WHIEEH) is working to increase educational opportunities, improve educational outcomes, and deliver a complete and competitive education for all Hispanics. Through our continued outreach around the nation, we’ve seen that solutions to key educational challenges exist and are producing tangible and positive outcomes for our community. We are shining a light on these “Bright Spots”

Bright Spots are programs, leaders, schools, organizations, partnerships, or models that address key education topics for Hispanics and are helping close the achievement gap – from cradle to career.  By highlighting them we hope other schools and programs will benefit and learn from their data-driven approaches, promising practices, peer advice, and effective partnerships, ultimately resulting in scaling or replicating what works for our community.

“Schools belong to the community”- Principal Juan Ocon

One Bright Spot we visited recently was Benito Juarez Community Academy in Chicago, Illinois. The neighborhood public school with over 94 percent of Hispanic students is leading the way in drop-out reduction. After 20 years of existing under a ‘probation’ status, Juarez turned itself around and was removed from probation last year. The school’s four-year graduation rate has risen dramatically – from 57 percent in the 2010 school year to 80 percent in 2013. Attendance rates are on track to reach 100 percent this school year – a spike from 83 percent in 2010.

Secretary Arne Duncan holding a Community Roundtable Discussion at Benito Juarez Community Academy in Chicago, IL

Secretary Arne Duncan holding a Community Roundtable Discussion at Benito Juarez Community Academy in Chicago, IL

During our visit, we met with community and business leaders to discuss engagement and efforts to support Juarez and other neighborhood schools serving Hispanic students. We were later joined by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan who met with students, educators and parents to hear about their experiences. We learned that it takes great leadership, strong family and community engagement, robust partnerships and dedicated teachers and students to close the achievement gap.

In 2011, Juarez received a three-year $5.6 million school improvement grant from the U.S. Department of Education, to help improve the school’s academic standing and galvanize the change it desperately needed. Principal Juan Ocon created Parent University – a program that provides free classes to parents at the school. “They have become partners with the administration in their children’s education because they are already in the building”, said Principal Ocon. He also established after school programs to further support students, expanded wrap-around services and AP course offerings, implemented a standard-based curriculum and is a big advocate for effectively using technology in the classroom. He knows that recruiting great teachers and investing in their professional development is instrumental. The tremendous gains made by Juarez are no easy feat – it is because of his leadership, the incredible dedication of his staff, family and community partners that Juarez is helping close the achievement gap and develop leaders.

To learn more about Benito Juarez Community Academy, visit

We will be highlighting Bright Spots through our activities and communications. If you want to recommend a Bright Spot, please email us at

Maribel Duran

 Maribel Duran is Chief of Staff with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics