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Starting Young: Helping Latinos Succeed in School

May 4, 2016
AccessAssessmentOutcomesUniversal and Targeted
Mayra Aguirre
Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

After supporting Latino youth through college scholarships for more than 33 years, it is clear to us that to have a deep, lasting impact in the Latino community, we need to focus more of our resources on early childhood education. Because, to be frank, it’s difficult to reach college, let alone succeed there, if you don’t succeed in elementary school first.

In the Kansas City area, almost half of all Latino fourth-graders score below proficient in reading. The numbers for English language learners are even more concerning: nearly three-fourths have below proficient reading levels.

Studies show again and again that children who receive high-quality early education from infancy to age 5 achieve higher levels in reading and math, are more likely to stay in school longer, graduate from high school and attend a four-year college.

A recent study stated, “High-quality early care and education programs play a critical role in the healthy development of young children, particularly those in low-income households.”

To put it simply: early education is a key foundation to a lifetime of success.

And yet only 38 to 42 percent of eligible Hispanic children in Missouri and Kansas are enrolled in Head Start preschool programs, which indicates that Latino children are most likely under-enrolled in all early education programs.