UnidosUS Calls for Greater Investments to Support a Full Recovery for Latino K-12 Students

Latino parents say schools must do more to accelerate learning and support mental health

WASHINGTON, DC—Efforts to support the academic recovery and well-being of Latino K-12 students and multilingual learners—who were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic—must be expanded and sustained, according to a new report from UnidosUS. With just one full school year remaining for states and school districts to spend education aid authorized under the American Rescue Plan Act, UnidosUS calls on policymakers to double down on evidence-based interventions and promising practices to close opportunity gaps and authentically engage parents and caregivers as partners in their children’s education.

“The pandemic had a devastating impact on Latino students and multilingual learners—interrupting three decades of academic progress and contributing to a youth mental health crisis,” said Amalia Chamorro, Director of Education Policy at UnidosUS. “Our country cannot afford to give up on this generation of young people. The federal government, states, and school districts must significantly scale up investments and commit to sustaining effective programs that accelerate learning and strengthen positive relationships with students and families.”

Accelerating Latino Student Recovery: An Agenda to Strengthen Our Schools and Help All Students Succeed synthesizes data showing that the pace of recovery has not been nearly fast enough. A range of indicators show significant challenges for Hispanic students.

  • Results from the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) show that Latino students lost approximately 15 years of progress in reading and math achievement during the pandemic.
  • Latino middle school students would need 6.7 additional months in reading and 6.4 months in math to catch up to pre-COVID achievement levels—the most of any racial or ethnic group—according to data from the NWEA MAP assessments.
  • In 2022, 41% of Latino fourth graders were chronically absent—an increase of 13 percentage points since 2019.
  • In 2021, 46% of Latino youth reported that they experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness over the past year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report also shares new findings on Latino parents’ views on their children’s academic recovery and emotional well-being. According to a survey conducted by UnidosUS and the National Parents Union, 64% of Latino parents say they think their children’s schools should be doing more to address learning loss, and 55% say schools should do more to support students’ mental health and emotional well-being. Other research has found that most Latino parents are concerned about their children’s futures but are unaware of schools’ federal pandemic relief funding and are less likely to say they have been asked to give feedback on how recovery funding is used.

“Latino families want to be involved in the issues that impact their children’s education. They support additional learning time, dual language programs, and a diverse teacher workforce. They know that simply returning to the way things were before the pandemic is not enough. We must seize this opportunity to transform schools to meet the needs of Latino students and multilingual students. In doing so, we can build a strong education system for all young people,” said Elizabeth Zamudio, Vice President of Education at UnidosUS.

To support federal, state, and school-district leaders in taking action to support the success of Latino students and multilingual learners, the report draws upon a trove of research to recommend four promising practices: authentically engaging families, offering additional learning time, increasing diversity and multilingualism in the educator workforce, and providing a welcoming, identity-affirming environment for all students.

Accelerating Latino Student Recovery builds on UnidosUS’ 2022 report, Latino Student Success: Advancing U.S. Educational Progress for All, which showed that Latino students made considerable progress prior to the pandemic in some areas, including academic achievement, high school graduation rates, and postsecondary enrollment. The new report incorporates findings from focus groups conducted in spring 2023 with Latino parents in Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, and Texas. The report also spotlights promising programs and practices in these states and includes profiles with state-specific data about learning recovery.

About UnidosUS

UnidosUS is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that serves as the nation’s largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization. Since 1968, we have challenged the social, economic, and political barriers that affect Latinos through our unique combination of expert research, advocacy, programs, and an Affiliate Network of nearly 300 community-based organizations across the United States and Puerto Rico. We believe in an America where economic, political, and social progress is a reality for all Latinos, and we collaborate across communities to achieve it. For more information on UnidosUS, visit www.unidosus.org or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and X, formerly known as Twitter.

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