Latino Students’ Expectations of School Success: Do School Supports Matter?
Poor educational outcomes for Latino youth at a 43% graduation rate (NCES, 2007) in the U.S.
constitute a serious social problem that concerns this growing population and affects the future well
being of the nation. Educational disparities ranked second only to immigration as the major concern
of Latinos in a recent nationwide survey (NCLR, 2007). Prevailing research on educational
outcomes for Latino adolescents contains individually focused deficit themes. Specifically, most
education research on Latino youth is centered on the classroom where teacher student interaction
takes place and on Latino families in a way that highlights student levels of risk rather than cultural
strengths (Rodriguez & Morrobel, 2004). The bulk of research is culturally inappropriate in
comparing white student populations with students of color, thereby assuming the white standard
as normative (Quintana et. al, 2006). Little is known about how the school environment outside
the classroom supports positive educational outcomes or about the students’ own expectations of
school success. Moreover, a salient feature of available research is its geography, which is mainly
located in Southern and Atlantic states. The educational experiences of Latino students in states
such as Minnesota that have experienced increasingly large Latino population growth, is largely
This study examined the relationship between school supports and Latino students’ expectation
of school success (ESS). Responses to the 2004 Minnesota School Survey of 5,318 Latino students
in grades 6, 9, and 12 was used to conduct secondary data analysis using a within group comparison
method. A three-part conceptual framework was developed to guide and select variables. The
model linked a strengths perspective from social work with resilience theory tied to school supports
and with Latino youth identity as the construct connecting the student’s own expectations of school
success. It was hypothesized that higher levels of school support would be associated with higher
levels of ESS. A path model guided the statistical analysis, which supported the hypothesis. Feeling
safe and feeling cared for at school showed the greatest associations to ESS. Multivariate analysis
including ANCOVA and logistic regression taking family closeness into account revealed that
school safety and feeling cared for in the school environment are important to Latino students’ ESS
irrespective of family relationship.
The study contributes to the knowledge on Latino adolescent educational outcomes by giving
voice to Latino youths’ concerns, by highlighting the role of school supports as a source for fostering
their academic competence, by challenging prevailing comparative research that historically
norms whites through the use of a strengths based framework, and by providing a geographic exemplar
for further study of national and state level data. Use of the Strengths approach strengthens
social work theory. Future research includes increasing understanding safety and care for Latino
students, exploring social work’s role in bridging youth and families with learning communities,
strengthening educational institutions through assessment of implicit and systemic curricula that act
to subtract cultural assets, and developing evidence based interventions to reduce Latino educational
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2012. Major: Social work. Advisor: Ronald H. Rooney, PhD. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 130 pages, appendices A-B.
Latino students' expectations of school success: do school supports matter?.
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