January 30, 2006 08:00 ET

ETS Study Looks at Fragile Futures of High-Achieving Latino Students

PRINCETON, NJ -- (MARKET WIRE) -- January 30, 2006 -- Many high-achieving Latino students miss the opportunity to succeed academically because their needs are poorly understood, according to a new report from ETS and a University of California researcher. As a result, these students' academic futures are left "hanging by a thin thread of hope."

The report "Fragile Futures: Risk and Vulnerability Among Latino High Achievers," was written by Patricia Gándara, a professor of education at the University of California, Davis. Using two national databases and including personal vignettes of high-achieving Latino students, Gándara's report demonstrates how high-achieving Latino students' personal and academic profiles differ from their non-Latino peers, and how these differences can result in academic risk and vulnerability. The report concludes with a series of recommendations including early identification and nurturance of the strengths of Latino students who are performing well in school early on.

"The achievement gap is not just a phenomenon that exists at the mid-range of scores," explains Gándara, a leading expert in minority language instruction and Latino education issues. "It is a significant feature of achievement at the upper score ranges as well. It is imperative that interventions designed to close the achievement gap attend to the needs of the entire academic spectrum of Latino students."

According to Gándara, factors such as language, culture and immigration status are all issues that can greatly affect these students' motivation and ultimate achievement. For example, research shows that unlike other high-achieving students, Latinos who demonstrate high academic ability -- especially those of Mexican and Puerto Rican ancestry:

--  are not as likely to come from economically and educationally
    advantaged backgrounds
--  attend schools that are less likely to offer rigorous curricula and
    Advanced Placement® classes
--  have lower percentages of qualified teachers and fewer resources
To address these shortcomings, Gándara recommends:

--  earlier intervention to help identify academic strengths that can be
    nurtured among students who may not have the resources to reach their
    potential otherwise
--  schools building on the strengths that students bring to the
    classroom, including their home language skills
--  schools placing special attention on intensive academic-English
--  schools and programs finding ways to better target and distribute
    resources to these students
--  developing special interventions that help these students gain access
    to rigorous college-preparatory courses and integrating those interventions
    into schools
--  providing frank information to both students and parents about the
    real costs of college, and the various means of financing it
--  offering information to all Latino students who have demonstrated the
    ability to gain admission to four-year colleges and universities, and their
    parents, about the benefits and liabilities of attending nearby, less-
    demanding institutions
--  cultivating counselors who come from the same background as their
    students and who understand and can communicate with the students' parents
"If we begin with the assumption that superior talent exists among all groups of students, but that it must be nurtured if it is to thrive, then the work ahead is clear," says Gándara. "We must provide high-achieving Latino students with similar educational opportunities available to other students, as well as with the personal and social support they need. All are necessary for converting the thin thread of hope held by these students into a sturdy lifeline to the future."

Download "Fragile Futures," for free at Purchase copies for $15 (prepaid) by writing to the Policy Information Center, ETS, MS 19-R, Rosedale Road, Princeton, NJ 08541-0001; by calling (609) 734-5949; or by sending an e-mail to

About Patricia Gándara

A member of the UC Davis education faculty since 1990, Gándara is a recognized expert in minority language instruction and Latino education issues. She provides leadership in research centers focusing on promoting equitable distribution of educational resources and opportunities in public schools. The centers include Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE); the research working group of UC ACCORD; the UC Linguistic Minority Research Institute; and the UC Davis Institute on Education Policy, Law and Government.


ETS is a nonprofit institution with the mission to advance quality and equity in education by providing fair and valid assessments, research and related services for all people worldwide. In serving individuals, educational institutions and government agencies around the world, ETS customizes solutions to meet the need for teacher professional development products and services, classroom and end-of-course assessments, and research-based teaching and learning tools. Founded in 1947, ETS today develops, administers and scores more than 24 million tests annually in more than 180 countries, at over 9,000 locations worldwide. Additional information is available at

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