June 21, 2006
By ROBERT A. FRAHM, Courant Staff Writer
Connecticut has one of the best high school graduation rates in the nation but lags behind when it comes to graduating Hispanic students, according to a national study released Tuesday.
Overall, 79 percent of Connecticut's high school students graduate, but only about half of its Hispanic students do so, according to the study by the newspaper Education Week.
The state's 52 percent graduation rate for Hispanic students trails the national rate of 56 percent, said the survey "Diplomas Count," which reviewed national graduation data for the 2002-03 school year.
Poverty, language barriers and high levels of transience among many Latino families contribute to the problem, educators and others say.
"The dropout rate for Latinos is alarming. ... Those that are graduating are not graduating at the level they should be," said Werner Oyanadel, a legislative analyst with the state Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission.
"How will the state maintain economic growth if the fastest-growing population in the state is not graduating at the level they should be?" he asked.
The problem leaves thousands of students at risk of unemployment, poverty and other social ills.
"Without no education you've got a real bad chance of getting a job," said 22-year-old Charles Pabon, who quit Hartford's Bulkeley High School as a sophomore in 2003. "I wasn't thinking school was too important. I found out the hard way."
Pabon said he later got a GED diploma after spending time in jail. Now he is looking for work and undergoing training at STRIVE, a Hartford-based job training program. "I'm trying to change my whole life around," he said.
Connecticut ranked 23rd among the 37 states reporting graduation data for Hispanic students in a survey that showed sharp differences in graduation rates among various racial and ethnic groups across the nation. The disparities are part of a larger pattern of low academic performance nationwide by members of minority groups, particularly Hispanics and blacks.
Black students in Connecticut fared somewhat better, with 61 percent receiving high school diplomas, compared with a national rate of 52 percent, the Education Week survey reported.
Nevertheless, black students still were more than twice as likely as whites to quit high school, while Hispanics were more than three times as likely, the survey found.
A separate study earlier this year by the Connecticut Department of Higher Education found that Hispanics remain underrepresented at the state's colleges. They make up more than 9 percent of the state's overall population but receive between 4 and 5 percent of degrees at four-year public colleges, for example.
The numbers "are very discouraging," said Maria Martinez, director of the University of Connecticut's Center for Academic Programs and president of the Connecticut Association of Latinos in Higher Education.
Overall, about one in five Connecticut high school students, or 21 percent, failed to graduate with a regular diploma, compared with 30 percent nationwide. Connecticut had a higher graduation rate than all but five other states; New Jersey had the highest rate, 85 percent.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at