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Latino Graduation Rates Subject of PA Summit

While 83 percent of Pennsylvania students as a whole graduate high school, one in three Latino students drops out of school.

That’s according to a new Graduation Nation report from America’s Promise Alliance, the country’s largest coalition of educators, businesses, nonprofits and policy makers focusing on improving academic achievement.

To improve academic success and boost those graduation rates, the Pennsylvania Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs (GACLA) held a summit Friday in Harrisburg that drew educators, business leaders, student and parents from across the state.

“One of GACLA’s primary goals is to empower our Latino-Hispanic students to achieve academic excellence,” said Maria Montero, executive director of the commission.  “This summit offers an opportunity to increase information sharing among stakeholders and support our Latino-Hispanic students.”

Pennsylvania first lady Susan Corbett participated in the summit.  She discussed “Opening Doors,” her initiative to increase the graduation rate among all Pennsylvania students by focusing on the middle school years.  She said the fact that each year 17,000 students don’t graduate high school in Pennsylvania is “a crime.”

“[Drop outs] are more likely to be unemployed; they will be unemployed for longer periods.  They will require more social services than someone with a high school education.  They will more likely to be interacting with the justice system and the prison system that somebody with a high school education.”

Mrs. Corbett said if you can identify the child when they start to lose interest and you can figure out what’s causing that problem and you apply an appropriate intervention, there’s a 75 percent chance of that child graduating compared to 20 percent if you do nothing.

“So there’s a huge opportunity during the middle school years to help kids figure out what the issue is, help them resolve it and help them transition successfully into senior high school.”

Ana Sainz de la Pena, GACLA commissioner, said the future of the commonwealth depends on the educational successes of Pennsylvania’s children.

“Every child is unique, and our goal as educators is to help the students socially, linguistically and academically. The focus of this summit is to help identify the tools our educators need to achieve success for all our students.”