Loyola University Maryland

Emerging Scholars

Bobbi O'Brien, Afra A. Hersi, Ph.D.

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Latino Dropouts: A Hidden Crisis

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Latinos are among the fastest growing segment of the K-12 student population.  Between 2002 and 2012, the number of Latino students in United States increased from 8.6 million to 12.1 million, comprising 24% of the total K-12 public school population (National Center for Education Statistics, 2015).  Given the problems Latinos face in school, it is perhaps not surprising that they represent the highest high school drop-out rates of all ethnic groups (Behnke, Cox, & Gonzalez, 2010; Suárez-Orozco & Suárez-Orozco, 2009). In light of these alarming statistics, this study focuses on using English curriculum centered around cultivating positive identity among Latinos as an intervention program to stem Latino dropouts at my school.

For this qualitative action research study (Mills, 2014), eight students were chosen based on their current English proficiency as measured by the WIDA exam.  Throughout the course of 27 weeks, the researcher used a culturally responsive curriculum (Lo, et. al., 2014; Nieto, 2009) and tracked participants’ level of engagement through interviews, engagement surveys, and attendance records, and grades. Data was analyzed within and across all participants to identify the effect the curriculum intervention had on the their likelihood to drop out.  Preliminary findings show that despite adjusting the curriculum and teaching methods in response to participants’ survey answers and interviews, factors beyond the classroom curriculum have a more significant impact on a student’s decision to stop coming to school.  During the presentation, I will discuss these results as well as other data collected throughout this study, which supports previous research on Latino dropouts and reveals a disturbing trend within the Latino student community.


Behnke, A. O., Gonzalez, L. M., & Cox, R. B. (2010). Latino students in new arrival states: Factors and services to prevent youth from dropping out. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 32(3), 385-409.

Lo, Y., Correa, V. I., & Anderson, A. L. (2015). Culturally responsive social skill instruction for Latino male students. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 17(1), 15-27.

       Mills, G. E. (2014). Action research: A guide for the teacher researcher (5th ed.) Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education. 

National Center for Education Statistics. (2015). The Condition of Education 2015. 

        Retrieved June 29, 2015, from https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2015144

       Nieto, S. (2009). Language, culture, and teaching: Critical perspectives. (2nd ed.) New York, NY: Routledge.

       Suárez-Orozco, C., and Suárez-Orozco, M. M. (2009). Educating Latino immigrant students in the twenty-first century: Principles for the Obama administration.  Harvard 
Review, Summer 2009; 79(2), 327-401.