Critical Issues of Latinos and Education in 21st Century America

Where Are We?

by Abdín Noboa-Ríos (Author)
©2020 Textbook XXII, 504 Pages


The year 2011 marked the first time in U.S. history where more nonwhite babies were born than white babies. Academic year 2014-15 marked the first year that K-12 public school enrollment became predominantly nonwhite. Among the five largest school districts, Latinos represent the predominant group. It’s all about a stemming population shift, not immigration, as more Anglo-Americans are dying than those replaced by births.
Meanwhile, our public schools are in trouble, where "normalized failure" has become the new norm and international achievement has reached new lows. In this mix, Latinos are 1-in-3 newborns. As the future of America is now "inextricably linked" to the fate of these children, our educational system must be more responsive or the nation is imperiled.
For this book, Abdín Noboa-Ríos interviewed 112 prominent educators nationwide, including some of the best Hispanic educators and thought leaders to search for answers to America’s educational challenges. What do they say? What do these leaders see? What can we learn? Their many suggestions and concerns are well highlighted. For these leading scholars and practitioners, their views are more about basic renewal, not piecemeal reform. Such action requires fundamental shifts in both mindset and attitude. Appeasement misses the point. We cannot undermine the severity of the problem.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Titel
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Foreword
  • Preface
  • Part I Context
  • Introduction
  • 1 America’s Challenge
  • History in Progress
  • The Face of America
  • An Educational Challenge
  • The Problem
  • The Challenge
  • 2 A Changing World
  • The Context
  • Trend #1: Demographic Shifts
  • Trend #2: Cultural Changes
  • Trend #3: Linguistic Diversity
  • Trend #4: Inequality
  • Trend #5: Persistent Achievement Gaps
  • Trend #6: Global Competition
  • The Quandary
  • A Challenging Century
  • 3 The Latino Presence
  • Who Is the Latino American?
  • What about the Latino Image?
  • Struggle over Terminology
  • The Hispanic Appearance
  • Looking Ahead
  • Latinos in America
  • The New American Reality
  • What’s Going On?
  • Culture and Race Do Matter
  • Part II Challenges
  • 4 Race and Equity in Education
  • Challenge #1: Race and Education
  • Challenge #2: Equity v. Equality
  • 5 Gaps in Student Achievement and Family Engagement
  • Challenge #3: Gaps in Student Achievement
  • Challenge #4: Parent Engagement and Community Involvement
  • 6 Culture, Language, and SEL
  • Challenge #5: Cultural Incompatibility
  • Challenge #6: Dual Language and Learning
  • Challenge #7: Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)
  • 7 The Education Pipeline and Higher Learning
  • Challenge #8: The Pipeline to Education
  • Education Trends
  • Trends Specific to Minority Teachers
  • Challenge #9: Higher Education
  • 8 Leadership Challenges
  • Challenge #10: Promoting Leadership
  • Part III Epilogue
  • Creating a National Discourse
  • Appendix A: Bibliography
  • Appendix B: List of Interviewees
  • Appendix C: Glossary of Terms
  • Index
  • Series Index


This volume logically follows a prior publication of mine that reviewed the history of Latinos, The Story of Latinos and Education in American History (2019). As no major topic in education can exist without a context, the Latino educational experience is no exception to this rule, and that book serves as the prologue to this tome. In that same vein, most issues facing the education of Latinos emanate from unresolved vestiges of the past. It is these remnants that also form the prelude to this book, as educators continue to wrestle against that template in redressing the past.

Very special thanks go to my editor, Yolanda Medina, as Editor of the Critical Studies of Latinx in the Americas book series published by Peter Lang. Her guidance was invaluable in putting this volume and its predecessor volume together. I especially want to thank Christine Sleeter for her invaluable foreword and heartfelt comments. This was most encouraging.

Gratitude is also extended to esteemed colleagues and friends that provided personal views and insightful comments about the topics advanced in this volume. I am indebted to their important critiques and helpful feedback. Their views were invaluable to my original thinking, as they provided another pair of eyes in review of my work: Tony Báez, Margarita Benítez, Samuel Betances, Sarita Brown, Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch, Rosie Castro Feinberg, Carlos Díaz, ←ix | x→Ricardo Fernández, Barbara Flores, Rosita López, Victoria-María MacDonald, Arturo Madrid, Ricardo Medina, Ric Murphy, Julio Noboa Polanco, Lynda Nocero, Pedro Pedraza, Wendy Puriefoy, Marisa Rivera, Deborah Santiago, Lew Smith, Angela Valenzuela, and John Villamil Casanova.

Major gratitude also goes to the list of interviewees that made this volume possible and whom I had the pleasure to meet and interact in the process of writing this book. I am greatly indebted to this wise community of elders and scholars. Their comments made this volume a shared process, from which I graciously quote many of them. They rank among the nation’s best examples of achievement, each representing a highly successful model that overcame tremendous odds to attain positions of distinction that merit high respect. This book is greatly reflective of their knowledge and that which can be gleaned from their sage advice. These persons form the veritable list that appears in Appendix B, a total of 112 individuals. Their repertoire and expert counsel supersede anything that can be gathered from any book, heard from any armchair reformer or learned from a policy wonk.

I would be remiss not to mention my wife whose attention and dedication to my passion for education has always been my rock and guiding support. I am also thankful for the support received from my children and my sister. Altogether, their support has been quite salutary.

←x | xi→


Christine Sleeter

California State University Monterey Bay

When I was a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, as many as half of the students in local schools were students of color, while students in our teacher education program were almost all White. In the early 1990s, recognizing a problem that needed addressing, my dean collaborated with another local dean to establish an alternative certification program for teachers of color (Shade et al. 1998). They determined that the best local pool of prospective teachers of color consisted of career-changers, so they designed the program for employed adults. It was based on our university’s regular program, but folded some courses together, scheduled courses at night, and compressed field experiences into one intense semester for which teacher candidates were paid. Many White students in our regular program were incensed, and some of the faculty, myself included initially, were skeptical. Might this alternative program suffer in quality because it was, well, shorter?

Then I taught in the program. I met the students. I saw the program’s impact. I realized that we can diversify the teaching population by reconfiguring what we do, as this program had done. I learned that with prospective teachers of color, I could spend significantly less time trying to educate them about racism and culture, and more time on implications for the classroom. The slightly shortened program, rather than reducing quality, enhanced the quality of the ←xi | xii→local teaching pool through strengths newly credentialed teachers brought. For me, experiencing this program was revelatory; it became a call on which I later learned to act (Sleeter, Neal, and Kumashiro, 2015).

In Critical Issues of Latinos and Education in 21st Century America, Abdín Noboa-Ríos offers educators across the country a powerful, comprehensive, and needed call to action. The book takes on a question of fundamental importance to the United States: Why do we continue to squander the brainpower of half of our young people, when doing so is wasteful, morally questionable, and completely unnecessary? Noboa-Ríos argues that we do not need to invent alternatives nor propose more reform proposals. Indeed, reform proposals continue to proliferate (e.g., Merrow, 2017; Osborne, 2017), particularly among venture philanthropists (Au and Ferrare, 2015; Saltman, 2010). But they have not fundamentally improved schooling experiences for those whom schools have served least well due to racism. A big problem is that so many education reformers are White, and as a result, minimize the impact of racial barriers when proposing their ideas, and often minimize or don’t see insights and innovative practices arising from within communities of color.

Nor is Critical Issues of Latinos and Education in 21st Century America directed mainly toward Latino educators, although its analysis rests on the experiences and perspectives of Latinos. Again, several excellent books examine challenges facing Latino families, schools, and communities (e.g., Darder and Torres, 2013; Espinoza-Herold and González-Carriedo, 2017; Gándara and Contreras, 2009; Murillo, 2019). But Critical Issues of Latinos and Education in 21st Century America speaks to the U.S. system of education writ large. It uses the barriers faced by Latino, African American, and Native American students as a lens to critique America’s educational enterprise from perspectives of those whom schools serve least well.

In fact, I believe White educators are most in need of Critical Issues of Latinos and Education in 21st Century America, especially those who assume that lower achievement of Latino and African American students is “normal.” How often have I heard that schools are already doing as much as possible, even “bending over backward” or giving “special privileges” to students from “groups that are struggling,” but who come from homes that “do not value education?” How often have I heard that teachers are already doing as much as they can, that race shouldn’t matter, and that White people shouldn’t be blamed?

Critical Issues of Latinos and Education in 21st Century America does not lay blame. But, like the alternative certification program I experienced, it challenges us to learn from and take up practices that currently exist on a small scale and ←xii | xiii→that show what is possible. Throughout the book, Noboa-Ríos draws on his own wisdom born of experience, his familiarity with significant bodies of research over the last several decades, and 112 interviews he conducted for this book. Organized around ten challenges, each with several driving questions, Critical Issues of Latinos and Education in 21st Century America begins by distinguishing between equality and equity, concepts often erroneously taken to mean the same thing. It also begins by confronting race and racism. While the American system of education was not constructed for students who are not White, those are the students who now make up the majority in public schools. Until schools educate African American, Latino, and Native American students well, the nation will continue to squander an increasingly large proportion of its brainpower. Noboa-Ríos makes the compelling case that in order to prepare the nation’s citizenry for its collective future we must confront the historic legacy of racism and learn to dismantle staggering and well-entrenched inequities.

Subsequent chapters take up fundamental challenges, solutions which rest on a foundation of racial justice. For example, teachers can learn to collaborate with Latino and African American families but need help and support in order to do so. Teachers can learn to construct curriculum that is culturally responsive to their students. But doing so usually will not happen without teachers unlearning stereotyped assumptions about culture and learning processes for linking academics with students’ community-based funds of knowledge. Noboa-Ríos asks who will ensure that teachers and other education professionals who work with young people develop the cultural competence and insights to educate them well.

When I moved from Wisconsin to California in 1995, I recall attending a meeting between California State University Monterey Bay’s new teacher education faculty (consisting of three faculty members and one dean), and about one hundred local administrators. I was aware that the great majority of students in the county’s schools were Latino, a high proportion spoke Spanish (or indigenous Mexican languages) at home, and students’ achievement levels were fairly dismal. When I arrived for the meeting, I was shocked to see that over 95% of the administrators were White. Only two or three Latinos were in the room, one of them being my new faculty colleague María de la Luz Reyes. In our initial planning meetings, few of these administrators placed culture and racial equity at the center of (or anywhere within) their considerations. Critical Issues of Latinos and Education in 21st Century America takes up the challenge of leadership, because without leaders who are well-attuned to the communities in which they work, transforming schooling is left up to small handfuls of individual educators.

←xiii | xiv→Critical Issues of Latinos and Education in 21st Century America is timely. We are living in an era of internal strife as groups of Americans are pitted against each other. But as Noboa-Ríos points out, we are better than that. We need each other, we can do better, and we must learn to ask and expect the best of each other. We have enormous challenges ahead, but we also have much to work with. We need only decide that the work at hand is worth the effort.

←xiv | xv→


IN GATHERING INFORMATION FOR THIS VOLUME, IT WAS NECESSARY TO GO BEYOND THE TRADITIONAL SOURCES OF BOOKS, MAGAZINES, JOURNALS, ARTICLES, RESEARCH STUDIES, GOVERNMENT REPORTS, INFORMAL DOCUMENTS, EVEN SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE INTERNET, as information also had to come from venues that included extemporaneous views from experts and seasoned educators across the country to ensure current information came from the ground level and from practitioners on the front line, not just writers and academics. Experiential anecdotes and practitioner perspectives are invaluable, as their views more thoroughly round out the overall picture of what is occurring. For the most part, this latter information was augmented by face-to-face interviews with seasoned practitioners and policy experts. As a result, this volume provides opportunity for the reader to learn from voices beyond typical writeups, from educators that have been busy in the field and others not as well known by their pen, though highly successful and well respected in practice.

Altogether, interviewees represent a vast storehouse of wisdom and much practical knowledge. Turns out, their observations are not only highly incisive, but also deeply personal. For many, this also transcends theory, as it relates more directly to removing barriers and defeating arcane policy with sound practice.

←xv | xvi→In the Latino community, we catapult such people to “elders.” While some of their knowledge may result from age, more is due to wisdom derived after wrestling with difficult issues from the practical world of hard knocks and grim experiences. Information gathered in this manner is often richer than traditional research, especially when later shared with others upon deep reflection and eventually backed by evidenced-based results.

For these experts, experience and practical knowledge about schools and parents, community and governance, as well as from general education fully interlock, creating a fountain of data from which it is indispensable to learn. Through informal and candid conversations, powerful insights have been extracted which adds value to commonly referenced sources of data. It is my sincere hope that the clarity of their thoughts is well presented, with their views strongly resonating throughout this tome.

While some of their statements may jump across these pages brusquely and pointedly, these persons have earned the right not to mince words. As elders, they can call it as they see it. This cumulative “storehouse of knowledge” has been weathered after much experience and hindsight, as valuable nuggets about the Hispanic population and education. This has been their forte in contribution and strength as gurus.

In compiling their views, it became important to reflect on their statements rather seriously, while pondering on their phrases quite thoughtfully, as it seemed important to glean from their knowledge and gain from their experience. While conversations focused on critical issues affecting the public schools, their thoughts primarily centered on the Latino student, fully mindful of the logical overlap with all other students and nontraditional learners.

With this aim, a total of 112 interviews of about one hour each were completed within a 3-year period. Names and titles appear in Appendix B. I am thankful to each, as their heartfelt experiences are filled with personal stories and strewn with sage advice along the way. Interviewees provided a most candid lens from which we can reflect on their issues and be able to absorb key learning.

As not every interview reflects a Latino voice, it was those “other” voices that also provided important outsider views about Hispanics. As it turned out, this greatly added to the credibility of a wider narrative, expanding beyond a Latino-centric perspective. Tough views about the current condition of education has helped shape much of the content for the eight chapters that follow, with every chapter tackling different challenges.

To ensure a diversity of views, this veritable who’s who was identified from multiple positions and vantage points in the education arena. Altogether, these individuals ←xvi | xvii→included preK-12 schoolteachers and principals as well as superintendents and other school officials together with authors and researchers as well as education leaders from community organizations. This group was augmented by politicians and some from the higher education arena that include college and university presidents as well as key postsecondary administrators and professors. Altogether, their inputs bring wide diversity to the table of understanding and complexity about underlying issues and hot topics regarding the field of education.

In addition, it became important to also include educators from Puerto Rico, as these educators are too often excluded from the narrative. This latter group included former secretaries of education and distinguished educators across the island. Altogether, our veritable list of distinguished practitioners provides a rather balanced representation across multiple sectors and political affiliations, both nationwide and in the island of Puerto Rico.

To better frame respondent views, oral statements were carefully guided by an interview protocol and later logically organized. Topics were introduced using a dialogical approach and by issue area, with nearly every interview audio-taped with permission.1 It was these dialogues that guided the framing of subsections for many of the chapters. While relevant statements and direct quotes are highly referenced, not all could be personally attributed, as about half the interviewees requested anonymity for personal, practical, or political reasons.

Reflecting back, there was considerably more consensus across topics than at first expected, fully independent of interviewee title or position. Behind closed doors, many statements were candidly uttered, others shockingly exposed. Yet altogether, interviewees expressed many of the concerns that percolated with what many other peers have been affirming. While at times certain stances appeared as unique perspectives in our conversation, multiple discussions converged on many of the same topics, albeit from different realities and for different periods of time. Point being, much agreement was evident, almost as an orchestrated voice of commonality about issues that were divergent, yet surprisingly consistent. Ten major challenges or issue areas resulted from the dialogues. These appear in the table of contents and are carefully delineated by topic within each chapter.

When readers gather new information, the busyness and complexity of life sometimes interferes with needed time to fully decipher and integrate the many meanings behind new facts, often lacking adequate time to reflect and digest. So, in haste we often cling to past beliefs and ideals defensively, almost without thinking in trying to connect them with past opinions and thoughts about the world around us. This is a logical and most human process we all share. However, at ←xvii | xviii→times such information sifting might shun contrary evidence and easily discard differing opinions to preset notions or what the media may be conveying for us, all the while knowing that what is pre-digested is likely inaccurate and highly biased. In reviewing historical events in context, it is important that information is well understood so their potency is not lost or misconstrued. There should be strong backing and evidence to all statements so that credibility as well as candid representation is rendered valuable and valid, regardless of position.

Some of us comfortably surrender in believing all is well with the world, while conditions viewed from another angle may solicit different interpretations, as historical data is often full of surprises, new insights, even troublesome facts. As responsible readers, our task is to distinguish “sense from nonsense” no matter how difficult or contrary to prior beliefs. This is healthy as it is enlightening. Hopefully, this book will help sharpen our knowledge and heighten our senses, as conditions are not always what they seem or that which peers might think. While in the context of disbelief we rightfully should be suspect, we cannot let this deter knowledge-seeking or distort the truth merely to preserve an ideological stance. It is important to keep an open mind, as we must also sharpen our skills in crap detection.

Though information gathered for this book can fill volumes, I hope to have selected enough kernels to guide general thinking. I also hope this reading will whet your appetite to learn more about Latinos, as this group will play a most critical role in forging the history of our country. The “voices” echoed herein should help provide hard-hitting facts about a new set of social realities in education and how they specifically relate to our national welfare.

It is my sincere hope that such insights will also complement the subsequent reading of other documents and opinions. While some subsections of the book may seem hard to at first absorb, I hope to have done justice in capturing important facts in as relevant, easygoing, and as interesting a manner as possible.

Use this book as reference, certainly as a beginning guide to what is going on for the education of our children, most especially views that are nontraditional. This is important. Many myths and stereotypes must be overcome, including major biases from the past. Even poppycock, like old wives’ tales, emanate from distorted histories and events that may be hard to discard. That was my challenge in writing a book for this century vis-à-vis the Latino population, as I also learned greatly from the reflection of others. Hopefully you will likewise benefit from the information.

←xviii | xix→In attempting to be inclusive, to get every bit of morsel in writing, I may have omitted key quotes that could have better added to a fuller understanding of the issues. I take responsibility for this and will try to make up through other means of communication, including a Website for this book.

It takes a thousand inputs to create a book, and hundreds more to convey the type of information you as a reader merits and about which educators can benefit. Hopefully, I will have added to this sea of knowledge by way of collective wisdom. My wish is that this writing will contribute to your quest, as it also aims to clarify educational issues that now confront the nation.


1. Several interviews were conducted by telephone.

←xix | xx→ ←0 | 1→

Part I


EDUCATION REPRESENTS A MOST FORMIDABLE ENTERPRISE FOR THE NATION AS WELL AS ONE OF ITS MOST SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENTS. Yet, it was up until the mid-1960s that progress had continued to be severely limited for students of color. Slowly this began to change once federal legislation due to civil rights began to alter what had been an almost barren decade of limited progress after the Brown High Court decision in 1954. Unfortunately, this had been preceded by an even more devastating half century of near stagnation in educational progress for students of color going back to the Plessy High Court decision in 1896 which had ushered in segregation nationwide.

Today education has grown sufficiently large to engulf nearly every major sector of our society, regardless of age or profession, while it was just one century ago that compulsory schooling had barely become mandatory for every state in 1918.1 During this formative period education had been developing in a highly-differentiated manner, quite specifically targeted unevenly for racial minorities. Jumpstarting to the 21st century, not all vestiges of these former disparities have stopped. Differential access to schooling, for example, continues as a critical issue facing large numbers of preK-12 students as well as emerging postsecondary generations.

←1 | 2→

In viewing today’s education landscape, it is hard to catch up as the field has grown enormously. The kindergarten curriculum, for example, is being overtaken by even earlier preschool education, while postsecondary education has increased exponentially, expanding beyond the traditional university. Concurrently, a fast-paced, global environment is testing the limits of education rather rapidly and in unprecedented ways, now catching up and even surpassing the United States and former vanguard countries. In addition, as pandemics like coronavirus are sweeping the country and the world, life during and after COVID-19 will be nothing like previous conditions. This will add far-reaching challenges to already pressing problems. As much is yet to be determined, it places all of us in uncharted waters where openness, flexibility, and untraditional thinking will be needed for both the survival of public health and the advancement of education via extraordinarily surreal and virtual paths. We must therefore be prepared to consider difficult options under the most trying of circumstances.

For the U.S., with the vast growth of technology in the age of information and instant communication, just over half of today’s K-12 population will be entering fields that did not exist 20 years ago, with many more about to be developed as new trends will only emerge in the future. As this pace will accelerate, so must society become ever more mindful of its responsibility for education and continually keep abreast of this rate. This includes workforce preparation through informal training and professional development as well as high vigilance for the entrée of new skills into the trades and related specializations after high school.

There also is high growth in continuing education, especially among fields that are advancing yearly, as information increases exponentially. Even traditional university education is adding to this growth with hundreds of new degrees, thousands of new fields, and with more than 20 million new enrollees (2018–2019) at various public/private institutions of higher education (IHEs), not to mention ancillary institutions offering postsecondary options and certificated credentials.

In actuality, the educational enterprise will soon envelop the entire population in one form or another, as it also has become rather complex, costly, and almost unwieldy. Remarkably, education has become a central pillar for the advancement of the nation, the upgrading of skills, and higher pay. Education has become the essential fuel for economic growth, national prosperity, and international competitiveness, while needing to import overseas talent for industries like IT that are outpacing America’s ability to hire from within.

←2 |

As the educational enterprise has charted different paths over time, this has strongly related to the dynamics of the country’s pressing needs and overall progress. Education is symptomatic of this context, never independent from national needs and overall development. Over time, as the nation changes, so will education. This impels education to be ahead of the needs of the country, requiring national leadership with a necessary vision to stay ahead of these trends to better meet the needs of its citizens. As such, education must be ever mindful of its context as well as its purpose and direction.


1. All states have subsequently had compulsory attendance laws since the last state passed such legislation in 1918.

←3 | 4→ ←4 | 5→


Issues Impacting Education in America

Discontent is the first step in the progress of a man or a nation.

Oscar Wilde

FEW WOULD QUIBBLE WITH THE CONTEXT OF AMERICAN EDUCATION AS ALREADY DESCRIBED. As education is engrained in society, few would also question the need to sustain, adequately maintain, or even further expand the enterprise. Without doubt, the state of the nation’s schools and its learning institutions is vital to the health and wellbeing of the country, as no other enterprise has greater impact on the future of its people. Experts and onlookers both agree that the strength as well as the future of the country strongly will be dependent on the caliber of its educational enterprise.

At the same time, many might be rightfully puzzled by the lack of evenness in both the quality of the educational process among school districts as well as continuing disparities that are occurring at multiple levels. In parallel, the educational prowess of the country is now being challenged internationally. Technological advancements and the spread of the Internet have intensively accelerated the growth of knowledge acquisition globally, as it has flattened the world in knowledge expansion and communication. Such trends have also accelerated global competition. During the past two decades alone, the U.S. has dangerously slipped in international rankings among industrialized nations. Seemingly, ←5 | 6→educational growth has accelerated at a faster rate than the nation’s capacity to upgrade its public schools locally. This frightening trend is growing in national concern.

Undoubtedly during the past half century, the American system of schooling has faced considerable challenges. As industries have changed, so have the fields of study. As workforce has redistributed, instructional systems have likewise accommodated. As academic needs have changed, curricula have been modified through tighter pedagogical standards and accelerated methods of instruction. Yet despite these efforts, growth was been sluggish, reactive, and incremental. Also, as American society has become more multicultural and multiracial, progress has stymied on how education is being delivered to diverse learners. As the educational enterprise initially developed within a narrow context of racial engagement and access, it is still caught in the time warp of yesteryear, as traditions continue to resist change and policies continue to repel innovation.

Currently, education has become vulnerable, even staid in some quarters, as it now faces more challenging, even troublesome conditions. Its health and wellness is faltering and barely keeping up with changing tides. Whether addressing the needs of new student populations or maintaining its global stance, education in the U.S. is undergoing major setbacks. Documentation from high-level experts and researchers both indicate how public schools are facing a precarious state.

At the same time, the view from many Latino and minority practitioners is that public schooling is headed toward a major calamity if fundamental changes and improvements do not occur soon on their behalf. While some venues are averting crises, these are mostly piecemeal and short-term, often lacking teeth in their innovation. All too many of our schools are grossly underfunded, with others lacking the capacity to catch up. Still others need roadmaps, with yet others not tackling the right problems. According to the Nation’s Report Card, almost a third of K-12 schools now fall in the category of failing or near-failing schools, while nearly two-thirds (66%) of all 8th grade public school students are below “proficiency” levels in reading and math achievement, regardless of race, with considerably lower rates for racial minority and low-income children (NAEP, 2020).

Nearly four decades ago, the report A NATION AT RISK (1983) concluded that our public schools were “mediocre” at best. Despite scores of additional studies and multiple reforms since then, as well as education legislation (e.g., No Child Left Behind, NCLB; and Every Student Succeeds Act, ESSA) together with the birth of charter schools in the early 1990s, America’s schools remain average. In fact, ←6 | 7→today’s public schools have been seriously stalled in reducing the achievement gap since a decade before the report. Complicating the process is that disproportionate numbers of students falling behind have been racial minorities and low-income. Yet, given current demographics, these populations are now more than half the nation’s preK-12 enrollment since SY2014–2015.

These conditions combined with already complex educational challenges are stressing many districts, as many public schools are now desperately caught in the task of saving if not altogether closing failing schools.1 Disturbingly, the bulk of our public schools are mired in decades-old achievement gaps, with all too many principals claiming they are unable to realize their best laid plans. Many lack basic funds, with even less authority to make needed changes.

Hope is that new blood will revive schools to higher performance together with better-aligned curricula, greater accountability, drastic cost-saving measures, and administrative adjustments. While good wishes and high expectations are important, school leaders should be cautious in assuming current attempts at improvement will yield high results unless rather fundamental changes are afoot, as reforms have failed in large-scale proportions all too often. For the most part, they have been the near equivalent of administering CPR after a heart attack, assuming right procedures and sufficient funds are in place, a major assumption. Something seems dreadfully wrong when schools continue grossly underfunded, same old procedures continue, and achievement patterns remain stagnant.


XXII, 504
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2020 (December)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2020. XXII, 504 pp.

Biographical notes

Abdín Noboa-Ríos (Author)

With degrees from four universities, Abdín Noboa-Ríos ranks among the nation’s Who’s Who in American Education (2007-2008), among other distinctions: University of Illinois, B.A.; Harvard University, Ed.M.; U-C Berkeley, M.A.; C.Phil., Ph.D.; CT State University, 6th-year degree, and with additional studies at the Institute for Social Research (ISR), University of Michigan and educational research at Oxford University. He is President of Innovative Consultants International, Inc. (ICI, Inc.), with offices in Washington, DC and Puerto Rico.


Title: Critical Issues of Latinos and Education in 21st Century America
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