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The Plight of Invisibility

A Community-Based Approach to Understanding the Educational Experiences of Urban Latina/os


Donna Marie Harris and Judy Marquez Kiyama

The Plight of Invisibility offers unique contributions that inform the use of a community-based research approach that examines educational issues identified by urban, Latina/o communities. It offers a new lens from which to understand the circumstances of Latina/o students in schools as they navigate in social systems that are in opposition to them, thus rendering Latina/o students and their families invisible. Despite these challenges, the book offers examples of community programs and resources that support and address the needs of Latina/o students as they build resiliency and determination to persist. Community organizations and advocates, educational researchers, practitioners, students, and policymakers will find The Plight of Invisibility useful to reframe deficit discourses about Latina/o students and their families. In addition, the book is appropriate for classes including methodology courses focused on community-based research, educational policy and/or college access courses, and Latina/o studies courses.
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1. Study Background and Book Overview

National, State, and Local Trends Regarding Latina/o Persistence


1. Study Background and Book Overview


The issue of Latina/o academic underachievement, high school dropouts, and “pushouts” has been a persistent problem and widely documented (see Gándara & Contreras, 2009). Latina/o students transition from middle to high school at rates of only 48% to 55%, and half of the remaining students leave prior to graduation, leading to a graduation rate of approximately 50% (Fry, 2003; Oliva & Nora, 2004). With public schools serving increasing numbers of Latina/o students, especially in urban schools (Cammarota, 2006; Fry & Gonzáles, 2008), it is necessary to understand the factors that promote success as well as the structural barriers and systems that limit and derail schooling for this student population. Cammarota (2006) argues that “the simultaneous increase of Latina/o students alongside their persistently high dropout rate represents a significant paradox in urban schools” (p. 2).

National trends demonstrate that Latina/o students are being underserved in public schools, and this situation has resulted in the lowest educational attainment of all racial/ethnic groups, with approximately 43% of Latina/os achieving less than a high school diploma (Orfield, Losen, Wald, & Swanson, 2004). National dropout estimates show that although dropout rates have decreased since the late 1980s, the rates of dropouts for Latina/os are higher than national averages (Aud, Hussar, Kena, Bianco, Frohlich, Kemp, & Tahan, 2011). For example, while 8.7% of young people from 16 to 24 in 2007 dropped out...

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