Latino students are more likely than other students to attend their neighborhood high school, a Catalyst analysis indicates.
Chicago high schools whose enrollments are more than half Latino lose, on average, only 44 percent of students in their attendance areas to other Chicago public schools. High schools more than half African American lose 65 percent.
Latino educators and advocates say language is a major reason.
While most Spanish-speaking students transition out of bilingual education classes before high school, many do not score high enough on the English-language Iowa Tests of Basic Skills to win admission to high schools outside the area, says Martha Monrroy, a counselor at Orozco, an elementary school that feeds into Juarez High in Pilsen.
Parents who speak only Spanish are often not aware of their child’s high school options, she adds.
“A lot of the students and parents who just came from another country feel unsafe sending their child outside the area, where they won’t know anyone who will speak their own language,” says Ismael Vargas, parent advocate at Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE). “That’s frightening.”
Kathy Wayne, the counselor at Perez, another Juarez feeder school, also points to “fear of the unknown and being comfortable where they are.”
Others say Latinos have a particularly strong sense of community.
Nydia Castillo, assistant principal at Brentano, says sense of community creates a feeling of pride at Kelvyn Park High School, where most of her students want to go.
Vargas also thinks that race and gangs play a role. “It’s intimidating to go to a neighborhood and not know what’s around the school, to go to another area where the culture or the race is different,” he says. “Different culture, problems with gangs. It’s a big issue.”
Idida Perez, director of West Town Leadership United, thinks students tend to stay at their neighborhood school because the school fits their needs. “The neighborhood schools just cater more to their neighborhood population,” she says.