I feel that educational barriers and teaching implications go hand in hand. I feel this is true since an educational barrier is a direct implication to teaching. Nearly half of all Californians today are first-generation or second-generation immigrants. As that share of the California population continues to grow, it is increasingly important to understand the nature of intergenerational progress for immigrant groups. ( Myers, Dowell, John Pitkin, and Julie Park) Recent research has called into question the intergenerational progress of immigrants, particularly educational progress between the second generation and the third generation. When the educational attainment of second and third generations is compared directly with that of their parents or their parents' generation, the authors find strong intergenerational progress for all major immigrant groups. ( Myers, Dowell, John Pitkin, and Julie Park) However, even by the third generation, Mexican Americans in California have not attained the educational levels that whites have attained. In other words, there is some progress but even by the third generation only 11 percent of Mexican American adults have earned a bachelor's degree. In contrast, among third-and-later generation whites, more than a third has a bachelor's degree. Also, about 30 percent of California's children are growing up in families where neither parent has completed high school. One consequence of this low educational attainment is that as many as 95 percent of these children might not earn a bachelor's degree; the low educational attainment of parents makes it less likely that their children will attain high levels of education. Among these children at risk of low educational achievement, Mexican Americans make up a large percentage. More than half of all California youth ages 13 to 24 have a foreign born parent. Because a large number of these immigrant parents have a limited education, lack of improvement in educational attainment from one generation to the next would have serious implications for the state economically as well as socially. Education is an important determinant of social and economic well-being, such as income, health, home ownership, and civic participation. The concern for educational progress is particularly acute for Mexican Americans who, even by the third generation, have very low levels of educational attainment. It finds that intergenerational progress has not stalled but rather that second- and third-generation immigrants have made substantial educational progress when compared with their parents. Most of California's Latino youth are of Mexican ancestry (84%) and over 60 percent of them were born in the United States. Overall, one in four youth is a first-generation immigrant (i.e., born in a foreign country). About the same share are second-generation immigrants (i.e., born in the United States with at least one foreign-born parent). Racial and ethnic differences in educational attainment are strongly influenced by immigration. Of the major racial and ethnic groups in California, young adults of Mexican descent have the lowest levels of education. Of those ages 25 to 29, only 51 percent have earned a high school diploma, compared to 93 percent of non-Hispanic whites. However, the rate for Mexican American youth born in the United States is substantially higher-76 percent. Mexican youth who come to the United States as teens often do not attend high school here. The older their age at arrival, the less likely Mexican youth are to attend school in California. Among those ages 16 to 18 and who recently arrived in the United States, less than half are enrolled in school. Among men, many are working; among women, substantial numbers are working, married, or raising children. In particular, although some research has suggested that educational progress stalls between the second and third generations for Mexican Americans, it has been found that college graduation rates of third-generation immigrants are more than twice those of their parents. Further, although over half of their parents did not graduate from high school, about eight in 10 third-generation Mexican Americans have graduated from high school. Even by the third generation, however, Mexican Americans in California have lower educational attainment than whites have. Despite strong intergenerational progress, less than 85 percent of third and-later-generation Mexican American adults, ages 25 to 34, have finished high school and only 11 percent have completed a bachelor's degree. ("Third-and-later" generation includes youth with both parents born in the United States but the data do not identify whether their grandparents or great-grandparents were born in the United States.) In comparison, among third-and-later-generation whites, 95 percent earned a high school diploma and over a third has a bachelor's degree. Mexican immigrant youth who arrive at age 15 or older are among the least educated Californians. Improving their educational attainment is particularly challenging because many do not enroll in California schools but are working and raising families. Analysis suggests that about 30 percent of California's children are growing up in families where neither parent has completed high school and that as many as 95 percent of these children might not achieve a bachelor's degree. Among these children at risk of low educational achievement, Mexican Americans make up a large share (68%). The success of students in California's community colleges is of particular importance for improving Latino postsecondary education because almost 80 percent of Latinos who enroll in public higher education enter through community colleges. Of great concern, however, is the low transfer rate to four-year institutions, and transfers are especially low among Latino students. In addition to preparing students for transfers, community colleges provide English language, remedial, and vocational courses. As the value of education and skills in the California economy continues to grow, these courses will become increasingly important to workforce training, especially for those who do not go on to complete a bachelor's degree.
Because California has such large numbers of immigrants with limited education, a lack of improvement in educational attainment from one generation to the next would have serious implications for the state economically as well as socially. Educational progress is particularly important because education plays a role in determining racial and ethnic differences in other areas of social and economic well-being, such as poverty, health status, employment, home ownership, and civic participation (Reyes, 2001; Reed, 2003a).
This information is important to understand why immigrant families rely so much on each other and not on education and opportunity. Hispanic-Americans are united by customs, language, religion, and values. There is, however, an extensive diversity of traits among Hispanic-Americans. One characteristic that is of paramount importance in most Hispanic cultures is family commitment, which involves loyalty, a strong support system, a belief that a child's behavior reflects on the honor of the family, a hierarchical order among siblings, and a duty to care for family members. This strong sense of other-directedness conflicts with the United States' mainstream emphasis on individualism (Vasquez, 1990). Stereotyped sex roles tend to exist among many Latinos: the male is perceived as dominant and strong, whereas the female is perceived as nurturing and self-sacrificing. Note, however, that in Latino cultures, the term "machismo" (used by Anglos to refer to male chauvinism) refers to a concept of chivalry that encompasses gallantry, courtesy, charity, and courage (Baron, 1991). Indeed, Hispanic culture's emphasis on cooperation in the attainment of goals can result in Hispanic students' discomfort with this nation's conventional classroom competition. This cultural difference could play a negative role when the value of education in the California labor market has increased substantially in recent decades and projections suggest that workers without a college education will continue to see their earnings erode. Among youth in immigrant families, there is tremendous variation in family income and parental education. Among young immigrants ages 13 to 17, about one-third of those from Mexico are living in poor families and only 17 percent have a mother who finished high school (maternal education is measured only for those living with their mothers). These differences in family characteristics contribute to racial and ethnic differences in educational attainment for immigrant youth, which, in turn, contribute to education differences for their second-generation children. Differences in family characteristics explain most of the lower educational attainment of Mexican Americans. Among Mexican American youth, parental education, parental English language ability, and family income are substantially lower than among white youth.
An expanding body of research affirms that teaching and counseling students with interventions that are congruent with the students' learning-style preferences result in their increased academic achievement and more positive attitudes toward learning. Research on the learning styles of Hispanic-Americans in particular, however, is limited. Within the Latino groups, the majority of studies have focused on the learning styles of Mexican-American elementary school children. Several investigations (Dunn, Griggs, & Price, 1993) have compared various ethnic groups of students in elementary school through college levels using a measure that identifies 21 elements of learning style grouped into five categories.
1. ENVIRONMENTAL LEARNING STYLE elements include sound, temperature, design, and light. A cool temperature and formal design were identified as important elements for Mexican-American elementary and middle school students (Dunn, Griggs, & Price, 1993).
2. EMOTIONAL LEARNING STYLE elements include responsibility, structure, persistence, and motivation. Sims (1988) reported that Mexican-American third- and fourth-graders were the least conforming of three ethnic groups studied. Yong and Ewing (1992), however, found that Mexican-American middle-school adolescents were conforming. The disparities between these data may result from subjects' age, lifestyle, and urban/rural differences in the two studies. Both of these studies reported that Mexican-Americans required a higher degree of structure than did other groups.
3. SOCIOLOGICAL LEARNING STYLE elements are concerned with the social patterns in which one learns. Learning alone (as opposed to in groups) was preferred more by Caucasian students than by Mexican-American children (Dunn & Dunn, 1992, 1993) and more by Mexican-Americans students than by African-American children (Sims, 1988). Mexican-American students required significantly more sociological variety than either African-Americans or Caucasians (Dunn, Griggs, & Price, 1993). Mexican-American males were authority-oriented and Mexican-American females were strongly peer-oriented (Dunn, Griggs, & Price, 1993).
4. PHYSIOLOGICAL LEARNING STYLE elements relate to time of day, food and drink intake, perception, and mobility. Puerto-Rican college students exhibit a strong preference for learning in the late morning, afternoon, and evening. The time-of-day preferences of Mexican-Americans are less clear. Sims (1988) found that Caucasians preferred drinking or eating snacks while learning significantly more than did Mexican-Americans. Yong and Ewing (1992) reported that Latinos' strongest perceptual strength was kinesthetic. Both Caucasians and African-American were significantly more auditory and visual than Mexican-Americans (Dunn, Griggs, & Price, 1993; Sims, 1988). The study by Sims (1988) indicated that Caucasian students exhibited a higher need for mobility than did Mexican-American students. Contrary to findings for the U.S. general population, Mexican-American females had a significantly higher need for mobility than their male counterparts (Dunn, Griggs, & Price, 1993).
5. PSYCHOLOGICAL LEARNING STYLE elements relate to global versus analytical processing. The construct of field dependence/independence is a component of this learning style. Field dependent individuals are more group-oriented and cooperative and less competitive than field independent individuals. Research generally has indicated that Mexican-American and other minority students are more field dependent than nonminority students. Hudgens (1993) found that Hispanic middle and secondary school students were more field dependent than Anglo students; Hispanic female (and African-American male) students had a greater internal locus of control than other groups; and Hispanic male (and African-American female) students had a greater external locus of control than other groups.
INSIGHTS AND TOOLS
There are a number of state and local programs designed to improve the lives of youth as well as to steer them in the direction of positive future outcomes. Youth ages 13 to 24 are of critical concern because during these ages youth are preparing for the transition to adulthood with its increased economic challenges and responsibilities and often with new marriage and parenting relationships. During these ages, many potentially life-changing decisions are often made, including the decisions to finish high school, to go to college, and perhaps to start a family. For these youth, adult education programs in school districts and community colleges can provide better schedules for part time, evening, and weekend coursework. In addition, as these youth become parents, programs that work with young children can assist parents with parental support and literacy improvement.
For second and third generations, and for immigrants who do enter California schools, the quality of the K-12 public education system is clearly a key factor in success. Several recent and continuing reforms are improving California schools, particularly in the areas of student achievement, teacher quality, and quality of facilities. In addition, English language learning is of concern for the children of immigrants. For students whose own parents have limited educational experience, programs of educational counseling and tutoring are particularly helpful.