The Miami Herald
Jan. 27, 2004

Poll shows that Hispanics support high-stakes testing

A nationwide survey finds that Hispanics favor tough tests, like the much-disputed FCAT, more than non-Hispanics.


  When Rosa Vasquez of Pembroke Pines was growing up in Cuba, high-stakes tests were expected in school. Now, as the mother of three children, she
  doesn't mind the much-maligned FCAT.

  ''We need to know how our kids are doing, and if they are behind we need to help them,'' said Vasquez, whose kids attend Silver Shores Elementary in

  Her beliefs mirror those of a majority of Hispanics nationwide. A new survey of 3,400 Hispanics released Monday found they are more supportive of
  high-stakes testing in schools than black and white non-Hispanics.

  The study by the Pew Hispanic Center and the Kaiser Family Foundation also found Hispanics have a generally optimistic outlook on their public schools,
  although they have concerns about the language barrier and cultural divides. They are worried that white non-Hispanic teachers are predisposed to have
  lower expectations for their children.

  Another concern: Almost 90 percent said it was important for schools to help Hispanic children maintain their native language.

  ''We would like to have better Spanish classes,'' Vasquez said. ``Our kids are quickly forgetting their Spanish.''

  The survey sample included a wide swathe of the Hispanic community, most of which is represented in Broward and Miami-Dade counties: Latinos from
  Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Central and South America. The margin of error was 2.4 percent.

  One interesting finding: Hispanics born outside the United States tend to have an even sunnier attitude toward public schools than those who grew up

  ''Latino immigrants tend to have a positive view of U.S. institutions,'' said Roberto Suro, director of the Washington D.C.-based Pew Hispanic Center. ``And
  I think the idea of kids having to pass a test for promotion is something you find in many other countries.''

  President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act requires all states to develop tests such as the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, and it forces schools to
  meet benchmarks for students in different groups -- economic, racial and ethnic, and special education.

  Standardized testing has wide support at Silver Shores, which serves affluent students in southwest Broward. The school is too new to have received a
  letter grade from the state, but most of its students are high-performing.

  ''It's good to know if the kids are passing or not,'' said parent Clara Rodriguez. ``It's a good thing.''

  The survey noted that 75 percent of Hispanics believe it's OK for testing to determine who is promoted. That compares with 52 percent among both black
  and white non-Hispanics. It found a similar level of support among Hispanics for using test scores to rank schools.

  Florida does both. The FCAT determines who becomes a fourth-grader and who can receive a standard diploma, in addition to issuing school grades.

  Nationwide, Hispanic student achievement lags behind white non-Hispanic students.

  The survey found that the most common explanation for the gap is that Hispanic families aren't pushing their children hard enough, and that schools are
  too quick to label Hispanic children as having behavioral or learning problems.

  Slightly fewer Hispanics believed that cultural differences and weaker English skills are the major reasons.

  Almost half of Hispanics -- 45 percent -- say they believe public schools have improved in the last five years. Only about a third of blacks believe schools are
  getting better, and among white non-Hispanics, the number is even lower -- about 25 percent.

  Roland Foulkes, a member of the Broward School Board's diversity committee, said he wasn't surprised that Hispanics are generally pleased with their
  public schools because, in South Florida, they have assimilated quickly.

  Herald Staff Writer Mary Ellen Flannery contributed to this report