Graduation Rates Lower Than in Other Groups
By Donna St. George
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 7, 2009
When Adolfo Avalos looks back at his teen years in Gaithersburg, he can see how much went wrong. There were physical fights, school problems, gang involvement, anger at himself and the world: so much trouble that he finally dropped out.
"I got kind of like in a box, and I didn't know how to get out of it," said Avalos, 21.
His experiences reflect what community leaders describe as a crisis for many Latino teenagers in Montgomery County.
High school graduation rates for Latino youths in Montgomery are lower than for any other racial or ethnic group in the county. Last year, 78.13 percent of Latinos in Montgomery received diplomas, compared with 94.5 percent for non-Hispanic whites, 83.94 percent for African Americans and 95.45 percent of Asians and Pacific Islanders. At the same time, the birth rate for Latinas 15 to 17 was nearly three times higher than for African Americans and nearly four times higher than for non-Hispanic whites, according to state health statistics.
Community leaders say such numbers go hand in hand with the results of a 2006 survey of more than 1,000 Latino teens that the leaders have brought to the attention of school and county officials in recent weeks.
The survey reports that 94 percent of Latino teens like Avalos spend no time with an adult mentor, and 50 percent have friends who were or are involved in a gang. More than 40 percent reported being involved in physical fights the previous year, and 30 percent said they did not feel confident that they would graduate from high school.