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Study reports lack of coverage of Latino history in high school textbooks

Past researchers have found that an ethnic studies curriculum improves students’ attendance, GPA, and credits earned.


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Latino students represent more than a quarter of the 50.8 million K-12 public school students in the United States, with nearly 14 million students. 

Considering that the proportion of the Hispanic population is expected to grow to 29% by 2050, in recent years, there has been an increase in the advocacy for the importance of students seeing themselves reflected in curricular materials and classroom instruction. 

In the fall of 2022, Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy (the Institute) and UnidosUS designed a project to better understand the representation of Latinos in the U.S. History textbooks for high school. The project is the initial step in learning about the extent, quality, and variety of classroom content that reflects the contributions and experiences of the Latino community.

“Honoring students’ culture helps them find their place in the larger society,” the study concludes. 

The African American experience has increasingly seen better representation in the K-12 classroom and this project seeks to broaden those efforts to include the Latino experience as well — which we currently know very little about. 

The report is based on the analysis of five high school U.S. History textbooks and one AP U.S. History book that are commonly used in seven different states, and the Institute has analyzed more than 70 different Social Studies and English Language Arts (ELA) curricula used in public, private, and charter school classrooms across the country. 

Among the states selected, five have a large Latinx student population (New Mexico, California, Texas, Florida and New York) and two a small (Iowa and West Virginia), in order to better represent the geographic and ethnic diversity within the Hispanic population across the U.S.

Check below some of the key findings: 

  • U.S. Purchases and Foreign Policy in Latin America (1819-2019), received the most extensive content coverage (1.4 out of 3);
  • Hispanic/Latino Firsts (1821-present), received the thinnest amount of content coverage (0.1 out of 3);
  • About 13% of the individual knowledge topics measured in the study were covered in depth, on average, by the textbooks. The rest were not covered or were often covered in less than five sentences; 
  • The Civil Rights Movement, was described, on average, with the most balance between discussion of inequality faced and agency shown by Latinos;

The report also states that learning about the experiences and contributions of diverse groups of people has pronounced benefits for all students, including the ones who are not from that particular group.  

To read more about other findings and how the report was made, click here


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