Latino students in kindergarten trail their white peers in math by approximately three months’ worth of learning, a new study by Child Trends Hispanic Institute has found.
Researchers drew a nationally representative sample of students from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010-2011 who were followed through the end of their fifth-grade year. Sixty-two percent of the 2,199 Latino students studied had at least one foreign-born parent, and 45 percent spoke only Spanish or predominantly Spanish at home. Nearly half lived in poverty.
The study, titled “Making Math Count More for Young Latino Children,” found that while Latino and white kindergartners showed similar gains throughout the year, Latino students remain behind in the spring because of where they started upon entering school in the fall. What that three-month gap looks like in actuality is difficult to measure, David Murphey, a co-author of the report, said in an email; what children learn in math in preschool or kindergarten varies widely across the country.
And while students’ family incomes, parent education levels, primary languages, and quantity of books in the home all accounted for differences in math skills among Latino students, the achievement gap between Latino and white students is still evident after accounting for these background differences.