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How Hispanic-Serving School Districts Are Supporting Well-Rounded Student Outcomes

SEL and college readiness initiatives are among the key efforts taking place across the U.S.

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At the national level, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) is increasing awareness among policymakers to better support the Hispanic-serving institutions that are a large and important part of the U.S. higher education system. As Hispanic students achieve success in higher education, it is also a reminder that more than half the battle toward equitable outcomes is won at the K-12 level. Dr. Antonio R. Flores, President & CEO of the Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities (HACU) and Jeanette Morales, Director of PK-12 Initiatives, are working in tandem to ensure programs are in place to support success in Hispanic-Serving School Districts (HSSDs), defined as K-12 districts whose total enrollment is at least 25 percent Hispanic, and who are affiliate members of HACU.

Improving the high school graduation rate is one goal, but equally important is a specific focus on college and career readiness. "It becomes central to our mission─the collaborative efforts between Hispanic-serving institutions and Hispanic-Serving School Districts. Together, they represent a continuum for Latinos' success from kindergarten through higher education," says Dr. Flores.

There is a need to become more effective in messaging support of HSIs and HSSDs with private entities. After all, as Dr. Flores states, it's the private sector that benefits the most in the end, "The workforce of this nation is becoming increasingly brown and also the demands for a much better educated and trained workforce continue. The beneficiaries are primarily corporations and private sector employers. They need to become more attuned to how they can also be part of the solution."

Increased awareness starts at the state level, where the sharing of information becomes essential. "We need to share best practices of places that are doing great things whether it's California, Texas, Florida, or other states where we already have a strong presence as an association and where we have been able to develop partnerships between HSSDs and Hispanic-serving institutions," says Dr. Flores.

Social-emotional learning is an integral part of the process, and Jeannette Morales has worked with programs like Love in a Big World to bring curriculum changes that support well-rounded K-12 success. As she sees it, there is a need for accountability that goes well beyond the test scores. "When [Love In A Big World creator Tamara Fyke] approached us about this curriculum, I thought it was a very important aspect of an academic curriculum that we hadn't looked at before,” explains Morales.

There are limited resources in education when it comes to supportive services for students, so merging social-emotional learning into the curriculum becomes even more critical. As Jeanette explains, "There are shootings in schools, bullying on social media, and all kinds of pressures that students encounter on a day-to-day basis, but we haven't given them the skills or tools necessary to deal with them in a positive manner. Through this curriculum, we're able to set down the foundations and start telling kids that there are other ways they can deal with emotions, and there are other avenues that can address the challenges and obstacles in their lives."

HSIs have continued to grow over the last 15 years with even greater growth scheduled for the future. With the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, it's expected that powerful Title V adjustments will positively affect HSIs moving forward. Dr. Flores points to concentrated funding that will create an impact, "A focus on funding clusters of...education institutions that are HSIs and HSSDs to work in an intentional and effective way to increase the success rates of all students, not just Hispanics, but all others who attend those school districts and HSIs."

About Dr. Antonio R. Flores

On February 26, 1996, Antonio R. Flores became the third president and chief executive officer of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU). Prior to this position, Flores served as director of programs and services for the Michigan Higher Education Assistance Authority and the Michigan Higher Education Student Loan Authority.

Since the appointment of Flores, HACU has nearly tripled its membership and budget, expanded its programs three-fold, significantly improved legislation for Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), increased annual federal funding for HSIs from $12 million in fiscal 1995 to over $267 million for fiscal 2018, and secured millions of dollars in new private funding for HSIs and HACU associate members, including a $28 million HSI Kellogg initiative. More than $3.3 billion in federal funding has been allocated to HSIs during Flores’ tenure.

Flores is a member of the Washington Higher Education Secretariat, American Educational Research Association, Independent Sector, chair of the Subcommittee on Student and Recent Graduate Recruitment for the Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council, and past chair of the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility and the Alliance for Equity in Higher Education.

Follow Dr. Flores and HACU on Twitter

About Jeanette Morales

Jeanette Morales is the director for PK-12 initiatives for the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU). She coordinates professional development programs for high school counselors and university tours for middle and high students and serves as a liaison to help bridge the gap between school districts and institutions of higher education.

Morales has more than 25 years’ experience working with first-generation, minority students. She helped launch the Upward Bound Math & Science program at the University of Texas at San Antonio working with students from South Texas and created a grade-specific curriculum to help students navigate their way through the college admission and financial aid processes.

Morales was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas.

Follow Jeanette Morales and HACU on Twitter

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