The following comes from an April 7 Angelus article by Kevin Theriault:
A recent study of Catholic schools in the United States raised questions about how well our Catholic schools are serving the Latino community. California Catholic schools are ahead of the curve.
The report from Boston College’s Roche Center for Catholic Education and its School of Theology and Ministry published findings from a 2014 study that shows that, on average, Catholic schools are underserving immigrant families and the existing Latino community.
The report found that only 2.3 percent of all school-age Latino children are enrolled in Catholic schools, just over 296,000 out of 12.4 million Latino children — 8 million of which are Catholic. Several factors are pointed to as reasons for such a low percentage.
The report identifies issues such as lack of: cultural training among school staff, bilingual teachers and administrators; Latino board members; training in Hispanic ministry and theology, and; communication and interaction between administrative offices and offices focused on Latino ministry.
These deficits can create an unwelcoming environment for prospective Latino families due to a failure to fully embrace Latino culture and language. The report calls for a “new approach” to all aspects of the Catholic school experience for Latino families — a “concerted, collaborative effort” inviting in as many voices and perspectives as possible.
In California, this “new approach” is an expansion on what Catholic schools here have been doing well for decades in serving the Latino community.
“Our reality is a lot different than the Boston College report would indicate,” said Kevin Baxter, senior director and superintendent of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. “I feel that if we just had a report looking at the Southwest, it would be a totally different picture.
“We have been serving a large percentage of Hispanic families for 50, 60, 70 years. It’s not new for us out here,” he added. “In our teaching staff and our principal staff we have large percentages of Latino principals and Latino teachers.”
The impact on the Latino community is highlighted in statistics.
Latino students in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles achieve a 97.5 percent high school graduation rate, as opposed to 66 percent for Latinos in the Los Angeles public school system.
In addition, Latinos are 2.5 times more likely to graduate from college if they attend Catholic school. These graduates earn higher incomes, are more likely to be civically engaged, tolerant and service oriented and are also more likely to stay in the faith as an adult.
Earlier this year, the California Conference of Catholic Bishops put out a statement that examined the vision of Catholic schools in California, the impact they have and their mission going forward.
“Our Catholic Schools in California: A Stellar Past, A Robust Future” highlights the successes brought about by high quality Catholic education in California, especially for Latino students. It looks squarely at the challenges of educating more than 200,000 students throughout the state while keeping focused on the mission of Catholic education.
“The California bishops’ statement is an affirmative document, really talking about our reality here in California. We have never had more Catholics in the state of California than we do today,” Baxter said. “It is kind of a booming time, especially for us out West.”