Hispanic-white achievement gap closing, education chief reports
But Sen. Clinton says government not doing enough
PHILADELPHIA -- Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said yesterday that the ''achievement gap is beginning to close" between Hispanic and white students, but Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton countered that she was not convinced that the government was doing enough to help Hispanic youth get through school.
Spellings and Clinton each spoke at the convention of the National Council of La Raza, a four-day event that ends today.
The two did not dispute statistics that show Latino students have the nation's highest high school dropout rate and the lowest college enrollment rate. They diverged on whether the government is fixing the problem.
Praising a law called No Child Left Behind, the education measure President Bush signed in January 2002, Spellings pointed to the National Assessment of Educational Progress scores released Thursday that show 9-year-olds, including Hispanics, have improved reading and math scores.
''These results . . . came from a commitment to doing something that's never been done before, a commitment to giving every child a quality education," Spellings said. ''The achievement gap is beginning to close."
Minutes later, Clinton, Democrat of New York, told the same group, ''You are doing your part, but I don't know that your government is doing its part right now."
Clinton stressed that although younger students' scores have improved, 17-year-olds have made almost no gains since the tests were instituted 30 years ago.
''I'm not sure that we are doing everything we should to make your job easier, to make sure that the opportunity society is alive and well for everyone," she said.
Linda L. Silva, a Democratic organizer and an advocate for Latinos in Delaware County, Pa., stood with hundreds of others who applauded Clinton, particularly when she called for changes that would allow undocumented immigrants to receive college aid.
Silva said she hopes to see Clinton enter the race for president in 2008. ''There's no one else in America who has more integrity today," she said.
La Raza, based in Washington, was founded in 1968 as a Mexican-American civil rights group and is the largest advocacy group for Hispanics in the nation.