New Study Reveals “Inputs” That Boost Latino Students’ Test Scores

Feb. 10, 2011

AUSTIN, Texas — Latina/o students' math and reading Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test scores improve when urban schools increase operating expenditures, decrease student-teacher ratios and increase the number of bilingual certified teachers, says a recent study from The University of Texas at Austin's College of Education.

The study, conducted by Dr. Julian Heilig, looked at the effects of financial expenditures, student demographics and teacher quality on Latina/o student achievement in large, urban, Texas elementary schools with primarily Latina/o student populations. Heilig used statistical models of Austin, Dallas and Houston schools to examine what "input changes" were associated with TAKS test score improvement for Latina/o students. In this context, "inputs" refers to contributing factors such as how much money a school spends on each student or the student-teacher ratio.

Heilig's research indicated that increasing operating expenditures and decreasing the student-teacher ratio are associated with higher TAKS math achievement scores. Increasing the percentage of bilingual certified teachers and decreasing student-teacher ratio is positively associated with TAKS reading achievement in urban schools with large Latina/o student populations.

Unlike previous studies, which according to Heilig "tossed everything into the same big bucket," his research is focused and specific, comparing large, urban, primarily Hispanic elementary schools with similar schools rather than to schools in affluent white districts, for example.

"Although not on the top of the current legislative agenda, reductions in the student–teacher ratio appear to yield the most benefit for increasing both math and reading scores," said Heilig, an assistant professor in the College of Education's Department of Educational Administration. "These findings may not hold true for schools and students of all types, but 'boutiqued' finance policy solutions for urban, majority Latina/o elementary schools may yield better results than the current one-size-fits-all school finance environment in Texas."

To learn more about Heilig's research, visit his Web site. Heilig may be contacted by e-mail at with inquiries about the study.

For more information, contact: Kay Randall, College of Education, 512 471 3151.

5 Comments to "New Study Reveals “Inputs” That Boost Latino Students’ Test Scores"

1.  Alan Cook said on Feb. 10, 2011

National math test scores continue to be disappointing. This poor trend persists in spite of new texts, standardized tests with attached implied threats, or laptops in the class. At some point, maybe we should admit that math, as it is taught currently and in the recent past, seems irrelevant to a large percentage of grade school kids.

Why blame a sixth grade student or teacher trapped by meaningless lessons? Teachers are frustrated. Students check out.

The missing element is reality. Instead of insisting that students learn another sixteen formulae, we need to involve them in tangible life projects. And the task must be interesting.

A Trip To The Number Yard is a math book focusing on the building of a bungalow. Odd numbered chapters cover the phases of the project: lot layout, foundation, framing, all the way through until the trim out. The even numbered chapters introduce the math needed for the next stage of building and/or reviews the previous lessons.

This type of project-oriented math engages kids. It is fun. They have a reason to learn the math they may have ignored in the standard lecture format of a class room.

If we really want kids to learn math and to have the lessons be valuable, we need to change the mode of teaching. Our kids can master the math that most adults need. We can’t continue to have class rooms full of math drudges. Instead, we need to change our teaching tactics with real life projects.

Alan Cook

2.  Ricardo Turullols-Bonilla said on Feb. 17, 2011

Who does the learning and what is being learned are intimately related forming a dialogical whole. In turn, the subject who studies falls into a social classification just as much as the object of study. If we’re talking about science as object of study, taking the equation Left = Right as symbolizing it, the subject who is doing the learning is seen reflected in his organ of understanding, the brain having corresponding left and right hemispheres, and connecting bridge.
The same occurs at the language level, English is left-brain, while Spanish is right brain, and if this fact isn’t taken into account in the educational mix, the playing field is leveled against the performance of Hispanics.
But this is just surface stuff; like when viewing a pond, there’s a lot more water underneath the floating ducks. Modernity is plagued by the double monologue malady that only Socratic dialogue can remedy. Anecdotally enough, science the pride of Enlightenment, has turned into the educational stumbling block of progression.

3.  Rosario Baxter said on Feb. 17, 2011

I agree with comment 1.
When my son was in high school he was having difficulty
with algebra 2 but making 97,98 in physics.
Asked what the difference was, he answered, physics
did stuff.
We need to teach children how numbers work in our lives.
In English.

4.  Raymond H. Brennan said on Feb. 18, 2011

Lets see. If you want to raise Latino test scores ask the department of education.
If you want to improve mail delivery ask the Post Office.
If you want better vegetables ask the dept. of Agriculture.
How about this. If you want to raise Latino test scores have them learn the language and study harder. That's a unique idea, right???

5.  Yvonne Ortiz-Prince said on Feb. 18, 2011

There are volumes of research which indicate American kids (of all ethnicities) lag behind in math and science. Improvements are needed in communities and schools - particularly pedagogy in these subjects.

Working and studying hard is not unique to one racial or ethnic group and somehow, unknown to others. Many immigrant groups (including white ones) in our history were accused of not doing enough to become better educated. It is a blame game commonly directed to disenfranchised people.

I suggest the commentator in number 4 check the research. Do not assume most Latinos/as do not know the English language. Such an opinion is not informed by actual data.