Latino Achievement: Identifying Models That Foster Success

Patricia Gándara

This monograph describes the current educational status of Latino students in the United States and, based on the extant research, attempts to explain their relatively low educational performance. The research finds many structural and socio-cultural barriers to academic achievement for this group, including poverty, poor schooling, language differences, low educational levels of parents, and lack of social capital. The monograph then suggests several theoretical models to explain why some Latino students, in spite of all of these barriers, manage to defy the odds and succeed academically. The literature on specific social and academic interventions is examined to distill what is known about fostering high achievement in this population. The theoretical models are then married to the intervention literature to suggest both policies and practices that might be expected to yield greater academic achievement for Latino students in the future.


Gándara. P. (2004). Latino achievement: Identifying models that foster success (RM04194). Storrs: University of Connecticut, The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented.

Latino Achievement: Identifying Models That Foster Success
Patricia Gándara


  1. While strides have been made within the field of gifted education in acknowledging the problems associated with identification—narrow definitions of giftedness, teachers’ inability to recognize high ability in minority students, and the inadequacy of standardized tests—practitioners often fail to practice what the leading edge of the field preaches.
  2. The field of early intervention remains fixated on a “closing the gap” approach to increasing achievement for Latino students that pays relatively little attention to those students at the high end of the achievement continuum; thus, effective alternatives to developing outside special programs are rare.
  3. Most early intervention programs do not appear to significantly increase the academic achievement of their participants because the intervention is either too little, too late, it does not last long enough, or it focuses on narrow aspects of the curriculum or the schooling experience, leaving most of the students’ normal educational routines intact.
  4. If school reform and early intervention were to borrow from the teaching and learning strategies developed in gifted education programs, they could strengthen the educational experience of all children and increase the yield of high achievement for Latino students as well as others.
  5. Talent can be developed and not simply discovered, but this requires a much more sustained effort than we have made to date; intervention must be occur early with a focus on enrichment instead of remediation, and it must be sustained at high levels throughout the educational pipeline with the objective of fostering high achievement and not just closing the achievement gap.