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May 1, 1997
Vol. 54
No. 8


Latino High School Graduation

Latino High School Graduation: Defying the Odds by H.D. Romo and T. Falbo. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996.
Quantitative data such as standardized test scores and dropout rates highlight Hispanic students' low level of educational attainment but do little to elucidate the nature and scope of the problem. This book does both. In addition, rather than reiterating why students fail, the authors focus on what helps these students succeed.
Romo and Falbo present insightful, compelling accounts of how high-risk Hispanic students either overcome their "at-riskness" or drop out. The authors culled these detailed profiles from a four-year longitudinal study of 100 at-risk Hispanic students, whom they selected based on a parent survey form. Over the four years, they tracked a range of issues—grades and high standards, gang involvement, teen motherhood, the special needs of immigrant families, and schools' administrative glitches and punitive policies.
The authors use the stories of individual students as examples of general problems. They point out, however, that these problems cannot be attributed solely to a mismatch between the home and school culture. In fact, they could not identify a single Hispanic home culture any more than they could identify a single school culture. What they discovered was that "students had to navigate the boundaries of three cultures in order to graduate: the culture of the home, the adult culture of the school system, and the student culture of the school."
They also found that some schools either failed to respond to the students' problems or had no safety nets in place. (One problem: placement in low-level tracked classes often left these students inadequately prepared.)
Perhaps the book's greatest strength lies in its recommendations for change. They are common sense practices that are familiar to most of us—schools doing a better job of communicating with parents, assuming more of the responsibility for advising students, and assuming the primary responsibility for educating students. Findings from their study also convinced the authors of the need to rethink basic assumptions about education and to restructure entire educational systems so that student learning comes first.
The authors also list effective parenting strategies that emerged from the study. For example, the parents of students who graduated set limits for their children, and the children knew that these were nonnegotiable.
For the most part, this book inspired me. As an educator in a largely Hispanic area, I know that too many of our students go through school as nameless faces and that too many parents feel alienated and frustrated. I do, however, have some reservations about the book's case studies. If the authors included only those students whose parents responded to the survey form, to what extent was this sample representative of the population? Can these lessons be generalized to other Latino populations? That reservation notwithstanding, I would still recommend this book as a sound resource for understanding the problems that Hispanic students encounter. Above all, the authors stress the need for a comprehensive approach to helping more of these students graduate, in contrast to simplistic, piecemeal approaches.
Published by University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas. Price: $17.95.
—Reviewed by Lorraine B. Miranda, the Urban Systemic Initiative, the El Paso Collaborative for Academic Excellence, El Paso, Texas.

Rebel Without a Car

Rebel Without a Car: Surviving and Appreciating Your Child's Teen Years by Fred Mednick. Minneapolis: Fairview Press, 1996.
For the practicing educator at the middle or high school level, Rebel Without a Car is, at first glance, a simplistic and self-evident how-to book. As a tool for frantic parents, however, the book is a gem.
Drawing on memories of his own rebellious adolescence, his experience as a high school teacher and administrator, and considerable research, Mednick takes the reader on a journey back in time. He shows what it is like to be a teenager, how teenagers get this way, and how to understand and deal with them. He makes an excellent case for what Israeli children's psychologist Reuven Feuerstein might call "a school-induced disability." Mednick likens the condition to a contagious disease, where the school is the breeding ground. He also recognizes the way our current social climate exacerbates the "problem" of adolescence—social realities over which teens have little control or say so.
Administrators, teachers, and counselors can best use Rebel Without a Car as a resource for the frustrated parents they frequently encounter, parents who are unable or unwilling to understand or accept the changes they see in their children. Mednick lists helpful suggestions for dealing with many common family problems —the establishment of rules, discussions of sex, divorce, remarriage, and so on. He also includes interesting lists of what teens wish their parents would tell them, and what they, in turn, would like to tell their parents.
Published by Fairview Press, 2450 Riverside Ave. South, Minneapolis, MN 55454. Price: $12.95.
—Reviewed by John H. Holloway, Principal, Toms River High School South, Toms River, New Jersey.

Hidden Literacies

Hidden Literacies: Children Learning at Home and at School by Margaret M. Voss. Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann, 1996.
Hidden Literacies is a reflective work by a reflective teacher about how to unveil the hidden literacies that every learner possesses—and nurture them in cultures such as ours where written literacy is the prize. Margaret Voss accomplishes this revelation like the unwrapping of a beautiful gift. Beneath the paper and the ribbons, she uncovers the dynamics of a 4th grade whole language-process classroom and reveals the personalities and thinking modes of three children—Eric, Janette, and Kelly—at home and in school.
The concept of hidden literacies emerges as children demonstrate their talents, predilections, thinking styles, behaviors, and multiple intelligences in their homes. The question then becomes, How can teachers capitalize on these unique styles of knowing in the classroom setting—yes, even in a whole language classroom? In the book's foreword, Donald Graves, Voss's dissertation director, writes that Hidden Literacies celebrates the potential of children at both home and school.
For educators, researchers, and teachers who enjoy case studies based on ethnographic methods of participant/observer, this is the read for you. Members of ASCD Networks —Whole Language, Authentic Assessment, and Learning Styles, for example—will also appreciate this book.
Published by Heinemann, 361 Hanover St., Portsmouth, NH 03801-3912. Price: $23.50.
—Reviewed by Richard Sinatra, St. John's University, Jamaica, New York.

This article was published anonymously, or the author name was removed in the process of digital storage.

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