- The Latino K-12 student population in the United States continues to increase. Estimates are that by 2025, one in every three students in the country will be of Hispanic/Latino origin. The challenges to the educational system from such growth are unprecedented. At no other time in U.S. history has there been such an increase in student population from a specific cultural group. This dissertation was composed of two arms, each of which examined an area of Latino students’ academic development critical to post high school success. The data for the dissertation was drawn from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) database.
Arm A was a cross-sectional study exploring math anxiety. The U.S. sample included 6,111 students, 15 years of age. The specific research questions were: (a) What is the level of math anxiety in Latino youth?; (b) What is the level of math anxiety associated with different levels of math proficiency in Latino youth?; (c) When looking at Latino youth, does the level of math anxiety differ between boys and girls?; and (d) Among the (non-Latino) youth of the United States, does the level of math anxiety differ by race/ethnicity?. Results indicated that Latino youth reported a mean math anxiety level similar to the overall American average. The results also demonstrated that students in the lowest two math-proficiency levels did not differ from each other in terms of math anxiety, nor did the students in the two highest proficiency levels. Another finding was that as the proficiency levels increased, the level of math anxiety decreased. Third, female Latino youth reported higher math anxiety than their male counter parts. Finally, race/ethnicity did not differentiate levels of math anxiety.
Arm B was a cross-sectional study exploring financial literacy. In the United States, 5,712 students participated in the PISA 2015 assessment; of these, 1,486 participated in the financial literacy section of the test. The research questions were the same as Arm A, except financial literacy and not math anxiety was the focus. Analysis yielded the following results. First, the level of financial literacy in Latino youth indicated that financial literacy score is normally distributed among the sample. Second, the level of financial literacy by math proficiency level in Latino youth demonstrated that students’ math proficiency levels are associated with their financial proficiency level, and as math proficiency level increases, so does financial literacy levels. In addition, it was determined that students’ math proficiency levels are associated with their financial literacy and that as math proficiency levels increase, so does the financial literacy levels. Third, there was a difference between female and male Latino youth in financial literacy. Finally, in determining if the level of financial literacy differed by race/ethnicity, the results suggested that race/ethnicity may partly explain variability in financial literacy. Hispanic students scored significantly higher than African American and lower than White, Asian and multicultural students.
The above-mentioned findings have implications for school counselors and for educators since their interactions with students tend to significantly influence students’ career planning decisions and high school course enrollment. Furthermore, counselors also guide students through the process of financial aid and through the process of managing their finances after they graduate from high school. Understanding and supporting the needs and characteristics of Latino students are the keys for their academic and career success.