Friday, April 12, 2024

Latino Youth on Path to Academic Excellence

Lemon Grove Middle School in San Diego has made headlines by being the first middle school in California to offer AP Spanish courses to sixth, seventh-and eighth-graders. The school, in an effort to encourage young Hispanics to take rigorous academic coursework, is offering AP classes to challenge their students who often face barriers because English is not their first language.
The middle school, which serves a large number of low-income, native Spanish-speaking students, is giving a chance to native Spanish speaking middle school students who are normally first offered to take AP courses as high school juniors and seniors. Nearly all 35 students in the elective course are native Spanish speakers, born in Mexico or the children of Mexican immigrants who speak Spanish at home.
Lemon Grove Middle School Principal Ambler Moss said he wants to give young Hispanics the chance to take academically demanding courses where their fluency is an advantage.
Moss says, “We’re turning a historical disadvantage into an economic and intellectual asset.”
“There’s no reason for them not to perform well,” said Silvia Saña, who teaches AP Spanish at Lemon Grove Middle School.
Education experts believe native Spanish speakers can take AP Spanish in middle school, because they are fluent in the language already and understand Spanish culture. The benefits of taking AP Spanish would be helping them write and read at a higher level in Spanish.
The AP classes developed by New York based College Board are comparable to a college-level Spanish composition and conversation class. Prior to taking the course, students are required to have basic knowledge of the language and Hispanic culture.
Across the nation, there has been a major push to enroll more low-income students (especially blacks and Latinos) in high school AP courses, where they have long been historically underrepresented.
The College Board now allows AP Spanish in middle schools largely because of the success of Texas schools that teach the course. A few Texas middle schools began teaching it in 1999. Nearly 90 taught it last year.
AP Spanish for Hispanics in California has been a success for high school students too; last year more than half of the high school students who took the AP Spanish test were Mexican-American. Their mean score was higher than that of any other racial and ethnic group, according to College Board statistics.
One of the recent class assignments was to read a lengthy Spanish article about the economic crisis in the United States by organizing a mock news conference in which students played reporters.
Students asked about el plan de rescate, (rescue plan) and el paquete de medidas de estimulo para la economia (economic stimulus package) and other terms they would likely encounter while reading the assigned article.

San Diego Union-Tribune


  1. Very interesting article. As a Mexican American I am hopeful to further the next generation of latinos in America. This may prove to be a great stepping stone for our country.

  2. At my high school low numbers of latinos enrolled in any AP class, including AP Spanish. Offering it in middle school is great because it gives them confidence early on. It should be a stepping stone for Latinos to take other AP Courses.

  3. This is so cool! They should have something similar for IB. I took IB Spanish but I wish they could have had like a native section…oh well.

  4. I think it is great to show Hispanics that it is possible to take AP classes and even more so, that the classes exist; however I disagree with Lemon Grove Middle School. As a Hispanic that took the AP Spanish in high school, I understand the AP Spanish test very well. The AP Spanish test is a very demanding and difficult test that involves grammar and literature, not just “speaking” the language. It’s very sad to see how a middle school justifies offering AP Spanish to native Spanish-speakers to “challenge their students who often face barriers because English is not their first language”, which is an outright stereotype. Just because a student is a native speaker it does not mean that they know the grammar and literature as well. The majority of these kids are native speakers, but most of them are not taught the proper grammar nor are exposed to Spanish literature in their homes. It’s terrible that Lemon Grove’s principal says that they are “turning a historical disadvantage into an economic and intellectual asset”, because this just reiterates that stereotype that native speakers know enough good Spanish to take an AP test. Yes, it will help them economically in college and probably in other areas, but it’s degrading their intellectual asset because they are focusing on their native Spanish – in other words if they offer the AP Spanish test to native speakers why don’t offer them other AP classes, to prove it’s not JUST ABOUT THE LANGUAGE.
    Perfect their Spanish? Is that the only thing Hispanics are recognized for, their “intellectual” in Spanish? If they really mean to give Hispanics a chance of gaining more intellectualism, than why don’t they offer them other important AP tests. How about those, whose first language is English also known as “native” English speakers, shouldn’t they get to take the AP English test as well. Why not? They’re native English speakers, they can “easily” take the test or as Education experts believe with Spanish speakers, they can take the test because they are fluent in the language already and already understand the culture – so the same for native English speakers, they’ll have no problems with the AP English test. For example, this goes back to the stereotype, where people assume that just because someone is a Hispanic, they won’t have a problem in their Spanish classes and that they’re automatically bilingual. Again, just because you speak the Spanish and English language, it doesn’t mean you’re bilingual – truly being bilingual is being able to speak, read, and write both languages at the same level; actually doing the work to perfect the two languages (those are the people who can truly call themselves bilingual). In using the bilingual stereotype you can see that Lemon Grove Middle School is categorizing Hispanics in a stereotypical manner, assuming that, as their AP Spanish teacher Silvia Saña, put it “there’s no reason for them not to perform well”.
    If they truly want to help and motivate middle school Hispanic students, they should offer them other AP classes, not just AP Spanish. It’s not helping their intellect to just offer them AP Spanish (the school thinks won’t be a problem for them); if the students’ intellect is in their best interest, than they will challenge them even further by preparing them for other AP tests – not just something based on their language – only then will they give Hispanics a REAL OPPORTUNITY.

  5. Wow. When I first read the article, I merely thought to myself that “yea sure… that seems like a good idea”. But then I read your response, Lisette, and it opened up my eyes!

    You really hit it on the nail when you point out that they do not offer AP English to native English speaking students at the middle school level. I am a native English speaker and there is NO way in hell I could have passed that exam in middle school.

    If they are going to offer AP Spanish, then I agree with you, they need to offer OTHER AP courses as well.