Steady Increase in the Hispanic or Latino Student Population

In public schools across the nation and in South Carolina, the percentage of Hispanic or Latino students is steadily increasing.  Nationally, from 2013 to 2023, the percentage of Hispanic public-school students increased from 25% to 29%.1  In South Carolina over that period, it rose from 7% to 13%.2

Here are four ways this is impacting our public schools –

  • The majority of multilingual learners (see box below) are of Hispanic or Latino background;
  • Hispanic students are more likely to have experienced adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) outside of school and attend higher-poverty, lower-performing schools;
  • Hispanics, and all students of color, benefit when taught by a same-race teacher, yet the number of Hispanic teachers is not keeping up with the student growth;
  • Schools and classrooms are working to be culturally responsive and incorporate the cultural and linguistic talents and assets Hispanic students bring to the classroom that benefit all students.     

In South Carolina, the percentage of Hispanic students in school districts and schools varies widely.  In many districts, the percentage is below 5%.  However in three districts, one-third or more of students are Hispanic.  And at four schools in the state, the percentage is above 60%.3 (Discover similar facts using the ”Comparisons” table in the “Students” data section of this website.)

Nationally, nearly all Hispanic children under age 18 (94%)  are U.S.-born citizens.  However, they “represent a range of racial and national backgrounds, identities, and socioeconomic circumstances.”  In the U.S., 70% of Hispanic children are of Mexican descent.  For many others, family place of origin is a Central or South American country.4 

Multilingual Learner
  Instead of “English learner,” educators are using “multilingual learner” to highlight that students are building proficiency in more than one language, which is a strength, not a deficit.

SRI Education

Hispanic students make up a large majority of multilingual learners (ML) in our schools with these students making up more than three quarters of the total ML population in the U.S.   A similar proportion applies to Hispanic students who speak Spanish at home. 5 

Multilingual students who are not English proficient, face difficulties in school scoring lower on standardized tests and graduating at lower rates than English-proficient peers.6  On average, though, reaching English proficiency mitigates these differences.  ML students who achieve proficiency on English reading tests by 8th grade fare as well as their non-ML peers and even outperform non-MLs on math tests, attendance, and course grades.7

Also impacting school achievement, Hispanic (and Black) children in the country are more likely to have experienced adverse childhood experiences or ACEs outside of school that, particularly in the earliest years, harm brain development.8  In addition, a high proportion of Hispanic or Latino youths do not continue their education in order to help support their family.9

The increase in Hispanic students in our schools provides an incredible opportunity to build community and connections. We need to be intentional at empowering all students to communicate and advocate for their needs by providing them with platforms to share their dreams and aspirations. They are the future of our community, so we have a responsibility to invest in them and help them succeed

Adela Mendoza
Executive Director
Hispanic Alliance

Hispanic students are more highly represented in higher-poverty schools—schools that tend to have higher teacher turnover, less experienced teachers, and are lower performing.   For the twenty schools in the state with 50% or more Hispanic students in 2023, the average school poverty rate was 81%–twenty percentage points higher than for state public schools as whole. (Discover similar data using the ”Comparisons” table in the “Students” data section of this website.)

Among Hispanic students in South Carolina, 44% of 3rd graders met or exceeded expectations in English language arts in 2023 (54% of all students and 67% of White), 26% of 8th-graders met or exceeded expectations in math (32% of all students and 45% of White), and 80% of high schoolers graduated on time (84% of all students, 87% of white).10  (Learn more about this in the “Achievement” data section on this website.)

However, there is far to go to reach that objective.  While Hispanic students comprise 29% of the student population in public schools nationally, only 9% of teachers (in 2022) are Hispanic.12   For South Carolina, the percentages are 13% of students and 2% of teachers. (In the state, 32% of students are Black or African American and 16% of teachers.)13

Improving the learning environment for all students, Hispanic students bring a multitude of talents and assets to the classroom such as the ability to navigate across and between cultural and linguistic differences.14  “Diverse classrooms, in which students learn cooperatively alongside those whose perspectives and backgrounds are different from their own, are beneficial to all students—including white students—because these environments promote creativity, motivation, deeper learning, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.”15

More facts on this topic can be found on this website.  Search on “Hispanic” to see where more information is available.  A Spanish version of the website is forthcoming.  


1Digest of Education Statistics, Table 203.50. Enrollment and percentage distribution of enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools by race/ethnicity and region: Selected years, fall 1995 through fall 2031, National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Dept. of Education. from SC Dept. of Education, Active Student Headcounts.
4 Unidos US, “Latino Student Success: Advancing U.S. Educational Progress for All,” 2022.
6U.S. Dept. of Education, “Educational Experiences of English Learners:  Access to and Enrollment in Early Learning Programs, Advanced Coursework, and Dual Credit Programs.”
7Unidos US.
8 Sisters of Charity Foundation, “South Carolina: Structural Factors Associated with Poverty,” 2020.
9 Pew Research Center, “Latinos and Education: Explaining the Attainment Gap,” 2009., “The Data,” from SC School Report Cards.
11Gershenson, S. and Papageorge, N., “Through peer learning, the benefits of teacher diversity extend beyond classroom walls,” Brookings, 2023.
12Unidos US., “The Data,” from SC Dept. of Education.
14Unidos US.
15The Century Foundation, ”The Benefits of Socioeconomically and Racially Integrated Schools and Classrooms,” 2019.