The first meeting of the president's Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans took place today in Washington, D.C. Among the participants was Commissioner Jaime A. Escalante of Roseville, California who was appointed by President Bush to report and advise on strategies for improving the educational achievement of Hispanic Americans. Escalante's success in teaching advanced mathematics to inner-city students was portrayed in the 1988 Academy Award-nominated film Stand and Deliver.
President Bush authorized the 21-member commission in October 2001 and charged it with creating a multi-year plan to close the educational achievement gap between Hispanic American students and their peers. The commission will monitor and measure the performance of federal agencies in creating initiatives within Hispanic communities, identify successful methods of improving education as well as recommend ways to help Hispanic parents prepare their children to graduate from high school and pursue higher education.
" It is imperative that every child in America have the opportunity to achieve educational excellence," said Secretary Paige. "I commend these commission members who will give of their time and expertise to help identify the best strategies to close the inexcusable achievement gap between Hispanic American students and their peers."
Hispanics make up the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. public education system. They have the lowest rate of participation in early childhood development programs and the highest dropout rate with more than 30 percent of Hispanic students dropping out every year-twice the rate of African American students at 14 percent and almost four times the rate of Anglo students at 8 percent. Currently, only 10 percent of all Hispanics obtain a college education.
Leslie Sanchez, director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, said: "President Bush took a critical step when he created this commission to address problems specific to Hispanic students within the education system. His actions not only show his commitment to leaving no child behind, it also shows his understanding of what makes a superior education system-one that ensures all children are able to achieve their highest potential."
The 17 commission members announced thus far are: Frank Hanna of Atlanta, Georgia (Co-Chair); Patricia Janette Mazzuca of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Co-Chair); Micaela Alvarez of McAllen, Texas; Christopher Jeffrey Barbic of Houston, Texas; Jose Guadalupe Canchola of Tucson, Arizona; Jaime Alfonso Escalante of Roseville, California; Charles Patrick Garcia of Boca Raton, Florida; Norma Sanchez Garza of Brownsville, Texas; Alexander Gonzalez of San Marcos, California; Miguel Angel Her-nandez, Jr. of Sea Brook, Texas; Jose Eugenio Hoyos of Dale City, Virginia; Francisco Jose Paret of Palo Alto, California; Altagracia Ramos of Beaver-creek, Ohio; Enedelia Schofield of Hillsboro, Oregon; Ofelia Saenz Vanden Bosch of Houston, Texas; Rene Vasquez of San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Octavio Jesus Visiedo of Coral Gables, Florida.
Secretary Paige will serve as an ex-officio member of the commission, as will Hector Barreto, head of the Small Business Administration; Paul O'Neill, secretary of the Treasury; and Mel Martinez, secretary of Housing and Urban Development.