The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the Latino population totals over 46 million people, with projections indicating Latino individuals will account for nearly 1 in 3 U.S. residents by the year 2050 (USCB, 2008). Currently, nearly 40 percent of the Latino population is under the age of 20 (Ramirez and de la Cruz, 2003). Concomitant with this population growth is a pressing need to address significant social-emotional, behavioral, and academic disparities between Latino children and non-Latino white children (Farkas, 2003;USDHHS, 2001;Wright and Troop, 2005). Perceptions of a closed school community have been found to create or exacerbate problems with academic performance, educational aspirations, and behavioral-emotional functioning for Latino youth (Romero and Roberts, 2003;Szalacha et al., 2003;Vega et al., 1995). Intervention and prevention research suggests social acceptance of Latino students and integration into the school community are key environmental factors that promote positive functioning (Ibaqez et al., 2004;Suarez-Orozco and Suarez-Orozco, 1995;Valencia, 2002). The goal of this Phase II SBIR project is to continue the research and development of a school-based cultural heritage curriculum for upper elementary school students, Cultural Heritage Stories for Kids: Latino Series (hereafter CHSK:LS), to create the full product, including a story library of traditional and acculturation stories from different Latino cultures (e.g., Mexican American, Puerto Rican, Cuban), presented by professional Latino storytellers in both English and Spanish. CHSK:LS will provide school professionals with an innovative effective universal classroom intervention specifically designed to celebrate Latino cultural heritage, promote understanding of cultural diversity in the classroom, and engender a more integrated, accepting classroom environment. During Phase I, the CHSK:LS prototype materials were evaluated very positively by school professionals as well as parents and children. However, specific suggestions for Phase II development were noted.
The first aim of Phase II will be to revise and extend based on the feedback attained during Phase I, Phase II stakeholder input, and expert advice of Advisory Board members. Once the CHSK:LS product is completed, the second aim of Phase II will be to conduct a rigorous test of the product efficacy via a randomized treatment-control experimental design assessing change as a function of participation in CHSK-LS for two sets of outcomes: (a) individual student-level social, behavioral, emotional, and academic functioning at school and (b) overall classroom climate.
The third aim will be to the finalize all product materials based on Phase II findings and evaluations from product testing, package all components for commercialization, and ready the product for broad-scale dissemination through our commercialization partner. The proposed Phase II SBIR project will result in a highly innovative intervention package with substantial competitive advantages, providing schools with a much needed evidence-based intervention package to promote multicultural awareness and integration, and address behavioral health disparities for Latino students.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the Latino population totals over 46 million people, with projections indicating Latino individuals will account for nearly 1 in 3 U.S. residents by the year 2050 (USCB, 2008). Currently, nearly 40 percent of the Latino population is under the age of 20 (Ramirez and de la Cruz, 2003). From 1993 to 2003, the number of minority school enrollments increased from 34 to 41 percent, with Latino students accounting for the majority of that increase (6 percentage points;NCES, KewalRamani et al., 2007). Compared to non-Latino white children, Latino children are at profoundly greater risk for a wide variety of academic problems (Farkas, 2003;USDHHS, 2001;Wright and Troop, 2005), including lower school engagement, grades, and test scores (NCES, KewalRamani et al., 2007;NCES Status and Trends in Edu of Hisp, 2003). In addition, perceived discrimination and insecurity about ethnic identity has been linked to externalizing behavior problems, increased depressive symptoms, and diminished self-esteem (Umaqa-Taylor and Updegraff, 2007, Vega et al., 1995). Culturally specific factors, such as a cultural mismatch between the home and school community, low school integration, and negative stereotyping, have been shown to contribute to decreased school performance (Kroth, 2009;USDEd, 2000;Viadero, 2000). Further, an increasingly frustrating school environment for Latino students can foster high levels of absenteeism and school dropout rates. Nearly 50 percent of Latino students do not graduate from high school (Orfield et al., 2004). Dropping out of school, in turn, has serious consequences for Latino youth, placing them at risk for unemployment, reduced income, diminished health outcomes, use of public assistance, and increased likelihood for delinquent, criminal, and risk-taking behaviors (see Sweeten et al., 2009). Furthermore, the financial costs to society of school dropout are great. Approximately 600,000 youth drop out of high school each year in the Unites States (Muennig, 2000). It has been estimated that if those students had completed their high school diplomas instead, states could save more than $2.3 billion in public insurance utilization and student gains in lifetime earnings could be as much as $72 billion dollars (Muennig, 2000).