Langley Park study finds students face serious challenges
BY OVETTA WIGGINS June 23
Most of the children who live in Langley Park are at risk of not completing high school, as gang involvement, pregnancy and the need to work are all trumping education in the small, high-
poverty Prince George’s County community, according to a study released Monday.
The study found that 82 percent of Langley Park students are at risk by the time they reach ninth grade and that just 45 percent of the community’s students graduate from high school in four years, not much more than half the national high school graduation rate of 84 percent. More than half the adults in Langley Park have less than a ninth-grade education, almost 10 times the national average, highlighting concerns about how to increase the chances of success for the community’s children.
“While Langley Park is a vibrant community with engaged families and small business, it is also a community that has been under-served and under-supported for years and our children and families have suffered as a result,” said Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA of Maryland, a Latino and immigrant advocacy group that issued the report along with the county school system and the Urban Institute. “This report shows the serious, serious challenges this beautiful community faces because of the lack of community-wide support.”
CASA plans to use the results of the study to address the social, educational and economic needs of the community. The group is scheduled to open a Parent Academy this year to assist parents who have limited education and speak little English as part of an overall effort to support the needs of the children.
Langley Park — a community of 17,000 residents, most of whom emigrated from Central America — is located just outside the District, at the heart of the seventh-largest metropolitan concentration of immigrants in the United States. The community’s population is poor, and many lack access to health care and quality housing, all factors that can negatively effect student achievement.
The report was the result of a year-long examination of Langley Park that was part of a federal grant awarded to CASA to participate in the Promise Neighborhoods program, which the U.S. Education Department started in 2010 to help end the cycle of intergenerational poverty. The community-focused program provides funding to help improve educational opportunities by developing a “cradle to career pipeline for children” and providing comprehensive health, safety and support services in high-poverty neighborhoods.
Molly Scott, a researcher at the Urban Institute, said “From Cradle to Career: The Multiple Challenges Facing Immigrant Families in Langley Park Promise Neighborhood” is unique because it isolates trends of immigrants and their children. “All of the education data tends to lump Latinos together and lump all limited-English-proficient students together,” Scott said, noting that the Langley Park report focuses in on the residents of that specific community and its 3,700 children.
The study identified serious challenges and problems in Langley Park that pose hurdles for its residents and put children at a disadvantage:
■More than 90 percent of the students in Langley Park receive free and reduced-price meals in school, compared to 60 percent of students in Prince George’s and 44 percent of students across Maryland.
■Nearly 60 percent of Langley Park residents do not have health insurance.
■Almost 25 percent of the community’s residents move every year because of eviction, overcrowding and substandard housing.
■Twenty-nine percent of young people said they know someone who sells drugs or is in a gang.
■More than one third of the community’s 16- to 19-year-olds are working and not in school, four times the national average.
Prince George’s County Schools chief Kevin M. Maxwell said the report, which examines the schools, housing, access to health care and crime in Langley Park, offers the school system a “road map.” as it moves forward in its effort to turn around the long-struggling school district.
He said school leaders will work with CASA officials to see how best “to provide some different kinds of outcomes than we see right now. Working together, we can get some of that done. . . . We can’t do any of this in isolation.”
Authors of the study say they hope the report and the ongoing effort to address the community’s needs will be used as a national model for improving high-poverty immigrant communities.
“We really believe that this work can be replicated across the country,” said Eliza Leighton, who works with CASA. “We believe Langley Park Promise Neighborhood will be a model for two-
generation integrated service delivery in an immigrant community to ensure that all families are able to succeed.”