In recent weeks, there has been significant chatter about the shift in P-12 school demographics across the United States. In this Education Week piece, reporter Lesli Maxwell notes:
America’s public schools are on the cusp of a new demographic era.
This fall, for the first time, the overall number of Latino, African-American, and Asian students in public K-12 classrooms is expected to surpass the number of non-Hispanic whites.
The new collective majority of minority schoolchildren—projected to be 50.3 percent by the National Center for Education Statistics—is driven largely by dramatic growth in the Latino population and a decline in the white population, and, to a lesser degree, by a steady rise in the number of Asian-Americans. African-American growth has been mostly flat.
These shifts have results in folks talking about “majority-minority districts,” those school districts where the number of white students is less than the number of minority students. Of course, such a concept is nothing new. We have long had districts that were majority African American or majority Latino or majority Asian-American. But the rapid shift of some districts, going from majority white to majority minority is sure to catch folks’ eye.
Why does Eduflack raise this? Because of personal realization. Last evening, the edu-wife and I headed over to our local school for a “new parents orientation.” It was a great event. The teachers and administrators who led the event were top notch. The orientation went as scheduled, with nothing taking them off track., And for a welcome for district-wide new parents in the middle of August, the school auditorium was almost standing-room only, with most families represented by both parents.
And then there was the parents themselves. In a sea of parents, the edu-wife and I were one of only a handful of parents who were not of color. I may have missed a few, but it seemed there were maybe five or six other parental sets that looked like us. There is no question we had moved into a “majority-minority” district.
We picked the town because of the schools. Great schools. Experienced teachers. Strong attention on the whole child. A running list of services and opportunities to ensure our kids get the best public education possible (particularly important in a house with a struggling reader).
Out of curiosity, I checked out the demographics this morning. We live in a community that, as a whole, is about 55 percent white. Last year, 33 percent of the student population was white, representing a major shift in resident demographics over the past two decades.
Then I dove a little deeper into the student demographics. Minority students comprised 70.6 percent of last year’s first grade class. And 75.5 percent of last year’s kindergarten class. And 87.8 percent of last year’s preK class.
So why write about this on this little ol’ blog? No, it isn’t that I am just waking up to demographic shifts in our country. As the father of two Latino students, it is something I am well aware of.
The real answer is we need to get to the point where we stop thinking about majority-majority and majority-minority school districts. What I saw last evening, and what I have seen in countless schools where I’ve visited or observed, is that this is America. Our schools are now the melting pot that our Founders envisioned. They are where stereotypes can be broken .., or reinforced. They are where opportunity can be found, regardless of race or family income.
I’m proud that my two kiddos are now going to be a part of that educational quilt. They will meet kids from backgrounds they know nothing about (there are more than 45 languages spoken in our little ol’ district). They will be on the frontlines of that new demographic area. And it will seem completely normal to them.