Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Maryland Schools Experience Demographic Changes

Across the country, suburban school districts viewed as wealthy and white are rapidly changing and diversifying. As a result, perception is lagging reality.

To measure how rapidly the demographics of a school district are changing, a good place to start is examining the backgrounds of incoming kindergartners and comparing that against the averages for overall enrollment and upper grades.

The Washington Post reports that in the Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, Hispanics now make up the largest ethnic or racial group among kindergartners and first-graders.

Hispanics make up about 31 percent of students in those grade levels, the article reports. The district enrolls more than 151,000 students and continues to grow quickly. When it comes to all grades combined, whites are still the largest group at 32 percent (with Hispanics at 27.4 percent). Meanwhile, only about 5.3 percent of teachers are Hispanic.

Despite those changes, Superintendent Joshua P. Starr told the Post that people erroneously perceive the area to be a “wealthy white enclave.”

The district is high-performing, but significant achievement gaps remain for Hispanic students. The articles notes that only 20 percent of Hispanic and black eighth-graders performed at advanced levels on 2012 Maryland math exams, compared with 60 percent of white and Asian students. Additionally, the Post reports that Hispanics saw a 32 point drop in SAT exam scores.

The demographic changes combined with the achievement gap are prompting Latino activists to challenge the superintendent to improve academic outcomes for Hispanics.

What steps are rapidly changing districts in your area taking to better serve Hispanic students?

Related Links:

“Hispanic Students Outnumber Other Groups in Montgomery County’s Early Grades,” The Washington Post.
Montgomery County Public Schools