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Suburban districts see more minority students than ever

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout' started by da1, Aug 25, 2014.

  1. da1

    da1 Member

    Apr 8, 2008
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    By Leah Binkovitz and Mihir Zaveri
    August 23, 2014 | Updated: August 23, 2014 11:37pm

    The kids are getting anxious. Lined up against the walls of a sun-filled atrium, they struggle to stand still. In a few minutes they'll charge around the corner, down the halls of the Ridgemont Early Childhood Center in Fort Bend ISD and into their classroom for the year.

    Spanish and English conversations blend in the background as Nick Cantu keeps everything organized.

    "Please stand outside your doors," Cantu tells teachers over the loudspeaker. "Be prepared for your students' arrival." Then a final, "Good luck!"

    Teachers in public schools across the country are preparing for moments like this one. This year for the first time, most of their students will come from minority backgrounds, according to projections from the Department of Education.

    In many Houston-area districts, most of which start classes on Monday, "majority-minority" enrollments have long been the norm. It started in urban school systems like HISD, but suburban and rural counties increasingly are part of the changing picture as well. And many are faced with new challenges as their student makeup changes.

    On one end of the spectrum is Fort Bend ISD, with an almost even split among white, black, Asian and Hispanic students. The district has sought to embrace its diversity while responding to gaps in achievement among racial and ethnic groups with a comprehensive early childhood center modeled on the Harlem Children's Zone in New York.

    Conroe ISD, by contrast, remains majority white, but just barely. In response to a growing Hispanic population, the district is banking on bilingual hires and newcomers' centers that coordinate services.

    The two districts illustrate the broad national shift and the range of needs confronting educators, depending on their students' backgrounds.

    'More diverse'

    Conroe Superintendent Don Stockton has watched his district change along with the country.

    "We've become more diverse every year," he said.

    Twenty years ago, Hispanic students were roughly 12 percent of the student population. Now they're more than 30 percent of the district, which has grown by more than 25,000 students overall in that time.

    Nationally, the growth in minority populations has come largely from Asian and Hispanic families, said Richard Fry, a senior researcher at the Pew Research Center who analyzed the recent projections from the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics.

    While many of those school-age children are born in this country, their parents typically are not, said Fry. Many of these youngsters won't learn English until they enter the school system.

    This was precisely the challenge Conroe ISD anticipated 15 years ago. To serve the growing Hispanic community, the district hired Rodrigo Chaves.

    Chaves calls himself the "connector," because he matches students with services they need, such as social workers, proper health care or bilingual counselors - services Hispanic immigrant families often need to help their children succeed in school.

    Much of the district's response has focused on teachers. Conroe ISD increased the number of bilingual and English as a second language-certified teachers by about 100 between 2012 and 2013.

    This year the district is trying out a program at two campuses with new secondary school students, spending a year intensively going over subjects like biology and algebra for students who may never have seen an equation before they immigrated.


    But Maria Banos Jordan, president of the Texas Familias Council of Montgomery County, said the district's efforts aren't enough to overcome language and technology barriers for many Hispanic families. Whereas other districts - like Houston - have a long history of drawing together non-profits, public institutions, and the community to address challenges of a Hispanic population, efforts in Conroe other districts in Montgomery County are still young.

    Fort Bend, in contrast, has been "majority-minority" for more than 20 years. As the area's Asian and Hispanic populations grew in the past decade, it became a "poster child for almost equal distributions," said Steve Murdock, a sociology professor at Rice University and former head of the U.S. Census Bureau.

    In the fall of 2011, Fort Bend's enrollment was roughly 30 percent black, 26 percent Hispanic, 22 percent Asian and 20 percent white, according to the Texas Education Agency.

    But the poster child for diversity looks different from school to school.

    Ridgemont Elementary, which houses the district's early childhood center, had only two white and four Asian students enrolled in the 2011-2012 school year, for example. The rest were Hispanic or black, and 90 percent of its students are economically disadvantaged.

    Twelve miles away, Colony Meadows Elementary had 340 Asian students, 165 white students, 27 black and 50 Hispanic students. Just 6 percent of its students were economically disadvantaged.

    Outcomes for those students vary widely.

    Though the district performed above the state average on annual tests, African-American and Hispanic students often fell below the district average, according to the nonprofit Children at Risk.

    "That's not necessarily unique to Fort Bend," said Todd Latiolais, a staff attorney at Children at Risk, "but when you are dealing with school districts that really have that dynamic in terms of their student makeup, that's extra cause for concern for them."

    Tammie Campbell, whose children attended Fort Bend ISD schools, said the district should have advanced further in closing the gaps. She said the early childhood center and the district's first African-American superintendent, Charles Dupre, hired in 2013, represent progress.

    Hands-on approach

    Cantu hopes the hands-on approach at the early childhood center, in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the district, will lead to better outcomes for all student groups, more involved parents and smaller performance gaps.

    The center serves 259 children and is limited to students zoned to Ridgemont Elementary. When Cantu learned he'd be heading it in 2008, he went to New York to meet with the founder of the Harlem Children's Zone, Geoffrey Canada, and tour the facilities. "I told myself, that is what I want this to look like," he said.

    Today, Cantu oversees 46 teachers. They staff 12 classrooms starting with children as young as 6 weeks. Programs include a family literacy class for parents who struggle with English and a GED class. There's an after-school activity room. And this year, they opened up an on-site clinic with Access Health.

    'Really good data'

    The center's first class is entering third grade, the first year the children will take state-administered tests. "This is the year that I'm going to get some really good data," said Cantu. "I'm very confident."

    Cantu already has heard from teachers that the center's students arrive in the classroom ready to learn. And the adult programs have had some success, too. From the most recent English language class, seven of them tested high enough to go on and take the GED class.

    Katherine Joseph is happy with what she's seen at the center. Standing in a classroom at a meet-the-teacher event Thursday, she watched with a smile as her 2-year old daughter, Kennedi, played with her teacher. The white beads in Kennedi's hair clicked against each other as she shook her head with a squeal of delight.

    "I love the idea that I can drop her off and know she's going to learn," said Joseph.

    In a corner, Kennedi and her teacher sounded out the letters of the alphabet hanging on the wall. Joseph still remembers when Kennedi came home confidently pointing out colors around her.

    "She knows she can learn from other people," said Joseph, "not just Mom and Dad."

    Kennedi didn't want to stop playing. But the hallways had started clearing out.

    "Time to go," her mother said. Kennedi, smiling, stomped out the door.

    "Follow me," she told everyone, skipping down the hall and ready to return Monday.

    1 person likes this.
  2. MiddleMan

    MiddleMan Contributing Member

    May 20, 2005
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    Good read, as a parent of a 2 and half year old. I know the difference of my child's education will be me. He will attend public school, but I will make the difference in how my son will learn through out his school years.
  3. BDswangHTX

    BDswangHTX Member

    May 5, 2010
    Likes Received:
    Ramifications of hurricane Katrina?
  4. Xerobull

    Xerobull You son of a b!tch! I'm in!
    Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Far and away mostly true. However, not all school districts are equal. You'll usually get more out of a wealthier area vs poorer due to taxes.
  5. Mr.Scarface

    Mr.Scarface Member

    Jul 8, 2003
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    WTF? Katrina was 10 years ago (almost). Really? Not everything in the city has to do with Katrina. Matter of fact, wasn't too many hispanics in New Orleans. Take off the white hood...
  6. likestohypeguy

    Nov 10, 2009
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    I want my country back!
  7. asianballa23

    asianballa23 Member

    May 24, 2003
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    don't blame Katrina, blame all those anchor babies.

    there's hardly ever any true balanced diversity in most HISD schools nowadays. It's like all the Asian and white kids just disappear inside the beltway.
  8. Mr. Clutch

    Mr. Clutch Contributing Member

    Nov 8, 2002
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    It's cheaper to live out there
  9. Scarface281

    Scarface281 Contributing Member

    Mar 17, 2009
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    Whats up Slick Vik from haif?
  10. BDswangHTX

    BDswangHTX Member

    May 5, 2010
    Likes Received:
    I keed, I keed

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