American Student Body Growing Larger, More Diverse
> 8/28/2006 12:47:32 PM

Not only is student enrollment for 2006 the highest in our country's history, but our class makeup is changing rapidly. This expansion, fueled in part by the upcoming children of immigrants and baby boomers, has both positive and negative implications. While our classrooms become more inclusive and representative of the shifting American populace, bringing in brighter students from varied ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, many districts suffer from over-enrollment and encounter difficulties in building new schools and finding the teachers necessary to fill the resulting positions.

A recent New York Times article on these education trends highlights the actions some overstuffed schools are taking to creatively address new demands. Not only does the student pool now include far more immigrants and minorities than it did in the past; districts are also increasingly looking into previously unexplored sources of educators both at home and abroad. Statistics published in the Washington Post give an idea of how much our school populations are changing: the percentage of non-white students in our school system grew from 22 percent to 43 percent in the last thirty years. Hispanic students, who made up only 6 percent of our collective student body in 1972, now make up 19 percent. In six states, white students have become the minority. Overall enrollment increased by nearly 8 million in the last fifteen years.

Some unfortunate statistics remain: students attending our country's poorest schools are still overwhelmingly black, Hispanic and Native American. Other racial and socioeconomic groups are flourishing, with districts like those outside of Washington, DC reporting a sizable influx of South and East Asians as well as a huge increase in numbers of Hispanic students. One method of addressing these changes has been seeking new teachers overseas. In Loudon county Virginia, for example, administrators turned to search firms to find instructors for subjects like English as a second language as far away as the Phillipines and Colombia.

Researchers also forecast geographical shifts in the student body, with areas in the south and midwest experiencing the most growth and some northern states actually experiencing negative population trends. America has long been recognized as a great melting pot, but our future sees the face of American education changing and many school districts struggling to keep up. Improvisation will not always serve as an effective coping mechanism, and the larger framework of our education system clearly needs to adapt by necessity. Exactly how we will accomplish these wide-scale changes will most likely become the dominant topic in education over the next decade and beyond.

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