The Atlantic published an article just yesterday entitled “Was ‘Brown v. Board’ a Failure?” and it got me thinking about the ethnic diversity within Alabama’s schools. How racially integrated are our schools? As you may guess, it varies greatly from school to school and system to system.
I have followed my local school system’s increasing diversity from about 2003 to the present, and it is remarkable to view the increasing ethnic diversity in this school system.
The article got me thinking that maybe y’all might want to know about the ethnic diversity in your local system. So here’s how to find the official report compiled by the ALSDE (Alabama State Department of Education):
Go to this link. Choose “Enrollment by Ethnicity and Gender (School Level)” from the drop-down menu. Click “Go”.
Choose (1) the year, (2) the system name. Choose (3) “yes” on “View all schools?”.
Next you decide if you want to (4) “View all school details?” Clicking yes will give you the breakdown by grade, ethnicity and gender for all schools. This makes a nice PDF. Conversely, clicking “no” will give you the option of click the “+” mark beside each school’s name to view the details once the report is generated and results in a less cluttered report if you are only interested in your child’s school. I always choose “yes”, because I like to export the report to a PDF and view it that way…but I wanted to give you the choice. Then (5) click “View report”.
The report will be generated. Viewing it within the frame provided is cumbersome, and there is a better way to view the report. You will need to export it. Here’s how: Click the pull-down menu that says “Select a format”. (1) Select your format (I choose PDF…or Excel if I’m feeling spreadsheet-y). Then (2) click “Export”. It will ask you if you want to open it or save it. Your choice on that one, too.
Once you’ve exported it, take a look at it. There’s a lot of information there, broken down by grade level, ethnicity and gender.
Another report that you might want to view to gain further perspective on the children who attend your community schools is the “Free Lunch by System and School” report. This report shows the number of children receiving free and reduced lunches within your school, and shows that population as a percentage of total students in the school.
Choose (1) the year, (2) the system and (3) choose “yes” from the “View all schools?” drop-down menu. Then (4) click “View Report”. I suggest exporting this as well, using the same procedure described above and pictured below.
Looking at my local school system, there is a range of students receiving a free or reduced lunch of 3.5% to 49.27% among our elementary schools (showing the results of geographic zoning of schools) with the percentages more equivalent at the middle and high school levels. This is addressed in the study referred to in The Atlantic article where the authors conclude that elementary school zones are necessarily smaller and draw from a more homogeneous population. The zones typically get larger in middle schools and high schools, which typically dilutes the population of children in poverty (of which free and reduced lunch recipients are a measure).
Why are these reports important? Why should you bother to learn about the other students in your child’s school? Well, one reason is that you will be a better advocate for your child’s school when speaking with those who make policy and decisions related to your school and school district. If your school has a high poverty level (indicated by free or reduced lunch recipients), your school leaders may face different challenges than a school with a very low poverty level. If you know that your school has a high poverty level, you can advocate for more resources to address the challenges faced, if needed.
I say if resources are needed because George Hall Elementary School in Mobile County dispels the myth that children in poverty cannot learn at high levels. Check out this story on George Hall from WBHM, Birmingham’s public radio station, which aired in two parts (Part 1 and Part 2) just last week.
While all children can certainly learn at high levels, all children learn differently. What works in one school may not work in another. Knowing the characteristics of your student population is important in order to tailor instruction and learning opportunities for the children in your school community.
You can view these reports on any school system in the state of Alabama. Check out your neighbors’ schools. What do you see? What do you think the answer is to the question posed by The Atlantic: Was Brown v. Board a Failure?