Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Nashville schools: 13% Hispanic

Six of 133 schools are majority Hispanic, says board chair

"The face of the Nashville community has changed, with a much richer diversity that should be embraced."

Marsha Warden, chairwoman of the Metropolitan Nashville Board of Education, stated in this article in the Tennessean that 13% of Metro school students are Hispanic, with six schools of 133 being majority Hispanic.

This December 5 story in the Tennessean put the representation of Hispanic students in Nashville/Davidson County schools at 12.1%, with Rutherford County at 6.4%, Sumner County at 3.1%, Williamson County at 2.8%, and Wilson County at 2.2%.

In 2004, state-wide figures from the College Board reported that 1.8% of advanced placement test-takers were Hispanic, with Hispanics representing only 1% of Tennessee students.

Excerpts from Warden's commentary:

[W]hite enrollment in MNPS is 35 percent. Hispanic enrollment has risen from zero percent in 1995 to 13 percent. In addition, students representing 83 countries and 78 languages attended our schools last year. And out of 133 schools:

• 33 are majority white.

• 65 are majority African-American.

• Six schools are majority Hispanic.

• 29 schools are balanced, with no racial group in the majority.

Warden wrote in reaction to recent arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court that Nashville's education system is segregated (story here). Warden disputed that sentiment, saying, "Metro Nashville Public Schools have moved from a majority white, bicultural, school system to a plurality, multicultural school system. The face of the Nashville community has changed, with a much richer diversity that should be embraced."

The nation's highest court is being asked to determine the constitutionality of using race as a factor in assigning students to schools, even in the name of diversity.

According to Warden, "Nashville's 1998 integration plan actually included race as one of the minor factors to consider when the zone lines for schools were drawn. The plan has not changed but, during the years, what has changed are the demographics of students going to public schools."

In 2005, the Nashville school board considered using socio-economic integration as a zoning tool, with a visit to a county in North Carolina that already uses such a system (story in the Hispanic Nashville Notebook here).

The Franklin Special School District in Williamson County, just to the south of Nashville, has also eyed diversity as an educational prize. This 2003 story in the Tennessean described a Williamson County school's efforts to attract minorities: "Poplar Grove is the [Franklin Special School District]'s only open-zoned, year-round school. It is also the least diverse school in the system. Last month the board voted to rezone its other four elementary schools in an effort to spread out the diversity but left Poplar Grove open-zoned under the stipulation that it enroll at least 50 minority students in the kindergarten class over the next two years. ... The top consideration for admission after siblings is minority status."

Photo credit: tree & j hensdill

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