Data compiled by Education Northwest researchers show a significant shift in student demographics in our region in recent years. Most notably, the number of Hispanic students has nearly quadrupled in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, and Washington, increasing from 106,000 in 1992–93 to 395,000 in 2012–13.
Number of racial/ethnic minority students in public elementary and secondary schools, by minority group:
Analyzing data from the U.S. Department of Education and regional state education agencies, our researchers also found that the proportion of English language learner (ELL) students in the Northwest states has risen by 46 percent over the past 15 years, but that growth rate is tapering off. After rapid increases in the late 1990s and the first years of the new century, four of the five Northwest states are now showing declines in numbers of ELL students while Washington has experienced continued growth.
An alarming shift in demographics occurred among children living in poverty, with the number of children in families with income below the poverty level increasing 30 percent from 2007 to 2012. However, the average family income of public school students varies greatly by race/ethnicity in the Northwest. Poverty rates for black, Hispanic, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander children are over 30 percent, but those for white and Asian children are less than half that rate (under 15 percent).
The largest and fastest growing group of students in the region, Hispanics, also has low high school completion rates and low college participation. A large fraction of Hispanic children face the need to learn English as a second language and fully one third come from families living in poverty. A key challenge for educators in our region is addressing the needs of Hispanic students as a group and as individuals.
- Education Northwest Senior Data Analyst Richard Greenough
As demographics shift in our region, educators and schools may need to change classroom practice, resource allocation, school and district services, and teacher training to keep up. In 2014, that means increasing their support of Hispanic students, ELL students, and students living in poverty. REL Northwest is dedicated to helping the region's practitioners and policymakers use data such as this to make evidence-informed decisions about how to better serve all students. Visit our priorities page to find out more about regional needs.