Ohio Schools Experience Change in Student Demographics

Diversity in the Classroom

Ohio is firmly planted in the Midwest; however, the face of the state has been steadily changing in correlation with demographic shifts spurred partly by immigration. These changes can clearly be seen in Ohio classrooms. Public schools across the state are experiencing tremendous diversification as students from various countries, speaking different languages and supporting different cultural traditions have joined the classroom in search of an American education and American opportunities.

Changing Student Demographics

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Ohio isn’t alone; student demographics across the country illustrate major change.

(Percentage differences in national averages from 1993 to 2006)

Caucasian: 10 percent drop

  • 1993: 66 percent
  • 2006: 56 percent

African American: No change

  • 1993: 17 percent
  • 2006: 17 percent

Hispanic: 8 percent growth

  • 1993: 13 percent
  • 2006: 21 percent

Asian: 1 percent growth

  • 1993: 4 percent
  • 2006: 5 percent

Native American: No change

  • 1993: 1 percent
  • 2006: 1 percent

According to the 2006 data provided by National Center for Education Statistics, Ohio ranks 37th in diversity in the United States.

(Percentage differences in Ohio from 1987 to 2006)

Caucasian: 5 percent drop

  • 1987: 84 percent
  • 2006: 79 percent

African American: 3 percent growth

  • 1987: 14 percent
  • 2006: 17 percent

Hispanic: 2 percent growth

  • 1987: 1 percent
  • 2006: 3 percent

Asian: No change

  • 1987: 1 percent
  • 2006: 1 percent

Native American: No change

  • 1987: 0 percent
  • 2006: 0 percent

Demographic shifts and trends suggest that in the near future, no one racial or ethnic group will make up the majority, and classrooms throughout the country will become more diversified.

The Impact of Classroom Diversity

diversity classroom

Diversity strongly impacts the classroom. A diverse student body opens up cultural dialogue, helps to bridge cultural gaps and buildsa broader awareness and understanding by students of cultural differences among their peers.

Diversity can also present challenges for teachers, administrators and other staff members who must alter pedagogy methods to meet a dynamic, multicultural classroom’s changing needs. The Center for Public Education identified the various needs of increasingly diverse classrooms, including:

  • Highly qualified bilingual and ESL teachers: ESL students traditionally have a harder time in school compared to their non-ESL peers. A 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress study shows achievement gaps between the two student groups. Ensuring schools are staffed with qualified bilingual and ESL teachers can help close achievement gaps existing between groups.
  • Preschool programs designed for young students whose first language isn’t English: Young students whose native language is not English often have difficulty adjusting to the traditional classroom, which can cause them to fall behind. High-quality prekindergarten and school readiness programs can prepare students to succeed in the classroom and close achievement gaps.
  • Policies that address gaps in dropout rates, test scores, high school completion rates and college entrance rates: Some minority groups still lag despite studies that report an increase in graduation rates among all demographics. Crafting policies and implementing resources to assist all groups can help raise achievement levels.
  • Equity in resources among schools within the same district: Some ESL students are at a disadvantage simply because of the school in which they are enrolled. These schools may operate on tighter budgets or have an inexperienced staff. Ensuring equity throughout a district helps to get all students on a level playing field for academic success.


Competing in Today’s Economy

Ohio’s economy has long been supported by large manufacturing cities and small farming communities. However, continuing changes in the global economy spurred the state’s economic leaders to delve deeper into complex industries for greater economic growth and stability, including technology, health care and financial services.

To maintain Ohio’s world-renowned business reputation, the state is in need of a dynamic, highly educated workforce to foster continued development, power innovations and bolster an entrepreneurial spirit among the state’s leaders. Ohio’s public school system will help lay an educational foundation for the state’s future workforce. It should be noted that schools across the nation are seeing disparities in education levels and achievement gaps, which result in employment inequalities. According to a 2009 report from the U.S. Census Bureau, only 61 percent of Hispanic students complete high school, compared to over 90 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 81.4 percent of African Americans. College graduation rates show further academic disparities. Over 29 percent of non-Hispanic whites earn a bachelor’s degree, compared to 18 percent of African Americans and just over 12 percent of Hispanics. This gap continues into the workforce. Fewer Hispanics and African Americans hold management or professional jobs (18 percent and 17.6 percent, respectively) compared to non-Hispanic whites (31.1 percent).

Closing classroom achievement gaps can help encourage minority students to graduate high school and continue their education to qualify for management or professional positions.

Preparing all students for continued education after high school graduation is imperative to establishing a well-trained and educated workforce. Ohio ranks 37th in overall diversity despite being the 10th most densely populated state. However, demographic shifts and immigration trends illustrate a country moving towards a more diverse population, which will be seen in Ohio’s classrooms.

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