School diversity is less widespread in central and northern states
- In 2020, there will be more children of color than white children in the U.S.
- These maps indicate how racial diversity is changing the demographics of America's schools
- Diversity has massively increased, but more so in the south and on the coasts than elsewhere
Demographic change is here
This hex map (3) shows the degree of change in diversity in America's schools from 1994/95 to 2016/17. A higher value (and darker color) means more change, and vice versa. The biggest change in diversity by far was noted in DC, the least in New Mexico, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Image courtesy of Cédric Scherer
The U.S. is undergoing profound demographic change: by the early 2040s, it will be a 'majority minority' country – whites will make up less than half of the total population.
That change won't just suddenly arrive two decades from now. In the younger demographic cohorts, it's already here. In 2020, there will be more children of color than white children, the U.S. Census Bureau projects.
Different degrees of diversity
The second hex map shows the degree of diversity itself, in 2016/17. The index tends to be higher in coastal and southern states, lower in central and northern ones. Delaware appears to have the most diverse schools, West Virginia the least.
Image courtesy of Cédric Scherer
Comparing nationwide data 22 years apart (1994/95 and 2016/17), the Washington Post recently examined whether the racial diversity of America's young was matched by racial integration in its public schools. And indeed: more school districts are diverse than ever before, and more students now attend schools with children of different races than ever before.
- In 1995, 45% of students went to school in diverse districts (1), most of which tended to be in large metropolitan areas and in the South. Nearly a third of students went to school in 'extremely undiverse' districts: in mainly rural, mostly white areas of the country.
- Between 1995 and 2017, more than 2,400 districts switched from 'undiverse' to 'diverse', mainly in smaller cities and suburbs that had previously been almost uniformly white. In 2017, 66% of students attended school in diverse districts; the number of students in 'extremely undiverse' districts declined accordingly.
White or diverse? Both or neither?
This bivariate (4) map shows both where the 'whiter' school districts are: in the purple states; and where the more diverse states are: in the yellow states. "Obviously, the data is partly correlated: a high proportion of whites always leads to low diversity; but still I found the pattern quite interesting," says Mr Scherer. Low diversity also occurs in places with few white students, e.g. New Mexico and Mississippi; and New York manages to be both quite white and fairly diverse.
Image courtesy of Cédric Scherer
- As a result, in 2017 early 11 million students went to school in 'highly integrated' school districts: more than ever, and nearly double the 5.8 million children in 'non-integrated' districts. The remainder, 10.3 million students, attended school in 'somewhat integrated' school districts.
These maps are based on the same data (2) used by the Washington Post, but take a slightly different tack. "I calculated the Simpsons diversity index, a quantitative measure used in ecology to estimate the species diversity in a community. High values (max 1) indicate high diversity and low values (min 1) low diversity," says Cédric Scherer, a Berlin-based computational ecologist and data visualization designer.
Strange Maps #998
Got a strange map? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(1) A school district counts as 'diverse' when less than 75% of the student body belongs to a single race; 'undiverse' when between 75% and 90% belong to a single race; and 'extremely undiverse' when more than 90% of the students belong to a single race.
(2) The Common Core of Data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Public school data only; no private, charter or virtual schools.
(3) Maps subdivided into hexagonal tiles.
(4) Bivariate data shows the relation between two variables, in this case 'whiteness' and 'diversity'.
Two-thirds of the achievement gap for American children is due to the "summer learning loss". Here's how we fix that.
Is America's achievement gap crisis caused by long summer vacations? "In lower income neighborhoods, kids forget anywhere from two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half months of what they learned during the school year over the summer, while their middle-class peers break even or even make gains," says Karim Abouelnaga, CEO of Practice Makes Perfect. This startling statistic is why he started a different kind of summer school, one based on a chain of near-peer mentors, where kids are connected with college students and college students are connected with teaching professionals. "This model, where everyone is sort of a participant but also a beneficiary, creates this win-win-win situation for everyone, making summer school a lot more fun and exciting." Why do some eighth grader students only have a fourth grade reading level? Theoretically speaking, they’ve only been in school for half the time, says Abouelnaga. To find out more, visit practicemakesperfect.org.
Humans worship at the altar of excellence, but is our complete obsession with this "quality controlled" mode of intellect holding us back?
We want our surgeons to be excellent. We wants our classical music performers to be excellent. But do we really want excellence everywhere? This is the provocative line of thought economist and mathematician Eric Weinstein is currently chasing. We've figured out how to reliably teach excellence, which is useful — but there is a trade-off. Individuals and education institutions become hyper-focused on cutting variant individuals to a certain shape, pushing them into a mold so they can passably imitate the "excellent" population, but not really perform. "The key question is: who are these high-variance individuals? Why are our schools filled with dyslexics? Why are there so many kids diagnosed with ADHD? My claim is these are giant underserved populations who are not meant for the excellence model." To that end, Weinstein suggests that the label of 'learning disabled' is severely misguided. Perhaps we should call this phenomenon what it more accurately is: a teaching disability. How much genius is squandered by muting the strengths of these populations?