Supporters of the Drew Charter School, received positive news last night. Their request to expand the school, adding 1,000 additional students over the next several years was approved by the Atlanta Board of Education. The additional seats include level.
Prior to the decision, some interesting comments were made by APS Superintendent, Erroll B. Davis. Mr Davis, who 's expansion, said that the school had not been aggressive enough recruiting locally, and therefore, its students had become more affluent. Specifically, he said that he was concerned that if the school was going to break the cycle of poverty, impoverished students need to be in the school.
It is true that in recent years, Drew Charter School has attracted more students who do not qualify for free and reduced lunch programs. In October 2011, 68% of Drew's students qualified for free and reduced lunch programs. In October of 2000, soon after the school started, 72% of Drew's students qualified for free and reduced lunch programs.
It does not appear to me that this shift is the result of an effort on Drew's part to change its student mix. Instead, it is a result of demographic changes occurring in the area. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, gentrification in South East Atlanta has begun to result in more diverse local schools.
In 2010, Census Tract 20802, which includes Drew Charter School was 1% Asian, 64% Black, 2% Hispanic, 2% Multiracial, and 31% White. That is significantly more diverse than the year 2000, when the same Census Tract was 0% Asian, 81% Black, 2% Hispanic, 2% Multiracial, and 14% White.
The changing demographics of the area have not only affected the Drew Charter School, but have also affected traditional public schools.
As of this fall, the zoned traditional public school for East Lake is Toomer Elementary in nearby Kirkwood. Last October, 56% of Toomer's students qualified for the free or reduced lunch program, a lower percentage than Drew Charter School. In 2000, 100% of Toomer students qualified for the program.
The younger grades at both schools have also become more racially diverse in recent years. I have attached two tables showing the racial composition by grade at each school.
As you can see from the tables, these schools are not becoming enclaves for a single race. Rather, they are beginning to reflect the diversity of the surrounding community.
I have to admit that I am a bit confused as to why increased diversity would be a concern for Mr. Davis. I personally am concerned to see a school that is 99% single race, or 99% economically disadvantaged, or 0% economically disadvantaged. When schools like Toomer and Drew are able to attract ethnically and economically diverse students, shouldn't they be commended, rather than reprimanded?