Is Diversity a Concern at Drew Charter School?

Drew Charter School has become more diverse, as have other SE Atlanta schools. Is that a bad thing?

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?

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LPMom July 10, 2012 at 06:07 PM
Peralte, why don't you add in the data for East Lake Elementary?
Jarod Apperson July 10, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Hi LP Mom, the enrollment data for all of the APS schools can be found at the link below. http://app3.doe.k12.ga.us/ows-bin/owa/fte_pack_ethnicsex.entry_form
Jarod Apperson July 10, 2012 at 06:35 PM
The link to previous article is broken. Here is a working link. http://gradingatlanta.tumblr.com/post/25845193967/three-atlanta-elementary-schools-to-watch
LPMom July 10, 2012 at 06:58 PM
I understand, but writing this article and only using the comparison tables for Drew and Toomer (which support your position) while excluding the very different numbers from East Lake Elem which has the most students from their zone attending Drew and will be combining with Toomer next year is a little questionable. In addition, might I point out that Drew has not been recognized for their diversity, but for their success at educating low SES and majority african american children.
Jarod Apperson July 10, 2012 at 07:19 PM
My point is that there are examples of traditional public schools that have become more diverse as well. Toomer is an excellent example of that. Parkside is another. I do not think my article implies that all APS schools are becoming diverse. They certainly aren't, and East Lake was not diverse last year.
LPMom July 10, 2012 at 08:23 PM
Jared, this is what you said, "The changing demographics of the area have not only affected the Drew Charter School, but have also affected traditional public schools." It has affected one school in the same area - not East Lake Elem, not Whitefoord Elem, not Burgess Peterson, just Toomer. Saying that its okay for Drew to be enrolling a higher percentage of middle class kids instead of low SES kids because it's a reflection of the surrounding communities is simply not true. Drew and the EL Foundation were created to improve education and outcomes for low SES kids and they have done that. On their website (I think from 2010) they state the school is 98% african american and 85% free and reduced lunch. I think you should double check that 72%.
Jarod Apperson July 10, 2012 at 08:38 PM
You can check the 72% here: http://app3.doe.k12.ga.us/ows-bin/owa/fte_pack_frl001_public.entry_form East Lake is economically diverse. The median income in East Lake is $42,895. You can check that here: http://projects.nytimes.com/census/2010/explorer Toomer and Drew have both attracted middle-class families from East Lake, Edgewood, Kirkwood, and East Atlanta. Students at both schools are zoned for Whitefoord, East Lake, and Burgess Peterson, but they choose to go to Toomer and Drew. The area itself is diverse. Drew and Toomer are the only schools that reflect that diversity.
LPMom July 10, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Sorry Jared. I was going off what is on Drew's website. I guess they just misrepresented the numbers on their charter application summary. Kind of makes me wonder what else was misrepresented. http://www.drewcharterschool.org/images/stories/pdfs/charter2010.pdf
Jarod Apperson July 10, 2012 at 09:20 PM
Yeah, I'm not sure where the 85% referenced in the application comes from. At the DOE site I linked to, there was not any year when economic disadvantage reached 85%. However, it does vary year-to-year. According to the DOE data, It was highest in 2006, at 83%.
Ellen Buettner October 07, 2013 at 02:23 PM
I know this is an old article- but last year at Toomer free and reduced lunch stats were 73.25 and Drew's were 61.67. The same year you cite Toomer and Drew's stats East Lake was 89.95 free and reduced lunch- the next year it combined with Toomer- of course greatly reflecting our stats, while Drew was 67.80. Toomer obviously absorbed more low SES students than Drew.


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