Changing Face of Student Populations

Rachel Byrd, Victorville (California) Daily Press, May 23, 2008

Some 15 years ago, the local parent population within the Victor Elementary School District consisted largely of those in the service at George Air Force Base, according to superintendent Ralph Baker.

But since the base closed, there have been some major changes in the local school “clients,” Baker said.

“That well-disciplined and orderly part of our population has been replaced with a percentage of our population that are either attached to somebody within the prison, or that person has been released from a prison to this area,” Baker said. “They tend to be more anti-authoritarian.”

Now parents are quicker to threaten schools with lawsuits rather than work out the problem, Baker said.

There are other factors to consider as well.

Hesperia Unified School District Superintendent Mark McKinney attributes the change in demographics to the number of people coming to the area for affordable housing, and not necessarily because they have a family member serving time.

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When the district was unified about 20 years ago, there were about 200 English language learners and Hispanics made up about 15 to 20 percent of the Hesperia district population, McKinney said. Now, there are more than 5,000 English language learners, and 56 percent of the population is Hispanic.

Teachers have had to adjust to the shift in demographics by changing their daily lessons so that they are understandable to English language learners, McKinney said.

They have also had to adjust to the fact that in many families, both parents work to make ends meet and don’t have as much time to sit down and help their kids with their homework—a practice that was more common 20 years ago.

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While the demographics have changed dramatically in the last 20 years, improvements in teaching methodologies has meant that the needs of all students continue to be met, according to Baker.

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