Demographic Shifts Accompany Growth in PGCPS Enrollment

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

The 2015 Maryland Report Card is here. The 2015 data are not released all at once; county-specific numbers about standardized assessments and graduation rates will be published later. But in the meantime, the report has some interesting things to say about demographic trends in enrollment.

Enrollment in Prince George’s County Public Schools has been increasing since 2013, reversing a nine-year decline. The 2015 enrollment for PGCPS is 127,576, an increase of 2,440 students from 2014 enrollment and a total increase of 3,839 students since 2013.

But not all racial/ethnic subgroups are seeing growth. Though African American students still make up the largest subgroup (62.7% of all students), enrollment among African American students has declined over the last two years, from 81,786 in 2013, to 80,821 in 2014, to 79,915 in 2015.

Meanwhile, enrollment among Latino students has climbed to 35,597. That’s an increase of 3,267 since 2014, and 5,693 since 2013. Notice that the two-year gain in enrollment in the Latino subgroup (5,693) exceeds the two-year gain in total enrollment for the school system (3,839).

If we go back four years, the contrast between PGCPS’s two largest racial/ethnic subgroups is sharper: In the last four years, enrollment among African American students saw a decrease of 7,383 students, or 8.5%. Over the same period, enrollment among Latino students increased by 8,960 students, or 33.6%. The school system saw a four-year net increase of 905 students.

What about the other, smaller racial and ethnic subgroups? They are mostly holding steady, with very small changes in enrollment. Here is the breakdown in enrollment change from 2014 to 2015. (Click the hyperlinks to see the numbers going back to 2011.):

As PGCPS experiences growth in enrollment and shifts in racial and ethnic demographics, the system is also serving an increasing number of students who qualify for special services.

In 2015, 71.3% of elementary school students qualify for free and reduced meals (FARMs), up slightly from 2014, when the number was 69.8%. The percentage of FARMs qualifying students has steadily increased for more than a decade. In 2004, the earliest year for which data is available on the Maryland Report Card, just over half (50.8%) of elementary students qualified for free and reduced meals. The percentage of middle school students qualifying for FARMs is 66% this year, up from 64% last year. For high school students, the percentage is 56.4%, up from 52.2% in 2014.

The percentage of students with limited English proficiency is also trending upward. About 9.2% of high school students have limited English proficiency (LEP), up from 7.0% in 2014. Between 2004 to 2012, the percentage of high school students designated as LEP was much smaller: 5.1% in 2011 and 2012, 5.5% in 2008 and ≤ 5 % for every other year during that period. In 2015, 10.2% of middle school students have limited English proficiency, a number that has been increasing over the decade for which data are available. In elementary school, the percentage of students with LEP is higher — 20.8% in 2015 — but that percentage has held steady over three years, with dramatic growth in the LEP population occurring between 2004 and 2012.

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