Friday, January 1, 2010

Changing Ozarks: Education

The Springfield News Leader today had a pretty good report about the growth of that section of the Ozarks (southwest Missouri) and the effect of the influx of people on the schools.

There are benefits and drawbacks associated with this rapid growth, as you would expect. One benefit is a construction boom; that means jobs.

Another benefit as seen by the educators is the growth of diversity in the Ozarks. Concurrent with that benefit, though, is a drawback, a change in the socioeconomic patterns. Here's what the story says:

Both racial and socioeconomic diversity are changing in the Ozarks.

"I would like to see a little faster pace of diversity in our community," Nixa Superintendent Stephen Kleinsmith said. "It has been very slow at growing, but at least there is some diversity."

In Springfield and five surrounding districts (Nixa, Ozark, Republic, Willard and Logan-Rogersville), the percentage of minority students has increased or remained the same, according to data from DESE.

The number of Hispanic students grew between 1 percent in Springfield and Ozark to 3 percent across the state, the largest growth among ethnic or racial minorities.

Springfield saw its biggest change in the declining number of white students in the district, falling 5 percent .

A troubling statistic is the growth of students eligible for free or reduced lunches.

At Republic, 39 percent of students were eligible for the program at the end of the 2009 school year, a 14.7 increase.

Nixa, which has 31.8 percent of its students eligible, had the smallest increase at 8.6 percent.

Springfield saw a 12 percent increase -- about the state average -- at 46.4 percent eligible for the federal program.
I went to Republic schools about a hundred years ago, and we had no diversity at that time. Absolutely none. We also didn't have any free or reduced lunch program, at least that I knew about. If you didn't have enough money to pay for school lunches, you either carried your lunch or you skipped lunch. I would not say those old ways in the good ole days were the right ways.

After reading the report, though, I'm left wondering about the quality of education received by the students. Are today's Ozarks students disciplined and open to learning? Are they receiving a lot of parental support? Do parents expect them to work hard and achieve in school? What are the young teachers like today? Are they well-educated? The report did not go into those areas.

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