HISD gets more diverse

Which in this case means it’s getting a little whiter.

After decades of free fall, Houston ISD’s white enrollment is inching upward, suggesting that more families with the resources to choose are selecting Houston public schools.

Enrollment of non-Hispanic white students in the Houston Independent School District bottomed out in 2010 at 15,340 students, or 7.6 percent of enrollment. White enrollment has increased by 13 percent since then, and today Houston ISD enrolls 17,313 white students, about 8.2 percent of a district that swelled to 210,000 with the recent absorption of neighboring North Forest, a predominantly African-American district.

Curbing so-called white flight is a major accomplishment for an urban school system, said Robert Sanborn, CEO of Children at Risk, a Houston-based nonprofit. Public schools are stronger when they reflect their city’s racial and economic diversity, he said. Roughly 25 percent of Houston’s population is white, meaning most white families continue to opt out of HISD.

“To me what’s remarkable is that we don’t show a loss like everybody else,” Sanborn said. “It’s absolutely counterintuitive.”


“It’s not a stampede, and it never has been, but it’s steady and it’s undeniable,” HISD school board member Harvin Moore said of the growing white enrollment.

Enrollment of Asian students also has increased each year since 2010; HISD now enrolls 7,401 Asians, or 3.5 percent of its overall student body.

I have kind of a distorted view of HISD, living as I do in the Heights. The article discusses how gentrification and the influx of new residents into the Heights, many of whom have kids and want them to attend neighborhood schools, has had a profound effect on the demography of Harvard Elementary School, but it could just as easily have used Travis Elementary as its example. I definitely agree with Bob Sanborn’s premise that public schools are better off when they more closely resemble the city they’re in. It’s not a good thing politically if you’ve got this large bloc of voters who feel like they have no stake in the schools, and therefore no real need to support them.

As it happens, Michael Li brought up this topic on Facebook the other day.

Remarkable stats: Of the nearly 11,000 ninth grade students in DISD, only 558 are Anglo. Of those Anglo ninth graders, a quarter go to just one school – Arts Magnet.

That makes DISD about five percent Anglo. Li got his stats from DISD’s public data portal. In a subsequent comment, he noted the percentage was even lower for fifth graders. Dallas County is less Anglo than Harris County is, but not by that much. Given the past history of official segregation in public schools, it’s more than a little unnerving to see such stark differences between the makeup of these school districts and the makeup of their larger communities. Thanks to the continued dynamism of Houston’s urban neighborhoods, HISD is bucking that trend. I hope that continues for awhile.

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3 Responses to HISD gets more diverse

  1. Ross says:

    I suspect the demographics are skewed in Dallas because of the existence of Highland Park ISD, which has 0 economically disadvantaged students out of 6000+, and is 93%+ white. HPISD Is an island of whiteness in the middle of DISD, and has no real justification for existence. I am surprised it wasn’t forced to merge with DISD in the days of integration.

  2. The Dude says:

    I think this statement is slightly mislead:

    “Roughly 25 percent of Houston’s population is white, meaning most white families continue to opt out of HISD.”

    I’m not sure that’s the case – although I cannot say statistically for sure. Of course 8.2% white enrollment < 25%. But, isn't the white population statistically different than other races in terms of age? I would venture to say yes: it's generally much older and probably without school age kids. A better comparison (although I'm not sure it exists) is the percentage of families with school-aged children.

  3. Jason says:

    While Houston is 25% Anglo, or mayble a little more, this article doesn’t consider that Clear Creek ISD (Clear Lake), Memorial ISD (Memorial) and Humble ISD (Kingwood) would reduce the natural representation of Anglo students compared to the actual population.

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