Shaping a new suburban reality: a school district's response to its changing student demographic

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Despite historical patterns of racial homogeneity, the composition of suburban areas and their schools are changing throughout the United States. This fact presents major challenges to the suburban schools charged with educating all students, including those that do not fit a suburban stereotype. This study focuses on one suburban community in Texas that experienced a significant change in racial and socio-economic demographics in the 1970s and 1980s. The research sought to understand how the change was experienced by different members of the school community, including school personnel, students, and community members.
Using qualitative data collected through interviews with various members of the school community, a critical ethnography analysis was conducted. Based on normative, subjective, and objective claims made by the participants, the researcher made inferences on the participants’ statements to reconstruct them in to truth, identity, and subjective claims. These reconstructed claims allowed major trends to emerge. The trends that emerged include understanding the how and why of the demographic change, privilege, geography, the desire to maintain control, fear and safety, high school determinations, families, and gangs. The inclusion of Personal Asides, based on the researcher’s experiences being raised in the area and later as an employee of the district, were included as a narrative process to enhance the methodology and as an additional data source.
As more districts across the country are facing such trends, taking a deeper look as to how such changes were experienced by different members of one educational community underscores the difficulty of such a transition and the necessity to be proactive and responsive to the needs of the community. Recommendations made based on the results suggest that consideration must be given equity within our school system to ensure that as more minority students move to suburban areas, we cannot perpetuate systems that have for many years failed too many minority students.