Educate Oklahoma: Changing Demographics

Wednesday, August 31st 2016, 11:24 pm
By: Emory Bryan

This school year, for the first time, minority students will outnumber white students in Oklahoma; and the largest minority group usually speaks another language.

It's a normal day when a new student walks into an Oklahoma classroom from another country.

At Tulsa's East Central High School, new students are behind a rapid shift from native English to native Spanish speakers, from a variety of countries, but mainly Mexico.

“The demographic has very much shifted to a Hispanic population,” said seventh-year English Language teacher, Adam Howard.

Hispanics now make up the largest minority group in the state, before American Indians and African Americans, and minorities now are near a majority of the students.

Last year, there were almost as many minority students as white students; but this year, whites are likely the minority.

East Central High School principal, Mike Crase, said, “Our actual population here, we're up 100, 110 from last year, and the majority of those students are Hispanic.”

Crase said East Central has learned using bilingual students to mentor new students helps the newcomers blend in.

“They're such good kids - some just don't have an understanding of what all is being asked of them with our procedures because they haven't been in an American school before,” Crase said.

Howard said classrooms like his are where the Spanish speakers with limited spoken English ability pick up the written English skills they'll need.

“We want them to keep their home language and culture, and strengthen their new language and culture,” Howard said.

He makes no effort to make them speak English only; the goal is to make them literate in both languages.