By Chief Director of Assessment, Research, and CALPADS, Lindi Dreibelbis
The heart of the La Canada community is our schools. Many people move here for the rich educational opportunities our schools offer. Who are the students here? What characteristics do they bring which enrich the educational experience for everyone? By law, the school district is required to collect various demographic characteristics on our students and their families. This article is a celebration of the diverse backgrounds that make up the mosaic of our school district.
Our three elementary schools range from about 650 to a little more than 700 students from transitional kindergarten to sixth grade. LCHS 7/8 houses almost 700 students. At the high school, grades 9-12, almost 1,400 students attend each day. LCUSD also has 31 students who are served in special education outside of our TK-12 program. Of 338 seniors this year, only 148 or 44% of them have been enrolled in our schools since kindergarten. Of the 316 sixth-graders, 164 or 52% have also been here since kindergarten.
There is a nice gender balance in the district; however, the males tip the scale at 52% of the student population to 48% females. Teachers routinely observe that boys and girls react differently to the same prompts. Mixed-gender groupings make a significant difference in the depth and quality of classroom learning, as each gender brings a different point of reference.
Students in LCUSD come from 15 different races. Today, 61% of our student population across the district identify as White and 37% as Asian or Pacific Islander. Korean ancestry makes up 15% of our district’s students, followed by Chinese at 11%. The next largest populations of Asians are Asian Indian, Filipino, Japanese and Vietnamese. Other races represented include American Indians or Alaskans and Black students. There are also a few Laotians, Cambodians, Hawaiians and Samoans. Eleven percent of all students identify themselves as Hispanic, and 12% of the total student population is from multiple races. Our students represent different cultural backgrounds, customs and beliefs, as well as a wide variety of religions and languages that enhance our educational experience.
One-quarter of LCUSD students speak a home language other than English. There are 34 different languages reported, with 24 students indicating a language other than those options listed by the state for self-identification. Thus, the number of other languages is much higher. In Los Angeles County public schools, there are 66 different languages. It’s impressive to consider that over half the languages represented in the county are also present in LCUSD.
Another fact of note is that while 25% of our students have a home language other than English, only a little over 5% districtwide are designated as English learners. This statistic shows that the vast majority of students with a home language other than English are already fluent in English when they arrive or have matriculated successfully through our English Language Development Program. At the elementary grade levels, 8.6% of the student population are English learners, compared with 2.4% at the high school. The low percentage of English learners at the high school demonstrates that English learners in La Canada gain fluency at a rapid pace in our school district.
School districts are required to report students’ birth country to the federal government. Title III funds support the education of recent immigrants. In LCUSD, there are 249 students (6%) who were born outside the U.S. They represent 37 countries across the globe. The very presence of immigrant students provides rich experiences for all students to expand their cultural knowledge in our increasingly interconnected world.
Lastly, perhaps the most surprising statistic about LCUSD comes from the parents. Of the 4,152 students in our district, an impressive 94% of their parents are college graduates and/or possess graduate degrees or training. There is no doubt that a strong education is highly valued here in the parents’ accomplishments, as well as in the hopes and dreams they have for their children.
Student diversity brings richness to every classroom, and one might be surprised at the kaleidoscope that La Canada students experience. Bilingual and bicultural students, no matter where they are from, bring a variety of points of view. Education is much more than simply acquiring knowledge. The sharing of different perspectives, ideas and values contributes to a higher quality learning community to meet the global expectations of tomorrow. We are LCUSD!