Metro’s population of economically disadvantaged students who qualify for federal and reduced lunches has swelled three percentage points from the previous year to 75 percent of the district’s enrollment.
The bump –– a reflection of the state of the economy and some factors specific to Metro –– is outlined in the Tennessee Department of Education’s 2011 Report Card, which the state released earlier this month. In 2010, 72.1 percent of Metro students qualified for the federal free and reduced lunch program.
Across all Tennessee public schools, 60.3 percent qualify for the lunch program. The state, unlike Metro, has seen little change. One year ago, the state’s percentage of lunch program participants was 60.2 percent.
Paul Changas, the district’s executive director of Research, Assessment and Evaluation, delivered these and other state report card figures to the Metro Nashville Board of Education Tuesday night.
“That 3 percent increase is a little bit more than what you typically see,” Changas said.
“It’s been a steady increase,” he said. “Part of it is, we’re getting more kids from outside of the U.S. — English learners –– and they’re typically economically disadvantaged students. The economy may also have something to do with it as well.”
Metro’s population of English Language Learners during the 2010-2011 school year increased to 11,010 students from 10,487 the year before.
Changas suggested part of the lunch program spike could be in response to middle to upper class students exiting the district.
“That’s probably a small part of it,” he said. “We do compete with a lot of private schools and surrounding counties. If you look at the population that’s left the district before 12th-grade, there’s a high percentage of high socioeconomic status kids.”