How White Is Your School: The Most Diverse High Schools in MA

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Massachusetts is a diverse state, with many vibrant ethnic and racial communities that help the Commonwealth thrive, but how well is that diversity reflected in the Bay State's schools?

GoLocal analyzed data from the National Center for Education Statistics to determine which of the state’s high schools best represent a diverse student body and which are still have a ways to go when it comes to providing an educational climate more reflective of the world we live in today.

SLIDESHOW: The Top 50 Most Diverse Public High Schools in MA

The Schools

The National Center for Education Statistics collected enrollment data from the state's public high schools, vocational-technical high schools and charter high schools. GoLocal sifted through the most recent enrollment data from the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 school years broken down into six racial/ethnic categories: American Indian/Alaskan, Asian/Pacific Islander, Black, Hispanic, Two or More Races, and White.

In order to determine the high school with the most diverse student body, GoLocal judged each against an "ideal" student population with an equal share, or 16.66 percent, of each of the six categories represented in the total enrollment. The closer a high school came to that ideal student population, the higher they ranked.

For more on GoLocal's methodology and the rankings, click here.

The Most Diverse High School in MA: Malden High, Malden

Topping the list of most diverse high schools was Malden High. Of the 1,799 total students enrolled, 0.8 percent were American Indian/Alaskan, 23.2 percent were Asian/Pacific Islander, 24.3 percent were Black, 17.7 percent were Hispanic, 2.6 percent were two or more races, and 31.4 percent were White.

Located in Middlesex County, Malden had a population of 59,450 as of the 2010 U.S. Census. Of the nearly 60,000 residents, 0.14 percent were Native American, 20.1 percent were Asian, 0.06 percent were Pacific Islander, 14.8 percent were Black, 8.6 percent were Hispanic, 3.46 percent were two or more races, and 52.5 percent were White.

Worcester Schools Among Most Diverse

SLIDESHOW: The Most and Least Diverse High Schools in Central MA

Six of Worcester's public high schools were ranked among the top 50 most diverse schools in the Commonwealth: Claremont Academy, Burncoat Senior High, University Park Campus School, North High, Doherty Memorial High, and South High Community School, which came in all the way at #3.

According to Worcester School Committee member and former principal John Monfredo, the district's diversity is one of its strengths, helping prepare its graduates for the real world where they will be exposed to individuals from everywhere.

"If you look at the WPS today there are over 82 different languages spoken," he said. "Students are learning from one another and finding out that it’s okay to be different. With diversity one can develop an understanding of the perspectives of others and learn to function in a multicultural environment. Learning to respect and appreciate each other’s cultural and differences within the schools is essential."

At South High, the most diverse public high school in Central Mass, 0.5 percent of the 1,297-member student body were American Indian/Alaskan, 14.6 percent were Asian/Pacific Islander, 17.1 percent were Black, 39.9 percent were Hispanic, 1.1 percent were two or more races, and 26.9 percent were White.

"If you ask the kids what makes South High School good, every kid says it's diversity," said Maureen Binienda, principal of South High.

At the entrance of South High, faculty and administrators display the flags for every country represented in the school's student body. Binienda said the school added seven new flags this year to bring the total number up to more than 48 countries of origin from current students and alumni.

For new arrivals, the school has an ambassadors program that pairs students with another student from their home country to help them acclimate and become part of the school community.

Each year, after the April vacation, South High holds an international show during the school day, where all the students from all the different countries perform a dance from their country of origin for their fellow students.

"It doesn't matter what country you come from," Binienda said. "As we explain to everybody, the only equalizer is education."

According to Binienda, when South High first opened in 1978, it was the high school for special needs students, and the South community still has a number of severe special needs students.

"There's not only diversity in that you might come from a different country," she said. "The kids get exposed to a large number of special needs challenges, too. And I think that's a special component here."

Least Diverse Schools

Manchester Essex Regional High School, in Manchester-by-the-Sea, was the least diverse high school in the state, according to GoLocal's methodology. Of the 461 students enrolled at Manchester Essex Regional, 99.6 percent were White, 0.2 percent were Black, and 0.2 percent were Hispanic.

In Central Mass, the least diverse high school was Sutton High School. Of the total enrollment of 394 students, 96.7 percent were White, 2.8 percent were two or more races, 0.3 percent were Black, and 0.3 percent were Asian/Pacific Islander.

To see the full chart of the Most and Least Diverse Public High Schools in MA, click here.

Why Diversity Matters

"Racially isolated or racially segregated schools create a less than optimal environment for learning," said John Shandorf, associate director at the Metropolitan Council for Education Opportunity, Inc. (METCO), a voluntary program intended to expand educational opportunities, increase diversity, and reduce racial isolation, by permitting students in certain cities to attend public schools in other communities that have agreed to participate, and funded by grants from the Commonwealth.

The METCO program was established in 1966, and roughly 3,300 students currently participate in 33 school districts in metropolitan Boston and at four school districts outside Springfield.

"There are more than 10,000 students who have gone through the program from Boston and Springfield," said Shandorf. "The graduation rate, the go to college rate, is far higher than the sending districts."

At the same time, said Shandorf, the resident students benefit a lot from the METCO students as well.

"They learned things about students coming from Boston and Springfield that dispelled a lot of the knowledge that they had about them."