The number of minority students continues to mushroom throughout Orange County, where nearly all of the county's 27 school districts have shown marked increases in Latino and Asian student populations from past year, according to the county Department of Education's latest ethnic survey.
Countywide, minority students now make up 48% of the student population, up four percentage points from a year ago and 10 percentage points in the past five years, according to the Department of Education Racial and Ethnic Survey for the 1990 school year. Latinos posted the largest increase among seven ethnic groups, with 13,403 more Latinos attending county schools in 1990-91 than in 1989.
In the past five years, the county's Latino student population has grown from 24% to 32% of all students, while the number of Asian students has increased in the same period from 36,141 to 44,577, or from 10% to 12%.
With the increases attributed mostly to the burgeoning immigrant population, school administrators said the burden of ensuring that their newest students are English-proficient as well as culturally adjusted is rising. In some school districts, teachers are taking special cultural-training workshops to keep up with constantly changing student demographics.
"It's been frantic keeping up with the changes, but it's good for the district," said Cynthia F. Grennan, superintendent of the Anaheim Union High School District. "You can walk into one class and see up to 14 cultures in one room.
The 1990 education survey also shows that the minority student population is soaring in the South County districts, said Audrey Capasso of the county Department of Education.
In the Capistrano Unified School District, for example, Latino and Asian student enrollment has nearly doubled in the past five years, rising from 1,801 Latino students and 559 Asians in 1986 to 3,357 Latinos and 1,174 Asians today.
"People think of South County cities as sleepy beach communities with no variety," said Pam Cariker, coordinator of Capistrano Unified's specially funded projects. "But in the past five years, there has been incredible growth in ethnicity. We're not the same cities anymore."
Similar dramatic increases have occurred in other parts of the county. A decade ago, the Anaheim Union High School District had a minority student population of only 11%. Now, the district's student population is half Latino and Asian.
In the past year at Anaheim Union, the number of Latino students jumped from 6,503 to 8,604. At Magnolia High School, students represent 44 cultures, while at Anaheim High School there are 37 cultures, Grennan said.
"We're at the edges of Los Angeles and Long Beach, so we see more immigrant students than other cities in Orange County," Grennan said. "We have to be up and running when it comes to immigrant student issues."
The increase of immigrant students has been difficult for school districts that are not prepared to teach children who are classified as Limited English Proficient (LEP), or are unable to speak English at all, said Rose Marie Fontana, head of the Santa Ana Unified School District's bilingual department.
"In some school districts, these kids are called 'LEP-ers' because they are limited in English proficiency," Fontana said. "These districts don't know what to do with immigrant children. They'd rather see the kids go away or hide."
Immigrant students can get lost in the system if they are ignored or if they cannot catch up with students who have a firm grasp on English, Fontana said. The result is a higher percentage of dropouts.
"There are some schools where the kids are struggling to learn English. The little guys are trying so hard to be just like the other kids," Fontana said.
The growing number of Latinos at Capistrano Unified School District has prompted school officials to make extra efforts to foster good relations between non-Anglo students and Anglo students, who still make up the majority at school, Cariker said.
"When you're a kid, you get picked on if you're different in any way," Cariker said. "And that includes anything from your culture, your language and the money your parents make. We have to try to get the Anglo students to learn what these immigrant kids are going through."
Teacher training in how to deal with immigrant students and new curricula are also necessary, Fontana said.
"Some students are illiterate in their own language," Fontana said. "It is difficult to teach them English when they don't even know how to read and write in their native languages."
The special attention given to students must also be extended to parents, Grennan said.
"Parents need to be encouraged to see what their students are learning," said Grennan, whose district has outreach programs with 21 community centers in the area it serves. "They have to feel welcome in the schools."
PUBLIC SCHOOL ETHNIC COMPOSITION
1990 1989 % of % of Total Yearly Total Yearly Population Total Population Total TOTAL 375,579 -- 360,213 -- American Indian 1,907 1 1,749 * Asian 44,577 12 41,838 12 Pacific Islander 1,668 * 1,647 * Filipino 3,399 1 3,080 1 Hispanic 118,466 32 105,063 29 Non-Hispanic White 197,875 52 199,646 55 Non-Hispanic Black 7,687 2 7,190 2
1988 1987 198 % of % of Total Yearly Total Yearly Total Population Total Population Total Population TOTAL 350,903 -- 344,971 -- 342,131 American Indian 1,775 1 1,883 1 1,935 Asian 39,464 11 37,680 11 36,141 Pacific Islander 1,680 * 1,530 * 1,480 Filipino 2,754 1 2,511 1 2,286 Hispanic 92,949 26 83,721 24 81,010 Non-Hispanic White 205,505 59 211,082 61 213,026 Non-Hispanic Black 6,776 2 6,564 2 6,253
6 % of Yearly Total TOTAL -- American Indian 1 Asian 11 Pacific Islander * Filipino 1 Hispanic 24 Non-Hispanic White 62 Non-Hispanic Black 2
* Less than 1%
\o7 Source: Orange County Department of Education\f7