Wednesday, February 25, 2015


As the city of Boise has grown, substantial changes in the demography of the Boise District have transpired. In this post, we explore a few of the changes that have occurred.

Free-Reduced Lunch Status

Though we have data that go further back, we'll look at the shifts that have taken place since 1990. Typically, we use free/reduced lunch (frl) status in the elementary schools to help us understand changes in the student population. Here is the overall District elementary free/reduced lunch trend since 1990, displayed in a line graph. 

So the free/reduced percentage has grown from just over 1/4 of students to almost half in 24 years. It's important to remember that the statewide 2013 1-6 free/reduced percentage was 54%. However, in the early 90's, Boise was far below the state average in frl percentage.

Here's a look at frl percentages over time, by elementary school in the District. First, 1990:

In 1990, there were 30 elementary schools in the Boise District, with 13,400 students. The explosion of enrollment in southeast Boise had just begun, and significant growth in northwest Boise was a few years away.Note that only two Boise elementary schools were over 50% frl, and the District average was just over 27%. Garfield School had 23% frl, and Jackson 22%. The largest district enrollment ever would occur in 1998, at just over 27,000.

Ten years later, the picture looked a little different. 

By 2000, enrollment had already dropped from the 1998 record high to 26,500, as residents sought cheaper housing in Meridian and other spots across the valley. Over a third of District students qualified for free/reduced lunch in 2000, and 12 schools had over 50% frl. Garfield and Jackson were over 50%. All of the southeast Boise schools were now on line, as was Shadow Hills, opened in northwest Boise in 1997 to relieve overcrowding at Cynthia Mann and Pierce Park.

Fast forward to 2014:

Free/reduced lunch rates stabilized from 2003-2008, then began moving up slightly at the end of the first decade of the 21st century. In 2014, District enrollment is just under 26,000, having recovered from the the low point of 24,700 in 2008 (though another phenomenon is now affecting enrollment). Sixteen schools are now above the 50% line, the District is at 47%, and Garfield stands at almost 80% free/reduced. Jackson School became the Boise Language Academy in 2008 when Grace Jordan came on line, and was torn down in 2013, after BLA students were moved to Hillside and Borah. 


The ethnic breakdown of District student has also changed over the years. The percentage of Caucasian students has declined from almost 95% in 1990 to just under 80% in 2013:

Meanwhile, the fastest growing ethnicity in terms of percentage is Hispanic/Latino:

though Asian and Black ethnicity percentages  have grown as well, primarily because of the growth in the Limited English refugee population in the Boise District.

Boise's student population has become much more diverse than it was 25 years ago. Students have many opportunities to learn about other cultures and traditions. Much of the added diversity has come because of Boise's status as a relocation center for refugees from around the world.

Limited English Population

The growth in the Limited English population is illustrated in the above chart. In the late 80's. one-fifth of a percent of the District student population was LEP; as of 2014, 6.5% of the student population qualifies in this category. We examined how these data compare to statewide data in an earlier post.

Limited English numbers declined from 2010-2014 because the flow of refugees slowed during this period of time and the SDE changed the qualifying criteria for the program. We have noticed an uptick in refugee enrollment during the current school year.

In 2011, we did a study of the progress of our Limited English students. We were interested in seeing, among other things, how our population of exited LEP students (LEPx) were doing compared to the general student population. The following charts show our findings in Reading and Math. 

Our findings? As students were learning the English language, fewer were proficient on the ISAT than were proficient in the general population. When they had met the criteria to exit the program (LEPx)and understood the language, the percentage that were proficient was comparable to that of the general population.

It's exciting to see our Limited English students become a part of the vibrant school culture in the Boise District, and gratifying to see the progress they make in academic programs.These kids will be an integral part of the future success of the Boise community.