Infographic by Amanda Smallwood

The demographic shift over the last 20 years in the student population of Montgomery County Public Schools from majority white to majority minority presents opportunities and challenges, school officials say. “We’ve become much more diverse, which is such an asset to our community,” MCPS spokesperson Derek Turner says. “It allows us to look beyond ourselves and challenge our ideas.” Faced with an explosion in enrollment in recent years, the school system is dealing with the challenge of expanding capacity with limited resources. Among other issues, about a third of all students now qualify for free or discounted meals at school, and student participation in English for Speakers of Other Languages programs has risen more than 11 percentage points since 1998-99 to 17.5%. The influx of bilingual students has also created a learning opportunity: MCPS has established two-way language immersion programs in some elementary schools, where students from different language backgrounds can learn from one another, according to Turner.

Here’s a look at how MCPS and its student population have changed from the 1998-99 school year to the 2018-19 school year, by the numbers:

206 – Number of schools (an increase of 23)

162,680 – Total enrollment (a jump of 34,828 students)

31.1 – Percentage of students who are Hispanic/Latino (up from 13.9%)

27.7 – Percentage of students who are white (down from 51.9%)

21.6 – Percentage of black or African American students (up from 21%)


14.3 – Percentage of Asian students (up from 12.8%)

33.3 – Percentage of students participating in free and reduced-price meals (up from 22.5%)

150 – Number of languages spoken by students (total not available for 1998-99 school year)


157 – Number of countries from which students hail (total not available for 1998-99 school year)

5 – Number of elementary schools currently offering two-way language immersion programs. They are Brown Station and Washington Grove in Gaithersburg, Kemp Mill and Oakland Terrace in Silver Spring, and Rolling Terrace in Takoma Park.