Ottumwa High School

OTTUMWA — While the Ottumwa school district has become much more diverse, student extra-curricular participation doesn’t appear to represent that.

Ottumwa school district compiled extra-curricular participation rates by demographic over the last four years, and presented the averages to the School Improvement Advisory Committee (SIAC) Tuesday. SIAC is a group of parents, educators, school board members, and administrators who meet to discuss things like district policy and culture.

The data shows wide variation in rates of participation between groups. About 66 percent of white students participated in some activities, while students identified as Pacific Islanders were the lowest, at 14 percent. Black, Hispanic, and Native American students were in the middle, each with around 45 percent participation, while 51 percent of students identified as Asian participated.

These rates apply to all extra-curricular activities, including all clubs and sports. Athletic Director Scott Maas pointed out that rates of participation were more or less consistent year to year, even as student-organized clubs formed or broke up.

Of course, student population counts might skew the numbers slightly. According to the Iowa Department of Education, there were only 30 students identified as Native American and 78 as Asian in the entire Ottumwa district during the 2018-2019 school year. That’s compared to 2,810 identified as white.

One of the attendees suggested the difference between participation rates could be attributed to racial discrimination. However, administrators were reluctant to call discrimination the sole cause.

Marci Dunlap, director of secondary education, compiled much of the data alongside Maas. She said more analysis would be done and made available as time goes on.

Jack Langland can be reached at jlangland@ottumwacourier.com.

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