Economic, cultural and linguistic diversity, and an inclusive school community are essential characteristics for schools that seek to prepare students for global citizenship. Yet most private schools in the Washington metropolitan area emphasize their exclusive nature and are comprised predominantly of affluent white families. Similarly, most public schools remain segregated in large part by race and income level. Non integrated schools in the Washington metropolitan area are strikingly prevalent despite the demographics and trends.
The Washington metropolitan region is comprised of 6,000 square miles (15,500 kilometers) encompassing the District of Columbia, Northern Virginia and Suburban Maryland. A growing community, the regional population is approaching 6,000,000 and is ranked as the 4th largest metro area in the United States. It is growing faster than any metropolitan area outside the Sunbelt. Census figures show that the Washington area added 75,000 residents in 2004, bringing the population to 5.9 million. This growth translates into 3,500 new students per year (Washington Post 2005). It is the only large metro area in the U.S with sustained positive job growth, leading the U.S. in job growth from 1983 to 2003 with 1.12 million new jobs.
The Washington area is a vibrant economic center with a gross regional product of nearly $288.3 billion - the 4th largest in the nation. The area has had the largest number of Inc. 500 companies for seven consecutive years (47 firms in 2003). Home of the U.S Government, federal employment accounts for 11% of the total regional population. The federal government is the largest single technology consumer in the world. Regional federal procurement grew to $37.7 billion in 2002 - an increase of 142% in 10 years. Innovative, diverse and entrepreneurial, the region ranked second only to New York City in the number of African American-owned businesses (49,000) and first in revenue ($5.4 billion). It has the third-highest number of large, Hispanic-owned businesses on the 2002 Hispanic Business 500. They are the nation's second-best metro area for entrepreneurs, according to Entrepreneur magazine, and home to more than 90 eLearning firms and 160 regional firms that garnered $780 million in venture capital in 2003 alone. The region hosts the third-largest number of bio-science companies in the world and a is a leader in human genome research. The National Institutes of Health, U.S Food and Drugs Administration, and National Institute of Standards and Technology are located in the area. Over 600 foreign-owned companies are located in the region. The Washington area is considered the best global city for real estate investment and the region's economy ranks 17th worldwide.
An educational leader, the region has more than 40 colleges and universities that serve approximately 49,000 students annually. Approximately 600,000 students attend public and private pre-collegiate schools. Over the past decade, the Washington metropolitan area has become one of the top immigrant destinations in the country, drawing the majority of its newcomers from Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Greater Washington ranks as the 6th largest metropolitan area of immigrant settlement, with over 800,000 foreign-born people living in the region. In 1998, one person in six in the region was foreign-born. In 1998, the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area ranked as the 5th most common destination for immigrants coming to the United States. Between 1990 and 1998, nearly one-quarter of a million immigrants from 193 countries and territories chose the Washington metropolitan area as their intended residence. The majority of the newcomers are in their prime working years, and thus are an important supply of new labor. Washington receives a mix of highly educated and lower skilled immigrant labor. Regardless of economic status, newcomers to Washington do not rely upon established immigrant neighborhoods because there have been historically few. Instead residential choices appear to be made based on family ties, social networks, the housing market, access to public transportation, school choices, and other local services. What is currently striking about the metropolitan area is the pattern of immigrant residential dispersion throughout the city, and inner and outer suburbs.
The Washington area experienced striking social and economic changes between 1990 and 2000. The area is highly-educated and richly diverse with extremes of wealth and poverty (Washington Post 2002). The most recent 2000 census data reveals one in four households in the Washington area lives on an income of $100,000 a year or more, reflecting a decade of prosperity that drew thousands of well-off newcomers, lifted salaries, and built whole communities. The median household income is over $70,000. Washington area residents are highly educated, with 42% of the population (older than 25 years old) holding a bachelor's degree or higher. Over 18% of the region's adults have advanced degrees - the highest percentage in the U.S. These data describe a shifting region that appears likely to retain distinction as one of the nation's richest and best educated.
The nation's capital is also home to many who live at or below the poverty level. Educational programs available to most children and young people in these communities are substandard. However, a new federally funded program now provides low-income students with a $7,500 voucher for private school education. Managed by the Washington Scholarship Fund, "Opportunity Scholars" from low-income families are able to attend private schools and improve their education.
Whether public or private, schools need to create inclusive and truly diverse learning environments to educate students to for global citizenship. Education for a global society must develop deep cross-economic and cross-cultural understanding, which can only be acquired through first-hand experience with people who live in different cultures and economies.
*Portions of this article are excerpts from the Greater Washington Initiative web site and "The World in a Zip Code: Greater Washington, D.C. as a New Region of Immigration" by Audrey Singer, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Samantha Friedman, Ivan Cheung, and Marie Price, The George Washington University, April 2001.