Mapping Trends in Georgia’s Student Population over the Past Ten Years

May 30, 2014

By Pascal Beaudette

The composition of students in Georgia’s public schools has changed over the past ten years.  This month’s education update examines these trends at the state and district levels and illustrates their geographic distribution.  Understanding these trends is important for Georgia educators to ensure that all students have access to quality education that is tailored to their needs.

Demographic Shifts since 2003-04

In 2012-13, more than 1.6 million students attended Georgia public schools—an increase of 170,000 from enrollment in 2003-04.[1]  Compared to ten years ago, the 2012-13 student body had a greater percentage of Asian students, Hispanic students, multi-racial students, English Language Learners (ELL), and students qualifying for Free/Reduced-Price Lunch (FRL).  The increases were largest among Hispanic students and students qualifying for FRL. Conversely, the state had a smaller percentage of white students, black students, and Students with Disabilities (SWD). This decrease was particularly large among white students.  The table below shows the percentage of total student enrollment each subgroup represents.




Percentage Point Difference













Native American












Students with Disabilities












Trends in Free/Reduced Price Lunch Eligibility

Over those ten years, the largest subgroup change is the increase in students qualifying for FRL. The two maps below illustrate the district-level percentage point change in FRL students between 2003-04 and 2012-13 as well as the overall percentage FRL in 2012-13.[2].  In 2003-04, 684,000 students qualified for FRL, representing 46% of all students.  By 2012-13, this number had jumped by more than 300,000 when 60% of all students, or 995,000 students, qualified.  Much of this increase is likely driven by the effects of the Great Recession on family income, which is used to derive a student’s FRL status.

Click on the maps for a larger image. 

Download this pdf file. Change-FRL_1.jpg Download this pdf file. Percent-FRL_1.jpg

In general, the northern half of the state saw larger increases in the percentage of FRL students than the southern portion of the state.  The only district that experienced a decrease of more than 10 percentage points was Decatur City, where the percentage of FRL students decreased by 18 percentage points over the past 10 years. 

In 2012-13, only four districts had 25% or fewer students qualify for FRL: Decatur City, Fayette County, Forsyth County, and Oconee County.  In many districts in the middle and southern portions of the state, more than 75% of students qualified.

Trends in Students with Disabilities and English Language Learners

The maps below show the geographic distribution of the changes in the percentages of Students with Disabilities and ELL students. While the percentage of Students with Disabilities statewide only decreased by 1 percentage point over the past ten years, several individual districts saw large changes.  The percentage of SWD decreased by more than 5 percentage points in 14—mostly rural—districts.[3]

Statewide, the percentage of ELL students increased by three percentage points.  Only four districts in the state saw a decrease in the percentage of ELL students, while four districts experienced an increase of 9 or more percentage points. [4]   

Download this pdf file. Change-SWD_6.jpg Download this pdf file. Change-ELL_2.jpg

Trends in Racial/Ethnic Composition since 2003-04

The number of Hispanic students more than doubled over the past ten years, from approximately 104,000 in 2003-04 to 215,000 in 2012-13, an increase of 6 percentage points.  Only in 1 district—Randolph County—did the percentage of Hispanic students decrease.  Seven districts saw an increase of more than 10 percentage points.[5]  In 2012-13, Hispanic students comprised a majority of students in two districts: Dalton City and Gainesville City.  The following maps show the change in percentage of Hispanic students over the period and the percentage of Hispanic students in 2012-13.

Download this pdf file. Change-Hispanic_2.jpg Download this pdf file. Percent-Hispanic_2.jpg

The number of black students grew by more than 112,000, but black students as a percentage of total enrollment decreased by 1 percentage point.[6]  The percentage of black students decreased by 10 or more percentage points in 7 districts.[7]  The sharpest decrease was in Decatur City, where 49% of students were black in 2003-2004, but only 28% of students were black in 2012-13.  In contrast, the percentage of black students in Rockdale County increased by 26 percentage points, growing from 36% in 2003-04 to 62% in 2012-13.  As seen in the map below, districts in North Georgia and Southeast Georgia have some of the lowest percentages of black students in the state.


Download this pdf file. Percent-Black_0.jpg

White students were the only racial/ethnic subgroup that saw a decrease in the number of students over the ten-year period. Approximately 29,000 fewer white students were enrolled in public schools in 2012-13 related to 2003.04.  Many districts in the metro Atlanta area saw the largest decreases in percentage of white students. Twenty-one districts experienced a decrease of 10 or more percentage points, while only two districts saw an increase of more than 10 percentage points— Decatur City and Thomasville City.

Download this pdf file. Change-White_0.jpg Download this pdf file. Percent-White_1.jpg

Asian students comprised 4% of the state student population in 2012-13, up 1 percentage point from 2003-04.  As seen in the map below, metro Atlanta districts had the highest percentage of Asian students.  In 2003-04, multi-racial students comprised 2% of the state student population.  This percentage increased to 3% in 2012-13.  The percentage of multi-racial students within the district is presented in the following map.  The percentage of Native American students remained unchanged at less than 1%.  Only in 6 districts did Native American students comprise at least 1% of the population in 2012-13.[8]

Download this pdf file. Percent-Asian_1.jpg Download this pdf file. Percent-Multi_3.jpg


The composition of Georgia public school students has changed over the past ten years.  Far more students qualified for FRL in 2012-13 than in 2003-04, with a particularly large increase in North Georgia.  In addition, the state saw a significant increase in the percentage of Hispanic students over that time period. These trends are important to consider as educators seek to meet the changing needs of Georgia’s students.



[1] All numbers in this education update are from GOSA’s Report Card.  The data used in this analysis can be downloaded at the bottom of the page. State-level figures include state charter schools. However, district-level figures do not include state charter schools. A downloadable data file of district-level figures is available at the bottom of this page.


[2]  Shapefiles for the maps provided by Dr. Moshe Haspel, of Neighborhood Nexus.


[3] These districts are: Baldwin County, Charlton County, Chattooga County, Clinch County, Glascock County, Gordon County, Jasper County, Meriwether County, Monroe County, Seminole County, Spalding County, Telfair County, Union County, and Dublin City.


[4] Candler County, Dalton City, Rabun County, and Toombs County had a smaller percentage of ELL students in 2012-13.  The change in percent ELL students was 9 or more percentage points in Colquitt County, Echols County, Evans County, and Whitfield County.


[5] Evans County, Colquitt County, Hall County, Calhoun City, Rome City, Echols County, and Whitfield County


[6] In 2003-04, approximately 565,000 black students were enrolled.  This number increased to approximately 613,000 in 2012-13.


[7] Decatur City, Thomasville City, Brooks County, Atlanta Public Schools, Evans County, Taylor County, and Greene County


[8] Clinch County, Crawford County, Echols County, Gordon County, Toombs County, and Valdosta City