Growing Diversity, 2016 Version 2

There were nearly a quarter of a million people living in Brown County in 2014.[1] The following population pyramid from the 2010 U.S. Census shows how we are spread across age ranges by gender.

Demographics 1

This is a top-heavy pyramid with more people in the 45 to 54 year old age range than any other ten-year range, but it has a strong base of youth, too.

A deeper look at population pyramids from the 2010 Census for the different ethnic/race groups in our community shows that there is greater diversity among our youth than among older age ranges. There is growing diversity in Brown County, and it is likely to continue to grow as our youth mature and take their place as adults in our community.

Demographics 2

Multi-lingual Students

One impact of growing diversity is an increase in the number of multi-lingual students in our schools. Students identified as English Language Learners (ELL) are those who are learning English as a second language in school. The number of ELL students in Brown County public schools has varied from 9% to 11% over the last ten years, with no obvious trend. However, concluding that this means there is no growth in the number of multi-lingual students in our schools would be a mistake.

ELL students are tested each year for English proficiency. When students reach a score of 6 on the ACCESS for ELLs® exam, they are considered English proficient and they are no longer included in the count of ELL students.[2] So, there is variation each year in the balance between the number of students leaving ELL status and the number of new ELL students entering the schools. In addition to this normal annual variation, several years ago there was a change in criteria for achieving English proficiency. This change had the effect of more students exiting the program than usual. While we don’t have exact counts, it is very likely that the number of multi-lingual students in our schools is growing.

Students with Disabilities

Another aspect of diversity in our community is the number of students with disabilities among us. There is encouraging news when looking at the trend in the number of enrolled students with disabilities. The percentage of students with disabilities has been steadily dropping, from 16% in 2005/06 down to 14% in 2014/15. Part of this decline may be due to the introduction of the Response to Intervention program in some schools over the last six years. Response to Intervention is intended to assure that all students first receive classroom and small group help prior to making a referral for a special education evaluation and an official classification as a ‘Student with Disability’.[3]     

While the overall number of students with disabilities has been slowly declining, there has also been a shift in the types of disabilities identified over the same time period. This means we have seen increases in speech or language impairment, autism and significant developmental delays at the same time as we have seen declines in the number of students in the categories of specific learning disabilities, emotional behavioral disabilities and cognitive disabilities.

Diversity 1



Population Pyramids:

[1] U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts for Brown County, Wisconsin.

[2] See for more details on the ELL testing process in Wisconsin.

[3] See for more information on the Response to Intervention program in Wisconsin.