Des Moines Public Schools is the largest district in Iowa but is unique in the context of this state in other fundamental ways.

DMPS is a member of The Council of the Great City Schools, the only national organization exclusively representing the interests of urban public schools. Composed of 67 large city school districts, its mission is to promote the cause of urban schools and to advocate for inner-city students.

The district’s demographic makeup reflects both cultural richness and a wide socioeconomic range. DMPS is a “majority minority” district. Nearly 75% of students qualify for free and reduced price meals. The district’s population of English Language Learners by itself is larger than all but 15 of the state’s roughly 350 school districts, with anywhere from 80-100 languages and dialects represented. DMPS students were born in at least 88 different countries.

Some people think diversity is a challenge for education. DMPS considers it not only an opportunity, but also an educational bonus afforded the students who learn, grow and graduate here. The district’s commitment to making diversity an asset is reflected in the recent establishment of the Educational Equity Advisory Committee (EEAC). The committee consists of teachers, students, parents/guardians, administrators and members of the community united in the mission of improving employment and education experiences for all of the people who comprise an extremely diverse institution.

Many schools hold annual diversity festivals. Cultural events allow the chance to experience food, clothing, art, and customs most students only read about. Friendships form that cut across boundaries which disappear when young people go to school together.

The value of this diversity dimension is immeasurable, and it is central to the quality of education provided by Des Moines Public Schools.

Overview of Student Demographics (2014-15 school year):

  • White – 43.37%
  • Hispanic – 24.3%
  • African American – 17.93%
  • Asian – 7.31%
  • Mixed Race – 6.47%
  • Native American – 0.47%
  • Pacific Islander – 0.14%
  • Free and Reduced Lunch – 72.34%
  • English Language Learners- 18.51%
  • Special Education – 15.1%