School & District Management Obituary

Harold L. ‘Bud’ Hodgkinson, Renowned Education Demographer, Dies at 85

By Sarah D. Sparks — March 14, 2016 3 min read
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Harold L. “Bud” Hodgkinson, who tracked America’s diversifying school population for more than 25 years, died at his home in Alexandria on March 4. He was 85.

Hodgkinson dedicated his life to documenting and analyzing the demographic changes in American schools, and how those schools would need to adapt to help a diversifying student population meet its potential. Through a dozen books, hundreds of articles, and countless lectures, Hodgkinson painted predictions of changes in the American classroom that still echo today.

He wrote in 1995 the United States was becoming “a true nation of the world.” At the time, he thought American schools would reach 50 percent nonwhite students by 2025 (a conservative estimate of changing school populations, as it turned out.) He warned then that the inequitable distribution of both the students themselves—concentrated at first in a few Western states—and inequitable resources to support them could drive achievement gaps, but he was optimistic about America’s willingness to nurture continuing waves of immigrant students:

One major reason that more than half of the world’s immigrants come to the United States is that the American dream works. Twenty percent of members of the U.S. Senate have immigrant grandparents. (I know of no other nation that can make this statement about its leading legislative body.)”

In response to news of California schools gaining a majority of nonwhite students in 2000, Hodgkinson quipped: “What’s happening in California is coming to a high school near you.”

In 1997, as part of a White House initiative on closing racial divides, Hodgkinson talked with CSPAN about changing demographics:

In 1987, as industries that supported students without a high school diploma continued to crash, Hodgkinson led a coalition of 11 major education groups that called for more “urgent” and comprehensive approaches to preventing students from dropping out of high school. The group drew on demographic trends showing increases in child poverty, single-parent households, and pregnancy and drug use among teenagers that suggested interventions needed to target at-risk students earlier, and in separate research Hodgkinson noted that states with higher dropout populations also had higher prison populations: “While one child in six eligible for Head Start is actually in a program, every prisoner gets his/her ‘entitlement’ payment of $20,000. (Think of the educational system we could run in the U.S. if we had $20,000 to spend per student, kindergarten through graduate school!)”

Education advocates who push for a “whole child” approach to helping students also owe a debt to Hodgkinson’s work on integrating academic and social services. One of his breakout reports, 1989’s “The Same Client: The Demographics of Service and Delivery Systems,” pointed out that siloed education, health, and social services made it difficult for families with school-age children to navigate—for example, longer and more complicated commutes for working parents making it more difficult for kids to get to school and for parents to be involved. He argued better coordination among agencies could both reduce costs and prevent bad outcomes for students.

Hodgkinson was born on February 27, 1931, in Minneapolis, Minn. He attended St. Louis High School. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota, a master’s degree from Wesleyan University, and a doctorate in education from Harvard University. His academic background ran the gamut from teacher and administrator to researcher, as well as a former dean of Bard College. He served in leadership roles on a number of education organizations, including the Ford administration’s national Institute of Education, the National Training Laboratories, and the Institute for Educational Leadership, where he was director of the Center for Demographic Policy from 1987 to 2004. He also edited several journals, including the Harvard Educational Review and the Journal of Higher Education.

In 1989, he was one of three Americans awarded the title of Distinguished Lecturer by the National Science Foundation.

Hodgkinson is survived by his wife, Virginia Ann Hodgkinson, as well as daughters, grandchildren, and extended family. A memorial service will be held for Hodgkinson in May.

Video Source: CSPAN


A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.