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Press Release

High school student employment lowest since 1990

Annual report The Condition of Education shows how high school students and classrooms have changed

Only 16 percent of high school students were employed in 2010, compared to 32 percent in 1990, according to The Condition of Education 2012, a report released today by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The report looks at how high school students and classrooms have changed over a 20 year period, and finds far fewer high school students are working (1 in 6 today, compared to 1 in 3 in 1990), while there has been virtually no change in the level of extracurricular activities.

The Condition of Education provides an annual portrait of education in the United States. There are 49 indicators in this year's report covering all aspects of education, including early childhood through postsecondary education, student achievement and outcomes, and school environments and resources.

This year's report features a closer look at high schools in the United States and how they have been changing in recent decades.

"We have seen a lot of changes in high schools over the past 20 years," said NCES Commissioner Jack Buckley. "The classroom is more diverse, far fewer students work, and more students are taking rigorous math and science courses. Schools are safer, and the use of distance education has rapidly expanded."

The high school findings include:

  • GROWTH IN ENROLLMENT IN THE WEST AND SOUTH: From 1989 to 2010, public high school student enrollment increased by 52 percent in the West, from 2.4 to 3.7 million, and by 35 percent in the South, from 4.0 to 5.4 million.
  • MORE HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS ARE TAKING SCIENCE AND MATH COURSES: Some 16 percent of 2009 high school graduates had taken calculus, and 11 percent had taken statistics, compared to 7 percent and 1 percent, respectively, of 1990 graduates. Similarly, 70 percent of 2009 high school graduates had taken chemistry and 36 percent had taken physics, compared to 49 percent and 21 percent, respectively, of students in 1990.
  • DISTANCE LEARNING IS GROWING RAPIDLY: In 2009-10, some 53 percent of school districts in the United States had high school students enrolled in distance education. In that year there were over 1.3 million distance education course enrollments, compared to .2 million just seven years earlier.
  • ONLY 1 IN 6 HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS WORK: Between 1990 and 2010, the percentage of high school students ages 16 and above who were employed decreased from 32 percent to 16 percent.
  • HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION RATES ARE IMPROVING: The overall averaged freshman graduation rate (AFGR) was higher for the graduating class of 2008-09 (75.5 percent) than it was for the graduating class of 1990-91 (73.7 percent).

This year's report documents important indicators in elementary and secondary and postsecondary education, including:

  • CHARTER SCHOOL ENROLLMENTS RISE: From 1990-2000 to 2009-10, the number of students enrolled in public charter schools more than quadrupled from 340,000 to 1.6 million students; in 2009-10, some 5 percent of all public schools were charter schools.
  • TEN PERCENT OF PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS ARE ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS: An estimated 4.7 million public school students in the United States were English language learners in 2009-10, compared to 3.7 million in 2000-01.
  • UNDERGRADUATE ENROLLMENT CONTINUES TO INCREASE: Between 2000 and 2010, undergraduate enrollment increased by 37 percent, from 13.2 to 18.1 million students. Projections indicate that undergraduate enrollment will continue to increase, reaching 20.6 million students in 2021.

The National Center for Education Statistics is the statistical center of the Institute of Education Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education. The full text of The Condition of Education 2012 (in HTML format), along with related data tables and indicators from previous years, can be viewed at

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National Center for Education Statistics -
U.S. Department of Education