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2012 Video

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The Condition of Education is a congressionally mandated report that is produced by the National Center for Education Statistics each year.  The report brings together information from our own statistical surveys, as well as other data sources, to allow us to take a big-picture look at the condition of all areas of American education.

The first volume of the Condition of Education was released in 1975. In fact, the collection and reporting of statistics was the first Federal role in education, and it has been done for nearly 150 years.

In the report, the indicators are grouped into three sections.

  • Participation in Education shows enrollment and demographic trends from pre-kindergarten through postsecondary education.
  • Elementary and secondary education and outcomes includes student achievement data, as well as information on social and economic outcomes. 
  • Postsecondary education and outcomes includes costs, staffing and graduation rates.

In addition, this year’s report takes a closer look at high schools in the United States to see what has changed and what has not over the last twenty years. For example, only 1 in 6 high school students was employed in 2010, compared to 1 in 3 in 1990.

Now I would like to highlight some the key indicators from this year’s report, starting with participation in education. 

There were 49 million students enrolled in public schools in 2010, a number that is projected to grow to 53 million students in the next ten years, with most of the growth projected for elementary schools.

In 2010, 4.7 million public school students were English language learners and 6.5 million were receiving special education services.

One change in public schools over the last decade has been the growth of charter school enrollment, which has quadrupled from 1999 to 2009. 

Charter schools accounted for 5 percent of all public schools in 2009 and over half were in cities, compared to one-quarter of traditional public schools.

 About 10 percent of elementary and secondary students were enrolled in private schools in 2009. Of these students, 39 percent were enrolled in Catholic schools.

One challenge for our education system is the issue of poverty. In 2010, about one in five children ages 5 to 17 in the United States were living in poverty.

Of course it is important to look at how U.S. students and the American education system are performing.

The main NAEP assessment has been administered since the early 90’s. In 2011, 34 percent of 4th and 8th graders scored at or above the Proficient level in reading, compared to 29 percent of 4th and 8th graders in 1992.

Looking at mathematics, 40 percent of 4th graders and 35 percent of 8th graders scored at or above the Proficient level in 2011, compared to 13 percent of 4th graders and 15 percent of 8th graders in 1990.

Now, let’s turn to high school graduation rates.
Nationwide, about three-quarters of the 2005 incoming freshman class graduated from public high schools on time in 2009.

Among the states, Wisconsin had the highest rate and Nevada had the lowest.

Next, we take a look at the rate at which students enroll in a 2- or 4-year college in the fall immediately after completing high school.

Overall, between 1975 and 1980, the immediate college enrollment rate was about 50 percent.  Since then, the rate has generally increased to its current total of 68 percent.  But there have been persistent differences by income level.

In 2010, about 27 percent of recent high school completers enrolled in a 2-year college immediately after high school and 41 percent enrolled in a 4-year college.

There also has been overall growth in college enrollment.

Undergraduate enrollment increased from 7 million students in 1970 to 18 million in 2010, and is expected to increase to 21 million over the next ten years, when 58 percent of undergraduates are expected to be female.

Over three-quarters of undergraduate students in 2010 attended public institutions.       

At the graduate level, there has been a steady increase in enrollment since the early 80’s. In 2010, about 2.9 million students were enrolled in graduate programs and 59 percent of them were female.

College graduation remains an important concern. About 58 percent of first-time, full-year students who began seeking a bachelor’s degree in 2004 had completed their degree within 6 years, although the rates varied by institution type.

Those young adults who completed a bachelor’s degree and worked full-time for all of 2010, earned 22 percent more than those with an associate’s degree; 50 percent more than high school completers; and more than twice as much as those without a high school credential.

  • Now, let’s take a closer look at a set of indicators that focus on what has and hasn’t changed in U.S. high schools over the last twenty years.
  • In 1990, there were 11.3 million public high school students in the U.S.  By 2010, that number had increased to 15 million.
  • The largest increases in enrollment were in the West and the South, a trend that is expected to continue.
  • In 1995, 67 percent of public high school students were White, 16 percent were Black, 12 percent were Hispanic, 4 percent were Asian and 1 percent were American Indian or Alaska Natives. By 2010, those numbers had changed and they are expected to continue to change over the next decade.
  • One change that has taken place inside U.S. high schools is in coursetaking. The percentage of high school graduates who took mathematics and science courses has generally increased. For example, twenty years ago 7 percent of graduates had taken calculus and 1 percent had taken statistics. By 2009, 16 percent of graduates had taken calculus and 11 percent had taken statistics.  Similarly, 49 percent of 1990 graduates had taken chemistry, compared to 70 percent in 2009.
  • One recent development has been a substantial increase in the number of enrollments in distance education courses by high school students – from 222 thousand course enrollments in 2002 to 1.3 million in 2009. Over half of all school districts had high school students enrolled in distance education courses in 2009.
  • Another change in our high schools is that there is generally less crime and violence. Between 1992 and 2010, the rate of nonviolent crimes against students fell from 154 incidents per 1,000 students to 32. The rate of violent crimes against students fell from 53 to 14 per 1,000 students.
  • In addition, the percentage of high school students that work decreased between 1990 and 2010 from 32 percent to 16 percent. 
  • We now turn to the long-term trend NAEP - an assessment that has been administered every few years since the early 1970’s. The average reading score for 17-year-olds was lower in 2008 than it was in 1990, although it was not measurably different than the score in 1971.  In mathematics, the average score in 2008 was not significantly different than the scores in either 1990 or 1973.
  • However, we have made some improvement in high school graduation rates. The averaged freshman graduation rate was higher in 2009 than it was in 1991, although it fell to 71 percent before improving.
  • Finally, more high school students are planning on finishing college. The percentage of 12th-grade students who had definite plans to graduate from a 4-year college increased between 1990 and 2009. However, there is a gap in expectations between high school students whose parents had different levels of educational attainment.

And that’s the Condition of Education 2012.

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