Stuart Kerachsky
Acting Commissioner, National Center for Education Statistics

Briefing on The Condition of Education 2009
May 28, 2009

Good morning, it is my pleasure to brief you today on The Condition of Education 2009.  Let's begin with some background about the report.

The Condition of Education is a congressionally mandated report produced by the National Center for Education Statistics that brings together new and recently released information from our statistical surveys. This annual report allows us to take a big-picture look at the condition of American education. Many of the findings we discuss focus on national or regional trends, although some of the indicators in the report feature state-level data as well.

Let me provide a brief overview of some of the key findings in the report: we see some improvements, such as higher math and reading scores for younger students, but challenges remain in educating a growing and increasingly diverse population. While greater numbers of individuals are enrolling in college and more bachelor's degrees are being awarded, the percentages of students enrolling in college and earning credentials over the past decade have increased slightly or remained flat. In addition, gaps in achievement and completion rates between various student populations persist.

This year's publication includes 46 indicators, but over 100 indicators, including those from prior years, are available online. These indicators are grouped into five general sections.

Today, I will highlight a selection of indicators focusing on student participation, performance, and outcomes. Let's begin with the section on participation in education. 

Turning to private school enrollment...

Homeschooling is another form of school choice and one that has been increasing over time...

The next four indicators feature student diversity and change in the composition of our public schools.

Examining the distribution of public school students by race/ethnicity, we see that the percentage of public school students who were White decreased from 78 percent in 1972 to 56 percent in 2007.
This decrease in the proportion of White enrollment largely reflects an increase in the percentage of Hispanic students. In 2007, 21 percent or one in five public school students was Hispanic. Black students made up 15 percent of enrollment in 2007, while students of other races comprised 8 percent of enrollment.
Looking at regional differences, the increase in Hispanic enrollment, denoted by the green area, has been the largest in the West, shown on the far right side of this chart. The percentage in the West has gone from 15 to 39 percent during this period.

Next, we look at the concentration of students in high-poverty public schools. A high-poverty school is defined here as having more than 75 percent of the students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.

Changes in the home language of school-age children reflect the changing composition of our public schools. According to household reports...
...the percentage of children ages 5-17 who spoke a language other than English at home is up to 20 percent, having doubled between 1979 and 2007. In the more recent period of 2000 to 2007, there was a smaller increase in this percentage, from 18 to the current 20 percent.

The next graphic highlights the percentage of children and youth receiving special education services.

Keeping these changes in the student population in mind, let's now turn to learner outcomes, which are based on the latest student assessment data in reading and mathematics from the National Assessment of Educational Progress or NAEP. The scores I will discuss are averages and they include both public and private school students. I will highlight findings from both the long-term trend NAEP and the main NAEP assessments. For these next slides describing student achievement, an asterisk denotes a statistically significant difference between a score for the particular year and the score for the most recent assessment.

NAEP's long-term trend assessment has measured reading and mathematics performance for much of the same way since the early 1970s. In 2004, a revised assessment was introduced that allows for accommodations for students with disabilities and English language learners. The figures that follow use a solid line in conjunction with scores based on the revised assessment.

Beginning with reading...

Now let's turn to mathematics...

We should note that while the 2008 average mathematics score for 17-year-olds was not measurably different from the 1973 average score, there were increases in the average scores for a number of student groups, including Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics. The same was true for the long-term reading results.

Now let's turn to main NAEP which is given in a variety of subjects, measures performance over a shorter timeframe—only since the early 1990s, and changes the method of measurement and content to keep pace with current instruction....

As scores for both White and Black 4th graders increased, the achievement gap between White and Black 4th graders decreased from 32 points in 1992 to 27 points in 2007.
At the 8th grade, while both White and Black scores increased, the White-Black reading gap in 2007 was not measurably different from the gap in 1992. 
For these same years, there also was no measurable difference in the size of the achievement gap between Whites and Hispanics at either grade.

Turning to mathematics achievement...

Following increases in scores for White and Black 4th graders, the gap between Whites and Blacks decreased from 32 points in 1990 to 26 points in 2007. 
Scores also increased for both groups at the 8th grade; however, the White-Black achievement gap for 8th-graders in 2007 was not measurably different from the gap in 1990. 
And, as with reading, there was no measurable change in the achievement gap between Whites and Hispanics at either grade level.

Now let's turn to some measures of student persistence and attainment through secondary and postsecondary education.

The averaged freshman graduation rate­ uses state data to estimate the percentage of the incoming freshman class that graduates 4 years later with a regular high school diploma.

The next indicator presents the high school dropout rate measured here as the percentage of 16 to 24 year olds who, in a given year, are not enrolled in school and have not earned a high school credential such as a diploma or GED.
The dropout rates for Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics declined between 1994 and 2007. However, over this period, the dropout rates for Hispanics and Blacks remained higher than the White rate.
The high Hispanic dropout rate is driven, in part, by the rate for foreign-born Hispanics, which was 3 times the rate of native-born Hispanics. 

Looking next at college enrollment, the percentage of students who enroll in college right after high school increased from 49 percent in 1972 to 67 percent in 2007.

While more students are going directly from high school to college, their persistence in attaining a postsecondary credential is an important concern. The next indicator looks at the postsecondary graduation rates for a select group of the postsecondary population: first-time, full-time students who were seeking a bachelor's degree in 2000. Note that these rates reflect the percentage of students who received a degree at the institution where they began and do not include students who transfer and then graduate from another institution.

Among college graduates in 2007...

Finally, let's look at the earnings of young adults ages 25-34 by their highest level of educational attainment.  In 2007, young adults with a bachelor's degree earned about $45,000 a year.

This has been a review of The Condition of Education 2009. The report and over 100 indicators, including those from prior years, are available on the NCES website at the address on the screen. For help with any questions about the indicators in the Condition of Education, please contact any of the people listed on the screen.

I will now take questions from the audience...

Acting Commissioner Stuart Kerachsky's Powerpoint Presentation MS PowerPoint (9.89 MB)

Visit the Condition of Education website.