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Stuart Kerachsky
Deputy Commissioner, National Center for Education Statistics

Briefing on The Condition of Education 2010
May 27, 2010

Good morning, it is my pleasure to brief you today on The Condition of Education 2010. 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. In addition, this year, we have added a special section that focuses on high-poverty schools in the United States. These are schools in which more than 75 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

This year's publication includes 49 indicators plus the special section, but over 100 indicators, including those from prior years, are available online. In the full report, the indicators are grouped into five general sections.

  • Participation in Education presents enrollment and demographic trends from prekindergarten through postsecondary education.
  • Learner Outcomes includes student achievement data from national and international assessments, as well as information on social and economic outcomes. 
  • Student Effort and Educational Progress presents information on student persistence and attainment through secondary and postsecondary education.
  • The final two sections of the report describe the context of education, including costs, staffing, and the social climate at the elementary/secondary and postsecondary levels.

Today, I will highlight a selection of some of the core indicators from the first three sections. I will then briefly review findings concerning our high-poverty schools. It is important to focus attention on these schools as there is a wide and persistent achievement gap associated with school poverty.

Let's begin with the section on participation in education.

  • Total public school enrollment has increased since the late 1980s. Total enrollment is projected to be about 49 million students this year and to continue to grow to over 52 million students in 2019. Please note that these numbers represent fall enrollment.
  • Enrollment through grade 8 is projected to increase to nearly 35 million students this year and to reach just over 37 million by 2019.
  • Enrollment in grades 9 through 12 is projected to dip slightly to just over 14 ½ million in 2011, before increasing to a high of over 15 million in 2019. This projected increase will occur as the growing population of younger students reaches high school age.
  • Enrollment in charter schools, which are public schools that operate under a charter or contract, has more than tripled since 1999 from 340,000 students to nearly 1.3 million in 2007. 
  • As of 2007, charter schools enrolled 3 percent of public school students and accounted for 5 percent of all public schools.
  • Private school enrollment increased from 5.9 to 6.3 million students between 1995 and 2001, but by 2007, enrollment had declined to the 1995 level.
  • About 11 percent of all elementary and secondary school students were in private schools in 2007.
  • Looking at the distribution of enrollment within private schools in 2007, Catholic schools continued to have the largest percentage of total enrollment at 39 percent, although this percentage is down from 45 percent in 1995.

Finally, we look at undergraduate enrollment...

  • From 1970 to 2008, undergraduate enrollment in college increased from 7.4 million students to 16.4 million.
  • Beginning in 1977, female college enrollment has been increasing faster than male enrollment. By 2019, when total undergraduate enrollment is projected to be 19 million students, it is expected that 59 percent of these students will be female.

Let's turn now to learner outcomes, and look at how well U.S. students and the American education system perform. These outcomes reflect both achievement and earnings.

The first set of outcomes is based on the latest student assessment data in reading and mathematics from the National Assessment of Educational Progress or NAEP. NAEP is designed to assess educational progress nationally using a rigorous, common metric. The scores I will discuss are averages from the main NAEP assessments and they include both public and private school students. The main NAEP has been given in a variety of subjects since the early 1990s....

  • Between 1992 and 2009, the average NAEP reading scores increased 4 points for both 4th-graders and 8th-graders.
  • At grade 4, the average reading score was 221 in both 2007 and 2009, and at grade 8, the average reading score increased by 1 point between these years, from 263 to 264.

The trend in mathematics achievement is different...

  • Since 1990, scores for 4th-graders have increased by 27 points. For 8th-graders, the average score has increased by 20 points.
  • Compared with the 2007 average mathematics score at grade 4, the score in 2009 was unchanged, although it was higher than the scores on all previous assessments since 1990. The 2009 score for 8th-graders was the highest of all assessment years.

Another outcome of education is the difference in earnings among those with various levels of education. These numbers are for young adults, ages 25 to 34, working full time throughout a full year. The amounts are expressed as the median earnings (meaning half the population earns more, and half earns less). It should be noted that 72 percent of all young adults with at least a bachelor's degree were working full time throughout the full year in 2008, while only 48 percent of those with less than a high school diploma were.

  • In 2008, young adults with a bachelor's degree earned 53 percent more than high school completers and 96 percent more than those without a high school diploma. 

The next four indicators look at student effort and progress toward a high school diploma, college degree, or other credential. These measures are key indicators for describing the progress of students and schooling in the United States.

First, let's examine graduation rates...

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

  • Using this measure, about three-quarters of the 2003 incoming freshman class graduated from public high schools on time in 2007.
  • This map shows the graduation rates for each state. The dark brown color indicates states with higher graduation rates—80 percent or more, while the states shown in white are those with the lower rates—less than 70 percent. To give an idea of the range of graduation rates across the country, Vermont had the highest rate at 89 percent, and Nevada had the lowest at 52 percent.

The next indicator presents the high school status 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 1980 and 2008.
  • Over this period, the dropout rates for Hispanics and Blacks remained higher than the White rate. However, the gaps in the rates between Hispanics and Whites and between Hispanics and Blacks have narrowed.

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

  • Overall, between 1972 and 1980, the immediate college enrollment rate was approximately 50 percent. Since then, the rate has generally increased, albeit with some ups and downs; it was 69 percent in 2008.
  • The immediate college enrollment rates of high school completers from low-income families trail the rates of those from high-income families, though the gap, which was 41 percentage points in 1972, has narrowed to 25 percentage points.

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: full-time students who began seeking a bachelor's degree in 2001. Note that these rates reflect the percentage of students who receive a degree at the institution where they began and do not include students who transfer and then graduate from another institution.

  • Overall, about 57 percent of first-time, full-year students completed a bachelor's degree within 6 years.
  • Asian/Pacific Islander students had the highest 6-year graduation rate, followed by White, Hispanic, Black, and American Indian/Alaska Native students.
  • This rate also varied by type of institution. The 6-year rate for private not-for-profit institutions was 64 percent, compared with 55 percent for public institutions and 25 percent for private for-profit institutions.

Now that we have seen indicators of the overall condition of education in the United States, let's explore more closely one segment of our education system – high-poverty schools. This year we present a descriptive profile of high-poverty schools and their students, and compare them to low-poverty schools and their students. The poverty measure that is used is the percentage of a school's enrollment that is eligible for free or reduced-price lunch through the National School Lunch Program. High-poverty schools are those where between 76 and 100 percent of the students qualify for the program. Low-poverty schools, then, are those where between 0 and 25 percent of the students qualify.

  • In 2008, over 16,000 public schools in the United States, or 17 percent, were high-poverty, whereas in 2000, some 12 percent of our public schools fit this description.
  • The bars on this figure represent total enrollment in our public elementary and secondary schools. The dark brown boxes on the far right represent high-poverty schools. As you can see, these schools educated 20 percent of our elementary school students and 6 percent of our high school students in 2008.
  • Again, focusing on the right ends of the bars...compared with other locales, cities tend to have greater percentages of high-poverty public schools. In 2008, about 40 percent of city elementary schools were high-poverty, compared with 10-15 percent of schools in the other locales.
  • Similarly, in 2008, 20 percent of city secondary schools were high-poverty, compared with 5-8 percent of schools in other locales.
  • The states with the highest percentages of high-poverty elementary public schools in 2008 were Mississippi, at 53 percent, Louisiana, at 52 percent, and New Mexico, at 46 percent.
  • These same states had the highest percentages of high-poverty public secondary schools in 2008. In Mississippi, 43 percent of the secondary schools were high-poverty. In New Mexico 34 percent were, and in Louisiana it was 27 percent.

In terms of the characteristics of the students that attend these schools...

  • About 42 percent of Hispanic and 40 percent of Black elementary school students attended high-poverty schools in 2008, while 5 percent of White elementary school students did.
  • At the secondary level, about 15 percent of Black, Hispanic and American Indian/Alaska Native students attended high-poverty schools, compared with 1 percent of White students.

High-poverty public schools also have more students who are learning English...

  • Some 25 percent of students in high-poverty elementary schools and 16 percent of students in high-poverty secondary schools were limited-English proficient in 2008, as compared to 4 percent of students at low-poverty elementary schools and 2 percent of students at low-poverty secondary schools.

Turning to the outcomes in high-poverty schools, there are persistent achievement gaps between students at high-poverty schools and those at low-poverty schools. For example, we can look at the 2009 NAEP results I showed earlier broken out by the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-priced lunch. Here the results include public and private school data.

  • On the 2009 NAEP reading assessment, the average score for 8th-graders at high-poverty schools was 34 points lower than the score for 8th-graders at low-poverty schools.
  • Similarly, on the 2009 NAEP mathematics assessment, the average score for 8th-graders at high-poverty schools was 38 points lower than the score for those at low-poverty schools.

Switching to later outcomes--at the end of secondary school, we see differences in the immediate 4-year college enrollment rates between high-poverty and low-poverty public high schools.

  • In 2008, according to school administrators, the immediate 4-year college enrollment rate at high-poverty public high schools was about half that of low-poverty public high schools.

This difference, and the others that we have highlighted, suggest that it is important to continue to focus attention on high-poverty schools.

This concludes our review of The Condition of Education 2010. I would like to point out that, in addition to the indicators presented today, the report contains several new indicators on topics such as teacher performance pay, students studying abroad, and others. We are beginning to track several of these new indicators and look forward to following them in future reports.

Deputy Commissioner Stuart Kerachsky's Briefing Slides PDF (1.37 MB)

Visit the Condition of Education website.

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