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Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Minorities
NCES 2007-039
September 2007

Preprimary, Elementary, and Secondary Education

Indicator 6: Enrollment of 3- to 5-Year-Olds
Indicator 7: Elementary and Secondary Enrollment
Indicator 8: Special Needs
Snapshot of Hispanic and Asian Subgroups: Language Minority Students

Preprimary, elementary, and secondary schools provide students with the foundation they need to participate in higher education and function as adults. This chapter examines characteristics of students in preprimary, elementary, and secondary education. Indicator 6 examines the enrollment rates of 3- to 5-year-olds in center-based preprimary programs. In 2005, White, Black, and Asian/Pacific Islander children in this age group were more likely to be enrolled in center-based preprimary programs than were Hispanic children. Children whose families were at or above the poverty line were more likely to be enrolled than were those whose families were in poverty.

Indicator 7 looks at components of elementary and secondary enrollment. From 1993 to 2003, minorities increased as a proportion of public school enrollment, with schools in central city areas experiencing the most growth in the percentage of minority students. Hispanic students accounted for much of the increase in minorities in all types of locales (indicator 7.1). In 2004, the District of Columbia had the highest percentage of Black students and of minority students overall, while New Mexico had the highest percentage of Hispanic students, Hawaii had the highest percentage of Asian/Pacific Islander students, and Alaska had the highest percentage of students who were American Indian/Alaska Native (indicator 7.2). Additionally, while the 20 largest school districts in the United States varied considerably in their racial/ethnic makeup, a larger percentage of students in these districts were minorities than was the case for U.S. school districts overall (indicator 7.3).

Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native students were more likely to be eligible for the free and reduced-price lunch program (frequently used as a measure of income level) than were their White and Asian/Pacific Islander peers. Black and Hispanic students were also the most likely to attend high-poverty schools (as gauged by program eligibility), while Asian/Pacific Islander students were the most likely to attend low-poverty schools (indicator 7.4). In terms of the racial/ethnic composition of schools, the majority of Black and Hispanic students attended schools with high minority enrollment (75 percent or more), while Asian/Pacific Islander and American Indian/Alaska Native students were more evenly distributed across schools with different levels of minority enrollment (indicator 7.5).

Indicator 8 explores the demographics of children who may require special services to address disabilities or limited proficiency in English. In 2004, greater percentages of American Indian/Alaska Native and Black than White, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islander 6- to 21-year-olds were served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (indicator 8.1). In 2005, Hispanics had the highest proportion of students who spoke a language other than English at home, as well as the highest proportion who had difficulty speaking English, followed by Asians (indicator 8.2).