Jack Buckley
Commissioner, National Center for Education Statistics

Briefing on The Condition of Education 2011
May 26, 2011

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Good morning. It is my pleasure to brief you today on The Condition of Education 2011.

The Condition of Education is a congressionally mandated report that is produced by the National Center for Education Statistics by June 1st of each year. The role of the Federal government in collecting and reporting statistics dates back to 1867. Today, this report brings together information from our own statistical surveys, as well as data from other sources, to allow us to take a big-picture look at the condition of all areas of American education. Although many of the findings we discuss in the report focus on national or regional trends, there are indicators that feature state-level data as well.

This yearís volume contains 50 indicators on education. In addition, we have included a closer look at some of the postsecondary education indicators to highlight differences and similarities among public, private not-for-profit, and private for-profit institutions.

In the report, the indicators are grouped into five general sections.

Today, I will highlight a selection of some of the core indicators in this yearís volume. I will then briefly review findings of our closer look at postsecondary education.

Letís begin with the section on participation in education.

Charter schools are one type of public school that has exhibited growth in the last decade:

These are national numbers and they donít capture the differences across the country and the changing composition of public school enrollment. Letís look more closely at variation by region.

Next, we turn to two indicators of the context for elementary and secondary schooling. These indicators deal with the issue of poverty.

Next, we look at high-poverty public schools. The percentage of students eligible for the free or reduced-price lunch program provides a proxy measure of the concentration of low-income students within a school. Here we define high-poverty schools as those in which more than 75 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

Letís turn now to learner outcomes and look at how U.S. students and the American education system perform.

The first set of outcomes is based on the latest student assessment data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP. NAEP is designed to assess educational progress nationally using rigorous, common metrics. The scores I will discuss are averages from the main NAEP assessments and they include both public and private school students.

Looking at reading performance:

Turning to mathematics performance, we see that the trends are different.

In addition to looking at overall achievement, it is important to look at differences in achievement for different groups of students. One type of gap we look at is differences in achievement for students that attend high-poverty schools vs. those who attend low-poverty schools. These data are for science at the 4th grade, but similar gaps exist in other subjects and grade levels.

Next, we turn to two indicators associated with educational attainment - labor force participation and earnings.

The next four indicators look at student effort and progress toward a high school diploma, college degree, or other credential.

First, letís examine high school graduation rates.

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

The next indicator presents the high school status dropout rate, measured here as the percentage of 16- to 24-year-olds in a given year who are not enrolled in school and have not earned a high school credential, such as a diploma or GED.

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.

While more students are going directly from high school to college, their persistence in attaining a postsecondary credential remains an important concern. The next indicator looks at the postsecondary graduation rates for first-time, full-year students who began seeking a bachelorís degree in 2002. These rates do not account for students who transferred to another institution.

Now, letís take a closer look, as we did in the report, at a subset of postsecondary indicators, focusing on similarities and differences among public and private institutions. I will discuss the private not-for-profit and the private for-profit institutions separately. For short-hand, they are going to be referred to as not-for-profits and for-profits throughout.

In recent years, for-profit institutions have entered the postsecondary marketplace in increasing numbers, and their share of undergraduate enrollment has increased from 3 percent in 2000 to 9 percent in 2009. This has created additional opportunities for students, but it has also brought to light differences in how students pursue and pay for their education.

First, letís look at the overall growth in undergraduate enrollment.

However, patterns of enrollment vary by attendance status and age.

Advances in technology have allowed for changes in how coursework is delivered.

In addition to differences in the delivery of coursework, there are differences in how institutions distribute their resources, meaning what they spend per student. Expenditures for instruction, for example, vary by type of institution.

One major concern for students pursuing postsecondary education is how to pay for it. Here, the total price of attending includes tuition and fees, as well as room and board, and books and materials, for full-time, full-year dependent undergraduates at 4-year institutions.

Another way to cover the cost of postsecondary education is through loans.

But loans have to be repaid. In fiscal year 2008, which runs from October 1, 2007 to September 30, 2008, approximately 3.2 million students entered the repayment phase of their student loans. Of those students, 7 percent had defaulted within 2 years, or by October 1, 2010. This percent is known as the two-year cohort default rate for the fiscal year 2008 cohort.

Although the Department released default rates for the fiscal year 2009 cohort last week, these data are still preliminary and NCES will not be reporting them until they are finalized.

Now we turn to postsecondary persistence and attainment. One measure of persistence is the retention rate, defined as the percentage of first-year students who enrolled in an institution in the fall and returned to that same institution the following year to continue their studies.

Finally, these differences that we have presented are associated with changes in the number of degrees that have been awarded.

It is projected that by 2020, there will be 20 million students enrolled in undergraduate institutions in the U.S. The indicators that we have looked at today suggest postsecondary education may look quite different for those 20 million students.

This concludes my overview of The Condition of Education 2011. I would like to remind you that the full report and over 100 indicators, including those from prior years, are available on the NCES website.

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