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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.

  • The first is Participation in Education, which presents enrollment and demographic trends from pre-kindergarten through postsecondary education.
  • Next is a section on Learner Outcomes, including student achievement data from national and international assessments, as well as information on social and economic outcomes.
  • Third is a section on Student Effort and Educational Progress. This section presents information on student persistence, including topics such as high school graduation, the transition to college, and the attainment of postsecondary education.
  • And, the final two sections of the report describe the contexts of education, including costs, staffing, and the learning environment at the elementary, secondary and postsecondary levels.

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.

  • Total public elementary and secondary enrollment has increased since the late 1980s. Total enrollment was 49 million students in 2009, and is projected to grow to 53 million students in 2020.
  • Enrollment from prekindergarten through grade 8 was 34 million students in 2009 and is projected to be 37 million by 2020.
  • Enrollment in grades 9 through 12 is projected to remain relatively stable at about 15 million students through 2020.

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

  • Enrollment in charter schools increased by over 1 million students, from 340,000 in 1999 to over 1.4 million in 2008.
  • Charter schools accounted for 5 percent of all public schools in 2008, and over half were in cities, compared to one-quarter of traditional public schools.

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.

  • Overall, public school enrollment increased in each region of the country over the last twenty years, with the biggest increase Ė 4 million students Ė in the South.
  • As you can see from the widening of the orange bands, the number of Hispanic public school students increased in all four regions during this time, as did their share of enrollments.
  • The number of Hispanic students in the South increased from 1.5 million in 1989 to 3.9 million in 2009.
  • In the West, Hispanic enrollment increased from 2.3 million in 1989 to 4.9 million in 2009, which represented 40 percent of total enrollment in that year.

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

  • In 2009, approximately one in five children ages 5 to 17 in the United States were in families living in poverty.
  • The District of Columbia and Mississippi had the highest rates of children living in poverty in 2009 at 32 percent and 29 percent, respectively. By contrast, the states with the lowest percentage Ė New Hampshire and Maryland Ė each had 10 percent.

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.

  • Overall, about 22 percent of public elementary school students attended high-poverty schools in fall 2008. In that same year, greater percentages of Hispanic, Black, and American Indian or Alaska Native students attended high-poverty elementary schools than did White or Asian or Pacific Islander students. For example, 45 percent of Hispanic and 44 percent of Black elementary students attended high-poverty schools compared to 6 percent of White students.
  • Although rates of participation in the lunch program are typically lower at the secondary level, we see a similar pattern across race and ethnicity.

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:

  • Between 1992 and 2009, the average NAEP reading score increased by 4 points for 4th-graders. However, the average of 221 was unchanged between 2007 and 2009.
  • The 8th-grade reading score also increased by 4 points between 1992 and 2009, including a 1 point increase between 2007 and 2009.
  • The 12th-grade average reading score decreased by 4 points overall between 1992 and 2009, although it increased by 2 points between 2005 and 2009.

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

  • Since 1990, 4th-grade scores in mathematics have increased by 27 points. Although the 2009 score was unchanged from 2007, it was higher than the scores on all previous assessments since 1990.
  • For 8th-graders, the average score has increased by 20 points since 1990, and the 2009 score was the highest of all assessment years.
  • At the 12th grade level, we saw an increase of 3 points on average between 2005 and 2009. However, because of changes to the assessment framework, we cannot compare this to prior years.

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.

  • In 2009, 24 percent of 4th graders attended high-poverty schools and 11 percent of these students scored at or above proficient in science, as compared to over half of the students in low-poverty schools.

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

  • In 2009, 69 percent of all young adults in the labor force with at least a bachelorís degree were working full-time for the entire year, as compared to 65 percent of those with an associateís degree, 55 percent of those with only a high school diploma or its equivalent, and only 47 percent of those who had not finished high school.
  • For these young adults who were working full-time for all of 2009, those with a bachelorís degree earned 25 percent more than those with an associateís degree, 50 percent more than high school completers, and more than twice as much as those without a high school credential.

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.

  • This map shows the public school graduation rates for each state. The blue color indicates states with the highest graduation ratesó80 percent or higher, while the states shown in green are those with the lowest ratesóless than 70 percent. Using this measure, about three-quarters of the 2004 incoming freshman class graduated from public high schools on time in 2008.
  • To give an idea of the range of graduation rates across the country, Wisconsin had the highest rate at 90 percent, and Nevada and the District of Columbia had the lowest at 56 percent.

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.

  • These rates have declined for Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics between 1980 and 2009.
  • Further, the gaps in dropout rates between Blacks and Whites, Hispanics and Whites, and Hispanics and Blacks were smaller in 2009 than they were in 1980.

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 1975 and 1980, the immediate college enrollment rate was approximately 50 percent. Since then, the rate has generally increased, and it was 70 percent in 2009.
  • The immediate college enrollment rate of high school completers from low-income families trails the rate of those from high-income families, and the gap between them in 2009 was about the same as it was in 1975.

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.

  • Overall, about 57 percent of this cohort completed a bachelorís degree within 6 years at their first institution.
  • Asian or Pacific Islander students had the highest 6-year graduation rate, followed by White, Hispanic, Black, and American Indian or Alaska Native students.

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.

  • From 1970 to 2009, undergraduate enrollment in college increased from 7 million students to 18 million and it is expected to increase to 20 million by the end of this decade.
  • Female college enrollment continues to increase faster than male enrollment. By 2020, it is expected that 59 percent of undergraduate students will be female.

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

  • Of the 18 million undergraduate students enrolled in fall 2009, about 11 million were full-time students. For these full-time students, choice of institution varied by age group. Nearly half of all full-time students under the age of 25 attended public 4-year institutions, as compared to 29 percent of students ages 25 to 34, and 16 percent of those ages 35 or older.
  • By contrast, just 5 percent of full-time students under the age of 25 attended for-profits, compared with nearly 30 percent of those between the ages of 25 and 34, and 38 percent of those ages 35 or older
  • In 2009, about 6.4 million undergraduate students were enrolled on a part-time basis and about two-thirds of them attended public 2-year institutions, or community colleges, including 70 percent of those under the age of 25.

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

  • In 2008, about 20 percent of undergraduates, or 4 million students, took at least one distance education course, such as live, interactive videoconferencing, webcasts, or other internet based delivery.
  • At for-profit 4-year institutions, 30 percent of students took at least one distance education course and 19 percent of students took their entire program through distance education.
  • By comparison, at public 4-year institutions, 18 percent of undergraduates took at least one of these courses and only 2 percent took their entire program this way.

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.

  • At public institutions, expenditures for instruction in 2009 averaged $9,400 per student. At not-for-profit institutions, they averaged $15,300 per student. And at for-profit institutions, they averaged $2,700.

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.

  • In 2007-08, the total price of attendance averaged $19,300 at public, $37,400 at not-for-profit, and $33,500 at for-profit institutions.
  • Some of this total price can be offset with grants that do not have to be repaid, such as the federal Pell grant or institutional grants that are offered to students based on a variety of criteria. When looking at all grant money received, divided by all students, regardless of whether or not they received money, students at not-for-profit institutions received the highest average grant amount at $10,900.

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

  • At 2-year institutions in 2008-09, 78 percent of students at for-profit institutions had a student loan. This was higher than the percentages at not-for-profit or public institutions. The average annual loan amount per student was also higher at for-profit institutions.
  • At 4-year institutions the pattern was similar. Eighty-one percent of students at for-profit institutions had student loans, and the average annual loan amount was higher than at either not-for-profit or public institutions.

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.

  • The default rates were highest at for-profit 2-year institutions at 12 percent and for-profit 4-year institutions at 11 percent.
  • The lowest default rates for that same cohort were at public and not-for-profit 4-year institutions at 4 percent each.

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.

  • Some 77 percent of full-time students and 46 percent of part-time students who entered 4-year institutions in 2008 returned the following year. At 2-year institutions in that year the retention rates were 61 percent for full-time students and 40 percent for part-time students. In other words, over half of part-time students did not return to the same institution after their first year.
  • In terms of attainment, for students who began seeking a bachelorís degree at a 4-year institution in 2002, and did not transfer to another institution, 65 percent of those at not-for-profit institutions had completed their degree by 2008, or within 6 years, compared to 55 percent of those at public institutions, and 22 percent of those at for-profit institutions.
  • For students who began at 2-year institutions in fall 2005, about 58 percent of students at for-profit institutions had completed a certificate or associateís degree program by 2008, compared to 48 percent at not-for-profit institutions, and 21 percent at public institutions.

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

  • Overall, the number of bachelorís degrees has increased by about one-third over the last decade and the number of associateís has increased by 41 percent.
  • Looking at bachelorís degrees, the number conferred by for-profit institutions has increased by a factor of five over the last ten years.
  • The number of associateís degrees conferred by for-profits has more than doubled in this time frame. Looking at masterís degrees, you can see that there has been a large increase there as well, with about 10 percent of all masterís degrees now being awarded by for-profit institutions.

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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