The percentage of U.S. students living in poverty jumped by 40 percent in the last decade, and total funding for K-12 education dropped by $1 billion from 2008-09 to 2009-10. Yet, despite these challenges, high school graduation rates are slowly climbing—and more students are completing math and science courses, according to the latest figures from the National Center on Education Statistics.
Released May 23, “The Condition of Education 2013”—the latest in an annual series of reports from NCES, a branch of the U.S. Department of Education—is chock full of valuable statistics for policy makers and education leaders. Here are seven findings of particular significance for K-12 education.
1. Public school enrollment is projected to increase by 7 percent from 2010-11 to 2021-22.
From school years 2010-11 through 2021-22, public elementary and secondary school enrollment is projected to increase by 7 percent overall, from 49.5 to 53.1 million students. But changes will vary widely across states, ranging from a projected increase of 22 percent in Alaska to a decrease of 15 percent in the District of Columbia.
In grades preK-8, enrollment is projected to increase by more than 20 percent in Alaska, Nevada, Arizona, and Washington but decrease by 11 and 13 percent, respectively, in the District of Columbia and West Virginia. Enrollment in grades 9-12 is expected to increase by more than 20 percent in Texas, while enrollment in these grades in the District of Columbia is projected to decrease by 20 percent or more.
2. The percentage of students living in poverty has risen sharply.
The percentage of students living in poverty in the United States rose sharply in the last decade, from 15 percent in 2000 to 21 percent in 2011, according to NCES data. This rise comes after a decade in which the percentage of students living in poverty had declined, from 17 percent in 1990 to 15 percent in 2000.
From 2000 to 2011, all regions experienced an increase in the percentage of school-age children living in poverty. The percentage of school-age children living in poverty in 2011 ranged across the United States from 9 percent in North Dakota to 30 percent in the District of Columbia. The South had the highest rate of poverty for school-age children (23 percent), followed by the West (21 percent), Midwest (19 percent), and Northeast (17 percent).
3. State revenues for K-12 education are declining, leading to an overall drop in school funding.
From school years 2000-01 through 2009-10, total K-12 public school funding increased from $522 billion to $627 billion—a 20-percent increase, adjusting for inflation. From school years 2008-09 through 2009-10, however, total revenues for public elementary and secondary schools decreased by about $1 billion.
The federal stimulus led to a spike in support from the federal government, but it wasn’t enough to offset a sharp decline in state revenues during the same period, NCES data show.
4. The percentage of U.S. public schools students who are English Language Learners increased from 9 percent in 2002-03 to 10 percent in 2010-11.
ELLs are on the rise, growing by more than 10 percent in the last decade. The percentage of ELL students in public schools was higher in 2010-11 than in 2002-03 in all but 12 states, with the largest percentage-point increases occurring in Kansas, South Carolina, Hawaii, and Nevada (all with 4 percentage points) and the largest percentage-point decreases occurring in Arizona (8 percentage points) and New Mexico (6 percentage points).
The percentage of ELL students in public schools was higher in 2010-11 than in 2009-10 in just over half of the states (28 states), with the largest increase in percentage points occurring in Nevada (3 percentage points) and the largest decrease in percentage points occurring in Minnesota (2 percentage points).
This trend has huge implications for instruction and achievement. In 2011, the achievement gaps between ELL and non-ELL students in the NAEP reading assessment were 36 points at the 4th-grade level and 44 points at the 8th-grade level, NCES said.
5. The percentage of special-education students being served in traditional classrooms has increased significantly.
The number of youth ages 3-21 receiving special-education services was 6.4 million in 2010-11, or about 13 percent of all public school students. That’s actually down from 2004-5, when there were 6.7 million students receiving special-ed services, or about 14 percent of the total public school enrollment.
However, a much greater percentage of these students are now being taught in a general-education classroom environment, as compared to 1990-91. That year, fewer than 40 percent of special-ed students spent at least 80 percent of their time in a general-ed classroom; in 2010-11, more than 60 percent did.
6. Despite all these challenges, high school graduation rates are on the rise.
In the 2009–10 school year, some 3.1 million public high school students, or 78.2 percent, graduated on time with a regular diploma. That’s up from 75.5 percent in 2008-09 and 72.6 percent in 2001-02.
There are still troubling gaps in high school graduations rates across ethnicities, though. Among all public high school students, Asian/Pacific Islanders had the highest graduation rate in 2009-10 (93.5 percent), followed by Whites (83.0 percent), Hispanics (71.4 percent), American Indian/ Alaska Natives (69.1 percent), and Blacks (66.1 percent).
7. The percentage of students taking high school math and science courses also has risen.
The percentages of high school graduates who had taken math courses in algebra I, geometry, algebra II/trigonometry, analysis/precalculus, statistics/ probability, and calculus all increased from 1990 to 2009.
Similarly, the percentages of high school graduates who had taken science courses in chemistry and physics also increased between 1990 and 2009.
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