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Getting an Education

Chapter 6: Getting an Education

THE NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ACT
THE COST OF PUBLIC EDUCATION
PREPRIMARY SCHOOL
ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY SCHOOL
HIGHER EDUCATIONOFF TO COLLEGE
EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT AND EARNINGS

Despite the controversies surrounding the quality and direction of American education, the United States remains one of the most highly educated nations in the world. According to Thomas D. Snyder, Sally A. Dillow, and Charlene M. Hoffman, in Digest of Education Statistics, 2007 (March 2008, http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2008/2008022.pdf), in the fall of 2007, 73.7 million Americans were enrolled students in elementary and secondary schools and colleges. (See Table 6.1.) An additional 4.6 million were teachers and faculty at these institutions, and 5.2 million were employed as administrative and support staff.

THE NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ACT

However, in the 1980s concern grew that American youth were falling behind young people in other industrialized countries in educational achievement. In response, the National Education Goals Panel was created in 1989 to further the achievement of several national goals, including increasing the high school graduation rate and student competency in English, mathematics, science, history, and geography. Even though a task force recommended the panel's reauthorization in 1999, the passage of sweeping educational reform legislation, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), shut down the panel in 2002.

The NCLB made huge changes to the laws defining and regulating the federal government's role in kindergarten through 12th-grade education. The law is based on four basic education reform principles. According to the U.S. Department of Education, in Four Pillars of NCLB (July 1, 2004, http://www.ed.gov/nclb/overview/intro/4pillars.html), the four principles are:

  • Stronger accountability for results
  • Increased flexibility and local control
  • Expanded options for parents
  • An emphasis on teaching methods that have been proven to work.

Accountability

Under the NCLB, schools are required to demonstrate adequate yearly progress toward statewide proficiency goals, including closing the achievement gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students. Those schools that do not demonstrate progress face corrective action and restructuring measures. Progress reports are public, so parents can stay informed about their school and school district. Schools that are making or exceeding adequate yearly progress are eligible for awards.

The accountability outlined under the NCLB is measured through standards testing. States are required to establish strong academic standards and test students annually to see how they are meeting them. The requirement for annual testing was phased in over a six-year period. During the 200203 school year, students in grades three to five, six to nine, and 10 to 12 were tested in math and reading. Beginning in the 200506 school year, testing expanded to all students in grades three to eight. In the 200708 school year, science testing in elementary, middle, and high school was implemented. The NCLB linked federal financing of schools to the results of these mandated tests.

The testing provisions of the NCLB are the subject of much debate. Martin R. West of the Brookings Institution explains in No Child Left Behind: How to Give It a Passing Grade (December 2005, http://www.brook.edu/comm/policybriefs/pb149.htm) that advocates see testing as a means of raising expectations and helping guarantee that all children are held to the same high standards. They argue that many young people have passed through school without acquiring the basic reading and math skills needed in society and especially in the information-oriented economy. By contrast, Amanda Paulson indicates in Next Round Begins for No Child Left Behind (Christian Science Monitor, January 8, 2007) that critics of testing say classroom experiences become limited to the need to teach students with the test in mindand what is tested is only a

 
TABLE 6.1 Estimated number of participants in elementary and secondary education and in higher education, fall 2007
[In millions]
Participants All levels (elementary, secondary, and postsecondary degree-granting) Elementary and secondary schools Postsecondary degree-granting institutions
Total Public Private Total Public Private
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Notes: Includes enrollments in local public school systems and in most private schools (religiously affiliated and nonsectarian). Excludes federal schools. Excludes private preprimary enrollment in schools that do not offer kindergarten or above. Degree-granting institutions grant associate's or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Data for teachers and other staff in public and private elementary and secondary schools and colleges and universities are reported in terms of full-time equivalents. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: Thomas D. Snyder, Sally A. Dillow, and Charlene M. Hoffman, Table 1. Projected Number of Participants in Educational Institutions, by Level and Control of Institution: Fall 2007, in Digest of Education Statistics, 2007, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, March 2008, http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2008/2008022.pdf (accessed November 7, 2008)
Total 83.5 62.9 55.9 6.8 20.7 15.3 5.4
Enrollment 73.7 55.8 49.6 6.2 18.0 13.5 4.5
Teachers and faculty 4.6 3.7 3.2 0.5 0.9 0.6 0.3
Other professional, administrative, and support staff 5.2 3.4 3.1 0.3 1.8 1.2 0.6

sample of what children should know. Furthermore, critics claim that standards exams tend to test for those things most easily measured and not the critical thinking skills students need to develop. In addition, the tests measure only how students perform on the tests at one point in time, not their progress over time.

Proficiency Testing

The testing requirements of the NCLB will be debated for some time to come as states grapple with the best means of implementing them. Standardized tests have, however, been around for some time. A look at the changes in proficiency test scores over time is one way to gauge the performance of the education system.

In Condition of Education 2008 (June 2008, http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2008/2008031.pdf), the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) lists test results for a series of years. The percentage of both fourth and eighth graders who tested at or above proficient (indicating solid academic achievement) in reading rose from about 29% of both groups in 1992 to 33% of fourth graders and 31% of eighth graders in 2007. The percentage of fourth graders at or above proficiency in mathematics rose from 18% in 1992 to 39% in 2007; the percentage of eighth graders at or above proficiency rose from 21% in 1992 to 32% in 2007. Despite improvements, especially in mathematics, fewer than one out of three eighth graders had achieved proficiency in each area by 2007.

The public's opinion of school performance is low. Snyder, Dillow, and Hoffman present data on the grades that the public gives to schools nationally. Based on a scale of A=4, B=3, C=2, D=1, and F=0, the average grade given by adults to the nation's schools hit a high of 2.18slightly better than a Cin 1987. By 2007 the average grade had dropped to 1.90, lower than it had been in 2002, when the NCLB was passed. When adults with children in the school system were asked to rate their local schools as compared to the nation's schools as a whole, they gave their local schools a higher grade; they rated local schools at 2.54 and national schools at 1.96. Nevertheless, the high rating of local schools was still only about a C+.

Another way to evaluate the educational system in the United States is to compare it to the systems of other industrialized countries. In Comparative Indicators of Education in the United States and Other G-8 Countries: 2006 (August 2007, http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2007/2007006.pdf), David C. Miller et al. compare the U.S. educational system with the systems in eight other highly industrialized nations: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Russian Federation, Scotland, and the United Kingdom. U.S. students compared poorly to the other countries measured in reading and mathematics proficiency. Fifteen-year-old students in the United States had a mean reading score of 495 and a mean mathematics score of 483, below the scores of every other country measured except the Russian Federation and Italy.

Flexibility

The NCLB gave states and local school districts more control over the federal funding they receive for education. Up to half of all nonTitle I federal education funding can be allocated by states to whichever programs they wish. Federal programs were also simplified and consolidated under the law, so receiving funding is easier. However, according to Linda Darling-Hammond, in Evaluating No Child Left Behind (The Nation, May 2, 2007), critics charge that the law is woefully underfundedfunding allocated under the NCLB is less than 10% of most school districts' budgets.

Parental Options

The NCLB stated that parents of students attending failing schools would be provided with the opportunity and transportation to send their child to an alternative public or charter school. If the parent chose to keep his or her child in a failing school, federal Title I funds would be available for supplemental services such as tutoring and summer school, which would be run by either non-sectarian or faith-based organizations. The creation and use of charter schools were expanded under the NCLB.

Proven Educational Methods

The NCLB attached federal funding to programs that had already been shown to help children learn. The Department of Education reports in The Budget for Fiscal Year 2009 (2008, http://www.gpoaccess.gov/usbudget/fy09/pdf/budget/education.pdf) that emphasis was placed on the Reading First initiative, nearly tripling funding for reading programs from $393 million in fiscal year 2008 to a proposed $1 billion in fiscal year 2009. Included in this funding was an Early Reading First program, established to support literacy skills among preschool-age children to try to meet President George W. Bush's (1946-) goal of every child being able to read by the third grade. The fiscal year 2009 budget included a proposed $2.8 billion to be used for teacher quality programs, including funding to hire new teachers, increase teacher salaries, and improve teacher training and development.

The Voucher Controversy

Many people believe that problems such as large class sizes, poor teacher training, and lack of computers and supplies in many public schools are unsolvable within the current public school system. One solution proposed in the early 1990s was the school voucher system: The government would provide a certain amount of money each year to parents in the form of a voucher to enroll their children at the school of their choice, either public or private. School vouchers became a highly polarized issue, with strong opinions both for and against the idea.

The National Education Association (NEA), a union of teachers and one of the larger unions in the country, immediately objected to school vouchers, arguing that voucher programs would divert money from the public education system and make the current problems worse. The union also argued that giving money to parents who choose to send their child to a religious or parochial school is unconstitutional. Little evidence exists to support the idea that voucher programs will lead to better educational outcomes. For example, in An Evaluation of the Effect of D.C.'s Voucher Program on Public School Achievement and Racial Integration after One Year (January 2006, http://www.manhattan-institute.org/pdf/ewp_10.pdf), Jay P. Greene and Marcus A. Winters indicate that the Washington, D.C., voucher program had no effect on student performance in public schools. Furthermore, Kim K. Metcalf of the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy finds in Evaluation of the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program: Exploring Families' Educational Choices (December 2003, http://ceep.indiana.edu/projects/PDF/200312d_clev_6_phon_rep.pdf) no difference in the academic achievement of voucher-eligible students who used them to attend private school and those who chose to remain in public school.

Supporters of vouchers claim that parents should be able to choose the best educational environment for their children. They also argue that vouchers would give all people, not just the wealthy or middle class, the opportunity for a better education for their children in private schools. Most important, supporters believe that making the educational system a free-market enterprise, in which parents could choose which school their children would attend, would force the public educational system to provide a higher standard of education to compete.

During the legislative process of getting the NCLB through Congress, President Bush agreed to drop the voucher provisions from the legislation, recognizing that debate on the vouchers issue could prevent the bill from being passed. On January 8, 2002, the NCLB became law without specific provisions for a nationwide voucher program. However, in President Bush's final State of the Union address in January 2008, he proposed a new voucher program to be included in a reauthorization of the NCLB. The act was not reauthorized in 2008.

Frustrated at the national level, supporters of vouchers turned to state and local governments. Programs launched in Wisconsin, Florida, and Ohio provided students in some overcrowded or poorly performing schools with vouchers that could be used for private tuition. All these programs were met with court challenges. On June 27, 2002, in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (536 U.S. 639), the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the use of public money for religious school tuition in Cleveland, Ohio, calling the city's voucher plan a program of true private choice.

Public School ChoiceNo Child Left Behind and Charter Schools

In lieu of a voucher program, the NCLB offered a public school choice program. Parents of students enrolled in failing public schools were allowed to move their children to a better-performing public or charter school. Local school districts were required to provide this choice and provide students with transportation to the alternative school.

Public charter schools are funded by government money and run by a group under an agreement, or charter, with the state that exempts it from many state or local regulations that govern most public schools. In return for these exemptions and funding, the school must meet certain standards. In A Commitment to Quality: National Charter School Policy Forum Report (October 2008, http://www.ed.gov/admins/comm/choice/csforum/report.pdf),

 

the Department of Education notes that by 2008, 40 states and the District of Columbia had 4,300 charter schools, in which more than 1.2 million students were enrolled. Furthermore, the department reports in The Budget for Fiscal Year 2009 that the fiscal year 2009 budget provided $236 million to help fund new and ongoing charter schools.

Future of the NCLB

During the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, future president Barack Obama (1961-) promised to reform the NCLB if elected. According to Obama's Web site, www.barackobama.com, he and Vice President Joe Biden believe teachers should not be forced to spend the academic year preparing students to fill in bubbles on standardized tests. They vowed to improve the assessments used to track student progress to measure readiness for college.

THE COST OF PUBLIC EDUCATION

The average annual expenditure per student in the public school system in constant 200607 dollars more than doubled between 1970 and 2003, from $4,410 per pupil in 196970 to $9,910 per pupil during the 200405 school year. (See Figure 6.1.) Each year, when the federal budget is determined in Washington, D.C., the battle over the education budget is fierce. Public school officials and teachers stress the importance of investing in the public education system, arguing that more money will provide more teachers, educational materials, andeventuallya better education to students. They point to school buildings in need of repair and classes that meet in hallways and other cramped areas because of a lack of space. Opponents of increasing public school funding say that more money does not create a better educationbetter teachers do. To support their argument, they point to the increase in spending per pupil while some measurements of academic achievement remain low.

PREPRIMARY SCHOOL

Preprimary Growth

Participating in early childhood programs such as nursery school, Head Start, prekindergarten, and kindergarten helps prepare children for the academic challenges of first grade. In contrast to the declining elementary and secondary

 
TABLE 6.2 Enrollment of 3- to 5-year-old children in preprimary programs, by level and control of program and by attendance, selected years 19652006
[In thousands]
Year and age Total population, 3 to 5 years old Total Percent enrolled Enrollment by level and control Kindergarten Enrollment by attendance
Nursery school Full-day Part-day Percent full-day
Public Private Public Private
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
Not available.
*Data collected using new procedures. May not be comparable with figures prior to 1994.
Note: Data are based on sample surveys of the civilian noninstitutional population. Although cells with fewer than 75,000 children are subject to wide sampling variation, they are included in the table to permit various types of aggregations. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: Adapted from Thomas D. Snyder, Sally A. Dillow, and Charlene M. Hoffman, Table 41. Enrollment of 3-, 4-, and 5-Year-Old Children in Preprimary Programs, by Level of Program, Control of Program, and Attendance Status: Selected Years, 1965 through 2006, in Digest of Education Statistics, 2007, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, March 2008, http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2008/2008022.pdf (accessed November 7, 2008)
Total, 3 to 5 years old                  
1965 12,549 3,407 27.1 127 393 2,291 596
1970 10,949 4,104 37.5 332 762 2,498 511 698 3,405 17.0
1975 10,185 4,955 48.7 570 1,174 2,682 528 1,295 3,659 26.1
1980 9,284 4,878 52.5 628 1,353 2,438 459 1,551 3,327 31.8
1985 10,733 5,865 54.6 846 1,631 2,847 541 2,144 3,722 36.6
1990 11,207 6,659 59.4 1,199 2,180 2,772 509 2,577 4,082 38.7
1995* 12,518 7,739 61.8 1,950 2,381 2,800 608 3,689 4,051 47.7
2000* 11,858 7,592 64.0 2,146 2,180 2,701 565 4,008 3,584 52.8
2002* 11,524 7,697 66.8 2,376 2,179 2,621 521 4,191 3,507 54.4
2003* 12,204 7,921 64.9 2,512 2,347 2,539 523 4,429 3,492 55.9
2004* 12,362 7,969 64.5 2,428 2,243 2,812 484 4,507 3,461 56.6
2005* 12,134 7,801 64.3 2,409 2,120 2,804 468 4,548 3,253 58.3
2006* 12,186 8,010 65.7 2,481 2,156 2,960 413 4,723 3,286 59.0

school enrollment between 1970 and 1980, preprimary enrollment showed substantial growth, increasing from 4.1 million in 1970 to 4.9 million in 1980. (See Table 6.2 and Figure 6.2.) Enrollment had grown to eight million by 2006.

Not only did the numbers of children enrolled in early childhood programs increase but also the percentage of all three- to five-year-olds enrolled increased substantially between 1965 and 2006. In 1965, 27.1% of three- to five-year-olds were enrolled in nursery school or kindergarten; by 2006, 65.7% were enrolled. (See Table 6.2.)

Even though programs such as Head Start and other locally funded preschool programs are available to children in low-income families, preprimary school attendance is still generally linked to parental income and educational achievement levels. According to the NCES, in Condition of Education 2008, 51% of four-year-olds from households with an income below the poverty level in 200506 and 59.6% of four-year-olds from households with an income at or above the poverty level were enrolled in preprimary programs. (See Table 6.3.) Over a quarter (26.3%) of four-year-olds from households with incomes below the poverty threshold were in Head Start programs, compared to just 8.2% of children from households with higher incomes.

Preschool enrollment rates were even more strongly correlated with their parents' educational level. In 200506 the enrollment rate of children in center-based care whose parents had not earned a high school diploma was only 43.4%. (See Table 6.3.) The enrollment rate of children whose parents had a high school diploma or equivalent was 51.7%, for those whose parents had some college it was 55.5%, for those whose parents had a bachelor's degree it was 65.7%, and for those whose parents had any graduate or professional school, the enrollment rate was 70.8%. These numbers likely reflect three things: parents with higher educational levels are more likely to continue working after becoming parents, they are better able to pay for these programs, and they value the educational benefits of preprimary programs for their children.

HEAD START . The Head Start program, which was established as part of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, is one of the most durable and successful federal programs for low-income and at-risk children. Directed by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Head Start is designed to help improve the social competence, learning skills, health, and nutrition of low-income children so they can begin school on a more level footing with children from higher-income families. Regulations require that 90% of children enrolled in Head Start be from low-income households.

The ACF notes in Head Start Program Fact Sheet Fiscal Year 2008 (2008, http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/About%20Head%20Start/dHeadStartProgr.htm) that in fiscal year 2007, 908,412 children were served by Head Start programs. Of these children, 39.7% were non-Hispanic

 

white, 34.7% were Hispanic, 30.1% were African-American, 4% were Native American or Alaskan Native, and 1.7% were Asian-American or Pacific Islander. Most participating children were three and four years old (36% and 51%, respectively). A significant portion (12.2%) of enrolled children had disabilities, including developmental disabilities, health impairments, visual handicaps, hearing impairments, emotional disturbances, speech and language impairments, orthopedic handicaps, and learning disabilities.

According to the ACF, the average cost per child for Head Start in 2007 was $7,326. Between its inception in 1965 and 2007, Head Start provided services to more than 25 million children and their families. The budget for Head Start in fiscal year 2008 was $6.9 billion. The Children's Defense Fund notes in Head Start Basics (March 8, 2005, http://www.childrensdefense.org/site/DocServer/headstartbasics2005.pdf?docID=616) that despite these expenditures, Head Start served only about 54% of eligible children because the program continues to be underfunded.

Head Start faced more drastic budget cuts beginning in the middle of the first decade of the 2000s, with its budget declining by more than 10% between 2005 and 2008. As a result of cuts in 2006, the National Head Start Association explains in Special Report: Quality of Head Start Programs Imperiled by Steady Erosion of Funding (February 7, 2007, http://www.saveheadstart.org/backpages/NHSA_January_2007_Budget_Survey_Report.pdf) that 56% of programs reported having cut their services to childrenincluding reducing hours; cutting instructional time, classroom materials, activities, and resources to children; reducing extra services such as mental health, medical and dental, and English as a second language; and decreasing services for children with disabilities. Almost half (47%) had to cut extra services to families, and another 46% of programs had to cut transportation services for children. Over two-thirds (69%) of Head Start programs were forced to cut staff positions and hours and eliminated salary increases and benefits, leading to higher turnover rates.

ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY SCHOOL

Compulsory Attendance

All U.S. states require students to attend school through at least age 16, and Snyder, Dillow, and Hoffman note that 94.9% of all 14- to 17-year-olds were enrolled in school in 2006. Most industrialized Western nations require children to attend school for about 10 years.

 
TABLE 6.3 Percentage distribution of the early education and child care arrangements of the 2001 birth cohort at about 4 years old, by type of arrangement and selected child and family characteristics, 200506
Child or family characteristic Percentage distribution of populationa Percentage distribution by primary type of care arrangementb
No regular nonparental arrangement Home-based care Center-based carec  
Relative care Nonrelative care Total Head Start Other than Head Start Multiple arrangementsd
!Interpret data with caution (estimates are unstable).
Reporting standards not met (too few cases).
aDistribution of weighted Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (ECLS-B) survey population between 44 and 65 months of age with data on primary care arrangements.
bPrimary type of care arrangement is the type of nonparental care in which the child spent the most hours.
cCare provided in places such as early learning centers, nursery schools, and preschools, including Head Start.
dChildren who spent an equal amount of time in each of two or more arrangements.
ePoverty status based on Census Bureau guidelines from 2002, which identify a dollar amount determined to meet a household's needs, given its size and composition. In 2002, a family was considered to live below the poverty threshold if its income was less than or equal to $18,392.
fSocioeconomic status (SES) was measured by a composite score on parental education and occupations and on family income.
Notes: Estimates weighted by W3R0. Estimates for children at about 4 years old pertain to children assessed between 44 and 65 months.
Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding and suppression of cells that do not meet standards.
SOURCE: Michael Planty et al.,Table 21. Percentage Distribution of the Early Education and Child Care Arrangements of the 2001 Birth Cohort at about 4 Years Old, by Type of Arrangement and Selected Child and Family Characteristics: School Year 200506, in The Condition of Education 2008, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, June 2008, http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2008/2008031_App1.pdf (accessed November 7, 2008)
Total 100.0 20.0 13.1 7.6 57.5 12.7 44.8 1.9
Sex of child                
Male 51.2 19.3 13.1 7.5 58.0 12.9 45.1 2.1
Female 48.8 20.7 13.1 7.6 56.9 12.4 44.5 1.7
Race/ethnicity of child                
White 53.8 17.9 11.0 9.2 60.1 6.8 53.3 1.9
Black 13.8 16.0 13.9 4.3 62.4 25.4 37.1 3.3
Hispanic 25.1 27.2 15.9 6.2 49.4 18.6 30.9 1.2
Asian 2.6 17.5 16.0 3.4 60.7 5.5 55.3 2.3!
Pacific Islander 0.2 22.3! 45.0! 19.9! 5.0! 14.9!
American Indian/Alaska Native 0.5 20.0 14.0 5.3 59.6 31.1 28.5 1.1!
More than one race 4.0 17.8 17.5 8.9 53.9 12.2 41.7 1.8!
Age of child                
Less than 48 months 16.4 27.3 13.9 8.7 48.0 10.6 37.4 2.2
48.0 to 52.9 months 38.1 19.9 13.0 8.3 56.8 12.0 44.8 2.0
53.0 to 57.9 months 36.5 16.5 13.1 6.7 62.2 14.4 47.8 1.5
58.0 or more months 9.0 20.9 12.0 6.3 58.1 12.0 46.1 2.7
Mother's employment status                
Full-time (35 hours or more) 39.4 8.5 18.5 13.4 57.4 11.4 46.1 2.1
Part-time (less than 35 hours) 19.7 13.4 15.9 8.5 59.3 10.1 49.2 2.9
Looking for work 5.8 28.5 12.6 2.1! 54.7 24.3 30.4 2.0!
Not in labor force 34.3 35.6 4.6 1.5 57.3 13.7 43.7 1.0!
No mother in household 0.8 9.6! 36.0 9.5! 41.1 14.4! 26.7 3.8!
Parents' highest level of education                
Less than high school 10.4 34.0 16.5 4.0 43.4 22.2 21.2 2.1!
High school completion 25.0 22.6 17.1 6.7 51.7 21.4 30.3 2.0
Some college/vocational 31.6 20.6 14.9 7.3 55.5 13.0 42.5 1.7
Bachelor's degree 16.8 16.0 8.4 8.1 65.7 3.3 62.4 1.8
Any graduate/professional school 16.2 9.7 6.2 11.2 70.8 2.0 68.8 2.0
Poverty statuse                
Below poverty threshold 24.8 27.6 15.0 4.4 51.0 26.3 24.7 2.0
At or above poverty threshold 75.2 17.4 12.5 8.6 59.6 8.2 51.4 1.9
Socioeconomic statusf                
Lowest 20 percent 20.0 30.5 15.0 5.0 47.1 24.7 22.4 2.3
Middle 60 percent 60.0 19.6 15.0 7.4 56.2 12.5 43.7 1.8
Highest 20 percent 20.0 10.3 5.5 10.7 71.6 1.0 70.6 1.9

Enrollment

Preprimary, elementary, and secondary school enrollments reflect the number of births over a specified period. Because of the baby boom following World War II (19391945), school enrollment grew rapidly during the 1950s and 1960s, when those children reached school age. Elementary enrollment reached a then-record high in 1969, as did high school enrollment in 1971.

In the late 1960s the birthrate began to decline, resulting in a steadily falling school enrollment. An echo effect occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when those born during the baby boom began their own families. This echo effect triggered an increase in school enrollment starting in the mid-1980s. In 1985 public elementary and secondary school enrollment increased for the first time since 1971 and continued to increase, reaching 55.2 million in 2005.

 

(See Figure 6.3.) It is projected to reach 60.4 million by 2017. In 2005, 38.9 million students were enrolled in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade and 16.3 million were enrolled in high school.

Private Schools

Enrollment in public schools far surpasses enrollment in private schools. Snyder, Dillow, and Hoffman indicate that in the fall of 2007 only 11% of all primary and secondary school students were enrolled in private schools. Private school enrollment has risen more slowly than school enrollment overall, and as a result the proportion of students enrolled in private schools declined slightly between 1980 and 2007. In 2007, 6.2 million students were enrolled in private schools4.8 million were in prekindergarten through eighth grade and 1.4 million were in ninth through 12th grades.

CATHOLIC SCHOOLS . According to Stephen P. Broughman, Nancy L. Swaim, and Patrick W. Keaton, in Characteristics of Private Schools in the United States: Results from the 20052006 Private School Universe Survey (March 2008, http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2008/2008315.pdf), 26.3% of all private schools were Catholic, and 44.4% of private school students attended Catholic schools. Economic and social changes have caused a decline in Catholic school enrollment and in the number of Catholic schools. In United States Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools, 20072008: The Annual Statistical Report on Schools, Enrollment, and Staffing (2008, http://www.ncea.org/news/AnnualDataReport.asp#full), Dale McDonald and Margaret M. Schultz of the National Catholic Educational Association find that in 199798 there were 8,223 Catholic schools in the United States; by 200708 there were only 7,378.

OTHER RELIGIOUS AND NONRELIGIOUS PRIVATE SCHOOLS . The other types of private schools are non-Catholic religious schools and nonreligious (nonsectarian) schools. According to Broughman, Swaim, and Keaton, non-Catholic religious schools made up 49.8% of all private schools in 200506 and enrolled 37.3% of all private school students. Nonsectarian schools enrolled only 18.3% of private school students in 23.9% of private schools.

Dropping Out

DROPOUT RATES . Status dropouts are 16- to 24-year-olds who have not finished high school and are not enrolled in school. Snyder, Dillow, and Hoffman report that status dropout rates decreased from 1970, when 15% of young people were status dropouts, through 2006, when 9.3% of young people were status dropouts. (See Table 6.4.) In 2006 the Hispanic status dropout rate was considerably higher, at 22.1%, than that of non-Hispanic African-Americans (10.7%) or non-Hispanic whites (5.8%). (See Table 6.5.)

Dropout rates also fluctuate greatly according to family income. In 2006, 16.5% of people aged 16 to 24 from families who had the lowest incomes (bottom 25%) had dropped out of school, which was more than four times the dropout rate of 16- to 24-year-olds whose families had the highest incomes (3.8%). (See Table 6.4.)

Status dropout rates are consistently lower for women than for men regardless of race or ethnicity. This has been the case since 1977. (See Table 6.5.) In 2006 the status dropout rate for young women aged 16 to 24 was 8.3%. Males of the same age in 2006 had a status dropout rate of 10.3%.

RETURNING TO SCHOOL OR GETTING AN ALTERNATIVE DIPLOMA . The decision to drop out of high school does not necessarily mean the end of a young person's education. Many former students return to school to get their diploma or take the test necessary to obtain an alternative credential or degree, such as a general equivalency diploma (GED). Snyder, Dillow, and Hoffman note that in 2005, 424,000 GEDs were issued. Many young people who earn their GED then go on to get a college education.

Special Populations

STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES . In 1976 Congress passed the Education of the Handicapped Act, which required schools to develop programs for disabled children. Formerly, parents of many disabled students had few options other than institutionalization or nursing care. The Education of the Handicapped Act required that disabled children be put in the least restrictive environment, which led to increased efforts to educate them in regular classrooms (known as mainstreaming).

 
TABLE 6.4 Percent of high school dropouts among persons 1624 years old (status dropout rate), by income level, and percentage distribution of status dropouts, by labor force status and educational attainment, 19702006
Year Status dropout rate Status dropout rate, by family income quartile Percentage distribution of status dropouts, by labor force status Percentage distribution of status dropouts, by years of school completed
Lowest quartile Middle low quartile Middle high quartile Highest quartile Total Employeda Unemployed Not in labor force Total Less than 9 years 9 years 10 years 11 or 12 years
Not available.
Reporting standards not met.
aIncludes persons employed, but not currently working.
bBecause of changes in data collection procedures, data may not be comparable with figures for years prior to 1992.
Note: Status dropouts are 16- to 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in school and who have not completed a high school program, regardless of when they left school. People who have received GED credentials are counted as high school completers. Data are based on sample surveys of the civilian noninstitutionalized population, which excludes persons in prisons, persons in the military, and other persons not living in households. Some data have been revised from previously published figures. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: Thomas D. Snyder, Sally A. Dillow, and Charlene M. Hoffman, Table 106. Percentage of High School Dropouts among Persons 16 to 24 Years Old (Status Dropout Rate), by Income Level, and Percentage Distribution of Status Dropouts, by Labor Force Status and Educational Attainment: 1970 through 2006, in Digest of Education Statistics, 2007, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, March 2008, http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2008/2008022.pdf (accessed November 7, 2008)
1970 15.0 28.0 21.2 11.7 5.2 100.0 49.8 10.3 39.9 100.0 28.5 20.6 26.8 24.0
1971 14.7 28.8 20.7 10.9 5.1 100.0 49.5 10.9 39.6 100.0 27.9 21.7 27.8 22.7
1972 14.6 27.6 20.8 10.2 5.4 100.0 51.2 10.2 38.6 100.0 27.5 20.8 29.0 22.7
1973 14.1 28.0 19.6 9.9 4.9 100.0 53.2 9.2 37.5 100.0 26.5 20.9 27.4 25.3
1974 14.3 100.0 51.8 12.3 35.9 100.0 25.4 20.1 28.7 25.8
1975 13.9 28.8 18.0 10.2 5.0 100.0 46.0 15.6 38.4 100.0 23.5 21.1 27.5 27.9
1976 14.1 28.1 19.2 10.1 4.9 100.0 48.8 16.0 35.2 100.0 24.3 20.1 27.8 27.8
1977 14.1 28.5 19.0 10.4 4.5 100.0 52.9 13.6 33.6 100.0 24.3 21.7 27.3 26.6
1978 14.2 28.2 18.9 10.5 5.5 100.0 54.3 12.4 33.3 100.0 22.9 20.2 28.2 28.8
1979 14.6 28.1 18.5 11.5 5.6 100.0 54.0 12.7 33.3 100.0 22.6 21.0 28.6 27.8
1980 14.1 27.0 18.1 10.7 5.7 100.0 50.4 17.0 32.6 100.0 23.6 19.7 29.8 27.0
1981 13.9 26.4 17.8 11.1 5.2 100.0 49.8 18.3 31.9 100.0 24.3 18.6 30.2 26.9
1982 13.9 27.2 18.3 10.2 4.4 100.0 45.2 21.1 33.7 100.0 22.9 20.8 28.8 27.6
1983 13.7 26.5 17.8 10.5 4.1 100.0 48.4 18.2 33.4 100.0 23.0 19.3 28.8 28.8
1984 13.1 25.9 16.5 9.9 3.8 100.0 49.7 17.3 32.9 100.0 23.6 21.4 27.5 27.5
1985 12.6 27.1 14.7 8.3 4.0 100.0 50.1 17.5 32.4 100.0 23.9 21.0 27.9 27.2
1986 12.2 25.4 14.8 8.0 3.4 100.0 51.1 16.4 32.5 100.0 25.4 21.5 25.7 27.4
1987 12.6 25.5 16.6 8.0 3.6 100.0 52.4 13.6 34.0 100.0 25.9 20.7 26.0 27.5
1988 12.9 27.2 15.4 8.2 3.4 100.0 52.9 100.0 28.9 19.3 25.1 26.8
1989 12.6 25.0 16.2 8.7 3.3 100.0 53.2 13.8 33.0 100.0 29.4 20.8 24.9 25.0
1990 12.1 24.3 15.1 8.7 2.9 100.0 52.5 13.3 34.2 100.0 28.6 20.9 24.4 26.1
1991 12.5 25.9 15.5 7.7 3.0 100.0 47.5 15.8 36.7 100.0 28.6 20.5 26.1 24.9
1992b 11.0 23.4 12.9 7.3 2.4 100.0 47.6 15.0 37.4 100.0 21.6 17.5 24.4 36.5
1993b 11.0 22.9 12.7 6.6 2.9 100.0 48.7 12.8 38.5 100.0 20.5 16.6 24.1 38.8
1994b 11.4 20.7 13.7 8.7 4.9 100.0 49.5 13.0 37.5 100.0 23.9 16.2 20.3 39.6
1995b 12.0 23.2 13.8 8.3 3.6 100.0 48.9 14.2 37.0 100.0 22.2 17.0 22.5 38.3
1996b 11.1 22.0 13.6 7.0 3.2 100.0 47.3 15.0 37.7 100.0 20.3 17.7 22.6 39.4
1997b 11.0 21.8 13.5 6.2 3.4 100.0 53.3 13.2 33.5 100.0 19.9 15.7 22.3 42.1
1998b 11.8 22.3 14.9 7.7 3.5 100.0 55.1 10.3 34.6 100.0 21.0 14.9 21.4 42.6
1999b 11.2 21.0 14.3 7.4 3.9 100.0 55.6 10.0 34.4 100.0 22.2 16.3 22.5 39.0
2000b 10.9 20.7 12.8 8.3 3.5 100.0 56.9 12.3 30.8 100.0 21.5 15.3 23.1 40.0
2001b 10.7 19.3 13.4 9.0 3.2 100.0 58.3 14.8 26.9 100.0 18.4 16.8 23.8 40.9
2002b 10.5 18.8 12.3 8.4 3.8 100.0 57.4 13.3 29.2 100.0 22.8 17.1 21.3 38.9
2003b 9.9 19.5 10.8 7.3 3.4 100.0 53.5 13.7 32.9 100.0 21.2 18.2 20.7 40.0
2004b 10.3 18.0 12.7 8.2 3.7 100.0 53.0 14.3 32.7 100.0 21.4 15.9 22.5 40.3
2005b 9.4 17.9 11.5 7.1 2.7 100.0 56.9 11.9 31.2 100.0 18.9 16.8 21.4 42.9
2006b 9.3 16.5 12.1 6.3 3.8 100.0 56.4 11.7 32.0 100.0 22.1 13.4 20.7 43.9

The law defined handicapped children as those who were mentally retarded, hard of hearing or deaf, orthopedically impaired, speech- and language-impaired, visually impaired, seriously emotionally disturbed, or otherwise health-impaired. It also included children with specific learning disabilities who require special education and related services.

In 1990 the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was passed. This was a reauthorization and expansion of the earlier Education of the Handicapped Act. It added autism and traumatic brain injury to the list of disabilities covered by the law, and amendments added in 1992 and 1997 increased coverage for infants and toddlers and for children with attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The law required public school systems to develop an Individualized Education Program for each disabled child, reflecting the needs of individual students. In December 2004 the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act was signed into law by President Bush, reauthorizing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and bringing it in line with the provisions of the NCLB.

As a result of legislation that enforces their rights, increased numbers of disabled children have been served

 
TABLE 6.5 Percent age of high school dropouts among persons 1624 years old (status dropout rate), by sex, race and ethnicity, selected years 19602006
Year Total status dropout rate Male status dropout rate Female status dropout rate
All racesa White Black Hispanic All racesa White Black Hispanic All racesa White Black Hispanic
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
Not available.
Not applicable.
aIncludes other racial/ethnic categories not separately shown.
bBased on the April 1960 decennial census.
cWhite and black include persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
dBecause of changes in data collection procedures, data may not be comparable with figures for years prior to 1992.
eWhite and black exclude persons identifying themselves as more than one race.
Note: Status dropouts are 16- to 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in school and who have not completed a high school program, regardless of when they left school. People who have received GED credentials are counted as high school completers.
All data except for 1960 are based on October counts. Data are based on sample surveys of the civilian noninstitutionalized population, which excludes persons in prisons, persons in the military, and other persons not living in households. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity except where otherwise noted.
SOURCE: Thomas D. Snyder, Sally A. Dillow, and Charlene M. Hoffman, Table 105. Percentage of High School Dropouts among Persons 16 to 24 Years Old (Status Dropout Rate), by Sex and Race/Ethnicity: Selected Years, 1960 through 2006, in Digest of Education Statistics, 2007, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, March 2008, http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2008/2008022.pdf (accessed November 7, 2008)
1960b 27.2 () () () () 27.8 () () () () 26.7 () () () ()
1967e 17.0 () 15.4 () 28.6 () () 16.5 () 14.7 () 30.6 () () 17.3 () 16.1 () 26.9 () ()
1968e 16.2 () 14.7 () 27.4 () () 15.8 () 14.4 () 27.1 () () 16.5 () 15.0 () 27.6 () ()
1969e 15.2 () 13.6 () 26.7 () () 14.3 () 12.6 () 26.9 () () 16.0 () 14.6 () 26.7 () ()
1970e 15.0(0.29) 13.2(0.30) 27.9(1.22) () 14.2(0.42) 12.2(0.42) 29.4 (1.82) () 15.7(0.41) 14.1 (0.42) 26.6(1.65) ()
1971e 14.7(0.28) 13.4(0.29) 24.0(1.14) () 14.2(0.41) 12.6(0.41) 25.5 (1.70) () 15.2(0.40) 14.2(0.42) 22.6(1.54) ()
1972 14.6(0.28) 12.3(0.29) 21.3(1.07) 34.3(2.22) 14.1 (0.40) 11.6(0.40) 22.3 (1.59) 33.7 (3.23) 15.1 (0.39) 12.8(0.41) 20.5(1.44) 34.8(3.05)
1973 14.1 (0.27) 11.6(0.28) 22.2(1.06) 33.5(2.24) 13.7(0.38) 11.5(0.39) 21.5 (1.53) 30.4(3.16) 14.5(0.38) 11.8(0.39) 22.8(1.47) 36.4(3.16)
1974 14.3(0.27) 11.9(0.28) 21.2(1.05) 33.0(2.08) 14.2(0.39) 12.0(0.40) 20.1 (1.51) 33.8 (2.99) 14.3 (0.38) 11.8(0.39) 22.1 (1.45) 32.2(2.90)
1975 13.9(0.27) 11.4(0.27) 22.9(1.06) 29.2(2.02) 13.3(0.37) 11.0(0.38) 23.0 (1.56) 26.7 (2.84) 14.5(0.38) 11.8(0.39) 22.9(1.44) 31.6(2.86)
1976 14.1 (0.27) 12.0(0.28) 20.5(1.00) 31.4(2.01) 14.1 (0.38) 12.1 (0.39) 21.2 (1.49) 30.3 (2.94) 14.2 (0.37) 11.8(0.39) 19.9(1.35) 32.3 (2.76)
1977 14.1 (0.27) 11.9(0.28) 19.8(0.99) 33.0(2.02) 14.5(0.38) 12.6(0.40) 19.5 (1.45) 31.6(2.89) 13.8 (0.37) 11.2(0.38) 20.0(1.36) 34.3 (2.83)
1978 14.2(0.27) 11.9(0.28) 20.2(1.00) 33.3(2.00) 14.6(0.38) 12.2(0.40) 22.5 (1.52) 33.6 (2.88) 13.9 (0.37) 11.6(0.39) 18.3(1.31) 33.1 (2.78)
1979 14.6(0.27) 12.0(0.28) 21.1 (1.01) 33.8(1.98) 15.0(0.39) 12.6(0.40) 22.4 (1.52) 33.0 (2.83) 14.2 (0.37) 11.5(0.38) 20.0(1.35) 34.5 (2.77)
1980 14.1 (0.26) 11.4(0.27) 19.1 (0.97) 35.2(1.89) 15.1 (0.39) 12.3(0.40) 20.8 (1.47) 37.2 (2.72) 13.1 (0.36) 10.5(0.37) 17.7(1.28) 33.2(2.61)
1981 13.9(0.26) 11.3(0.27) 18.4(0.93) 33.2(1.80) 15.1 (0.38) 12.5(0.40) 19.9 (1.40) 36.0 (2.61) 12.8(0.35) 10.2(0.36) 17.1 (1.24) 30.4(2.48)
1982 13.9(0.27) 11.4(0.29) 18.4(0.97) 31.7(1.93) 14.5(0.40) 12.0(0.42) 21.2 (1.50) 30.5 (2.73) 13.3 (0.38) 10.8(0.40) 15.9(1.26) 32.8(2.71)
1983 13.7(0.27) 11.1 (0.29) 18.0(0.97) 31.6(1.93) 14.9(0.41) 12.2(0.43) 19.9 (1.46) 34.3 (2.84) 12.5(0.37) 10.1 (0.39) 16.2(1.28) 29.1 (2.61)
1984 13.1 (0.27) 11.0(0.29) 15.5(0.91) 29.8(1.91) 14.0(0.40) 11.9(0.43) 16.8 (1.37) 30.6 (2.78) 12.3(0.37) 10.1 (0.39) 14.3(1.22) 29.0(2.63)
1985 12.6(0.27) 10.4(0.29) 15.2(0.92) 27.6(1.93) 13.4(0.40) 11.1 (0.42) 16.1 (1.37) 29.9 (2.76) 11.8(0.37) 9.8 (0.39) 14.3(1.23) 25.2(2.68)
1986 12.2(0.27) 9.7(0.28) 14.2(0.90) 30.1 (1.88) 13.1 (0.40) 10.3(0.42) 15.0 (1.33) 32.8 (2.66) 11.4(0.37) 9.1 (0.39) 13.5(1.21) 27.2 (2.63)
1987 12.6(0.28) 10.4(0.30) 14.1 (0.90) 28.6(1.84) 13.2(0.40) 10.8(0.43) 15.0 (1.35) 29.1 (2.57) 12.1 (0.38) 10.0(0.41) 13.3(1.21) 28.1 (2.64)
1988 12.9(0.30) 9.6(0.31) 14.5(1.00) 35.8(2.30) 13.5(0.44) 10.3(0.46) 15.0 (1.48) 36.0(3.19) 12.2(0.42) 8.9 (0.43) 14.0(1.36) 35.4(3.31)
1989 12.6(0.31) 9.4(0.32) 13.9(0.98) 33.0(2.19) 13.6(0.45) 10.3(0.47) 14.9 (1.46) 34.4 (3.08) 11.7(0.42) 8.5 (0.43) 13.0(1.32) 31.6(3.11)
1990 12.1 (0.29) 9.0(0.30) 13.2(0.94) 32.4(1.91) 12.3(0.42) 9.3 (0.44) 11.9 (1.30) 34.3 (2.71) 11.8(0.41) 8.7 (0.42) 14.4(1.34) 30.3(2.70)
1991 12.5(0.30) 8.9(0.31) 13.6(0.95) 35.3(1.93) 13.0(0.43) 8.9 (0.44) 13.5 (1.37) 39.2 (2.74) 11.9(0.41) 8.9 (0.43) 13.7(1.31) 31.1 (2.70)
1992d 11.0(0.28) 7.7(0.29) 13.7(0.95) 29.4(1.86) 11.3(0.41) 8.0 (0.42) 12.5 (1.32) 32.1 (2.67) 10.7(0.39) 7.4 (0.40) 14.8(1.36) 26.6 (2.56)
1993d 11.0(0.28) 7.9(0.29) 13.6(0.94) 27.5(1.79) 11.2(0.40) 8.2 (0.42) 12.6 (1.32) 28.1 (2.54) 10.9(0.40) 7.6(0.41) 14.4(1.34) 26.9(2.52)
1994d 11.4(0.26) 7.7(0.27) 12.6(0.75) 30.0(1.16) 12.3(0.38) 8.0 (0.38) 14.1 (1.14) 31.6 (1.60) 10.6(0.36) 7.5 (0.37) 11.3(0.99) 28.1 (1.66)
1995d 12.0(0.27) 8.6(0.28) 12.1 (0.74) 30.0(1.15) 12.2(0.38) 9.0 (0.40) 11.1 (1.05) 30.0(1.59) 11.7(0.37) 8.2 (0.39) 12.9(1.05) 30.0(1.66)
1996d 11.1 (0.27) 7.3(0.27) 13.0(0.80) 29.4(1.19) 11.4(0.38) 7.3 (0.38) 13.5 (1.18) 30.3(1.67) 10.9(0.38) 7.3 (0.39) 12.5(1.08) 28.3(1.69)
1997d 11.0(0.27) 7.6(0.28) 13.4(0.80) 25.3(1.11) 11.9(0.39) 8.5(0.41) 13.3 (1.16) 27.0(1.55) 10.1 (0.36) 6.7 (0.37) 13.5(1.11) 23.4(1.59)
1998d 11.8(0.27) 7.7(0.28) 13.8(0.81) 29.5(1.12) 13.3(0.40) 8.6(0.41) 15.5 (1.24) 33.5(1.59) 10.3(0.36) 6.9 (0.37) 12.2(1.05) 25.0(1.56)
1999d 11.2(0.26) 7.3(0.27) 12.6(0.77) 28.6(1.11) 11.9(0.38) 7.7 (0.39) 12.1 (1.10) 31.0(1.58) 10.5(0.36) 6.9 (0.37) 13.0(1.08) 26.0(1.54)
2000d 10.9(0.26) 6.9(0.26) 13.1 (0.78) 27.8(1.08) 12.0(0.38) 7.0 (0.37) 15.3 (1.20) 31.8(1.56) 9.9 (0.35) 6.9 (0.37) 11.1 (1.00) 23.5(1.48)
2001d 10.7 (0.25) 7.3 (0.26) 10.9 (0.71) 27.0 (1.06) 12.2 (0.38) 7.9 (0.39) 13.0 (1.12) 31.6 (1.55) 9.3 (0.34) 6.7 (0.36) 9.0 (0.90) 22.1 (1.42)
2002d 10.5 (0.24) 6.5 (0.24) 11.3 (0.70) 25.7 (0.93) 11.8 (0.35) 6.7 (0.35) 12.8 (1.07) 29.6 (1.32) 9.2 (0.32) 6.3 (0.34) 9.9 (0.91) 21.2 (1.27)
2003d, e 9.9 (0.23) 6.3 (0.24) 10.9 (0.69) 23.5 (0.90) 11.3 (0.34) 7.1 (0.35) 12.5 (1.05) 26.7 (1.29) 8.4 (0.30) 5.6 (0.32) 9.5 (0.89) 20.1 (1.23)
2004d, e 10.3 (0.23) 6.8 (0.24) 11.8 (0.70) 23.8 (0.89) 11.6 (0.34) 7.1 (0.35) 13.5 (1.08) 28.5 (1.30) 9.0 (0.31) 6.4 (0.34) 10.2 (0.92) 18.5 (1.18)
2005d, e 9.4 (0.22) 6.0 (0.23) 10.4 (0.66) 22.4 (0.87) 10.8 (0.33) 6.6 (0.34) 12.0 (1.02) 26.4 (1.26) 8.0 (0.29) 5.3 (0.31) 9.0 (0.86) 18.1 (1.16)
2006d, e 9.3 (0.22) 5.8 (0.23) 10.7 (0.66) 22.1 (0.86) 10.3 (0.33) 6.4 (0.33) 9.7 (0.91) 25.7 (1.25) 8.3 (0.30) 5.3 (0.31) 11.7 (0.96) 18.1 (1.15)

in public schools. Between 1976 and 2006 the proportion of all students who participated in federal education programs for children with disabilities increased from 8.3% to 13.8%. (See Table 6.6.) In the 200506 school year, the highest proportion of students needed services for specific learning disabilities (5.6%), followed by students who needed help with speech or language impairments (3%) and students who were mentally retarded (1.1%). According to the Office of Special Education Programs, in 28th Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 2006 (January 2009, http://www.ed.gov/about/reports/annual/osep/2006/parts-b-c/28th-vol-1.pdf), 282,733 children from birth through age 2 and 701,949 children aged 3 through 5 received early intervention services in 2004. Another 6.1 million children aged 6 through 21 received special education and related services.

HOMELESS CHILDREN . Homelessness harms children in many ways, including hindering their ability to attend and succeed in school. Homeless children have difficulty with transportation to school, maintaining necessary documents, and attaining privacy needed for homework, sleep, and interaction with parents in a shelter. Experts report that homeless childrencompared to children who are poor but housedmiss more days of school, more often repeat a grade, and are more often put into special education classes.

The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987 required in Title VII, subtitle B, that each state provide free, appropriate, public education to homeless youth. The law further required that all states develop a plan to address the denial of access to education to homeless children.

The McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Improvements Act of 2001 went further to address inequities that affect homeless children in the public school system. New guidance for states and school systems released by the Department of Education in April 2003 noted the main differences between the old and new programs:

  • Homeless children may no longer be segregated in a separate program on the basis of their homeless status
  • Schools must immediately enroll homeless students even if they are missing some of the documentation normally required
  • Upon parental request, states and school districts must provide transportation for homeless children to the school they attended before they became homeless
  • School districts must designate a local liaison for homeless children and youths

HOMESCHOOLED CHILDREN . A number of parents who are unhappy with public schools teach their children at home. According to Daniel Princiotta and Christopher Chapman, in Homeschooling in the United States: 2003 (February 2006, http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2006/2006042.pdf), approximately 850,000, or 1.7% of school-age children, were being homeschooled in the spring of 1999. By 2003 that number had risen to 1.1 million students, or 2.2% of school-age children.

Parents choose to homeschool their children for a variety of reasons. The NCES reports in the issue brief 1.1 Million Homeschooled Students in the United States in 2003 (July 2004, http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2004/2004115.pdf) that almost a third (31%) of the home-schooling parents surveyed in the National Household Education Survey said the most important reason they chose to homeschool was concern about the environment of the other schools. Another 30% said they chose to homeschool to provide religious or moral instruction. The third most common reason parents gave for home-schooling was dissatisfaction with the academic instruction available at other schools (16%).

States have differing requirements for parents who teach their children at home. According to the Home School Legal Defense Association, some states, such as Idaho and New Jersey, give parents the right to educate their children as they see fit, and impose only minor controls or none at all. Other states have more strict regulations. Highly regulated states, such as New York, Vermont, Pennsylvania, and a few others, require parents to get curriculum approved, send achievement test scores, or meet qualification requirements. Opponents of homeschooling argue that parents may not be qualified to be teachers, but proponents believe that parents can gain teaching skills through experience, just as other teachers do.

HIGHER EDUCATIONOFF TO COLLEGE

Formal schooling beyond high school increasingly is being viewed as a necessity, not only to a young person's development but also to his or her economic success. Many parents consider helping their children attend college to be an important financial responsibility.

College Entrance Examinations

Most students who want to enter a college or university in the United States must take either the SAT (once known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test, then the Scholastic Assessment Test, now simply the SAT I) or the American College Test (ACT) as part of their admission requirements. The ACT is a curriculum-based achievement test, measuring proficiency in reading, math, English, and science, whereas the SAT is the primary admissions test to measure a student's mathematical and verbal reasoning ability in a way intended to assess readiness for college. Students who take these tests usually plan to continue their education beyond high school; therefore, these tests do not profile all high school students.

MORE ARE TAKINGSAT AND ACT EXAMS, WITH MIXED RESULTS . The College Board notes in SAT Scores Stable as Record Numbers Take Test (August 26, 2008, http://www.collegeboard.com/press/releases/197846.html) that

 
TABLE 6.6 Number of children with disabilities who were served by federal programs, as a percentage of total public K12 enrollment, by type of disability, 197677 to 200506
Type of disability 197677 198081 199091 199495 199596 199697 199798 199899 19992000 200001 200102 200203 200304 200405 200506
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
  Number served as a percent of total enrollment
Not available.
Not applicable.
#Rounds to zero.
aOther health impairments include having limited strength, vitality, or alertness due to chronic or acute health problems such as a heart condition, tuberculosis, rheumatic fever, nephritis, asthma, sickle cell anemia, hemophilia, epilepsy lead poisoning, leukemia, or diabetes.
bIncludes preschool children ages 35 served under Chapter 1 and IDEA, Part B. Prior to 198788, these students were included in the counts by disability condition. Beginning in 198788, states were no longer required to report preschool children (ages 05) by disability condition. Beginning in 200203, preschool children were again identified by disability condition.
3Based on the total enrollment in public schools, prekindergarten through 12th grade. Note: Includes students served under Chapter 1 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), formerly the Education of the Handicapped Act. Prior to October 1994, children and youth with disabilities were served under Chapter 1 as well as IDEA, Part B. In October 1994, funding for children and youth with disabilities was consolidated under IDEA, Part B. Data reported in this table for years prior to 199495 include children ages 021 served under Chapter 1. Counts are based on reports from the 50 states and the District of Columbia only (i.e., table excludes data for other jurisdictions). Increases since 198788 are due in part to new legislation enacted in fall 1986, which added a mandate for public school special education services for 3- to 5-year-old disabled children. Some data have been revised from previously published figures. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: Adapted from Thomas D. Snyder, Sally A. Dillow, and Charlene M. Hoffman, Table 47. Children 3 to 21 Years Old Served in Federally Supported Programs for the Disabled, by Type of Disability: Selected Years, 197677 through 200506, in Digest of Education Statistics, 2007, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, March 2008, http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2008/2008022.pdf (accessed November 7, 2008). Nongovernmental data from Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) database, September 22, 2006.
All disabilities 8.3 10.1 11.4 12.2 12.4 12.6 12.8 13.0 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 13.7 13.8 13.8
Specific learning disabilities 1.8 3.6 5.2 5.6 5.8 5.8 5.9 6.0 6.0 6.1 6.0 5.9 5.8 5.7 5.6
Speech or language impairments 2.9 2.9 2.4 2.3 2.3 2.3 2.3 2.3 2.3 3.0 2.9 2.9 3.0 3.0 3.0
Mental retardation 2.2 2.0 1.3 1.3 1.3 1.3 1.3 1.3 1.3 1.3 1.3 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.1
Emotional disturbance 0.6 0.8 0.9 1.0 1.0 1.0 10.0 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0
Hearing impairments 0.2 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2
Orthopedic impairments 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 01. 0.1 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.1
Other health impairmentsa 0.3 0.2 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.4 0.5 0.5 0.1 0.7 0.8 1 0 1.1 1.2
Visual impairments 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1
Multiple disabilities 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3
Deaf-blindness # # # # # # # # # # # # # #
Autism # 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.2 0.2 0.3 0.3 0.4 0.5
Traumatic brain injury # # # # # # # # # # # 0.1
Developmental delay # # # 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.6 0.7 0.7
Preschool disabledb 0.9 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.2

the number of students who take both the SAT and the ACT has grown steadily. In 2008 more than 1.5 million students took the SAT. This represented an increase of 8% over 2003 and 29.5% over 1998. The article 2008 ACT College Readiness Report News Release (ACT News, August 13, 2008) states that the number of students taking the ACT increased as well; 1.4 million students took the ACT in 2008, up 9% from 2007. The increased numbers taking the SAT and ACT suggest that more high school graduates are pursuing a college education.

Performance on the SAT is measured on a scale of 200 to 800 for each of three sections, with the established average score being around 500 for each. According to the College Board, in 2008 College-Bound Seniors, over the period from 1972 to 2008 the average critical reading scores on the SAT declined from 537 to 502. By contrast, the results for the math portion of the SAT dropped and then rebounded over this same period, from 509 in 1972 to 515 in 2008. Writing was tested for the first time in 2006; test takers received an average score of 497 in that year and 494 in each of the two subsequent years. The ACT is scored on a scale of 1 to 36, with 36 being the highest possible score. The ACT notes in ACT High School Profile Report (2008, http://www.act.org/news/data/08/pdf/National2008.pdf) that the average ACT scores, after improving for several years, dropped slightly in 2008; in 1970 the average composite ACT score was 19.9, and in 2008 the average composite score was 21.1, down from 21.2 the year before.

CHARACTERISTICS OF TEST TAKERS . More women than men took the tests in 200653.6% of those who took the SAT were women. More women than men have taken the SAT since the 1970s as well. In 2008 College Bound Seniors Average SAT Scores (2008, http://www.fairtest.org/files/2008%20COLLEGE%20BOUND%20SENIORS%20AVERAGE%20SAT%20SCORES.pdf), the College Board states that in 2008, 57% of Hispanic and African-American test takers were women, 51% of Asian-Americans taking the test were women, and 53% of non-Hispanic white test takers were women. Men scored higher on both the critical reading and the math portions of the SAT test in 2008 (average scores of 504 and 533, respectively), compared to women (500 in each section). Women, however, scored higher on the writing section than men did (501 and 488, respectively). The College Board reports that women are continuing to narrow the performance gap with males in the critical reading section of the test.

The College Board explains that despite improvements in the scores of minority students, most lagged behind those of non-Hispanic white students. In 2008 white students scored a mean of 528 on critical reading, 537 on math, and 518 on writing on the SAT. African-Americans scored an average of 430 on critical reading, 426 on math, and 424 on writing, the lowest average scores of any racial or ethnic group. Mexican-Americans scored an average of 454 on critical reading, 463 on math, and 447 on writing; and Puerto Ricans scored 456 on critical reading, 453 on math, and 445 on writing. Native Americans and Alaskan Natives scored 485 on critical reading, 491 on math, and 470 on writing. Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders scored an average of 513 on critical reading, 581 on math, and 516 on writing.

According to the ACT, in ACT High School Profile Report, the 2008 test results show that Asian-Americans scored an average of 22.9, non-Hispanic whites scored an average of 22.1, Native Americans and Alaskan Natives scored an average of 19, Hispanics scored an average of 18.7, and African-American students scored an average of 16.9. Scores for all groups except African-Americans were up since 2004. In the article ACT Scores Hold Steady in 2003 (2003, http://www.act.org/activity/autumn2003/scores.html), Richard L. Ferguson notes, Our research has shown that far too many African-American students are not being adequately prepared for college. They are less likely than others to take rigorous, college-preparatory courses, and they often don't receive the information and guidance they need to properly plan for college. ACT data for 2008 show that fewer minority test takers had taken the core college-preparatory coursework and that groups that had taken more core coursework, such as non-Hispanic whites and Asian-Americans, tended to score higher on the ACT.

Projected Enrollment

Enrollment in institutions of higher education is expected to rise through 2017, due not only to large numbers of children of baby boomers approaching college age but also to the increasing numbers of people of all ages seeking advanced learning. Enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions stood at 17.8 million in 2006 and is expected to reach 20.1 million by 2017. (See Figure 6.4.)

 

Community College Enrollment during Economic Downturn

During times of economic distress, in general, more people return to community colleges for job retraining or to learn different skills to pursue new careers. This trend was observed during the global financial crisis, which intensified in late 2008. As described by Caitlin McDevitt, in Junior College Squeeze: Community Colleges across the Country Are Seeing Enrollment Climb Just as Local Governments Scale Back Funding (Newsweek, December 15, 2008), the American Association of Community Colleges [AACC] reports that community-college enrollment rose 8 to 10 percent. According to Rachel Streitfeld, in Unemployed Workers Heading Back to School, (CNN.com, February 14, 2009), AACC president George Boggs has heard from 75 college presidents reporting double-digit enrollment increases [during the winter 2009] semester. Boggs suggested that community colleges are a big part of the solution to this economic downturn. However, Boggs explained that even though the community colleges have assisted unemployed workers by decreasing or freezing their tuition, setting up scholarship programs, or using financial assistance to cover the costs of books and transportation, the spike in applications has imposed a heavy financial burden on some schools that have already been struggling to keep tuition costs low. Boggs stated, Many [community colleges] are reporting that it is the highest-ever enrollment that they have had. And several are reporting a waiting list of students that they can not accommodate. It wouldn't surprise me to hear that about a half-million students are being turned away from our community colleges today.

College Costs

Paying for a college education, even at public four-year institutions, now ranks as one of the most costly investments for American families. Snyder, Dillow, and Hoffman indicate that in 200607 the average annual instate cost at a four-year public college, including tuition and room and board, was $12,805. For one year at a private four-year college, the average cost for tuition and room and board was $28,896. Public college tuition varied widely among states, from $2,670 in the District of Columbia to $9,333 in New Jersey. Most states with the highest tuition were in the Northeast and most with the lowest tuition were in the South and West.

FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FOR STUDENTS . According to Snyder, Dillow, and Hoffman, during the 200304 academic year, almost two-thirds (63.2%) of about 19.1 million undergraduates enrolled in postsecondary institutions received some type of financial aid from federal, state, institutional, or other sources to meet their educational expenses. About half (48%) of undergraduates received some form of federal aid. More than half (50.7%) of all students received grants (which do not have to be paid back), about a third (35.2%) took out loans (which do have to be paid back), and 7.5% were on work-study programs. Federal assistance that goes directly to students includes Pell Grants (the annual maximum was decreased to $4,241 for the 200809 award year), the Stafford Student Loan Program (a maximum loan of $19,000 for four years of study for dependent undergraduate students), and Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (which can range from $100 to $2,000 per year).

Snyder, Dillow, and Hoffman note that during the 200304 school year, 62.7% of dependent undergraduate students whose families earned less than $20,000 per year and 77.8% of students whose families earned between $20,000 and $39,999 per year received financial aid. However, due to the high cost of college, students even in high-income brackets received financial aid to help pay for college; 60.5% of dependent undergraduate students whose families earned $100,000 or more received some form of financial aid in 200304.

In A New Era of Responsibility: Renewing America's Promise (2009, http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/assets/fy2010_new_era/A_New_Era_of_Responsibility2.pdf), the White House indicates that the Obama administration's proposed 2010 budget included money to increase the Pell Grant maximum award to $5,550 in the 201011 school year, as well as to tie future increases in the grant program to inflation. The budget also included a proposal to simplify and standardize the Perkins Student Loan program, which the administration believes can save the government money and allow reinvestment in the program.

PROPOSED TAX CREDIT . According to the White House, in The Agenda: Education (2009, http://www.whitehouse.gov/agenda/education/), the Obama administration promised to make college education affordable for everyone by creating an American Opportunity Tax Credit. This credit would refund the first $4,000 of a college education, which the administration estimated would make community college free for most students, and would cover two-thirds of the cost of tuition at a public college. Anyone who claimed the tax credit would be required to volunteer 100 hours in the community in exchange for the credit. A $2,500 tax credit was included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that was signed into law by President Obama on February 17, 2009. The 2010 budget included provisions to make the tax cut permanent.

EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT AND EARNINGS

The educational attainment of the U.S. population has risen steadily since the 1940s. In Educational Attainment in the United States: 2007 (December 27, 2007, http://www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/education/cps2007.html), the U.S. Census Bureau states that in 2007, 86% of adults older than 25 had graduated from high schoolthe

highest number ever. More than one out of four (29%) had earned a bachelor's degree or more.

The level of educational attainment has traditionally been higher for men than for women. In 2007, however, for the sixth year in a row, the Census Bureau indicates that the high school graduation rate for women aged 25 and over (86.4%) exceeded that of men (85%). In 2007, 29.5% of men and 28% of women had obtained bachelor's degrees or higher. Even though college attainment has increased since 1990 for both men and women, women are narrowing the gap and making faster gains then men.

Educational attainment of the over-25 population also varied by race and ethnic origin. According to the Census Bureau, non-Hispanic whites were the most likely to complete high school (90.6%), followed by Asian-Americans (87.9%), African-Americans (82.4%), and Hispanics (60.3%). Asian-Americans were by far the most likely to be college graduates (51.4%), followed by non-Hispanic whites (31.3%), African-Americans (18.7%), and Hispanics (12.7%).

Education is a good investment, because earning levels rise with increased education. According to the Census Bureau (2008, http://pubdb3.census.gov/macro/032008/perinc/new03_001.htm), for people aged 25 and older who had not finished high school, the average annual income in 2007 was $24,881. High school graduates earned an average income of $33,609 in 2007, and people with an associate's degree earned an average income of $41,447. The incomes of college graduates increased with the level of the degree earned. People with a bachelor's degree had mean earnings of $59,365, whereas holders of professional degrees earned an average of $121,340 in 2007.

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Getting an Education

Chapter 6
Getting an Education

Despite the controversies surrounding the quality and direction of the U.S. education system, the United States remains one of the most highly educated nations in the world. According to the U.S. Department of Education's Digest of Education Statistics, 2005 (June 2006, http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d05/), 72.1 million Americans were enrolled students in elementary and secondary schools and colleges in the fall of 2005. (See Table 6.1.) An additional 4.4 million people were teachers and faculty at these institutions, and 5 million people were employed as administrative and support staff.

NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ACT

However, in the 1980s concern grew that American youth were falling behind the educational achievements of young people in other industrialized countries. In response, the National Education Goals Panel was created in 1989 to further the achievement of several national goals, including increasing the high school graduation rate and student competency in English, mathematics, science, history, and geography. Although a task force recommended the panel's reauthorization in 1999, the passage of sweeping educational reform legislation, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), shut down the panel in 2002.

The NCLB made huge changes to the laws defining and regulating the federal government's role in kindergarten through twelfth-grade education. According to the Department of Education (March 6, 2007, http://www.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/states/index.html), the law is based on four basic education reform principles:

  • Stronger accountability for results
  • Increased flexibility and local control
  • Expanded options for parents
  • Improved budget

Accountability

Under the NCLB, schools are required to demonstrate "adequate yearly progress" toward statewide proficiency goals, including closing the achievement gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students. Those schools that do not demonstrate progress face corrective action and restructuring measures. Progress reports are public, so parents can stay informed about their school and school district. Schools that are making or exceeding adequate yearly progress are eligible for awards.

The accountability outlined under the NCLB is measured through standards testing. States are required to establish strong academic standards and test students annually to see how they are meeting them. The requirement for annual testing was phased in over a six-year period. During the 2002–03 school year, students in grades three to five, six to nine, and ten to twelve were tested in math and reading. Beginning in the 2005–06 school year, testing expanded to all students in grades three to eight. General science achievement testing was scheduled to be fully implemented two years later, in the 2007–08 school year. The NCLB linked federal financing of schools to the results of these mandated tests.

The testing provisions of the NCLB are the subject of much debate. Martin R. West of the Brookings Institution notes in "No Child Left Behind: How to Give It a Passing Grade" (December 2005, http://www3.brookings.edu/comm/policybriefs/pb149.pdf) that advocates see testing as a means of raising expectations and helping guarantee that all children are held to the same high standards. They argue that many young people have passed through school without acquiring the basic reading and math skills needed in society and especially in the information-oriented economy. Critics of testing say classroom experiences become limited to the need to teach students with the test in mind—and what is tested is only a sample of what children should know. Furthermore, critics claim that standard exams tend to test for those things most easily measured and not the critical thinking skills students need to develop. In addition, the tests measure only how students perform on the tests at one point in time, not their progress over time.

TABLE 6.1
Estimated number of participants in elementary and secondary education and in higher education, fall 2005
[In millions]
Participants All levels (elementary, secondary, and postsecondary degree-granting) Elementary and secondary schools Postsecondary degree-granting institutions
Total Public Private Total Public Private
Notes: Includes enrollments in local public school systems and in most private schools (religiously affiliated and nonsectarian). Excludes federal schools. Excludes private preprimary enrollment in schools that do not offer first grade or above. Data for enrollment in degree-granting institutions include full-time and part-time students enrolled in universities, other 4-year colleges, and 2-year colleges that participated in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Data for teachers and other staff in public and private elementary and secondary schools and colleges and universities are reported in terms of full-time equivalents. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
Source: "Table 1. Projected Number of Participants in Educational Institutions, by Level and Control of Institution: Fall 2005," in Digest of Education Statistics, 2005, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, July 2006, http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2006/2006030_1.pdf (accessed February 28, 2007)
    Total 81.4 61.6 54.5 6.9 19.9 15.0 4.9
Enrollment72.154.748.46.317.413.34.1
Teachers and faculty4.43.53.10.40.80.60.3
Other professional, administrative and support staff5.03.23.00.31.71.20.6

Proficiency Testing

The testing requirements of the NCLB will be debated for some time to come as states grapple with the best means of implementing them. Standardized tests have, however, been around for years. A look at the changes in proficiency test scores over time is one way to gauge the performance of the education system.

In the Condition of Education, 2006 (June 2006, http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2006/2006071.pdf), the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) lists test results for a series of years. The percentage of both fourth and eighth graders who tested at or above proficient (indicating solid academic achievement) in reading rose from about 29% of both groups in 1992 to 31.5% of fourth graders in 2005 and 30.8% of eighth graders in 2005. The percentage of fourth graders at or above proficiency in mathematics rose from 17.9% in 1992 to 36.3% in 2005; the percentage of eighth graders at or above proficiency rose from 20.9% in 1992 to 29.8% in 2005. Despite improvements, especially in mathematics, only about one out of three fourth and eighth graders had achieved proficiency in each area.

The public's opinion of school performance is low. In the Digest of Education Statistics: 2005, the NCES presents data on the grades that the public gives to schools nationally. Based on a scale of A = 4, B = 3, C = 2, D = 1, and F = 0, the average grade given by adults to the nation's schools hit a high of 2.18—slightly better than a C—in 1987. By 2005 the average grade had dropped to 1.99, lower than it had been in 2002 when the NCLB was passed. When adults with children in the school system were asked to rate their local schools, they consistently gave them higher grades than the nation's schools in general (2.43 and 2.07, respectively), but still only about a C+.

Another way to evaluate the education system in the United States is to compare it to the systems of other industrialized countries. In February 2005 the NCES published Comparative Indicators of Education in the United States and Other G-8 Countries: 2004 (http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2005/2005021.pdf). The study was designed to compare the U.S. education system with the systems in eight other highly industrialized nations: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Russian Federation, Scotland, and the United Kingdom. The United States compared poorly with the other countries in reading proficiency of primary and secondary school students. In 2001 U.S. fourth-grade students had a mean literacy achievement score of 542, below that of England (553) and Canada (544), but higher than that of the other countries. By age fifteen, however, U.S. students had average scores lower than any other country measured.

Flexibility

The NCLB gave states and local school districts more control over the federal funding they receive for education. Up to half of all non-Title I federal education funding can be allocated by states to whichever programs they wish. Federal programs were also simplified and consolidated under the law, so receiving funding is easier.

Parental Options

The NCLB provided that parents of students attending failing schools would be provided with the opportunity and transportation to send their child to an alternative public or charter school. If the parents chose to keep their child in a failing school, federal Title I funds would be available for supplemental services such as tutoring and summer school, run by either nonsectarian or faith-based organizations. The creation and use of charter schools were expanded under the NCLB.

Proven Educational Methods

The NCLB attached federal funding to programs that had already been shown to help children learn. According to the Department of Education (2007, http://www.gpoaccess.gov/usbudget/fy08/pdf/budget/education.pdf), emphasis was placed on the Reading First initiative, more than tripling funding for reading programs from $300 million in fiscal year (FY) 2001 to a proposed $1.1 billion in FY 2008. Included in this funding was an Early Reading First program, which was established to support literacy skills among preschool-age children to try to meet President George W. Bush's goal of every child being able to read by the third grade. The FY 2008 budget included a proposed $2.8 billion to be used for teacher quality programs, including funding to hire new teachers, increase teacher salaries, and improve teacher training and development.

Voucher Controversy

Many people believe that problems such as large class sizes, poor teacher training, and lack of computers and supplies in many public schools are unsolvable within the current public school system. One solution proposed in the early 1990s was the school voucher system: The government would provide a certain amount of money each year to parents in the form of a voucher to enroll their children at the school of their choice, either public or private. School vouchers became a highly polarized issue, with strong opinions both for and against the idea.

The National Education Association (NEA), a union of teachers and one of the largest unions in the country, immediately objected to school vouchers, arguing that voucher programs would divert money from the public education system and make the current problems worse. The NEA also argued that giving money to parents who choose to send their child to a religious or parochial school is unconstitutional. Little evidence exists to support the idea that voucher programs will lead to better educational outcomes. For example, in "Study Finds D.C. Voucher Schools More Racially Integrated, but No Change in Student Performance" (February 3, 2006, http://ielp.rutgers.edu/developments/020306101356), the Institute on Education Law and Policy finds that the program had no effect on student performance in public schools. Furthermore, the NEA, in "Cleveland Vouchers Produce No Gains" (2006, http://www.nea.org/vouchers/resources-vouchers.html), notes that the Cleveland voucher program found no difference in the academic achievement of voucher-eligible students who used them to attend private school and those who chose to remain in public school.

Supporters of vouchers claim that parents should be able to choose the best educational environment for their children. They also argue that vouchers will give all people, not just the wealthy or middle class, the opportunity for a better education for their children in private schools. More important, supporters believe that making the educational system a free-market enterprise, in which parents can choose which school their children will attend, will force the public educational system to provide a higher standard of education to compete.

During the legislative process of getting the NCLB through Congress, President Bush agreed to drop the voucher provisions from the legislation, recognizing that debate on the voucher issue could prevent the bill from being passed. On January 8, 2002, the NCLB became law without specific provisions for a nationwide voucher program.

Frustrated at the national level, supporters of vouchers turned to state and local governments. Programs launched in Wisconsin, Florida, and Ohio provided students in some overcrowded or poorly performing schools with vouchers that could be used for private tuition. All these programs were met with court challenges. A landmark decision came on June 27, 2002, when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld, in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (536 U.S. 639 [2002]), the use of public money for religious school tuition in Cleveland, Ohio, calling the city's voucher plan "a program of true private choice."

Public School Choice—The NCLB and Charter Schools

In lieu of a voucher program, the NCLB offered a public school choice program. Parents of students enrolled in failing public schools were allowed to move their children to a better-performing public or charter school. Local school districts were required to provide this choice and provide students with transportation to the alternative school.

Public charter schools are funded by government money and run by a group under an agreement, or charter, with the state that exempts it from many state or local regulations that govern most public schools. In return for these exemptions and funding, the school must meet certain standards. The Department of Education reports in "Helping Families by Supporting and Expanding School Choice" (March 2007, http://www.ed.gov/nclb/choice/schools/choicefacts.html) that by 2007 forty states and the District of Columbia had thirty-four hundred charter schools, in which more than a million students were enrolled. The FY 2008 budget provided $214.8 million to help fund new and ongoing charter schools.

COST OF PUBLIC EDUCATION

The average annual expenditure per student in the public school system in constant 2004–05 dollars more than doubled between 1970 and 2003, from $3,812 per pupil in 1969–70 to $8,468 per pupil during the 2002–03 school year. (See Figure 6.1.) Each year, when the federal budget is determined in Washington, D.C., the battle over the education budget is fierce. Public school officials and teachers stress the importance of investing in the public education system, arguing that more money will provide more teachers, educational materials, and—eventually—a better education to students. They point to school buildings in need of repair and classes that meet in hallways and other cramped areas because of a lack of space. Opponents of increasing public school funding say that more money does not create a better education—better teachers do. To support their argument, they point to the increase in spending per pupil while some measurements of academic achievement remain low.

PREPRIMARY SCHOOL

Preprimary Growth

Participating in early childhood programs such as nursery school, Head Start, prekindergarten, and kindergarten helps prepare children for the academic challenges of first grade. In contrast to the declining elementary and secondary school enrollments between 1970 and 1980, preprimary enrollment showed substantial growth, increasing from 4.1 million in 1970 to 4.9 million in 1980. (See Table 6.2 and Figure 6.2.) According to the Department of Education, enrollment had grown to eight million by 2004.

Not only did the numbers of children enrolled in early childhood programs increase but also the percentage of all three- to five-year-olds enrolled increased substantially between 1965 and 2004. In 1965, 27.1% of three- to five-year-olds were enrolled in nursery school or kindergarten; by 2004, 64.5% were enrolled. (See Table 6.2.)

Although programs such as Head Start and other locally funded preschool programs are available to children in low-income families, preprimary school attendance is still generally linked to parental income and educational achievement levels. According to data presented by the NCES, 47% of three- to five-year-olds from households with an income below the poverty level in 2005 were enrolled in preprimary programs. (See Table 6.3.) That same year, 60% of children aged three to five whose families were at or above the poverty level were enrolled in preprimary programs.

Preschool enrollment rates were even more strongly correlated with a mother's educational level. In 2005 the enrollment rate of children whose mothers had not earned a high school diploma was only 35%. (See Table 6.3.) The enrollment rate of children whose mothers had a high school diploma or equivalent was 49%. Most three- to five-year-olds whose mothers had attended some college were enrolled in preprimary programs; 56% of children whose mothers had attended some college were enrolled, and 73% of children whose mothers had a bachelor's degree or higher were enrolled. These numbers likely reflect three things: Women with higher educational levels are more likely to continue working after becoming mothers, they are better able to pay for these programs, and they value the educational benefits of preprimary programs for their children.

HEAD START

The Head Start program, which was established as part of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, is one of the most durable and successful federal programs for low-income and at-risk children. Directed by the Administration for Children and Families, Head Start is designed to help improve the social competence, learning skills, health, and nutrition of low-income children so they can begin school on a more level footing with children from higher-income families. Regulations require that 90% of children enrolled in Head Start be from low-income households.

TABLE 6.2
Enrollment of 3- to 5-year-old children in preprimary programs, by level and control of program and by attendance, 1965–2004
[In thousands]
Year Total population 3 to 5 years old Enrollment by level and control Enrollment by attendance
Total Percent enrolled Nursery school Kindergarten Full-day Part-day Percent full-day
Public Private Public Private
—Not available.
†Not applicable.
*Data collected using new procedures. May not be comparable with figures prior to 1994.
Notes: Data are based on sample surveys of the civilian noninstitutional population. Some data have been revised from previously published figures. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
Source: Adapted from "Table 40. Enrollment of 3-, 4-, and 5-Year-Old Children in Preprimary Programs, by Level and Control of Program and by Attendance Status: Selected Years, 1965 through 2004," in Digest of Education Statistics, 2005, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, July 2006, http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2006/2006030_2a.pdf (accessed February 28, 2007)
196512,5493,40727.11273932,291596—(†)—(†)—(†)
197010,9494,10437.53327622,4985116983,40517.0
197510,1854,95548.75701,1742,6825281,2953,65926.1
19809,2844,87852.56281,3532,4384591,5513,32731.8
198510,7335,86554.68461,6312,8475412,1443,72236.6
198911,0396,02654.69301,8942,7044972,2383,78937.1
199011,2076,65959.41,1992,1802,7725092,5774,08238.7
199111,3706,33455.79961,8282,9675432,4083,92638.0
199211,5456,40255.51,0731,7832,9955502,4103,99237.6
199311,9546,58155.11,2051,7793,0205772,6423,93940.1
1994*12,3287,51461.01,8482,3142,8195343,4684,04646.2
1995*12,5187,73961.81,9502,3812,8006083,6894,05147.7
1996*12,3787,58061.21,8302,3172,8535803,5624,01947.0
1997*12,1217,86064.92,2072,2312,8475753,9223,93949.9
1998*12,0787,78864.52,2132,2992,6746023,9593,82950.8
1999*11,9207,84465.82,2092,2982,7775604,1543,69053.0
2000*11,8587,59264.02,1462,1802,7015654,0083,58452.8
2001*11,8997,60263.92,1642,2012,7245123,9403,66251.8
2002*11,5247,69766.82,3762,1792,6215214,1913,50754.4
2003*12,2047,92164.92,5122,3472,5395234,4293,49255.9
2004*12,3627,96964.52,4282,2432,8124844,5073,46156.6

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports in "Head Start Program Fact Sheet" (2006, http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/hsb/research/2006.htm) that in 2005, 906,993 children were served by Head Start programs. Of these children, 35% were non-Hispanic white, 32.9% were Hispanic, 31.1% were African-American, 5.2% were Native American and Alaskan Native, and 2.7% were Asian or Pacific Islander. Most participating children were three to four years old (34% and 52%, respectively). A significant portion (12.5%) were disabled—children with mental retardation, health impairments, visual handicaps, hearing impairments, emotional disturbance, speech and language impairments, orthopedic handicaps, and learning disabilities.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the average cost per child for Head Start in 2005 was $7,287. Between its inception in 1965 and 2005, Head Start provided services to more than twenty-three million children and their families. The National Conference of State Legislatures (2007, http://www.ncsl.org/statefed/humserv/HumServFY08.htm) indicates that the proposed budget for Head Start in FY 2008 was $6.8 billion. Despite these expenditures, the Children's Defense Fund notes in "Head Start Basics" (2005, http://www.childrensdefense.org/site/DocServer/headstartbasics2005.pdf?docID=616) that only about half of eligible children are served by the program because it continues to be underfunded.

TABLE 6.3
Percent of children ages 3-5 years old enrolled in center-based early childhood care and education programs, by child and family characteristics, 1995 and 2005
Characteristic 1995 2005
aBlack includes African American and Hispanic includes Latino. Race categories exclude Hispanic origin unless specified. Included in the total, but not shown separately, are children from other racial/ethnic groups.
b"Poor" is defined to include those families below the poverty threshold; "nonpoor" is defined to include those families whose incomes are at or above the poverty threshold.
Notes: Estimates are based on children who have yet to enter kindergarten. Center-based programs include day care centers, head start programs, preschool, nursery school, prekindergarten, and other early childhood programs. Children without mothers in the home are not included in estimates for mother's education or mother's employment status.
Source: Adapted from "Table 2-1. Percentage of Prekindergarten Children Ages 3-5 Who Were Enrolled in Center-Based Early Childhood Care and Education Programs, by Child and Family Characteristics: Various Years 1991–2005," in The Condition of Education 2006, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, June 2006, http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2006/2006071.pdf (accessed February 28, 2007)
    Total 55 57
Age
34143
46569
57569
Sex
Male5560
Female5555
Race/ethnicitya
White5759
Black6066
Hispanic3743
Poverty statusb
Poor4547
Nonpoor5960
Poverty status and race/ethnicity
    Poor
        White4345
        Black5565
        Hispanic3036
    Nonpoor
        White6061
        Black6668
        Hispanic4448
Family type
Two-parent household5557
One-parent or guardian-only household5658
Mother's education
Less than high school3535
High school diploma or equivalent4849
Some college, including vocational/technical5756
Bachelor's degree or higher7573
Mother's employment
35 hours or more per week6064
Less than 35 hours per week6261
Looking for work5242
Not in labor force4750

Head Start faced more drastic budget cuts beginning in the mid-2000s, with its budget declining by more than 10% between 2005 and 2008. As a result of cuts in 2006, the National Head Start Association reports in Special Report: Quality of Head Start Programs Imperiled by Steady Erosion of Funding (February 7, 2007, http://www.nhsa.org/download/announcements/NHSA2007_Budge_Report.pdf) that 56% of programs reported having cut their services to children—including reducing hours; cutting instructional time, classroom materials, activities, and resources to children; and reducing extra services such as mental health, medical, and dental, the English as a second language program, and services for children with disabilities. Almost half (46%) of programs had to cut transportation services for children, and another 47% had to cut extra services to families. Over two-thirds (69%) of Head Start programs were forced to cut staff positions and hours and eliminated salary increases and benefits, leading to higher turnover rates.

ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY SCHOOL

Compulsory Attendance

In 2002 all U.S. states required students to attend school through at least age sixteen. Most industrialized Western nations require children to attend school for about ten years.

Enrollment

Preprimary, elementary, and secondary school enrollments reflect the number of births over a specified period. Because of the baby boom following World War II, school enrollment grew rapidly during the 1950s and 1960s, when those children reached school age. Elementary enrollment reached a then-record high in 1969, as did high school enrollment in 1971.

In the late 1960s the birthrate began to decline, resulting in a steadily falling school enrollment. An echo effect occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when those born during the baby boom began their own families. This echo effect triggered an increase in school enrollment starting in the mid-1980s. In 1985 public elementary and secondary school enrollment increased for the first time since 1971 and continued to increase, reaching 55 million in 2003. It is projected to reach 58.1 million by 2015. (See Figure 6.3.) In 2003, 39.3 million students were enrolled in kindergarten through eighth grade and 15.7 million were enrolled in high school.

Private Schools

The NCES reports in the Digest of Education Statistics, 2005 that enrollment in public schools far surpasses enrollment in private schools; in 2005 only 11.6% of all primary and secondary school students were enrolled in private schools. Private school enrollment has risen more slowly than school enrollment overall, and as a result the proportion of students enrolled in private schools declined slightly between 1985 and 2005.

CATHOLIC SCHOOLS

According to Stephen P. Broughman and Nancy L. Swaim, in Characteristics of Private Schools in the United States: Results from the 2003–2004 Private School Universe Survey (March 2006, http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2006/2006319.pdf), 27.9% of all private schools were Catholic, and 46.2% of private school students attended Catholic schools. Economic and social changes have caused a decline in Catholic school enrollment and in the number of Catholic schools. In 1985 there were 9,220 Catholic schools in the United States; by 2004 there were only 7,919.

OTHER RELIGIOUS AND NONRELIGIOUS PRIVATE SCHOOLS

The other types of private schools are non-Catholic religious schools and nonreligious (nonsectarian) schools. According to Broughman and Swaim, non-Catholic religious schools made up 48.1% of all private schools in the 2003–04 school year and enrolled 35.8% of all private school students. Nonsectarian schools enrolled only 18% of private school students in 24% of private schools.

Dropping Out

DROPOUT RATES

Status dropouts are sixteen- to twenty-four-year-olds who have not finished high school and are not enrolled in school. The Department of Education reports in Digest of Education Statistics: 2005 that status dropout rates decreased from 1972 (14.6%) through 2004 (10.3%). In 2004 the Hispanic status dropout rate was considerably higher, at 23.8%, than that of non-Hispanic African-Americans (11.8%) or non-Hispanic whites (6.8%).

Dropout rates also fluctuate greatly according to family income. In 2004, 17.7% of people aged sixteen to twenty-four from families who had the lowest incomes (bottom 25%) had dropped out of school, which was five times the dropout rate of sixteen- to twenty-four-year-olds whose families had the highest incomes (3.5%). (See Figure 6.4.)

Status dropout rates are consistently lower for women than for men regardless of race or ethnicity. This has been the case since 1977. (See Table 6.4.) In 2004 the status dropout rate for young women aged sixteen to twenty-four was 9%. Males of the same age in 2004 had a status dropout rate of 11.6%.

RETURNING TO SCHOOL OR GETTING AN ALTERNATIVE DIPLOMA

The decision to drop out of high school does not necessarily mean the end of a young person's education. Many former students return to school to get their diploma or take the test necessary to obtain an alternative credential or degree, such as a general equivalency diploma (GED). According to the Department of Education's Digest of Education Statistics: 2005, in 2003, 387,000 GEDs were issued. Many young people who earn their GED pursue a college education.

Special Populations

STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES

In 1976 Congress passed the Education of the Handicapped Act, which required schools to develop programs for disabled children. Formerly, parents of many disabled students had few options other than institutionalization or nursing care. This act required that disabled children be put in the "least restrictive environment," which led to increased efforts to educate them in regular classrooms (known as main-streaming).

The law defined handicapped children as those who were mentally retarded, hard of hearing or deaf, orthopedically impaired, speech and language impaired, visually impaired, seriously emotionally disturbed, or otherwise health impaired. It also included children with specific learning disabilities who require special education and related services.

In 1990 the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was passed. This was a reauthorization and expansion of the earlier Education of the Handicapped Act. It added autism and traumatic brain injury to the list of disabilities covered by the law, and amendments added in 1992 and 1997 increased coverage for infants and toddlers and for children with attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The law required public school systems to develop an Individualized Education Program for each disabled child, reflecting the needs of individual students. In 2004 the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act was signed into law by President Bush, reauthorizing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and bringing it in line with the provisions of the NCLB.

As a result of legislation that enforces their rights, increased numbers of disabled children have been served in public schools. Between 1976 and 2004 the proportion of all students who participated in federal education programs for children with disabilities increased from 8.3% to 13.7%. (See Table 6.5.) In the 2003–04 school year the highest proportion of students needed services for specific learning disabilities (5.8%), followed by students who needed help with speech or language impairments (3%) and students who were mentally retarded (1.2%). According to the Twenty-Sixth Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 2004 (April 2006, http://www.ed.gov/about/reports/annual/osep/2004/26th-vol-1-sec-1.pdf), the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services reports that 268,331 infants and toddlers and 647,420 preschoolers aged three through five received early intervention services in 2002. Another 5.9 million children aged six through twenty-one received special education services.

HOMELESS CHILDREN

Homelessness harms children in many ways, including hindering their ability to attend and succeed in school. Homeless children have difficulty with transportation to school, maintaining necessary documents, and attaining privacy needed for homework, sleep, and interaction with parents in a shelter. Experts report that homeless children—when compared with children who are poor but housed—miss more days of school, more often repeat a grade, and are more often put into special education classes.

The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987 required in Title VII, subtitle B, that each state provide "free, appropriate, public education" to homeless youth. The law further required that all states develop a plan to address the denial of access to education to homeless children.

The McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Improvements Act of 2001 went further to address inequities that affect homeless children in the public school system. New guidance for states and school systems released by the Department of Education in April 2003 noted the main differences between the old and new programs:

  • Homeless children may no longer be segregated in a separate program on the basis of their homeless status.
  • Schools must immediately enroll homeless students even if they are missing some of the documentation normally required.
TABLE 6.4
Percentage of high school dropouts (status dropouts) among persons 16-24 years old, by sex, race, and ethnicity, 1960–2004
Year Total Male Female
All racesa White, non-Hispanic Black, non-Hispanic Hispanic origin All racesa White, non-Hispanic Black, non-Hispanic Hispanic origin All racesa White, non-Hispanic Black, non-Hispanic Hispanic origin
—Not available.
aIncludes other racial/ethnic categories not separately shown.
bBased on the April 1960 decennial census.
cWhite and black include persons of Hispanic origin.
dBecause of changes in data collection procedures, data may not be comparable with figures for years prior to 1992.
eWhite, non-Hispanic and black, non-Hispanic categories exclude persons identifying themselves as more than one race.
Notes: "Status" dropouts are 16- to 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in school and who have not completed a high school program regardless of when they left school. People who have received GED credentials are counted as high school completers. All data except for 1960 are based on October counts. Data are based on sample surveys of the civilian noninstitutionalized population.
Source: "Table 105. Percentage of High School Dropouts (Status Dropouts) among Persons 16 to 24 Years Old, by Sex and Race/Ethnicity: 1960 through 2004," in Digest of Education Statistics, 2005, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, July 2006, http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2006/2006030_2b.pdf (accessed February 28, 2007)
1960b27.227.826.7
1967c17.015.428.616.514.730.617.316.126.9
1968c16.214.727.415.814.427.116.515.027.6
1969c15.213.626.714.312.626.916.014.626.7
1970c15.013.227.914.212.229.415.714.126.6
1971c14.713.424.014.212.625.515.214.222.6
197214.612.321.334.314.111.622.333.715.112.820.534.8
197314.111.622.233.513.711.521.530.414.511.822.836.4
197414.311.921.233.014.212.020.133.814.311.822.132.2
197513.911.422.929.213.311.023.026.714.511.822.931.6
197614.112.020.531.414.112.121.230.314.211.819.932.3
197714.111.919.833.014.512.619.531.613.811.220.034.3
197814.211.920.233.314.612.222.533.613.911.618.333.1
197914.612.021.133.815.012.622.433.014.211.520.034.5
198014.111.419.135.215.112.320.837.213.110.517.733.2
198113.911.318.433.215.112.519.936.012.810.217.130.4
198213.911.418.431.714.512.021.230.513.310.815.932.8
198313.711.118.031.614.912.219.934.312.510.116.229.1
198413.111.015.529.814.011.916.830.612.310.114.329.0
198512.610.415.227.613.411.116.129.911.89.814.325.2
198612.29.714.230.113.110.315.032.811.49.113.527.2
198712.610.414.128.613.210.815.029.112.110.013.328.1
198812.99.614.535.813.510.315.036.012.28.914.035.4
198912.69.413.933.013.610.314.934.411.78.513.031.6
199012.19.013.232.412.39.311.934.311.88.714.430.3
199112.58.913.635.313.08.913.539.211.98.913.731.1
1992d11.07.713.729.411.38.012.532.110.77.414.826.6
1993d11.07.913.627.511.28.212.628.110.97.614.426.9
1994d11.47.712.630.012.38.014.131.610.67.511.328.1
1995d12.08.612.130.012.29.011.130.011.78.212.930.0
1996d11.17.313.029.411.47.313.530.310.97.312.528.3
1997d11.07.613.425.311.98.513.327.010.16.713.523.4
1998d11.87.713.829.513.38.615.533.510.36.912.225.0
1999d11.27.312.628.611.97.712.131.010.56.913.026.0
2000d10.96.913.127.812.07.015.331.89.96.911.123.5
2001d10.77.310.927.012.27.913.031.69.36.79.022.1
2002d10.56.511.325.711.86.712.829.69.26.39.921.2
2003d, e9.96.310.923.511.37.112.526.78.45.69.520.1
2004d, e10.36.811.823.811.67.113.528.59.06.410.218.5
  • Upon parental request, states and school districts must provide transportation for homeless children to the school they attended before they became homeless.
  • School districts must designate a local liaison for homeless children and youths.

HOMESCHOOLED CHILDREN

A number of parents, unhappy with public schools, teach their children at home. According to data from Homeschooling in the United States: 2003 (February 2006, http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2006/2006042.pdf), the NCES estimates that approximately 850,000, or 1.7% of school-age children, were being homeschooled in the spring of 1999. By 2003 that number had risen to 1.1 million students, or 2.2% of school-age children.

Parents choose to homeschool their children for a variety of reasons. Almost a third (31%) of the home-schooling parents surveyed in the 2003 NCES National Household Education Survey said the most important reason they chose to homeschool was concern about the environment of the other schools. (See Figure 6.5.) Another 30% said they chose to homeschool to provide religious or moral instruction. The third most common

TABLE 6.5
Number of children with disabilities who were served by federal programs, as a percentage of total public K-12 enrollment, by type of disability, selected school years 1976–77 to 2003–04
Number served as a percent of total enrollmenta
Type of disability 1976–77 1980–81 1990–91 1992–93 1993–94 1994–95 1995–96 1996–97 1997–98 1998–99 1999–2000 2000–01 2001–02 2002–03 2003–04
—Not available.
†Not applicable.
#Rounds to zero.
aBased on the total enrollment in public schools, prekindergarten through 12th grade.
bIncludes preschool children ages 3-5 served under Chapter 1 and IDEA, Part B. Prior to 1987–88, these students were included in the counts by disability condition. Beginning in 1987–88, states were no longer required to report preschool children (ages 0-5) by disability condition. Beginning in 2002–03, preschool children were again identified by disability condition.
Notes: Includes students served under Chapter 1 and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), formerly the Education of the Handicapped Act. Prior to October 1994, children and youth with disabilities were served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Part B, and Chapter 1 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. In October 1994, Congress passed the Improving America's Schools Act, in which funding for children and youth with disabilities was consolidated under IDEA, Part B. Data reported in this table for years prior to 1993–94 include children ages 0-21 served under Chapter 1. Counts are based on reports from the 50 states and the District of Columbia only (i.e., figures from other jurisdictions are not included). Increases since 1987–88 are due in part to new legislation enacted in fall 1986, which mandates public school special education services for all disabled children ages 3 through 5, in addition to age groups previously mandated. Some data have been revised from previously published figures. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
Source: Adapted from "Table 50. Children 3 to 21 Years Old Served in Federally Supported Programs for the Disabled, by Type of Disability: Selected Years, 1976–77 through 2003–04," in Digest of Education Statistics, 2005, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, July 2006, http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2006/2006030_2a.pdf (accessed February 28, 2007)
All disabilities 8.310.111.411.812.012.212.412.612.813.013.213.313.413.513.7
Specific learning disabilities1.83.65.25.55.55.65.85.85.96.06.06.06.05.95.8
Speech or language impairments2.92.92.42.32.32.32.32.32.32.32.32.32.32.93.0
Mental retardation2.22.01.31.21.21.31.31.31.31.31.31.31.21.21.2
Emotional disturbance0.60.80.90.91.01.01.01.01.01.01.01.01.01.01.0
Hearing impairments0.20.20.10.10.10.10.10.10.10.20.10.10.10.20.2
Orthopedic impairments0.20.10.10.10.10.10.10.10.10.10.20.20.20.20.2
Other health impairments0.30.20.10.20.20.20.30.40.40.50.50.60.70.81.0
Visual impairments0.10.10.10.10.10.10.10.10.10.10.10.10.10.10.1
Multiple disabilities0.20.20.20.20.20.20.20.20.20.20.30.30.30.3
Deaf-blindness##############
Autism and traumatic brain injury#0.10.10.10.10.10.10.20.20.20.30.4
Developmental delay###0.10.10.60.6
Preschool disabledb0.91.11.11.21.21.21.21.21.21.31.3

reason parents gave for homeschooling was dissatisfaction with the academic instruction available at other schools (16%).

States have differing requirements for parents who teach their children at home. According to the Home School Legal Defense Association, some states, such as Idaho and New Jersey, give parents the right to educate their children as they see fit and impose only minor controls or none at all. Other states have more strict regulations. Highly regulated states, such as New York, Vermont, Pennsylvania, and a few others, require parents to get curriculum approved, send achievement test scores, or meet qualification requirements. Opponents of homeschooling argue that parents may not be qualified to be teachers, but proponents believe that parents can gain teaching skills through experience, just as other teachers do.

HIGHER EDUCATION—OFF TO COLLEGE

Formal schooling beyond high school is increasingly being viewed as a necessity, not only to a young person's development but also to his or her economic success. Many parents consider helping their children attend college to be an important financial responsibility.

College Entrance Examinations

Most students who wish to enter colleges and universities in the United States must take either the SAT (once known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test, then the Scholastic Assessment Test, now simply the SAT I) or the American College Test (ACT) as part of their admission requirements. The ACT is a curriculum-based achievement test that measures proficiency in reading, math, English, and science, whereas the SAT is a primary admissions test that measures a student's mathematical and verbal reasoning ability in a way intended to assess readiness for college. Students who take these tests usually plan to continue their education beyond high school; therefore, these tests do not profile all high school students.

MORE ARE TAKING SAT AND ACT EXAMS, WITH MIXED RESULTS

The number of students who take both the SAT and the ACT has grown steadily. The College Board notes in 2006 College-Bound Seniors (2006, http://www.collegeboard.com/prod_downloads/about/news_info/cbsenior/yr2006/national-report.pdf) that in 2006 nearly 1.5 million students took the SAT. This represents an increase of 50% over the number who took the test in 1975 (996,000). According to ACT, Inc. (2007, http://www.act.org/news/aapfacts.html), the number of students taking the ACT increased over the same period, from 714,000 in 1975 to 1.2 million in 2006, an increase of 68%. In State of College Admission 2006, Executive Summary (May 2006, http://www.nacacnet.org/NR/rdonlyres/78BCFBFB-6871-4FCA-B1BF-50E330735706/0/06SOCA_ExecutiveSummarypdf.pdf), the National Association for College Admission Counseling indicates that 73% of colleges reported significant increases in the number of applicants in 2005 over the previous year, as well. Students are either applying to a larger number of schools or, as the increased numbers taking the SAT and ACT suggest, more high school graduates are pursuing a college education.

Performance on the SAT is measured on a scale of two hundred to eight hundred for each of three sections, with the established average score being around five hundred for each. According to 2006 College-Bound Seniors, over the period from 1972 to 2006, the average critical reading scores on the SAT declined from 530 to 503. The results for the math portion of the SAT, however, dropped and then rebounded over the same period, from 509 in 1972 to 518 in 2006. Writing was tested for the first time in 2006; test takers received an average score of 497. The average ACT scores also improved; in 1970 the average composite ACT score was 19.9, and in 2006 the average composite score was 21.1.

CHARACTERISTICS OF TEST TAKERS

2006 College-Bound Seniors notes that more women than men took the tests in 2006—53.6% of those who took the SAT were women. More women than men have taken the SAT since the 1970s as well. Men, on average, scored higher on both the critical reading and the math portions of the SAT test in 2006 (average scores of 505 and 536, respectively) compared with women (502 in each section). However, women scored higher on the writing section than men did (502 and 491, respectively).

According to the 2006 College-Bound Seniors, the favorite intended areas of study or future career choice among those who took the SAT in order of preference were health related (18%), business (15%), and social science/history (9%). Areas in which students taking the ACT hoped to pursue future studies were similar to those reported for takers of the SAT. However, the ACT notes in "2006 ACT National Score Report News Release" (August 16, 2006, http://www.act.org/news/releases/2006/ndr.html) that even though the top planned college major was health sciences, only 27% of ACT test takers reached the college readiness benchmark on the science test.

Despite improvements in the scores of minority students, most lagged behind those of non-Hispanic white students. According to 2006 College-Bound Seniors, in 2006 white students scored a mean of 527 on critical reading, 536 on math, and 519 on writing on the SAT. African-Americans scored an average of 434 on critical reading, 429 on math, and 428 on writing, the lowest average scores of any racial or ethnic group. Mexican-Americans scored an average of 454 on critical reading, 465 on math, and 452 on writing; Puerto Ricans scored 459 on critical reading, 456 on math, and 448 on writing; and other Hispanics scored 458 on critical reading, 463 on math, and 450 on writing. Native Americans and Alaskan Natives scored 487 on critical reading, 494 on math, and 474 on writing. Asians and Pacific Islanders scored an average of 510 on critical reading, 578 on math, and 512 on writing.

According to the 2006 ACT High School Profile Report (2006, http://www.act.org/news/data/06/pdf/National2006.pdf), results on the ACT in 2006 show that Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders scored an average of 22.3, non-Hispanic whites scored an average of 22, Native Americans and Alaskan Natives scored an average of 18.8, Hispanics scored an average of 18.6, and African-American students scored an average of 17.1. Even though scores for all groups were up since 2002, in "ACT Scores Hold Steady in 2003" (http://www.act.org/activity/autumn2003/scores.html), Richard L. Ferguson notes, "Our research has shown that far too many African American students are not being adequately prepared for college. They are less likely than others to take rigorous, college-preparatory courses, and they often don't receive the information and guidance they need to properly plan for college." ACT data for 2006 show that fewer minority test takers had taken the core college-preparatory coursework and that groups that had taken more core coursework, such as non-Hispanic whites and Asian-Americans, tended to score higher on the ACT.

Projected Enrollment

Enrollment in institutions of higher education is expected to rise through 2015, due not only to large numbers of children of baby boomers approaching college age but also to the increasing numbers of people of all ages seeking advanced learning. Enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions stood at 17.3 million in 2004 and is expected to reach 19.9 million by 2015. (See Figure 6.6.)

College Costs

Paying for a college education, even at public four-year institutions, now ranks as one of the most costly investments for American families. The NCES reports in Digest of Education Statistics, 2005 that in the 2004–05 school year the average annual in-state cost at a four-year public college, including tuition and room and board, was $11,441. For one year at a private four-year college, the average cost for tuition and room and board was $26,489. Public college tuition varied widely among states, from $2,070 in the District of Columbia to $8,771 in Vermont. Most states with the highest tuition were in the Northeast and most with the lowest tuition were in the South and West.

FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FOR STUDENTS

According to the NCES, during the 2003–04 academic year almost two-thirds (63.2%) of nineteen million undergraduates enrolled in postsecondary institutions received some type of financial aid from federal, state, institutional, or other sources to meet their educational expenses. About half (48%) of undergraduates received some form of federal aid. More than half (50.7%) of all students received grants (which do not have to be paid back), about a third (35.2%) took out loans (which do have to be paid back), and 7.5% were on work-study programs. Federal assistance that goes directly to students includes Pell Grants (the annual maximum was increased to $4,310 for the 2007–08 award year), the Stafford Student Loan Program (a maximum loan of $19,000 for four years of study for dependent undergraduate students), and Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (which can range from $100 to $4,000 per year).

The NCES indicates that during the 2003–04 school year 62.7% of dependent undergraduate students whose families earned less than $20,000 per year and 77.8% of students whose families earned between $20,000 and $39,999 per year received financial aid. However, because of the high cost of college, students even in high income brackets received financial aid to help pay for college; 60.5% of dependent undergraduate students whose families earned $100,000 or more received some form of financial aid.

EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT AND EARNINGS

The educational attainment of the U.S. population has risen steadily since the 1940s. In 2003, 84.6% of adults older than the age of twenty-five had graduated from high school—the highest number ever. (See Figure 6.7.) More than one in four (27.2%) had earned a bachelor's degree or more.

The level of educational attainment has traditionally been higher for men than for women. In 2003, however, for the second year in a row, the high school graduation rate for women aged twenty-five and over (85%) exceeded that of men (84.1%). (See Table 6.6.) The 2002 difference was the first statistically significant one in high school graduation rates between men and women since 1989. In 2003, 28.9% of men and 25.7% of women had obtained bachelor's degrees or higher. Although college attainment had increased since 1990 for both men and women, women are narrowing the gap and making faster gains then men.

Educational attainment also varies by race and ethnic origin. In 2003 non-Hispanic whites were most likely to complete high school (89.4%), followed by Asians (87.6%), African-Americans (80%), and Hispanics (57%). (See Table 6.6.) Asians were by far the most likely to be college graduates (49.8%), followed by non-Hispanic whites (30%), African-Americans (17.3%), and Hispanics (11.4%).

Education is a good investment, because earning levels rise with increased education. For people aged eighteen or older who had not finished high school, the average annual income in 2002 (the latest year for which data were available) was $18,826. (See Table 6.7.) High school graduates earned an average income of $27,280 in 2002, and people with some college or an associate degree earned an average income of $31,046. The incomes of college graduates increased with the level of the degree earned. People with a bachelor's degree had mean annual earnings of $51,194, whereas holders of advanced degrees earned an average of $72,824 in 2002.

These averages differed considerably by gender and race or ethnicity. On average, for all educational attainment levels, women earned $27,271, or $0.62 for every dollar men earned. (See Table 6.7.) Compared with their male counterparts, the most highly educated women earned $50,756, or $0.56 for every dollar the men earned. The disparity between races and ethnic groups was not as pronounced. Annual earnings for high school graduates ranged from $28,756 for non-Hispanic whites to $22,823 for African-Americans. For college graduates, earnings ranged from $40,949 for Hispanics to $53,185 for non-Hispanic whites.

TABLE 6.6
Educational attainment of the population 25 years and over by demographic characteristics, 2003
Characteristic Number of people (in thousands) High school graduate or more Some college or more Bachelor's degree or more
Percent Percent Percent
Source: Nicole Stoops, "Table A. Summary Measures of the Educational Attainment of the Population 25 Years and Over: 2003," in Educational Attainment in the United States: 2003, U.S. Census Bureau, June 2004, http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/p20-550.pdf (accessed February 28, 2007)
Population 25 years and over 185,18384.652.527.2
Age group:
25 to 29 years18,72186.557.428.4
30 to 34 years20,52187.658.631.5
35 to 39 years21,28487.656.529.8
40 to 44 years22,79088.456.529.1
45 to 49 years21,42089.357.429.9
50 to 54 years18,81488.758.931.1
55 to 59 years15,47086.955.129.0
60 to 64 years11,93083.047.324.5
65 to 69 years9,43876.939.119.6
70 to 74 years8,67372.836.418.5
75 years and over16,12367.532.415.4
Sex:
Men88,59784.153.228.9
Women96,58685.051.925.7
Race and origin:
White alone153,18885.152.927.6
    Non-Hispanic white alone133,48889.456.430.0
Black alone20,52780.044.717.3
Asian alone7,69187.667.449.8
Hispanic (of any race)21,18957.029.611.4
Nativity:
Native158,12887.554.227.2
Foreign born27,05567.242.727.2
Marital status:
Never married28,69484.954.829.0
Married spouse present113,74887.055.930.5
Married spouse absent7,38972.538.216.1
    Separated4,44774.538.613.8
Widowed13,97067.230.312.5
Divorced21,38286.550.921.0
Region:
Northeast36,18285.750.730.3
Midwest41,72887.852.526.0
South66,07182.250.125.3
West41,20284.058.128.7
TABLE 6.7
Average earnings by educational attainment, sex, race, and Hispanic origin for all workers, age 18 and over, 2002
Characteristic Total Not a high school graduate High school graduate Some college or associate's degree Bachelor's degree Advanced degree
Source: Nicole Stoops, "Table C. Average Earnings in 2002 by Educational Attainment, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin for All Workers, 18 Years and Over," in Educational Attainment in the United States: 2003, U.S. Census Bureau, June 2004, http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/p20-550.pdf (accessed February 28, 2007)
    Total $36,308 $18,826 $27,280 $31,046 $51,194 $72,824
Men$44,310$22,091$32,673$38,377$63,503$90,761
Women$27,271$13,459$21,141$23,905$37,909$50,756
White alone$37,376$19,264$28,145$31,878$52,479$73,870
    Non-Hispanic white alone$39,220$19,423$28,756$32,318$53,185$74,122
Black alone$28,179$16,516$22,823$27,626$42,285$59,944
Asian alone$40,793$16,746$24,900$27,340$46,628$72,852
Hispanic (of any race)$25,824$18,981$24,163$27,757$40,949$67,679

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