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Posted at 6:30 AM ET, 04/14/2010

U.S. public education by the latest numbers

By Valerie Strauss

Did you know:

*From 1986 to 2007, the percentage of enrolled students in public elementary and secondary schools who were white decreased from 70 percent to 56 percent.
*In 2007–08, the largest number of bachelor's degrees were awarded in business.
*In a nation with a population of about 307 million in 2009, more than 1 out of every 4 people participated in formal education last fall.

These are some of the facts in the 2010 Digest of Education Statistics just released by the Department of Education. Here’s a look at public education, by the numbers, at least according to some of the stats released by the National Center for Education Statistics. (In each statistic, the latest date cited is the most recent for which information is available.)


*Last fall:
--About 75.2 million students in this country were enrolled in public and private schools and colleges.
--About 4.7 million were employed as elementary and secondary school teachers or as college faculty and teaching assistants.
--About 5.4 million were employed as professional, administrative and support staff at educational institutions.

*Between 1986 and 2007:
--The percentage of students enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools who were white decreased from 70 percent to 56 percent.
--The percentage of students who were Hispanic rose from 10 percent to 21 percent.
--The percentage of students who were Black rose from 16 to 17 percent.
--The percentage of students who were Asian/Pacific Islander rose from 3 to 5 percent.

Special education
*The percentage of students (3 to 21 years old) served by federally supported special education programs rose from 8 percent to 13 percent between 1976–77 and 2007–08.
--Much of the rise from 1976–77 to 1990–91 may be attributed to the increase in the percentage of students identified as having learning disabilities (from 2 to 5 percent of total enrollment).

*Between 2000–01 and 2007–08, the percentage of students identified as having other health impairments rose from 0.6 percent to 1.3 percent of enrollment.
--The percentage of those with autism rose from 0.2 percent to 0.6 percent of enrollment
--The percentage of those with developmental delay rose from 0.4 percent to 0.7 percent of enrollment.

*Overall, public school enrollment increased 26 percent between 1984 and 2009.
--Last fall’s school enrollment hit a new record.
--Public and private elementary enrollment is expected to continue increasing, with an overall increase of 9 percent between 2009 and 2018.
--Secondary enrollment is expected to decrease between 2009 and 2011, and then start to increase again in 2012.



*College enrollment (undergraduate and postbaccalaureate) in fall 2008 was 19.1 million students, up from 13.8 million in fall 1990.
--In 2008, 12.1 million students attended 4-year colleges and universities and 7.0 million attended 2-year colleges.
--Between 1990 and 2008, total fulltime enrollment increased more than total part-time enrollment, 50 percent and 23 percent, respectively.
-Between 1990 and 2007, enrollment of people under age 25 grew 40 percent and enrollment of people age 25 and older increased 20 percent.

*Of the 19.1 million students in 2008, 8.2 million were males and 10.9 million were females. Between fall 1990 and fall 2008, the enrollment of males rose by 30 percent and the enrollment of females rose by 45 percent.

*In 2008, approximately 63 percent of undergraduate and graduate college students were white, compared with 78 percent in 1990.
*Between 1990 and 2008, the percentage of students who were African American rose from 9 to 14 percent.
*The percentage who were Hispanic rose from 6 percent to 12 percent; and the percentage who were Asian/Pacific Islander rose from 4 percent to 7 percent.



*The average salary for public school teachers was $53,910 in 2008–09 ($53,168 in 2007–08 dollars).
--After adjustment for inflation, teachers’ salaries were 8 percent higher in 2008–09 than they were in 1970–71. This change reflects a decrease of 13 percent during the 1970s, an increase of 21 percent during the 1980s, and an increase of 2 percent since 1990–91.

*The teaching force in public elementary and secondary schools in 2007–08 was 76 percent female. Some 53 percent of teachers had at least 10 years of full-time teaching experience, and 52 percent of teachers held at least a master’s degree.

*The average salary for faculty in institutions of higher education who were on 9-month contracts was $73,570 in 2008–09 ($72,557 in 2007–08 constant dollars). The average faculty salary was 4 percent higher in 2008–09 than in 1999–2000, after adjustment for inflation.



*Reading Performance:
National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading scores of 4th- and 8th-graders were higher in 2007 than in 1992. At the 4th and 8th grades, females scored higher than males in 2007. White 8th-graders scored higher than Black and Hispanic 8th-graders.

*Mathematics Performance: The NAEP mathematics scores of 4th- and 8th-graders were higher in 2009 than in 1990. At the 4th and 8th grades, males scored higher than females in 2009. Among 4th- and 8th-graders, white students scored higher than black and Hispanic students but lower than Asian/Pacific Islander students.

Science Performance: Between 1996 and 2005, the average NAEP 4th-grade science scores increased from 147 to 151; there was no measurable change in the 8th-grade score; and the 12th-grade scores decreased from 150 to 147.

*The average number of science and mathematics credits earned by high school graduates increased between 1982 and 2005.
--The mean number of mathematics credits (Carnegie units) earned in high school rose from 2.6 in 1982 to 3.7 in 2005, and the number of science credits rose from 2.2 to 3.3. During the same period, the average number of English credits increased from 3.9 to 4.4, andthe number of social science credits increased from 3.2 to4.0. The Carnegie unit is a standard of measurement that represents one credit for the completion of a 1-year course.

*Between 1997–98 and 2007–08:
--The number of people earning associate’s degrees increased by 34 percent
--The number earning bachelor’s degrees, by 32 percent
--The number earning master’s degrees, by 45 percent
--The number earning first-professional degrees, by 16 percent
--The number earning doctor’s degrees, by 38 percent.
--Between 1997–98 and 2007–08, the number of
bachelor’s degrees awarded to males increased by 28 percent,
while the number awarded to females increased by 35 percent.

*Of the 1,563,000 bachelor’s degrees conferred in 2007–08, the largest numbers of degrees were conferred in the fields of:
Business (335,000)
Social sciences and history (167,000)
Health professions and related clinical sciences (111,000)
Education (103,000)

--At the master’s degree level in 2007-08, the largest numbers of degrees were in the fields of:
Education (176,000)
Business (156,000)

--The fields with the largest number of degrees at the doctor’s degree level in 2007-08 were:
Health professions and related clinical sciences (9,900)
Education (8,500)
Engineering (8,100)
Biological and biomedical sciences (6,900)
Psychology (5,300)
Physical sciences and science technologies (4,800)

*Between 1970 and 2009, the percentage of the adult population 25 years of age and over who completed high school or more rose from 55 percent to 87 percent. At the same time, the percentage of adults with a bachelor’s or higher degree increased from 11 percent to 30 percent.


Expenditures for public and private education, from preprimary through graduate school, are projected at about $1 trillion for 2008–09--about 7.6 percent of the gross domestic product in that year.


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By Valerie Strauss  | April 14, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  Research  | Tags:  Education Department, NAEP scores, National Center for Education Statistics, education statistics, public school enrollment, public school expenditures, school outcomes  
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Looking at the numbers, one sees again the persistent and often referred to achievement gap between the races. But thinking about USA Today's Feb. story about the achievement gap between the South and the rest of the country on AP exams, I'm wondering if you or any readers have seen any studies on a geographic gap. Specifically, it would be interesting to see if anyone has studied how similar SES students perform with geography as the measured variable. That may prove to be a more intractable stat than race.

Posted by: patrickmattimore1 | April 14, 2010 8:15 AM | Report abuse

Look at these figures from “Social/Economic Indicators by Race: Disparity 1954 and Today,” a April 2004 PowerPoint presentation produced by Ohio State University’s Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race & Ethnicity:

• Since 1957, the proportion of the African American population with a high school degree has increased by 300% (18.4% to 79.2%) and the proportion of the African American population with a 4-year college degree increased by almost 500% (2.9% to 17.2%).

• College enrollment rates for African Americans have increased from 36% in 1960 to 57.7% in 2002 (an increase of 66%). College enrollment rates for Whites increased by 45% during this forty-four year time period.

A report issued by the US Census Bureau in June 2004 ("Educational Attainment in the United States: 2003") stated that, "AMERICANS ARE MORE EDUCATED THAN EVER." The U.S. was at all time highs in the measures of 1. percentage of adults 25 years or older reporting they had completed at least high school, and 2. percentage of adults who had attained at least a bachelor's degree.

These trends conflict directly with the propaganda spouted by Arne Duncan and other free-market ed reformers. The lies and twisted truths are their rationale for privatizing the public schools. Billionaire Eli Broad, who is generating and financing much of this movement, calls it “transformation.”

These people never mention that the number of incarcerated African Americans has increased 800% since the 1950s, and how this has impacted urban children. We have the highest incarceration rate of all nations at 715 (per 100,000 people). Singapore's is 388, Canada's is 116, and Finland's is 71. The extreme incarceration is because of sentencing laws that target the urban poor; our crime rate does not correlate with the increase. See Michelle Alexander’s book, “The New Jim Crow.”

What is also never mentioned in the propaganda about our “crisis” is that the U.S. child poverty level is 22.4%, higher than any other advanced nation (the share of the children living in the households with income below 50% of the national median.) Japan’s is 12.2, Germany’s is 10.7, and Finland’s is 4.3.

Valerie, why isn’t the media helping to make these facts more visible to the public?

Posted by: pondoora | April 14, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

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