Study Charts Students' Diversity, School Progress by State

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WASHINGTON--Public schools in the United States are becoming increasingly racially diverse, according to a new study, and the trend shows no signs of diminishing.

However, the study points out, there are wide differences between the races on projected levels of educational attainment and between states and regions on their patterns of diversity.

Conducted by the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education and the College Board, the study is believed to be the first to analyze the educational progress of public-school children by race and ethnicity in each state, and to project the number of high-school graduates in each group.

"For the first time, officials can pinpoint the patterns of the increasingly multicultural student body and then make plans to better educate underserved but increasingly significant racial and ethnic groups," said Robin Etter Zuniga, the WICHE research associate who wrote the study.

Ms. Zuniga, Frederick H. Dietrich, the College Board's vice president for guidance, access, and assessment services, and Richard Peck, president of the University of New Mexico and a WICHE board member, last week released the two-year study and briefed reporters here. By showing the changing racial makeup of students by state, they said, the study indicates that local conditions should drive education reform.

"National planning for education, despite what the President might want, may not have the impact he would like," Mr. Peck said. "We have to look at local conditions for local solutions. We have to focus locally on what needs to be done to adapt to changing demographics."

For example, he said, Mississippi educators should prepare now for a 1995 high-school graduation class that will be 50 percent black, compared with 48 percent in 1988. Mississippi and California, the study said, will join Hawaii, New Mexico, and the District of Columbia over the next few years in graduating more non-whites than whites.

Minority Enrollments Climbing

The study encompasses nine years of actual and estimated data and includes birth, grade-by-grade enrollment, and high-school graduation data by race for 30 states and the District of Columbia. The researchers generated estimates of total public-school enrollments and high-school graduates by race for the 20 states that were unable to provide complete data.

According to the study, by the 1994-95 academic year, whites will have fallen to 66 percent of the elementary- and secondary-school population, compared with 71 percent during the 1985-86 academic year.

Moreover, the enrollment rate of whites during that period is expected to increase at a slower rate, 5 percent, than that of other racial groups.

The rate of enrollment increases for Asians and Pacific Islanders is projected to be 70 percent--from slightly fewer than 1 million students in 1985-86 to 1.6 million in 1994-95--while the growth rate for Latinos is expected to be 54 percent--increasing from 3.3 million students to 5.1 million.

African-American enrollments are expected to grow by 13 percent-from 5.9 million to 6.7 million--and American Indian enrollments are expected to grow by 29 percent-from 321,000 to 414,000.

The study also suggests that whites will make up a smaller proportion of high-school graduates by 1995. In 1986, whites made up almost 78 percent of all public-school graduates; by 1995 they are expected to make up about 72 percent.

Latinos are expected to make up 9 percent of high-school graduates in 1995, compared with 6 percent in 1986, the study said, and Asians and Pacific Islanders will make up 4 percent of graduates in 1995, compared with 2.6 percent in 1986.

African-American and American Indian graduation percentages are expected to remain at 13 percent and 1 percent, respectively, the study said, although between 1989 and 1995, the number of African- American high-school graduates is expected to decline by 6 percent.

Regional Differences Noted

Over all, the number of public high-school graduates is expected to decline 3.5 percent between 1986 and 1995, the study said. That decline will hit hardest in the Northeast, where the number of graduates is expected to drop by 16.3 percent.

North-central states will suffer a less severe decline, 8.5 percent, while the West and the South-South-central regions will show increases of 12.8 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively.

Each region will show differences in racial makeup and projections, the study said.

The Northeast will see the greatest decrease in both white (20 percent) and black graduates (about 12 percent), the study said.

The numbers of Asian, Pacific Islander, American Indian, and Latino graduates are expected to increase in all parts of the nation.

Copies of the report, "The Road to College: Educational Progress by Race and Ethnicity," are available for $23 each from WICHE Publications, P.O. Drawer P, Boulder, Colo. 80301-9752.

Vol. 11, Issue 03, Page 12

Published in Print: September 18, 1991, as Study Chaffs Students'Diversity, School Progress by State
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