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Although the number of minority students in the nation's schools continues to rise, a shortage of minority educators and bilingual teachers remains, according to the U.S. Education Department's new statistical profile of schools and their staffs and students.

The 1990-91 survey, compiled by the department's National Center for Education Statistics and released late last month, found that the percentage of students from minority groups had risen to 30 percent, from 28 percent in 1987-88.

In urban school systems, more than half of all students were members of minority groups.

Although the percentage of minority teachers went up slightly--from 12 percent in 1987-88 to 13 percent in 1990-91--49 percent of schools still employed no minority teachers.

In addition, nearly 40 percent of administrators in public and private schools said that vacancies for teachers of students with limited English proficiency were difficult or impossible to fill.

Among the survey's other findings for the 1990-91 school year:

  • About 105,000 schools were operating in the United States, including 80,000 public schools and 25,000 private schools.
  • Over 40 million students were enrolled in public schools and nearly five million in private schools.
  • The number of students per full-time teacher decreased to 16.5, from 17.1 in 1987-88.
  • The average base salary for teachers was nearly $30,000, compared with about $25,000 in 1987-88.
  • The percentage of principals who were female increased to 35 percent, from 31 percent in 1987-88.

Copies of "Schools and Staffing in the United States: A Statistical Profile, 1990-91,'' can be obtained for $14 each from New Orders, Superintendent of Documents, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15250-7954; (202) 783-3238.

The costs of substance abuse--in dollars and lives--are having a "devastating impact'' on American society, a new report warns.

The study, which was sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, says that over 500,000 deaths each year can be blamed on substance abuse, which, by one estimate, costs the nation as much as $238 billion a year.

The report also cites a number of studies on the use of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco among adolescents, concluding that early use can be an indicator of later abuse of substances.

"By the 8th grade,'' the report notes, "70 percent of adolescents have consumed alcohol, 44 percent have smoked cigarettes, 10 percent have used marijuana, and 2 percent have tried cocaine.''

Although the number of white high school seniors who are heavy users of alcohol has dropped somewhat over the past three years, the study indicates, the number of heavy users among Hispanics has risen steadily.

Cigarette use has dropped slightly for blacks and whites since 1990, but has gone up by a few percentage points for Hispanic students, according to the Brandeis University researchers who wrote the study.

The report stresses that in addition to the health problems associated with excessive drug, alcohol, and tobacco consumption, substance abuse results in a whole host of familial and social problems, including domestic violence, the maltreatment of children, and drug-related crime.

Copies of the report, "Substance Abuse: The Nation's Number-One Health Problem,'' are available without charge from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, P.O. Box 2316, Princeton, N.J. 08543-2316.

Girl Scouts, who for decades have recited a solemn promise to serve God and country, now have the option of replacing the word "God'' with the name of whatever spiritual force they choose.

Representatives of the nation's 2.6 million Girl Scouts voted at their annual meeting in Minneapolis last month to make the pledge more flexible to accommodate girls from diverse racial, ethnic, and religious groups.

"We believe that each member must establish for herself the nature of her beliefs, and we recognize that religious instruction is the responsibility of parents and and religious leaders,'' said LaRae Orullian, the group's national president.

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