News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

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NCES Studying Dropout Counts

The National Center for Education Statistics is seeking to devise a more precise method of counting high school dropouts. Many experts say that district, state, and federal estimates of the number of teenagers quitting school before graduation severely underestimate the scope of the problem.

Robert Lerner, the commissioner of education statistics, said in an interview last month that his agency was conducting a study of the ways in which data on high school completion could be collected and analyzed more effectively. He did not have a firm timetable for when the results of the study would be available.

The research by the NCES, an arm of the Department of Education, will examine some of the most common data-collection systems used to study dropout rates, Mr. Lerner said. They include the Common Core of Data survey system—used by the NCES in its dropout estimatesand information from the Census Bureau.

Mr. Lerner discussed the study following an appearance before the National Assessment Governing Board, the panel that sets policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress, in Washington on Aug. 6.

—Sean Cavanagh

Study: Big Jump Since 1990 In Federal Education Support

Total federal support for education, excluding tax benefits, rose to $171 billion in fiscal 2003, an increase of 102 percent since 1990 when adjusted for inflation, according to a government report.

The August study by the National Center for Education Statistics offers a range of historical statistics on federal budgetary matters related to education. It draws together data from the Department of Education, which accounts for nearly half of "on budget" federal funding for education, but also from many other agencies, such as the departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Labor, and Veterans Affairs.

The report notes substantial growth in federal aid for elementary and secondary education in recent years. While federal on-budget funds for that sector declined by 12 percent between fiscal 1980 and 1990, it grew by 101 percent from then until fiscal 2003, when adjusted for inflation.

At the same time, the federal share of spending on schools is apparently smaller than it was some two decades ago.

The report says that while the federal proportion of expenditures for elementary and secondary institutions grew from 7 percent in fiscal 1990 to 10 percent last fiscal year, it’s still less than the 12 percent back in fiscal 1980.

—Erik W. Robelen

Vol. 24, Issue 1, Page 34

Published in Print: September 1, 2004, as News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
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