College & Workforce Readiness Report Roundup

Poverty, Preschools Seen Rising

By Sarah D. Sparks & Caralee J. Adams — June 04, 2013 1 min read

More high-poverty schools, surging preschool enrollments, and increases in the share of high school students taking mathematics and science courses are among the statistical trends highlighted in the newest edition of “The Condition of Education,” the annual data digest from the National Center for Education Statistics.

According to the report, which was released late last month, one in five public schools in 2011 had 75 percent or more of their students qualify for free- or reduced-price meals, up from only one in eight schools a decade ago.

And in the wake of the economic downturn, Americans who don’t attain higher education are the most likely to be unemployed: Among adults ages 25 to 34 who started but did not complete a college degree, 30 percent were unemployed, making them only slightly better off than those with just a high school diploma, a group with a 32 percent unemployment rate. However, high school dropouts still lag far behind, with unemployment among that group at 44 percent, according to the report.

Preschool enrollment, meanwhile, has risen. More than 60 percent of children ages 3 to 5 now attend preschool, a majority of them in full-day classes, and 15 states now require kindergarten for all children.

A special “spotlight” report in the volume highlights the increases in math and science coursetaking in the past two decades. It notes, for instance, that while 7 percent of high school students took calculus in 1990, nearly 16 percent did in 2009. The percentage of graduates who had completed Algebra 2 or trigonometry increased from 54 percent to 76 percent in the same period.

In chemistry, the percentage of high school graduates who had taken the class increased from 49 percent to 70 percent, and the share who had completed a physics course rose from 21 percent to 36 percent between 1990 and 2009.

This year marks the start of a new, slimmer format for the publication, according to NCES Commissioner Sean P. “Jack” Buckley. Only a handful of print issues of the report will now be published, but the report’s Web page has been overhauled to make the data easier to use. The study has also been pared down to 42 indicators that will be gauged annually, in the areas of population characteristics, participation in education, elementary and secondary education, and postsecondary education.

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A version of this article appeared in the June 05, 2013 edition of Education Week as Poverty, Preschools Seen Rising

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