Last Thursday, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) held a briefing on the release of "The Condition of Education 2008." The congressionally mandated annual report showcases findings on a number of trends, including school enrollments, student performance on national and international assessments, public school expenditures and the educational attainment of young adults.
Mark Schneider, NCES commissioner, presented the report findings. Introducing the report as a "big picture" view of U.S. education data, Schneider said this year's notable findings include an improvement in math and reading scores, an increase in college enrollment and persistent challenges that remain for minority populations. Public school enrollment continues to grow (expected to approach 50 million this year) and set new records, while private school enrollment has declined since 2001. Hispanic students now represent 20 percent of public school enrollment, and the percentage of children who speak a language other than English at home has doubled (to 20 percent). Average test scores in 2007 for 9- and 13-year-olds in reading, and mathematics show an upward trend. Notably, U.S. fourth-graders are outperforming their international peers, on average, in terms of literacy. For the 2004-05 school year, the estimated on-time graduation rate in the United States was 75 percent. The rate of students enrolling in college immediately after high school was 67 percent in 1997 (up from 49 percent in 1972), but has since fluctuated between 62 percent and 69 percent.
During the discussion period, Schneider commented on upcoming NCES projects. New directions for NCES data collections include data on new teachers across time, a teacher compensation survey and continued work on state K-12 longitudinal data systems. Finally, Schneider mentioned a new high school longitudinal study that NCES will release in 2009, in which math and science will be a major focus point.