Condition Of Education Report Released
Special Report - June 2, 2010
In the eight years between the 1999-2000 school year and the 2007-2008 school year, the number of high-poverty schools in the United States increased by 12 percent, or 16,122 schools, according to a special section of the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) report. The annual report was released by the National Center for Education Statistics wing of the USDE on May 27, 2010. Federal researchers define high-poverty schools as those schools where 76 percent or more of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, and low-poverty schools have student populations with 25 percent or less of the student body eligible for a free or reduced-price lunch.
Reporters speculate that the increase in high-poverty schools is partially a result of increased participation in the free or reduced price lunch program, because poverty among school-aged children has only increased one percent (from 17 to 18 percent) in the same time frame. High-poverty schools are geographically concentrated in urban areas, and in the South and West (Mississipi, Louisiana, Washington, DC, New Mexico, and California have the greatest percentages of them). They tend to be more heavily attended by minority students. For example, Hispanic students comprise 46 percent of the student body at high-poverty elementary schools compared with 11 percent at low-poverty elementary schools. Black students comprise 34 percent of high-poverty and six percent of low-poverty schools.
High-poverty schools tend to have more behavioral and academic problems than other schools. More violent incidentsdefined as physical and sexual attacks or attempted attacks, and robbery or attempted robberyoccur on their campuses. According to the report, 38 percent of high-poverty schools recorded 20 or more violent incidences in the 2007-08 school year, whereas only 15 percent of their low-poverty counterparts reported a similar frequency of violent incidents. While low-poverty high schools saw 91 percent of their students graduate with a diploma in 2007-08, only 68 percent of high-poverty schools’ students graduated. This means that almost one in three 12th graders in high-poverty schools in the 2007-08 school year failed to graduate.
Perhaps as both a cause and effect of the behavioral and academic troubles of high-poverty schools, these schools tend to hire fewer certified teachers and more inexperienced teachers. Fortunately, their difficulties have also made them a target of education reform. The report notes, “Ten percent of high-poverty public secondary schools were charter schools, compared with 3 percent of low-poverty schools.”
The report observed in other sections that some improvement in fourth and eighth grade reading and math scores has been made since the early 1990s, and that although the racial achievement gap in fourth grade reading still exists, it has narrowed. It noted that (particularly in the South) enrollment in public schools and postsecondary degree programs has and will continue to grow due, mostly, to population growth. North Carolina was notable as one of only four states where 9-12 grade enrollment growth between 2007-2008 and 2019-2020 is projected to increase by more than 25 percent.
Readers can view the report [pdf] in its entirety along with other information and statements about the report at the National Center for Education Statistics’ Web site: The Condition of Education 2010.
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