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Education: Education General

Educational attainment in the U.S. continues to increase, but there are widening disparities between regions and by race and ethnicity. Currently 13% of Hispanics, 18% of African Americans, 31% of whites and 50% of Asians hold four-year college degrees. There are concerns about the level at which younger Americans are beginning, but not completing, college degrees.

The share of adults with at least a high school diploma rose from 75 percent in 1990 to 85 percent in 2008.[...] Similar progress was evident for post-secondary degrees, which 35 percent of adults possessed in 2008, up from 26 percent in 1990. These gains have been uneven across regions, however. The Northeast is now the most highly educated region, with just short of 40 percent of its adults holding some form of post-secondary degree, a trait shared by fewer than one-third of Southern adults.[...] Even more significant than these regional differences are deep and abiding attainment differences by race and ethnicity across the United States.[...] Only 61 percent of Hispanic adults have a high school diploma, reflecting both recent low-skilled immigration as well as below-average completion rates for native-born Hispanics.[...] Meanwhile, black adults posted above-average gains in high school diploma attainment during the 2000s, but below-average gains in college degree completion. Today, just 13 percent of Hispanics and 18 percent of African Americans hold a four-year college degree, compared to 31 percent of whites, and 50 percent of Asians.[...] Finally, there are worrisome signs that younger Americans are not making the same level of progress on educational attainment as older generations, which could threaten continued upward progress in U.S. living standards.[...] A rising share of the 25-to-34 year-old group - 24 percent by 2008 - indicated that they had completed some college, but had not obtained a degree, a troubling trend that is drawing increased attention in higher education. (pp.105-107).

Berube, A. (2010). Educational Attainment. In State of metropolitan America: On the front lines of demographic transformation (chapter VI). Retrieved from http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Files/Programs/Metro/state_of_metro_america/metro_america_report.pdf [posted 06/28/2010]

Latino American children make up the majority of first grade students in the United States' largest cities, impacting their school districts.

Latino children now constitute a majority or near majority of first graders in nine of the nation's largest cities, according to analysis conducted by the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute (TRPI) at the University of Southern California. In cities such as Los Angeles and Dallas, the percentage of Hispanic first graders is even higher - three out of four first graders in these school districts are Latino. In 2020, this demographic wave of Latino first graders will graduate from high school and enter collegiate education or the labor market. "The future is now in terms of challenges presented to school districts across the nation by this influx of Latino youth," stated Harry Pachon, President of TRPI and professor of public policy at the University of Southern California. "A large percentage of these students are U.S. citizens by birth," Pachon continued. "Paradoxically, our public schools are in the unusual position of teaching English to native born American children." Columbia Professor Rodolfo de la Garza and Vice President of Research at the TRPI observed, "This is a profound demographic change, which provides a challenge for American education, just as European immigrants created a new foundation for New York through their ambition to excel and succeed. Latinos, if provided support and respect, will be in a position to strengthen our cities and our nation."

March 5, 2009, Majority/Near-Majority of First Graders in Top Ten U.S. Cities are Latino, Harry P. Pachon and Rudy de La Garza, The Tomas Rivera Policy Institute, Los Angles, CA, http://www.trpi.org/Press%20releases/TRPI%20PRESS%20RELEASE%20The%20Coming%20Latino%20Demographic.pdf. [posted 4/17/2009]

There is a teacher crisis in the U.S.: one third of all new teachers leave the profession after just three years; after five years almost half are gone.

The retirement of thousands of baby boomer teachers coupled with the departure of younger teachers frustrated by the stress of working in low-performing schools is fueling a crisis in teacher turnover that is costing school districts substantial amounts of money as they scramble to fill their ranks for the fall term. Superintendents and recruiters across the nation say the challenge of putting a qualified teacher in every classroom is heightened in subjects like math and science and is a particular struggle in high-poverty schools, where the turnover is highest. Thousands of classes in such schools have opened with substitute teachers in recent years. In June, the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, a nonprofit group that seeks to increase the retention of quality teachers, estimated from a survey of several districts that teacher turnover was costing the nation's districts some $7 billion annually for recruiting, hiring and training. The commission has calculated that these days nearly a third of all new teachers leave the profession after just three years, and that after five years almost half are gone - a higher turnover rate than in the past. All the coming and going of young teachers is tremendously disruptive, especially to schools in poor neighborhoods where teacher turnover is highest and students' needs are greatest.

AUGUST 27, 2007, With Turnover High, Schools Fight for Teachers, by Sam Dillon, The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com. [posted 5/15/2008]



A recent study has found that children with attention deficit disorder suffer from a delay in brain development, not a flaw.

...Children with attention deficit disorders suffer primarily from a delay in brain development, not from a deficit or flaw. ...Researchers from the National Institute of Mental Health and McGill University, using imaging techniques, found that the brains of children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder developed normally but more slowly in some areas than the brains of children without the disorder. The disorder, also known as A.D.H.D., is by far the most common psychiatric diagnosis given to disruptive young children; 3 percent to 5 percent of school-age children are thought to be affected. Researchers have long debated whether it was due to a brain deficit or to a delay in development. Doctors said that the report, being published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, helps to explain why so many children grow out of the diagnosis in middle school or later, often after taking stimulant medications to improve concentration in earlier grades.

NOVEMBER 13, 2007, Bad Behavior Does Not Doom Pupils, Studies Say, by Benedict Carey, The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com.
NOVEMBER 12, 2007, ADHD Brain Delay, by Joyce Gramza, ScienCentralNews, http://www.sciencentral.com. [posted 5/15/2008]


A controversial study has found that disruptive or antisocial behaviors in kindergarten did not correlate with academic results at the end of elementary school.

In one study, an international team of researchers analyzed measures of social and intellectual development from over 16,000 children and found that disruptive or antisocial behaviors in kindergarten did not correlate with academic results at the end of elementary school. Kindergartners who interrupted the teacher, defied instructions and even picked fights were performing as well in reading and math as well-behaved children of the same abilities when they both reached fifth grade, the study found. Other researchers cautioned that the findings, being reported in the journal Developmental Psychology, did not imply that emotional problems were trivial or could not derail academic success in the years before or after elementary school. While there was little correlation between behavior problems in kindergarten and later academic success, the researchers did find that scores on math tests at ages 5 or 6 were highly correlated with academic success in fifth grade. Kindergarten reading skills and scores on attention measures - where youngsters with A.D.H.D. falter - also predicted later academic success, but less strongly than math scores did. The pattern was about the same in girls as in boys, and for children from affluent families as well as those from lower-income groups.

NOVEMBER 13, 2007, Bad Behavior Does Not Doom Pupils, Studies Say, by Benedict Carey, The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com.
Full article: 2007, School Readiness and Later Achievement, by Greg J. Duncan, Chantelle J. Dowsett, Amy Claessens, Katherine Magnuson, Aletha C. Huston, Pamela Klebanov, Linda S. Pagani, Leon Feinstein, Mimi Engel, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Holly Sexton, Kathryn Duckworth, Crista Japel, Developmental Psychology, 43:6, pp. 1428-1446, http://www.apa.org/journals/releases/dev4361428.pdf. [posted 5/15/2008]



A study suggested that preschool programs might consider developing more effective math training, because the researchers did find that scores on math tests at ages 5 or 6 were highly correlated with academic success in fifth grade.

The authors of the study suggested that preschool programs might consider developing more effective math training. The findings should also put to rest concerns that boys and girls who are restless, disruptive or withdrawn in kindergarten are bound to suffer academically. "For kindergarten, it appears teachers are able to work around these behavior problems in a way that enables kids to learn just as much as other kids with equal levels of ability," said the lead author, Greg J. Duncan, a professor of human development and social policy at Northwestern University. The findings, Dr. Duncan said, have been "very controversial among developmental psychologists who have seen the paper."

NOVEMBER 13, 2007, Bad Behavior Does Not Doom Pupils, Studies Say, by Benedict Carey, The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com.
Full article: 2007, School Readiness and Later Achievement, by Greg J. Duncan, Chantelle J. Dowsett, Amy Claessens, Katherine Magnuson, Aletha C. Huston, Pamela Klebanov, Linda S. Pagani, Leon Feinstein, Mimi Engel, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Holly Sexton, Kathryn Duckworth, Crista Japel, Developmental Psychology, 43:6, pp. 1428-1446, http://www.apa.org/journals/releases/dev4361428.pdf. [posted 5/15/2008]



The school-based mental health services provided by SAMHSA have been found by the GAO to be ineffective.

SAMHSA's [Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration] school-based mental health programs need improvements to be fully effective, including dedicated funding, administrative champions, and more consistent delivery mechanisms. Delivery of school-based mental health services varied widely among school districts and among schools in the same school district. The variability was linked to the following:
  • School or district identification of need for school-based mental health services. Programs focus on the identified needs such as bullying, violence, or discipline issues; some provide prevention activities, assessment, crisis intervention, case management, and counseling; some do not
  • Teachers' and administrators' understanding of how to access and use available in-school mental health services
  • Presence or absence of an administrative champion for school-based mental health services
  • Lack of a dedicated funding stream for school-based mental health services, such that many sites reported piecing multiple funding streams to support programs.
These are the findings of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the role of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) in the provision of elementary and secondary school mental health services.

NOVEMBER 26, 2007, SAMHSA School-Based Mental Health Programs Need Additional Champions & Funding, Open Minds On-Line News, http://www.openminds.com. [posted 5/15/2008]


The U.S. high school graduation rate peaked at around 77% in the late 1960s and then declined by 4-5 percentage points.
  • Depending on data sources, definitions, and methods used, the U.S. high school graduation rate is estimated to be anywhere from 66 to 88 percent in recent years.

However, contrary to the status completion rate, the graduation ratio estimates peak at 77 percent in 1969 and then slowly declined until suddenly reversing the long-time trend starting in 2002. Depending on the data sources, definitions, and methods used, the U.S. graduation rate is estimated to be anywhere from 66 to 88 percent in recent years-an astonishingly wide range for such a basic statistic. The range of estimated minority rates is even greater-from 50 to 85 percent. After adjusting for multiple sources of bias and differences in sample construction, we establish that (1) the U.S. high school graduation rate peaked at around 80 percent in the late 1960s and then declined by 4-5 percentage points; (2) the actual high school graduation rate is substantially lower than the 88 percent estimate of the status completion rate issued by the NCES; (3) about 65 percent of blacks and Hispanics leave school with a high school diploma and minority graduation rates are still substantially below the rates for non-Hispanic whites. In fact, we find no evidence of convergence in minority-majority graduation rates over the past 35 years.

DECEMBER 2007, The American High School Graduation Rate: Trends and Levels, By James J. Heckman and Paul A. LaFontaine, National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA, http://www.nber.org/papers/w13670. [posted 3/3/2008]



The achievement gap between poor and rich students is well documented; testing scores are also showing a gap between white and minority students from all incomes. This is reflected in college graduation rates:
  • In 2003 17% of blacks and 30% of whites had a bachelor's degree.

Whether they are poor or rich, white students are scoring higher than their African American and Latino classmates on the state's [California] standardized tests... And in some cases, the poorest white students are doing better than Latino and black students who come from middle class or wealthy families. The so-called achievement gap -- the difference in performance between groups of students -- has long been chalked up to a difference in family income. But this year's test scores show that the difference in academic achievement between ethnic groups is more than an issue of poverty vs. wealth. "These are not just economic achievement gaps," state Superintendent Jack O'Connell said in announcing the test scores from an elementary school in Inglewood. "They are racial achievement gaps, and we cannot continue to excuse them."

AUGUST 16, 2007, Test Show Racial Achievement Gap: State Results Shed New Light on Wealth vs. Poverty Debate, by Laurel Rosenhall, The Sacramento Bee, http://www.sacbee.com.


[Paul] Tough is an editor and writer at The New York Times Magazine, and has in the last few years been looking at the achievement gap in schools that separates white children from children of color, and middle-class children from poor children. By any measure, the gap is real. It shows up in comparisons of grade point average, standardized tests, and - later - attainment rates for a bachelor's degree. (Almost 30 percent of whites get one, for example, compared with just over 17 percent of blacks.) A high school graduate will make an average of $20,000 less a year than one who gets a bachelor's degree; a dropout will do even worse - $30,000 a year less.

MARCH 22, 2007, The Achievement Gap, a Look Into Causes, by Corydon Ireland, Harvard University Gazette Online, http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2007/03.22/11-gap.html. [posted 3/3/2008]



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