External Author Name: 
Justin Torres

National Center for Education Statistics
June 2005

The latest edition of NCES's vast, annual, congressionally-mandated Condition of Education (COE) has landed in our mailbox. Like everyone else, we're trying to separate the wheat from the chaff in this vast compendium. For starters, a few items of note:

  • Minority enrollment in public schools increased from 1972 to 2003, mostly due to growth in Hispanic enrollments. Total public school enrollment is expected to reach 50 million in 2014, with the western states seeing the most growth.
  • The number of K-12 private school students increased from 1989 to 2002, though private school enrollments shrank slightly as a percentage of total elementary/secondary enrollments. (Possibly as a result of growth in charter schools and home schooling? COE doesn't say.) Catholic schools are still the biggest chunk of the private sector, though shrinking. Meanwhile, the percentage of students enrolled in "other religious" private schools rose from 32 to 36 percent, with conservative Christian schools experiencing the largest increase.
  • The achievement gap persists: whites and Asians outperform blacks and Hispanics. Also, rural and suburban students outperform students from large central city public schools in reading and mathematics.
  • The immediately-after-high-school college enrollment rate has held steady at about 64 percent since 1998. Between the mid-1980s and the late 1990s, the matriculation gap narrowed between blacks and whites but widened between Hispanics and whites.
  • From 1992 through 2002, schools got safer - theft fell by 58 percent, violent crimes of all kinds declined by 50 percent, and serious violent crimes (rape, murder, felony assault, and the like) diminished by a whopping 70 percent, from 10 to three crimes per 1,000 students.
  • No surprise here: Private elementary school principals were more likely to report having significant influence over curriculum (67 vs. 31 percent), discipline policies (83 vs. 69 percent), and student performance standards (64 vs. 36 percent), than their public school counterparts.

Every year, COE includes a "special analysis" of some particular topic. This year, it tackles teacher mobility. A few nuggets:

  • New hires are more likely than veterans to teach out-of-field and less likely to have both a major and certification in the field of their main teaching assignment. Worst off in this regard are delayed entrants (older workers becoming teachers for the first time): they are more likely to teach out-of-field than any other category of new hires and more than three times as likely as continuing teachers (38 vs. 11 percent). No analysis, though, of whether delayed entrants have prior work experience that might substitute for a degree or otherwise suit them to teach in their particular field.
  • The five most common complaints among those leaving the teaching professions are lack of planning time (60 percent), heavy workloads (51 percent), too many students in a classroom (50 percent), low salary (48 percent), and unruly students (44 percent).
  • Most "new hires" are not new at all, but transfers from other schools or teachers returning to the workforce. For example, in 1999-2000, experienced teachers constituted 73 percent of all "new hires" and 12 percent of the teacher workforce. As the report notes (dipping its toe cautiously into the roiling waters of analysis), this and other data "make clear that (1) increased teacher turnover does not necessarily mean that there will be greater proportions of inexperienced teachers in the workforce, and (2) without a major change in the dynamics of the workforce, attempts to improve the supply of new teachers can effect only small changes in the [total] teacher workforce each year."

We'll likely be carving chunks of data off this carcass for a whole year. Meanwhile, you can find the whole thing here

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