Saturday, June 02, 2007

U.S. Data Show Rapid Minority Growth in School Rolls

Good news in this report is that "The number of minority students taking Advanced Placement courses, for example, more than doubled from 1997 to 2005." -Angela

June 1, 2007
U.S. Data Show Rapid Minority Growth in School Rolls

Driven mainly by an extraordinary influx of Hispanics, the nation’s population of minority students has surged to 42 percent of public school enrollment, up from 22 percent three decades ago, according to an annual report issued yesterday by the government.

The report, a statistical survey of the nation’s educational system, portrays sweeping ethnic shifts that have transformed the schools. The changes, with important implications for educators and policy makers, have been most striking in the West, where, the survey says, Hispanic, black and Asian students together have outnumbered whites since 2003. But all regions have seen growth in minority student enrollment, particularly by Hispanics, who accounted for one of five public school students in 2005, the last year for which data were available.

“The rapid increase in the Hispanic population in America’s schools is quite striking,” said Mark S. Schneider, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, the data-gathering arm of the Department of Education.

The Congressionally mandated report, “The Condition of Education,” draws on data collected from state education agencies, schools and colleges by Mr. Schneider’s agency and the Census Bureau. Those data suggest significant challenges ahead for American education, partly because of the persistent math and reading test-score gaps that separate white students from blacks and Hispanics.

According to the survey, those gaps have remained largely unchanged since the early 1990s except in math at the fourth-grade level, where the black-white gap has narrowed somewhat. On average, the study shows, Hispanics score slightly better than blacks, but well below whites, in reading and math in both fourth and eighth grades. (In an interview, Mr. Schneider noted that the results of a national history test that were released in May did show a narrowing of the achievement gap in that subject.)

The most pronounced development in school demographics has been in Hispanic growth. Hispanic students accounted for just 6 percent of public school enrollment in 1972, but by 2005 their numbers had grown to 20 percent, the survey found. During the same period, white enrollment declined to 58 percent of school population, from 78 percent. African-American enrollment changed little: blacks were 14.8 percent of all students in 1972 and 15.6 percent in 2005.

The distribution of groups differs considerably by region. The Midwest remained the whitest region in 2005: 74 percent of students there were white, and 26 percent members of minorities. In the South, 24 percent of students were black, more than anywhere else. In the West, 46 percent of students were white, 37 percent were Hispanic, 7 percent were Asian, 5 percent were black, and the rest were Pacific Islanders, American Indians or students of more than one race.

At a news conference in Washington, Mr. Schneider focused much of his presentation of the report on statistics showing that more high school students, across racial and ethnic lines, had been taking advanced courses in recent years. The number of minority students taking Advanced Placement courses, for example, more than doubled from 1997 to 2005.

The report also found that many high school students were spending more time on homework than did students two decades earlier. In 1980, 7 percent of 10th graders reported spending 10 hours a week or more on homework, but by 2002 that number had risen to 37 percent, more than a fivefold increase. The number of boys who reported spending 10 hours or more increased to 33 percent from 6 percent. For girls, the number jumped to 41 percent from 8 percent.

In 2002, 19 percent of girls, and 26 percent of boys, reported spending three hours or less a week on homework.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

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