How are we doing in education?

pubimage.gifRecently, the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) published its report Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Minorities. There is some good news and bad news here. Some good news: Blacks and Latinos are increasing in terms of numbers going to college and numbers taking AP classes is increasing. Some bad news: the ethnic achievement gap is still pretty robust even though there has been some decrease over the decades; and Blacks have the highest retention and expulsion rates of all ethnic groups. Overall, I’d say the report suggests we have made some steps forward but still have quite a ways to go. Comments on the nature of the problem and courses of action?

Here are just a few points to ponder from the report:

Preprimary, elementary, and secondary education:

  • From 1993 to 2003, minorities increased as a proportion of public school enrollment, with schools in central city areas experiencing the most growth in the percentage of minority students. Hispanic students accounted for much of the increase in minorities in all types of locales.
  • In 2005, the majority of Black and Hispanic students attended schools with high minority enrollment (75 percent or more), while Asian/Pacific Islander and American Indian/Alaska Native students were more evenly distributed across schools with different levels of minority enrollment.


  • On the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading assessment, higher percentages of Asian/Pacific Islander and White 4th-graders and 8th-graders scored at or above Proficient than did American Indian/Alaska Native, Black, and Hispanic students at the same grade levels. On the 4th- and 8th-grade mathematics assessment, a higher proportion of Asians/Pacific Islanders scored at or above Proficient than did 4th- and 8th-graders of all other races/ethnicities shown.
  • From 1999 to 2005, the number of students taking Advanced Placement (AP) exams increased by a larger percentage among minority students than among White students. Asians had the highest mean AP exam score, while Blacks had the lowest.


  • In 2003, a higher percentage of Black elementary and secondary students than elementary and secondary students of any other race/ethnicity shown had been suspended from school at some point. Additionally, a higher percentage of elementary and secondary Black students had been retained a grade or expelled than was the case for White, Hispanic, or Asian/Pacific Islander elementary and secondary students.
  • In 2005, the percentage of 16- to 24-year-olds who were high school status dropouts was higher among Hispanics than among Blacks, Whites, and Asian/Pacific Islanders, and higher among Blacks and American Indian/Alaska Natives than among Whites and Asians/Pacific Islanders.

Student behaviors:

  • Birth rates for 15- to 19-year-old females of all races/ethnicities rose from 1985 to 1991 and declined from 1991 to 2004. While Black teenagers had the highest birth rates from 1990 to 1994, Hispanic teenagers have had the highest birth rate among teenagers of all races/ethnicities shown since 1995. Asian/Pacific Islander teenagers have had consistently lower birth rates than their peers.

Postsecondary participation:

  • Between 1976 and 2004, the percentage of total undergraduate enrollment who were minority students increased from 17 to 32 percent. By 1980, the percentage of females enrolled as undergraduates surpassed the percentage of males enrolled as undergraduates. In 2004, the gender gap was largest for Black undergraduates.
  • In 2004, more postsecondary degrees were awarded to Blacks than Hispanics, despite the fact that Hispanics made up a larger percentage of the total population.

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