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A Snapshot of the State of U.S. Education

Hana Ford, 9, left, Marquell Neal, 9, and Alexis Wilder, 9, work on a writing assignment as Dolores Gant checks on their progress at Montgomery Elementary School in Northwest Washington.
Hana Ford, 9, left, Marquell Neal, 9, and Alexis Wilder, 9, work on a writing assignment as Dolores Gant checks on their progress at Montgomery Elementary School in Northwest Washington. (By Kevin Clark -- The Washington Post)

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By Valerie Strauss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Did you know that despite all the criticisms leveled from coast to coast about K-12 public schools, most parents report being very satisfied with their child's school? Did you know that distance education courses are offered at more than half the country's two- and four-year postsecondary institutions?

These and other statistics are in the 2006 Condition of Education report published by the U.S. Department of Education. Each year, the department collects reams of data and statistically paints a portrait of where U.S. education stands. The following are some highlights from the latest report, available at http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe.

Figures used are the latest available.

PARTICIPATION

· The percentage of children ages 3 to 5 who attended early childhood care and education programs -- including day care, Head Start, pre-kindergarten and nursery schools -- increased from 53 percent in 1991 to 60 percent in 1999. It then decreased to 57 percent in 2005.

· Between 1972 and 2004, the percentage of racial or ethnic minority students enrolled in the nation's public schools increased from 22 to 43 percent, primarily because of growth in Hispanic enrollment. In 2004, Hispanic students made up 19 percent of public school enrollment, up from 6 percent in 1972.

· The distribution of minority students in public schools differed across regions of the country. For example, minority public school enrollment in 2004 exceeded white enrollment in the West (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming), 57 percent to 43 percent.

· The number of children ages 5 to 17 who spoke a language other than English at home more than doubled between 1979 and 2004, from 3.8 million to 9.9 million.

SATISFACTION

· In 2003, half of children in grades three through 12 had parents who reported that they were "very satisfied" with their child's school, teachers, the school's academic standards and the school's order and discipline.

· The percentage of students in grades one through 12 whose parents enrolled them in a "chosen" public school -- a public school other than their assigned school -- increased from 11 to 15 percent between 1993 and 2003.

· In 2003, the parents of 24 percent of students reported that they moved to their neighborhood to have their child attend a specific school.

· From 1992 through 2003, the rate of crime against students at school declined by 53 percent for theft (95 to 45 crimes per 1,000 students) and by 42 percent for all violent crime (48 to 28 crimes per 1,000 students).


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