ISSUE ANALYSIS

a division of Home School Legal Defense Association
March 2001

Education Cultural Indicators

The following facts and figures put into perspective the current status of the American Education system. They are exerted from the Index of Leading Cultural Indicators for 2001 produced by William J. Bennett of Empower America.

School Enrollment

  • In 2000, enrollment in America's elementary and secondary schools was about 53.5 million. Of that total, private school enrollment was about 6.0 million. U.S. Dept. of Ed., National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics 1999, Washington, DC: GPO, 2000.

  • There are an estimated 1.7 million home school students in kindergarten through 12th grade during the 2000-2001 school year. This is about 3% of all K-12 students in the U.S. National Center for Home Education, Purcellville, VA: 2001.

  • Public school enrollment at the elementary level in 2000 was 33.9 million, while enrollment at the high school level was 13.7 million. U.S. Dept. of Ed., National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics, 1999, Washington, DC: GPO, 2000.

  • In 1999, 421 new charter schools were opened across the U.S., increasing the total to 1,184 charter schools educating more than 250,000 students. U.S. Dept. of Ed., "The State of Charter Schools 2000: 4th Year Report" (January 2000).

  • The percentage of three to five-year-olds enrolled in pre-primary school programs rose from 27.1 in 1965 to 64.5 in 1998. U.S. Dept. of Ed., National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics, 1999, Washington, DC: GPO, 2000.

  • The percentage of high school dropouts among persons 16 to 24 decreased by almost 60% between 1960 and 1999. U.S. Dept. of Ed., National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics, 1999, Washington, DC: GPO, 2000 and U.S. Dept. of Ed., National Center for Education Statistics, Dropout Rates in the United States: 1999, Washington, DC: 2000.

Expenditures in Education

  • Between 1990 and 1999, per pupil public school expenditures increased (in constant dollars) almost 10%. Between 1960 and 1999, per pupil expenditures almost tripled (in constant dollars). U.S. Dept. of Ed.

  • According to preliminary estimates by the Department of Education, public elementary and secondary education expenditures rose to an estimated high of $344.2 billion in 1998-99. U.S. Dept. of Ed., National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics, 1999, Washington, DC: GPO, 2000.

  • The total amount spent on public elementary and secondary education in 1996-97 was $313.1 billion. Of the total revenues collected for education, 6.6% came from the federal government, 48% from the states and 45.4% from local governments. U.S. Dept. of Ed., National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics 1999, Washington, DC: GPO, 2000.

  • Spending on elementary and secondary schools as a percentage of the gross domestic product increased from 3.6% in 1961 to 4.4% in 1998-an increase of about one-fifth. U.S. Dept. of Ed., National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics 1998, Washington, D.C.: GPO 2000.

Connection between Per-Pupil Expenditures and Their Level of Achievement

  • While the level of spending per pupil has increased 82% (in constant dollars) since 1971, student achievement, as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, has stayed relatively level. U.S. Dept. of Ed., National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics, 1999, Washington, DC: GPO, 2000, and U.S. Dept. of Ed., Office of Educational Research and Improvement, National Center for Education Statistics, 1999, Trends in Academic Progress: Three Decades of Student Performance, Washington, DC: GPO, 2000.

  • Of the five states that had the highest increase in per pupil expenditures between 1977 and 1997, four were below the national average increase on SAT scores and none was in the top ten. American Legislative Exchange Council, "Report Card on American Education: A State by State Analysis," March, 2000.

  • Of the five states that had the highest increase in SAT scores between 1979 and 1999, only one was in the top 10 states measured by per-pupil expenditures. American Legislative Exchange Council, "Report Card on American Education: A State by State Analysis," March 2000.

  • In 1997, New Jersey had the highest level of per-pupil expenditures; however, it did not participate in the NAEP tests. New York had the second highest level of per pupil expenditures and ranked seventh in NAEP's eighth-grade reading test. On the other hand, Maine, Connecticut, Montana and Massachusetts had the highest NAEP scores, but ranked 15th, 5th, 26th, and 7th, respectively in terms of per-pupil expenditures. (Note: Only 36 states participated in the test.) American Legislative Exchange Council, "Report Card on American Education: A State by State Analysis," March, 2000, and U.S. Dept. of Ed., Office of Educational Research and Improvement, National Center for Education Statistics, The NAEP 1998 Reading Report Card for the Nation and the States, Washington, DC: GPO, 1999.

Student Test Scores

  • In a 1999 follow up to the 1995 Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), the ranking of U.S. eighth graders fell to 19th in mathematics and 18th in science out of 38 nations. When compared only to the other nations, who took both sets of tests, U.S. eighth graders were significantly below the international average in mathematics and were slightly below average in science. U.S. Dept. of Ed., National Center for Education Statistics, Pursuing Excellence: Comparisons of International Eighth-Grade Mathematics and Science Achievement from a U.S. Perspective, 1995 and 1999, Washington, DC: GPO, 2000.

  • A 1997 in-depth nationwide study of 5,402 children and youth in 1,657 home school families revealed that the students were scoring at about the 80th percentile on average in all subject areas on standardized tests-30 percentile points above the national public school average. In addition, the 2000 Peabody Journal of Education review of dozens of studies on home schooling confirmed that home schooled students are typically 15 to 30 percentile points above average in terms of academic achievement. Dr. Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute, Home Education Across the United States, pgs. 8-10, 1997; Ray, Brian D. (2000). "Home schooling: The ameliorator of negative influences on learning?" Peabody Journal of Education, v. 75, nos. 1 & 2, pp. 71-106.

  • Between 1990 and 2000 the average SAT scores increased 19 points. But between 1960 and 2000 it decreased by 56-points. College Board, Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, 1996.

  • Average verbal scores on the SAT decreased 49 points between 1960 and 2000, while math scores decreased 7 points. College Board, Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, 1996.

  • Average SAT scores were at their highest level (1980) in 1963-64. Between 1964 and 1980, when they were at their lowest level, scores dropped 90 points. Diane Ravitch, "Defining Literacy Downward," The New York Times, August 28, 1996.

Mathematics

  • In the most recent (1995) international comparison of mathematics achievement, American fourth graders ranked 12th out of 26 nations; eighth graders ranked 28th out of 41 nations; and twelfth graders ranked 19th out of 21 nations. U.S. Dept. of Ed.

  • In the most recent (1995) international comparison in advanced mathematics, U.S. students ranked 15th out of 16 nations taking the test. U.S. Dept. of Ed.

    Science & Physics

  • In the most recent (1995) international comparison in science achievement, American fourth graders ranked 3rd out of 26 nations; eighth graders ranked 17th out of 41 nations; and twelfth graders ranked 16th out of 21 nations. U.S. Dept. of Ed.

  • In the most recent (1995) international comparison in advanced physics, the U.S. ranked last among all nations taking the test. U.S. Dept. of Ed.

Reading

  • Between 1990 and 1999, student scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress increased very slightly (although 17-year-old reading and eleventh grade writing actually decreased slightly). Between 1970 and 1999, scores increased slightly on nine tests but decreased slightly on three (17-year-old science and eighth and eleventh-grade writing). U.S. Dept. of Ed.

  • In 1998, Maine had the highest average reading score for students in the eighth grade. (Fourteen states did not participate: AK, ID, IL, IN, IA, MI, NE, NH, NJ, ND, OH, PA, SD, VT.) U.S. Dept. of Ed, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, National Center for Education Statistics, The NAEP 1998 reading Report Card for the Nation and the States, Washington, DC: GPO, 1999

  • In 1998, 38% of fourth graders, 26% of eighth graders, and 23% of twelfth graders scored below basic levels in reading (that is, they lack even partial mastery of the knowledge and skills appropriate to their grade). For fourth graders, this means that they cannot "demonstrate an understanding of the overall meaning of what they read." For eighth graders, this means they cannot "demonstrate a literal understanding of what they read and be able to make some interpretations." For twelfth graders, this means they cannot "demonstrate an overall understanding and make some interpretations of the test... They [cannot] identify elements of an author's style." U.S. Dept. of Ed., Office of Educational Research and Improvement. National Center for Education Statistics, The NAEP 1998 Reading Report Card for the Nation and the States, Washington, DC: GPO, 1999.

  • Since 1983, more than 10 million Americans have reached the twelfth grade without having learned to read at a basic level. More than 20 million have reached their senior year unable to do basic math. Almost 25 million have reached the twelfth grade without knowing the essentials of U.S. history. A Nation Still at Risk: An Education Manifesto, April 1998.

  • In 1998 77% of fourth graders in urban, high-poverty areas were reading below the basic level on the NAEP tests. Quality Counts '98: The Urban Challenge, Washington, DC: Editorial Projects in Education, January 8, 1998.

History

  • Four out of five seniors from the top 55 colleges and universities in the United States received a D or F on a recent standardized American history test. Only 34% of the students surveyed could identify George Washington as an American general at the battle of Yorktown, the culminating battle of the American Revolution. More than one-third were unable to identify the U.S. Constitution as establishing the division of power in American government. Less than one-quarter (23%) correctly identified James Madison as the "father of the Constitution." On the other hand, 99% knew whom the cartoon characters Beavis and Butthead are, and 98% could identify the rap singer Snoop Doggy Dogg. American Council of Trustees and Alumni, Losing America's Memory: Historical Illiteracy in the 21st Century, Washington, D.C., Feb. 21, 2000.

Internet Access

  • The percentage of public schools with Internet access has increased dramatically since 1994. In February 2000 94% of elementary schools were connected to the Internet (an increase of more than 310%) and 98% of secondary schools (an increase of 100%). U.S. Dept. of Ed., National Center for Education Statistics, Statistics in Brief: Internet Access in U.S. Public Schools and Classrooms, 1994-99, February 2000.

Education Polling

  • Only 33% of college and university professors and 39% of employers believe that a high school diploma means that a student has "learned the basics," but 66% of parents, 74% of elementary and secondary school teachers and 77% of students believe it does. The Public Agenda "Reality Check 2000."

  • More than 70% of public high school students admitted on a recent survey to cheating on an exam at least once in the past 12 months (45% said they did so two or more times). Nearly one in six (16%) say they have been drunk in school during the past year (9% said they were drunk two or more times). The Joseph Institute of Ethics and the CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition, Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth, Washington, D.C., 2000.

Income and Graduation

  • Between 1986-87 and 1996-97, the number of bachelor's degrees awarded to men increased 8% (from 480,782 to 520,515), while those awarded to women increased 28% (from 510,482 to 652,364). U.S. Dept. of Ed., National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics 1999, Washington, DC: GPO, 2000.

  • In high-technology fields, one-third of master's degrees and 45% of Ph.D.'s were awarded to foreign nationals in 1996-97. U.S. Dept. of Ed., National Center for Education Statistics, Degrees and Other Awards Conferred by Title IV Eligible, Degree-granting Institutions: 1996-97, November 1999.

  • In 1996, the median income of men 25 years old and older with only a high school diploma or an equivalency degree was $31,477, while the median income for those with some high school education but without a high school diploma was $23,958. The numbers for women were $22,780 and $16,482 respectively. U.S. Dept. of Ed., National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics, 1999, Washington, DC: 2000.

  • In 1998, 82.8% of Americans age 25 and over had completed high school. This includes 83.7% of whites, 76.0% of blacks, and 55.5% of Hispanics. U.S. Depart. Of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Statistical Abstract of the United States 1999, Washington, DC: GPO, 1999.

  • In 1998, Washington had the highest percentage of Americans over age 25 who had graduated from high school or earned an equivalency degree (92%). West Virginia had the lowest percentage (76.3%). U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Statistical Abstract of the United States 1999, Washington, DC: GPO, 1999.

Private School Tuition

  • The average full tuition charged by elementary and secondary private schools in 1993-94 (the most recent year for which data are available) was $3,116. Catholic school students paid an average of $2,178, and students at nonsectarian private schools paid $6,631. U.S. Dept. of Ed., National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics 1998, Washington, D.C.: GPO, 2000.

  • The median amount of money spent in 1997 on educational materials for home school students was $400. When this relatively small expenditure is considered in light of the high scholastic achievement of most home school students, it can reasonably be concluded that it does not require a great deal of money to home school successfully. Home Schooling Works, The Scholastic Achievement and Demographic Characteristics of Home School Students in 1998; Lawrence M. Rudner, Ph.D., Director of the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation. 1999.

Teacher Quality and Cost

  • Measured in constant 1997-98 dollars, the average annual salary of teachers in public elementary and secondary schools has increased from $27,496 in 1960 to $39,385 in 1998-an increase of 43%. U.S. Dept. of Ed., National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics1998, Washington, DC: GPO, 1999.

  • The average teaching work year lasts 180 days, three-quarters of the 240-day year worked by the typical American with a full-time job. Compensated at the same daily rate for a 48 week year, the average public school teacher would have earned $52,513 in 1998. U.S. Dept. of Ed., National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics1998, Washington, DC: GPO, 1999.

  • Between 1990 and 1997, the percentage of full-time school staff who are teachers decreased 2.3%. Between 1960-1997, the percentage decreased almost 20%. U.S. Dept. of Ed.

  • Between 1990 and 1998, the number of students per teacher stayed about the same. But that ratio had already declined by one-third. U.S. Dept. of Ed, National Center for Ed. Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics 1999. Washington, DC: GPO, 2000.

  • The number of guidance counselors in public elementary and secondary schools increased more than 500% between 1960 and 1997. There was an almost tenfold increase in teacher's aides. The number of support staff increased more than 170%. Over the same time span, the number of teachers increased only 103%. U.S. Dept. of Ed., National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics 1999. Washington, DC: GPO, 2000.

  • In 1999 the student-teacher ratio in private elementary and secondary schools was fifteen to one; in public schools, it was seventeen to one. U.S. Dept. of Ed., National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics 1999, Washington, DC: GPO, 2000.