FEDERAL education statistics in annual report offer snapshot of America in the classroom, from nursery school to learning new work skills

Friday, June 1st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Youngsters whose parents didn't go to college have a tougher time getting into a school and finishing with a degree. That's just one of many observations highlighted in an annual federal report released Thursday on the state of education in the United States.

``The Condition of Education 2001,'' from the National Center for Research Statistics in Washington, contains a grab-bag of previously released figures that together present a national snapshot of who's going to school, what they're learning and what difference it makes.

Other notable findings: Americans of all ages are trooping to school in greater numbers, from preschool tots to adult hobbyists. Students with lower college admission test scores are more likely than others to teach.

This year's report also turns a special focus on students whose parents never attended college, and finds they walk a rockier road, from gaining entry to earning a degree.

But those so-called ``first-generation'' students who come out with a college diploma discover their degree is an equal-opportunity ticket. Four years after earning a bachelor's, the report noted, college incomes were the same regardless of parents' schooling.

In an introductory summary, Gary Phillips, acting commissioner of education statistics, called the rising number of students encouraging. But he noted U.S. schools are nothing to brag about, when compared with student performance and teacher quality in other developed countries.

Phillips also called ``disturbing'' the persistent gaps dividing children along economic and racial and ethnic lines.

Other report highlights:

_ More children ages 3-5 are in school. Those youngest scholars rose from 53 percent to 60 percent of that age group, between 1991-1999.

_ Student performance through grade 12 is mixed, but there is a bright spot: More youngsters are taking advanced courses in math, science, English and foreign languages. For instance, between 1982 and 1998, the percentage of high school graduates finishing at least one honors English course jumped from 13 percent to 29 percent.

_ The percentage of high school students armed or fighting at school has fallen since 1993, though threats and weapons injuries are unchanged.

_ More people are finishing high school. From 1972 to 1999, the percentage of 16- to 24-year-old dropouts fell, from 15 percent to 11 percent. Among all ages, the United States is tops among the world's seven richest countries in terms of high school graduates.

_ Overall, the likelihood of earning some degree after high school has risen since 1983, with more black and white high school graduates going on to college. Hispanic students, though, showed no steady rise.

_ Part-time professors made up 40 percent of college faculties in 1998, gaining flexibility for schools but at a risk of less availability to students.

_ Women earn more than half the country's bachelor's degrees.

_ Adult learning of all kinds was on the upswing in the 1990s, although not necessarily for college degrees. Many adults were taking courses related to work.