Education shapes the personal development and prospects of our children, as well as the economic and social progress of our Nation. Aspects of academic performance, such as mastering coursework, completing high school, and enrolling in college, provide opportunities for higher levels of education and greater success in the workforce. Youth neither enrolled in school nor working are at risk of limiting their life chances at a critical stage.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) measures national trends in student academic performance in mathematics, reading, and other subjects. The average 4th-grade NAEP mathematics score in 2011 was higher than the scores in both 1990 and 2009 (Figure 12). The average 8th-grade mathematics score in 2011 was higher than the score in all previous assessment years and 1 point higher than the score in 2009. The average NAEP reading score at grade 4 (also on a scale of 0–500) increased from 217 to 221 between 1992 and 2011, but was unchanged from the score in 2009. At grade 8, the 2011 average reading score (265) was higher than the scores in both 1992 (260), when the data were first collected, and 2009 (264).
NOTE: Data are available for 1990, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2011. In early years of the assessment, testing accommodations (e.g., extended time, small group testing) for children with disabilities and limited-English-proficient students were not permitted.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress.
The percentages of high school graduates completing mathematics, science, and foreign language coursework in high school27 have increased over time. Regarding mathematics, the percentages of graduates who had completed algebra II and analysis/precalculus increased between 1982 and 2009 (Figure 13). For science, there were increases during this period in the percentages of graduates who had taken courses in both biology and chemistry as well as those who had taken courses in biology, chemistry, and physics. Increases in the percentages of graduates who had taken other mathematics and science courses were also observed between 1982 and 2009. The percentage who had taken calculus, for example, rose from 5 percent to 16 percent during this period. Additionally, between 1982 and 2009, there were increases in the percentages of graduates who had completed coursework in biology (77 percent vs. 96 percent), chemistry (32 percent vs. 70 percent), and physics (15 percent vs. 36 percent). Foreign language coursetaking also became more prevalent between 1982 and 2009, with an increase from 54 percent to 86 percent in the percentage of high school graduates who had taken a foreign language.
NOTE: Data reflect only the percentage of graduates who earned credit for each course while in high school and do not count those graduates who took these courses prior to entering high school. "Algebra II" includes courses where trigonometry or geometry has been combined with algebra II. The percentage for "biology and chemistry" indicates the percentage of graduates who had completed at least one credit each in a biology and a chemistry course. Similarly, the percentage for "biology, chemistry, and physics" indicates the percentage of graduates who had completed at least one credit each in a biology, a chemistry, and a physics course.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, High School Transcript Studies: High School and Beyond Study and National Assessment of Educational Progress Transcript Study.
In 2010, 68 percent of high school completers28 enrolled in a 2-year or 4-year college immediately after completing high school, up from 49 percent in 1980. Between 1980 and 2010, the immediate college enrollment rate increased from 50 percent to 70 percent for White, non-Hispanics and from 44 percent to 66 percent for Black, non-Hispanics.29, 30 Among Hispanics, the immediate college enrollment rate increased from 47 percent in 1999 to 60 percent in 2010.
Detachment of youth from school and employment, activities that typically occupy teenagers, increases their risk of having lower earnings and a less stable employment history than their peers who pursued these activities.31 In an average week during the 2011 school year, 8 percent of youth ages 16–19 were neither enrolled in school nor working. Black, non-Hispanic youth and Hispanic youth were more likely than White, non-Hispanic youth to be neither enrolled in school nor working (11 percent each compared with 7 percent). Youth ages 18–19 were almost five times as likely as youth ages 16–17 to be detached from school and work activities (14 percent compared with 3 percent).
27 Data reflect only the percentage of graduates who earned credit in each course while in high school (grades 9–12).
28 Refers to those who completed 12 years of school for years 1980–1991 and to those who earned a high school diploma or equivalent (e.g., a General Educational Development [GED] certificate) for all years since 1992.
29 Among Blacks and Hispanics, estimates of immediate college enrollment rates have fluctuated over time, very likely due to small sample sizes. For this reason, 3-year moving averages are used to measure the trends.
30 In this survey, respondents were asked to choose one or more races. All race groups discussed in this paragraph refer to people who indicated only one racial identity. Hispanic children may be of any race.
31 Fernandes, A., and Gabe, T. (2009). Disconnected youth: A look at 16- to 24-year-olds who are not working or in school. (CRS Report No. R40535). Retrieved from Congressional Research Service Web site: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R40535.pdf.