National Report Card on Education and Equal Opportunity

School Enrollment in the United States

Nationally, public school enrollment is

  • 61.6% White (non-Hispanic)
  • 17.0% Black (non-Hispanic)
  • 16.1% Hispanic
  • 4.1% Asian/Pacific Islander
  • 1.2% American Indian/Alaska Native

Source: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights.

Graduation Rates

High school graduation is the most basic level of educational achievement without which young people have little chance of economic or professional success.

Graduation rates are too low for all children, but for African American, Hispanic, Native American and disabled students, graduation rates are catastrophically low and appear to be getting worse.

Enrichment Classes

Even for children who stay in school, the educational opportunity they are getting is no where near equal. Participation rates in the kinds of advanced programs that prepare children for college are grossly unequal.

Local statistics show that there are far more advanced academic opportunities available to students in affluent districts than in poorer districts, especially poor, racially isolated ones. Within districts, whether affluent or low-income, it is almost always true that white students are significantly more likely to be given access to advanced programs than minority children and children with disabilities.

The combined effects of race and poverty are having an overwhelming effect on preparing children to get into and succeed in college. The charts above show that the combined effects of poverty and race give White students:

  • 3.3 times the opportunity of Black and Hispanic students to be in Gifted/Talented programs.
  • 4.1 times the opportunity of Black and Hispanic students to be in math AP courses.
  • 2.1 times the opportunity of Black and Hispanic students to be in science AP courses.

All Students Can Achieve

All students have the capacity to learn and improve their academic performance. High expectations and challenging curriculum work to improve the performance of all children.

  • Students at the lowest end of the achievement scale show even greater gains than higher performing students when put into college prep classes.
  • When challenged with college prep math and science courses in high school, students who ranked in the bottom half of middle school performance got BETTER grades than students placed in lower-level, less challenging courses.
  • When challenged with college prep English courses in high school, EVERY level of students - from the ones ranked in the lowest quartile on earlier achievement tests to the ones ranked in the top quartile - cut their number of Ds and Fs in half.

Teacher Training and Experience

Having quality teachers may be the most important aspect of a child's education. Research shows that all children can learn and achieve when given good instruction. Three consecutive years of good teaching has a powerful effect on student achievement; unfortunately, three years of bad teaching also has a powerful effect.

  • With high performing teachers, 60th percentile students raised their performance in both math and English to the 76th percentile.
  • With low performing teachers, 60th percentile students fell to the 42nd percentile in reading and the 27th percentile in math.

Students who need effective teachers the most - low income and minority students - are far less likely to have qualified and experienced teachers than white students and students in more affluent districts.

  • High-poverty schools have a 50% higher rate of low-scoring teachers (bottom quartile SAT/ACT scores). Education Week, "Quality Counts 2001."
  • Minority students are twice as likely to be taught by inexperienced teachers (with less than 3 years experience).