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Report on High Schools: Dramatic Increase in Distance Education, Decrease in Student Employment

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released last week its annual Condition of Education report that examines trends in education. This year’s report focuses on the transformation of high schools in the United States over the last 20 years, and includes several pertinent points for Career Technical Education (CTE).

  • High School Enrollment: Since 1990, the number of enrolled high schools students has risen slowly to 14.9 million, and the report projects that this number will increase by 4 percent over the next decade.
  • Distance Education: Enrollments in distance education have rapidly increased over the last five years. Today, more than half of public school districts have high school students who are enrolled in distance education for a total of more than 1 million students – up from about 200,000 only 5 years ago.
  • Student Employment: Only one in six high school students today are employed, compared to one in three in 1990.
  • STEM: More students are taking courses in science and mathematics. Sixteen percent of 2009 high school graduates took calculus, and 11 percent took statistics. In 1990, only seven percent took calculus courses and one percent took statistics. In 2009, 70 percent of students took chemistry and 36 percent took physics, compared to 49 percent and 21 percent respectively.
  • High School Graduation Rates: Over the last two decades, high school graduation rates have improved slightly and dropout rates have declined. In 1991, 73.7 percent of freshman students graduated in 4 years with a high school diploma. By 2009, the high school graduation rate increased to 75.5 percent. In that time, the percentage of students who dropped out of high school declined from 12 percent to 7 percent.
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: Between 2000 and 2010, undergraduate enrollment increased from 13.2 million to 18.1 million students, with enrollment in 2021 projected to be 20.6 million students.

The entire Condition of Education 2012 report is available on the NCES Web site. A webinar that accompanied the release of the report can be accessed here.

Kara Herbertson, Education Policy Analyst

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