Highlights from the America’s Children Report

Every year, the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics releases an annual report, America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being. The report compiles data from 23 federal agencies to paint a thorough, holistic picture of America’s children, tracking their collective progress year by year. The report’s 41 indicators cover topics across seven domains: family and social environment, economic circumstances, health care, physical environment and safety, behavior, education, and health.

AIR provides production support to the federal agencies of the forum for this annual report by assisting the forum staff director and data providers in collecting and reviewing data, coordinating the quality assurance reviews of report content, and coordinating social media promotion for the report.

AIR subject matter experts have identified some interesting findings from several indicators in the 2019 report’s education domain and explain why they matter.

By the Numbers: High School Completion

In 2017, some 93% of young adults ages 18-24 had completed high school with a diploma or an alternative credential such as a GED certificate. The high school completion rate has increased since 1980, when it was 84%.

In Other Words:

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Susan Bowles Therriault: This is good news, of course, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. National achievement results keep improving, but the goalposts also keep moving further away. In the current job landscape, we’re reaching a point where a high school credential, though necessary, is not sufficient to pursue a living-wage job. The next question we need to ask is how likely it is that these high school graduates will receive the post-secondary training opportunities that they will need to succeed.

By the Numbers: College Enrollment

In 2017, some 67% of high school completers enrolled in a two-year or four-year college in the fall immediately following their graduation from high school.

In Other Words:

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Susan Bowles Therriault: This also suggests good progress, especially as postsecondary education is a requirement for jobs and automation eliminates existing jobs, requiring jobseekers to have new skills. However, enrolling in a program is not the same thing as completing it. For example, according to NCES, approximately 53% of those enrolled in two-year public institutions needed remediation, meaning that they’re paying for courses but not receiving credit toward a credential or degree. What’s worse, is that among these students in remedial education a high percentage of them are from low-income backgrounds. This benchmark is just the beginning when it comes to college and career readiness.

By the Numbers: Math and Reading Scores

In 2017, the average mathematics and reading scores at both Grade 4 and Grade 8 was higher than it was in 1990. Asian or Pacific Islander, non-Hispanic students had the highest average mathematics scores, while Black, non-Hispanic students scored lower than students in the other racial and ethnic groups, and there are similar disparities when it comes to reading.

In Other Words:

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David Osher: Although National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) math and reading scores have improved modestly for all demographic groups, pronounced racial and ethnic achievement gaps remain. As the minority population in the U.S. continues to grow, it becomes even more essential that we address the root causes of these disparities. Other AIR work suggests that these gaps stem from poorer conditions for learning, disparities in the application of school discipline, and school and educator capacity, along with social inequities and institutionalized community risk factors.