Getting an Education - Preprimary, Elementary, And Secondary Enrollment
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Preprimary, elementary, and secondary school enrollments reflect the number of births over a specified period. Because of the baby boom following World War II, school enrollment grew rapidly during the 1950s and 1960s when those children reached school age. Elementary enrollment reached a then-record high in 1969, as did high school enrollment in 1971.
In the late 1960s the birth rate began to decline, resulting in a steadily falling school enrollment. An "echo effect" occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s when those born during the baby boom began their own families. This echo effect triggered an increase in school enrollment starting in the mid-1980s. In 1985 public elementary and secondary school enrollment increased for the first time since 1971 and continued to increase, reaching 49.5 million in 2002 and projected to reach 49.7 million by 2013. (See Figure 6.2.)
|Enrollment of 3- to 5-year-old children in preprimary programs, by level and control of program and by attendance, 1965–2001|
|Total population, 3 to 5 years||Enrollment by level and control||Enrollment by attendance|
|Year and age||Total||Percent enrolled||Public||Private||Public||Private||Full-day||Part-day||Percent full-day|
|1Data collected using new procedures. May not be comparable with figures prior to 1994.|
|Note: Data are based on sample surveys of the civilian noninstitutional population. Although cells with fewer than 75,000 children are subject to wide sampling variation, they are included in the table to permit various types of aggregations. Detail may not sum to totals due to rounding.|
|SOURCE: Adapted from "Table 43. Enrollment of 3- to 5-Year-Old Children in Preprimary Programs, by Level and Control of Program and by Attendance Status: October 1965 to October 2001," in Digest of Education Statistics, 2002, National Center for Education Statistics, 2003, http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d02/tables/PDF/table43.pdf (accessed September 16, 2004)|
Participating in early childhood programs such as nursery school, Head Start, pre-kindergarten, and kindergarten helps prepare children for the academic challenges of first grade. In contrast to the declining elementary and secondary school enrollment between 1970 and 1980, preprimary enrollment showed substantial growth, increasing from 4.1 million in 1970 to 4.9 million in 1980. (See Table 6.2 and Figure 6.3.) According to the Census Bureau, enrollment had grown to eight million by 2002.
Not only did the numbers of children enrolled in early childhood programs increase, but the percentage of three- to five-year-olds enrolled also increased substantially between 1965 and 2001. In 1965, 27.1% of three- to five- year-olds were enrolled in nursery school or kindergarten; by 2001 63.9% were enrolled. (See Table 6.2.)
Although programs like Head Start and other locally funded preschool programs are available to children in low-income families, preprimary school attendance is still generally linked to parental income and educational achievement levels. According to data presented in the NCES publication The Condition of Education 2002, 46.7% of three- to five- year-olds from households with an income below the poverty level in 2001 were enrolled in preprimary programs. (See Table 6.3.) That same year 59.1% of children ages three to five whose families were at or above the poverty level were enrolled in preprimary programs.
Preschool enrollment rates also increased with a mother's educational level. In 2001 the enrollment rate of children whose mothers had not earned a high school diploma was only 38.3%. (See Table 6.3.) The enrollment rate of children whose mothers had a high school diploma or equivalent was 47.1%. The majority of three- to five-year-olds whose mothers had attended some college were enrolled in preprimary programs; 62% of children whose mothers had attended some college were enrolled, and 69.5% of children whose mothers had a bachelor's degree or higher were enrolled. These numbers likely reflect three things: women with higher educational levels were more likely to continue working after becoming mothers, they were better able to pay for these programs, and they valued the educational benefits of preprimary programs for their children.
HEAD START. The Head Start program, established as part of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 (PL 88–452),
is one of the most durable and successful federal programs for low-income and at-risk children. Directed by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Head Start is designed to help improve the social competence, learning skills, health, and nutrition of low-income children so they can begin school on a more level footing with children from higher income families. Regulations require that 90% of children enrolled in Head Start be from low-income households.
In 2003 909,608 children were served by Head Start programs. Of these children, 31.5% were African-American, 30.6% were Hispanic, 27.6% were white, 3.2% were Native American, and 2.9% were Asian/Pacific Islander. Most participating children were three and four years old (34% and 53%, respectively). A significant portion (12.5%) were disabled—children with mental retardation, health impairments, visual handicaps, hearing impairments, emotional disturbance, speech and language impairments, orthopedic handicaps, and learning disabilities.
The average cost per child for Head Start in 2003 was $7,092. Between its inception in 1965 and 2003, Head Start provided services to more than twenty-two million children and their families. The appropriation for Head Start in fiscal year 2004 was $6.8 billion. Despite these expenditures, according to the Children's Defense Fund 2003 Head Start basic fact sheet, Head Start served only three out of five poor children who were eligible because the program has always been underfunded.
Elementary and Secondary Enrollment
The Census Bureau reported that in 2002 33.1 million students were enrolled in kindergarten through eighth grade and 16.4 million in high school. (See Figure 6.2.) Most (88.5%) attended public schools. Total public school enrollment rose 15.7% from 1990 to 2001 after falling in the 1970s and early 1980s because of a decline in the school-age population.