20% of US school children living below poverty line, report says

Reuters / Stephen Lam
About one in five children are living in poverty in the United States, the US Education Department found in its annual report. However, more children are graduating high school, math scores are higher and dropout rates have declined.

Released by the National Center for Education Statistics, the annual report is used by Congress to identify high priority needs and indicators of education status, as well as trends about preschool, secondary and higher education. The data from the report comes from surveys and administrative records compiled by NCES or the Census Bureau.

Of the 10.9 million school-age children living in poverty, the report showed a six percent increase since 2000, with numbers on the rise for every racial group – 39 percent for African Americans, 36 percent for Native Americans, 32 percent for Latinos and 13 percent for Asians and whites. Many more children need English-language services, the report stated.

The percentage of school-age children living in poverty ranged across the United States from 9 percent in New Hampshire to 33 percent in Mississippi.

The report also found that school crime dropped significantly between 1992, when 181 out of every 1,000 children said they were victims of non-fatal crime at school, and 2013, when 55 out of every 1,000 in 2013.

Additionally, the report identified 42 key topics and trends in US education, from population characteristics and education attainment to economic achievement at all levels – elementary, secondary and post-secondary. The report also included data on the learning behaviors of first time Kindergarteners, and disparity in education among male youth of color.

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Poor children were found to start kindergarten with fewer “positive approaches” to learning and to struggle academically compared to more affluent children. “Positive approaches” means completing tasks, eagerness to learn, to work independently, adapt to change, keep belongings organized and follow classroom rules. Those skills tended to lead to stronger academic skills in kindergarten and first grade.

Asian and white girls who were older than five-and-a-half when they attended got the highest ratings compared to black and Latino boys, who got the lowest.

There are 49.8 million students enrolled in public schools as of fall 2012, up from 49.5 million a year earlier, and 2.3 million students were in charter schools compared with 2.1 million a year earlier. The report showed 91 percent of young adults between the ages of 25-29 had high school diplomas in 2011, and 34 percent had bachelor degrees or higher.

From fall 2002 to fall 2012, white students enrollment in public schools declined by 8 percent, or from 28.6 million to 25.4 million. Meanwhile, Latinos grew by 6 percent, or from 8.6 million to 12.1 million.

Public school revenue decreased by $22 billion, from $642 billion in 2010-11 down to $621 in 2011-12.