Hispanics have caused the nation’s population of minority students to surge to 42% of public school enrollment, up from 22% three decades ago
The report, a statistical survey of the nation’s educational system, portrays sweeping ethnic shifts that have transformed the schools. The changes, with important implications for educators and policy makers, have been most striking in the West, where, the survey says, Hispanic, black and Asian students together have outnumbered whites since 2003. But all regions have seen growth in minority student enrollment, particularly by Hispanics, who accounted for one of five public school students in 2005, the last year for which data were available.
“The rapid increase in the Hispanic population in America’s schools is quite striking,” said Mark S. Schneider, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, the data-gathering arm of the Department of Education.
The Congressionally mandated report, “The Condition of Education,” draws on data collected from state education agencies, schools and colleges by Mr. Schneider’s agency and the Census Bureau. Those data suggest significant challenges ahead for American education, partly because of the persistent math and reading test-score gaps that separate white students from blacks and Hispanics.
According to the survey, those gaps have remained largely unchanged since the early 1990s except in math at the fourth-grade level, where the black-white gap has narrowed somewhat. On average, the study shows, Hispanics score slightly better than blacks, but well below whites, in reading and math in both fourth and eighth grades. (In an interview, Mr. Schneider noted that the results of a national history test that were released in May did show a narrowing of the achievement gap in that subject.)
The most pronounced development in school demographics has been in Hispanic growth. Hispanic students accounted for just 6 percent of public school enrollment in 1972, but by 2005 their numbers had grown to 20 percent, the survey found. During the same period, white enrollment declined to 58 percent of school population, from 78 percent. African-American enrollment changed little: blacks were 14.8 percent of all students in 1972 and 15.6 percent in 2005.
The distribution of groups differs considerably by region. The Midwest remained the whitest region in 2005: 74 percent of students there were white, and 26 percent members of minorities. In the South, 24 percent of students were black, more than anywhere else. In the West, 46 percent of students were white, 37 percent were Hispanic, 7 percent were Asian, 5 percent were black, and the rest were Pacific Islanders, American Indians or students of more than one race.
Number of Hispanic students in Alabama rises 11 percent