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Education Department Launches Overhauled Education Digest

The National Center on Education Statistics this morning releases its annual education data digest, the Condition of Education 2013.

It finds a steady increase in the concentration of poverty in American schools. One in five public schools in 2011 had 75 percent or more of their students qualify for free- or reduced-price meals, up from only one in eight schools a decade ago.

And in the wake of the economic downturn, Americans who don't attain higher education are the most likely to be unemployed: Among adults ages 25-34 who started but did not complete a high school degree, 30 percent were unemployed, making them only slightly better off than those with just a high school diploma, a group with a 32 percent unemployment rate. However, high school dropouts still lag far behind, with unemployment among this group at 44 percent.

On a brighter note, the Condition also finds higher enrollment in preschool—more than 60 percent of children ages 3-5 now attend, a majority of them in full-day classes&mdashand 15 states now require kindergarten for all students.

New Report Format

This year marks the start of a new format for the Condition of Education, according to NCES Commissioner Sean P. "Jack" Buckley. Only a handful of print issues of the report will be published going forward, but the website has been overhauled to make the data easier to use. NCES also—for those extreme edu-data junkies out there—is rolling out Condition of Education apps for smartphones and tablets.

The report itself, which has historically been a digest of all manner of education data released in a given year, has been pared down to 42 indicators that will be gauged annually, in the areas of population characteristics, participation in education, elementary and secondary education, and postsecondary education.

"I really want to keep it from bloating. It had gotten to the point where anything new and interesting in education we would throw into the Condition," Buckley said. "Rather than a giant static document, it's going to be a living document updated throughout the year."

Other data may still be included in special report "spotlights," and this year there are four: linking education and the workforce, tracking the rise of student-loan debt, profiling rural education and looking at the effects of timing of kindergarten entry.

For a more in-depth look at the first two spotlights on postsecondary issues, check out my colleague Caralee Adams' coverage over at College Bound. I'll be digging into child-poverty and school-readiness indicators later.

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