The Condition of Education
The U.S. Department of Education released its annual Condition of Education report recently. This phone book-size list of statistics has a lot of fascinating information (a list of indicators is available here), but two things in particular touch on subjects we've discussed on this blog.
First, the "boy troubles" are for real. Women now comprise 59% of all graduate students, including 50% of professional degree students (ie, law, medicine, business). While the parity is nice, it's come about partly because of an 11% drop in men seeking professional degrees. Women continue to earn the vast majority of undergraduate degrees. The findings are so striking that that's the statistic the Associated Press chose to highlight in its article on the Condition of Education report.
Second, homeschooling is rising, and it's becoming an interesting blend of working at the kitchen table and other things. Over two percent of all US students are now homeschooled according to this indicator. While the majority of homeschoolers (82%) received all their instruction at home, some 12% of homeschoolers attended school for up to 9 hours a week, and 6% were enrolled between 9-25 hours.
These are positive statistics, because they show that at least 18% of schools are willing to show some flexibility on homeschooling. Most districts maintain that you're either all in or all out, and some homeschooling families want nothing to do with their local schools, for religious or ideological reasons. But many parents of gifted kids homeschool because they don't see any other options for getting their kids the challenge they need. Many of these parents would like to have their children take music, art or gym classes with other students, or specialized subjects (for instance, Mandarin) that the parents themselves might not be able to teach. That 18% of schools are willing to consider such options is a start. By the time a third say it's OK, we'll reach critical mass-- and see a lot more a la carte education. More flexibility is always a good thing for kids who don't fit inside the educational box.