WASHINGTON -- Reflecting the increasing racial and ethnic diversity of the United States, by 1995 one-third of U.S. public school students will be from minority groups, according to a report released yesterday.
The two-year study, conducted by the College Board and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, is the first to examine schoolchildren by racial and ethnic identification, grade by grade, in each state and to project numbers of public high school graduates in each group through 1995.
It predicts that non-white and Hispanic elementary and secondary-school students will increase to 13.7 million in 1994-1995, from 10.4 million in 1985-1986, or 34 percent of the public-school enrollment from 29 percent.
White enrollment over the same period, the report predicts, will increase to 27 million, from 25.8 million, but will drop to 66 percent of the total enrollment, from 71 percent in 1985-1986.
"It's more dramatic than most people realize," said Robin Etter Zuniga, a researcher with the commission.
"Most people have a sense that this is occurring but don't realize how rapidly the changes are taking place and how dramatic the changes are."
The report focuses on five groups: blacks; American Indians and Alaska natives; Asians and Pacific Islanders; Hispanics; and non-Hispanic whites.
It made the following projections:
* Asians and Pacific Islanders are expected to increase by 70 percent in elementary and secondary-school enrollment, to about 1.6 million by 1994 from approximately 940,000 in 1985.
* Hispanic enrollment is expected to increase by 54 percent, to an estimated 5.1 million in 1994 from 3.3 million in 1985.
* Black students will remain the second-largest racial or ethnic group in the public schools, behind whites, but are expected to ** increase by only 13 percent, to about 6.7 million in 1994 from 5.9 million in 1985.
* American Indians and Alaska natives enrolled in school are expected to increase by 29 percent but still remain the smallest group, with about 414,000 students in 1994, up from 321,000 in 1985.
By 1995, the report projects, 29 percent of the public high school graduates in 16 states, including Maryland and the District of Columbia, will be non-white or Hispanic.
Of particular importance is whether a greater percentage of these new school populations will graduate from high school or go to college than at present.
Traditionally, non-white and Hispanic students, except for some in the Asian-American and Pacific Islander groups, have higher dropout rates and lower rates of going to college than do white non-Hispanic students.
The college enrollment figures for blacks, Hispanic-Americans, American Indians and Alaska natives remained well below their proportions of the college-age population in 1989, the last year complete figures were available.
Speaking of the disparities in college enrollments, Frederick H. Dietrich, vice president for guidance, access and assessment services at the College Board, said, "A larger proportion of less-well-prepared students being given less-rigorous course work means lower college participation rates."
Donald M. Stewart, president of the College Board, said the results showed that "more than ever equal educational opportunity for all students must be our nation's No. 1 priority."