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Nearly 80 percent of students ages 12 to 17 were academically on-track in 2006, up 8 percent from 1998, according to a new report by the U.S. Census Bureau. Students were considered to be academically on-track if they were enrolled in school at or above the grade level appropriate for their age.
The report, A Child's Day: 2006 (Selected Indicators of Child Well-Being) [PDF], relies on in-person household interviews to examine how well children are progressing into adulthood, using indicators like academic performance and school engagement.
For children ages 6 to 11, the odds of being on-track were 36 percent higher if they had never changed schools and 26 percent higher if they participated in a club. For 12- to 17-years-olds, the odds of being on-track were 48 percent higher if they were in a gifted class and 34 percent higher if they had never been suspended or expelled from school.
Parents' educational attainment, family income, place of residence and parental expectations also contributed significantly to children being academically on-track.
Other trends examined in the report include school engagement, parental interaction with children and participation in extracurricular activities.
In 2006, 59 percent of children ages 6 to 11 were highly engaged in school, up 3 percent from 56 percent in 1998. Likewise, 52 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds were highly engaged in school, up 5 percent from 47 percent in 1998.
The index for measuring a child's engagement in school is based on three questions: whether a child is interested in schoolwork, whether a child works hard in school and whether the child likes school. Parental interaction, school experience, participation in extracurricular activities and parental expectations for students played a significant role in school engagement.
"The report highlights the choices parents make in the amount and quality of interaction they have with their children," said Jane Dye, a demographer in the Census Bureau's Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division. "If they are available to praise, play with or eat dinner with their child more often, they will potentially increase the odds that their child will be highly engaged in school."
The data show that the percentage of parents who praised their children three or more times per day increased from 48 percent in 1998 to 58 percent in 2006. Over the same period, the percentage of parents who talked or played with their children three or more times in a typical day increased from 50 percent to 59 percent.
Participation in sports was the most popular extracurricular activity, regardless of a child's age. From 1998 to 2006, the percent of children who participated in sports rose 7 percent, from 34 percent to 41 percent.
This is the fourth report since 2001 examining children's well-being and their daily activities both at home and at school based on data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation. The report highlights trends in parental interaction with children and children's participation in extracurricular activities, focusing on two outcome measures, whether children are academically on-track and school engagement. It also considers the relative importance of characteristics such as race, Hispanic origin and parental education on those outcomes.