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Toward A New Golden Age In American Education--How the Internet, the Law and Today's Students Are Revolutionizing Expectations
National Education Technology Plan 2004

Who Are Our Students?

Today's Students

  • 96 percent say that doing well in school is important to their lives.
  • 88 percent say going to college is critical.
  • 70 percent participate in community service or volunteer work.
  • 28 percent of high school students access foreign news sources via the Internet.
  • 90 percent of children between ages 5 and 17 use computers.
  • 94 percent of online teens use the Internet for school-related research.
  • Teens and college students combined spend nearly $400 billion a year.

America's students are our ultimate constituents. We need to listen to them. They have demonstrated that they have a better understanding of the intricacies and opportunities presented by the technological revolution than many of their elders, notably including a generation of teachers and administrators who did not have the advantage of growing up with the Internet.

The nearly 50 million students in our elementary, middle and high schools today represent the largest and most diverse student body in our history.16 Thirty percent are minorities, meaning that our school population is more diverse than this country's adult population.17

A number of studies, confirmed by field research and feedback from students – including nearly a quarter of a million students providing input to the U.S. Department of Education – portray a capable, conscientious, concerned and optimistic generation, determined to succeed. We have data collected from a variety of sources to help create a portrait of today's students. The data will surprise you – it is representative of all groups. As one student put it, "We're the kids who are going to change things."18

Following are some recent statistics which help to define this generation of students (sometimes referred to as the Millennial generation, or "The Millennials"):19

  • 96 percent say that doing well in school is important to their lives.20
  • 94 percent say they plan to continue their education after high school.21
  • 88 percent say going to college is critical.22
  • 49 percent say they may be interested in pursuing a career in technology, 47 percent in business, 41 percent in medicine, 35 percent in law, 34 percent in entertainment and 33 percent in teaching.23
  • 74 percent say they get along with their parents extremely well or very well.24
  • 70 percent participate in community service or volunteer work.25
  • 76 percent want to learn more about the world.26
  • 28 percent of high school students access foreign news sources via the Internet.27
  • 90 percent of children between ages 5 and 17 use computers.28
  • Teens spend more time online using the Internet than watching television.29
  • 94 percent of online teens use the Internet for school-related research.30
  • 24 percent have created their own web pages.31
  • 16 percent of teens are shareholders in the stock market.32
  • Teens and college students combined spend nearly $400 billion a year.33

Millennials' use of information and communications technology reaches to the youngest ages. The largest group of new users of the Internet from 2000-2002 were 2-5 year olds.34

Internet Use by Age
Bar chart comparing percentage of internet use in 2000 and 2003 by age: At ages 2-5, use was approximately 10% in 2000, and approximately 40% in 2003; at 6-8, 30% in 2000, 60% in 2003; at 9-12, 50% in 2000, 80%in 2003; at 12-15, 85% in 2000, nearly 100% in 2003; at 16-18, 90% in 2000, nearly 100% in 2003; at 19-24, 80%in 2000, 90% in 2003; at 25-35, 80% in both years; at 36-45, 70% in both years; at 45-55, 70% in both years; at 56-65, 50%in 2000, 60% in 2003; and over age 85, 30% in 2000, 40% in 2003
Source: Cole, Jeffrey I., et al. UCLA Internet Report: Surveying the Digital Future, Year Three. UCLA Center for Communication Policy. Feb. 2003; Connected to the Future: A Report on Children's Internet Use. Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 2002; Horrigan, John, et al. The Ever-Shifting Internet Population. Pew Internet & American Life Project. 16 Apr. 2003.

The U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics found that 72 percent of all first graders used a home computer on a weekly basis during the summer35 and by 1999, 97 percent of kindergarteners had access to a computer at school or home.36 Even students from low-income groups without access to technology at home seek and find it – using computers at schools, libraries or at friends' homes.

Millennials feel that education is important. Eighty-eight percent of students reported that attending college is critical or very important to success in later life; and 91 percent of today's students report having a teacher or administrator who personally cares about their success.37

These studies on the current generation of American students suggest a determined generation for whom the Internet appears to have stimulated interest in learning in general and, in particular, a revival of interest in researching and innovating using technology.

These are clearly exciting times for both teachers and students. As expressed by one superintendent, "The future is now. Our children can't wait." 38


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Last Modified: 07/23/2012