What are the enrollment trends in public and private elementary and secondary schools?
Total enrollment in public and private elementary and secondary schools (prekindergarten through grade 12) grew rapidly during the 1950s and 1960s, reaching a peak year in 1971. This enrollment rise reflected what is known as the baby boom, a dramatic increase in births following World War II. Between 1971 and 1984, total elementary and secondary school enrollment decreased every year, reflecting the decline in the size of the school-age population over that period. After these years of decline, enrollment in elementary and secondary schools started increasing in fall 1985, began hitting new record levels in the mid-1990s, and continued to reach new record levels every year through 2006. Enrollment in fall 2010 (54.9 million) was about the same as in fall 2009 (also 54.9 million), but slightly lower than in fall 2006 (55.3 million). However, annual enrollment increases are projected from fall 2011 through fall 2021 (the last year for which NCES has projected school enrollment).
From 1985 to 2011, total public and private school enrollment rates changed by about 2 percentage points or less for 5- and 6-year-olds (no measurable difference between 1985 and 2011), 7- to 13-year-olds (99 percent in 1985 vs. 98 percent in 2011), and 14- to 17-year-olds (95 percent in 1985 vs. 97 percent in 2011). Since these enrollment rates remained relatively steady between 1985 and 2011, increases in public and private elementary and secondary school enrollment primarily reflect increases in the number of children in these age groups. Between 1985 and 2011, the number of 5- and 6-year-olds increased by 18 percent, the number of 7- to 13-year-olds increased by 25 percent, and the number of 14- to 17-year-olds increased by 13 percent. Increases in the enrollment rate of prekindergarten age children (ages 3 and 4) from 39 percent in 1985 to 52 percent in 2011 and in the number of 3- and 4-year-olds from 7.1 million to 8.2 million (table 19) also contributed to overall prekindergarten through grade 12 enrollment increases.
Public school enrollment at the elementary level (prekindergarten through grade 8) rose from 29.9 million in fall 1990 to 34.2 million in fall 2003. After a decrease of less than 1 percent between fall 2003 and fall 2004, elementary enrollment generally increased to a projected total of 35.1 million for fall 2012. Public elementary enrollment is projected to continue increasing annually, for an increase of 7 percent between 2012 and 2021. Public school enrollment at the secondary level (grades 9 through 12) rose from 11.3 million in 1990 to 15.1 million in 2007, but then declined 2 percent to a projected enrollment of 14.8 million in 2012. Public secondary enrollment is projected to increase about 5 percent between 2012 and 2021. Total public elementary and secondary enrollment is projected to set new records every year from 2012 to 2021.SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2013). Digest of Education Statistics, 2012 (NCES 2014-015), Chapter 1.
NOTE: Elementary and secondary enrollment data for school year 2011 (201112) are projected. Elementary and secondary expenditure data for school years 2010 and 2011 (201011 and 201112) are estimated. Postsecondary expenditure data for school year 2011 (201112) are estimated.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2013). Digest of Education Statistics, 2012 (NCES 2014-015), Figure 2.
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