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 2009 (54.9 million) was slightly lower than in fall 2006 (55.3 million); however, enrollments are projected to begin rising again after 2010.
From 1985 to 2010, total public and private school enrollment rates changed by about 2 percentage points or less for 5- and 6-year-olds (96 percent in 1985 vs. 94 percent in 2010), 7- to 13-year-olds (99 percent in 1985 vs. 98 percent in 2010), and 14- to 17-year-olds (95 percent in 1985 vs. 97 percent in 2010). Since these enrollment rates remained relatively steady between 1985 and 2010, 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 2010, the number of 5- and 6-year-olds increased by 21 percent, the number of 7- to 13-year-olds increased by 23 percent, and the number of 14- to 17-year-olds increased by 11 percent. Increases in the enrollment rate of prekindergarten age children (ages 3 and 4) from 39 percent in 1985 to 53 percent in 2010 and in the number of 3- and 4-year-olds from 7.1 million to 8.6 million 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 34.9 million for fall 2011. Public elementary enrollment is projected to continue a pattern of annual increases through 2020 (the last year for which NCES has projected school enrollment). Public school enrollment at the secondary level (grades 9 through 12) rose from 11.3 million in 1990 to 15.1 million in 2007, with a projected enrollment of 14.5 million for 2011. Public secondary enrollment is projected to show a decrease of 4 percent between 2007 and 2012, and then increase again through 2020. Public secondary school enrollment in 2020 is expected to be about 5 percent higher than in 2012. Total public elementary and secondary enrollment is projected to set new records every year from 2011 to 2020.SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (2012). Digest of Education Statistics, 2011 (NCES 2012-001), Chapter 1.
|Enrollment in elementary and secondary schools, by control and level of institution: Selected years, fall 1969 through fall 2020|
|Total||Prekindergarten-grade 8||Grades 9-12||Total||Prekindergarten-grade 8||Grades 9-12|
1 Beginning in fall 1980, data include estimates for an expanded universe of private schools. Therefore, direct comparisons with earlier years should be avoided.
NOTE: Elementary and secondary enrollment includes students in local public school systems and in most private schools (religiously affiliated and nonsectarian), but generally excludes homeschooled children and students in subcollegiate departments of colleges and in federal schools. Based on the National Household Education Survey, the homeschooled children numbered approximately 1.5 million in 2007. Excludes preprimary pupils in private schools that do not offer kindergarten or above. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (2012). Digest of Education Statistics, 2011 (NCES 2012-001), Table 3.
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