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Projections of Education Statistics to 2020

NCES 2011-026
September 2011

Section 1. Elementary and Secondary Enrollment: Introduction

Total public and private elementary and secondary school enrollment was 55 million in fall 2008, representing an 8 percent increase since fall 1995. Between fall 2008, the last year of actual public school data, and fall 2020, a further increase of 5 percent is expected, with increases projected in public schools and decreases in private schools. Increases in public school enrollment are expected for Blacks, Hispanics, Asians/Pacific Islanders, and American Indians/Alaska Natives, and a decrease is expected for Whites. Increases in public school enrollment are expected in the Midwest, South, and West, and a decrease is expected in the Northeast.

Factors affecting the projections

The grade progression rate method was used to project school enrollments. This method assumes that future trends in factors affecting enrollments will be consistent with past patterns. It implicitly includes the net effect of factors such as dropouts, deaths, nonpromotion, transfers to and from public schools, and, at the state level, migration. See appendixes A.0 and A.1 for more details.

Factors that were not considered

The projections do not assume changes in policies or attitudes that may affect enrollment levels. For example, they do not account for changing state and local policies on prekindergarten (PK) and kindergarten programs. Continued expansion of these programs could lead to higher enrollments at the elementary school level. Projections also exclude the number of students who are homeschooled because more data are needed.

Accuracy of Projections

An analysis of projection errors from the past 27 editions of Projections of Education Statistics indicates that the mean absolute percentage errors (MAPEs) for lead times of 1, 2, 5, and 10 years out for projections of public school enrollment in grades PK–12 were 0.3, 0.6, 1.3, and 2.4 percent, respectively. For the 1-year-out prediction, this means that the methodology used by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has produced projections that have, on average, deviated from actual observed values by 0.3 percent. For projections of public school enrollment in grades PK–8, the MAPEs for lead times of 1, 2, 5, and 10 years out were 0.4, 0.7, 1.3, and 3.2 percent, respectively, while the MAPEs for projections of public school enrollment in grades 9–12 were 0.3, 0.6, 1.3, and 2.3 percent, respectively, for the same lead times. An analysis of projection errors from the past nine editions of Projections of Education Statistics indicates that the mean absolute percentage errors (MAPEs) for lead times of 1, 2, 5, and 10 years out for projections of private school enrollment in grades PK–12 were 3.4, 4.6, 7.7, and 6.3 percent, respectively. For projections of private school enrollment in grades PK–8, the MAPEs for lead times of 1, 2, 5, and 10 years out were 3.5, 4.9, 9.2, and 7.9 percent, respectively, while the MAPEs for projections of private school enrollment in grades 9–12 were 3.0, 3.8, 2.8, and 1.3 percent, respectively, for the same lead times. For more information, see table A-2 in appendix A.


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