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Projections of Education Statistics to 2021

NCES 2013-008
January 2013

Section 1. Elementary and Secondary Enrollment: Introduction

Total public and private elementary and secondary school enrollment was 55 million in fall 2010, representing a 6 percent increase since fall 1996 (table 1). Between fall 2010, the last year of actual public school data, and fall 2021, a further increase of 7 percent is expected. Public school enrollment is projected to be higher in 2021 than in 2010 while private school enrollment is projected to be lower. Public school enrollments are projected to be higher in 2021 than in 2010 for Blacks, Hispanics, Asian/Pacific Islanders, American Indians/Alaska Natives, and students of two or more races, and enrollment is projected to be lower for Whites (table 3). Increases in public school enrollment are expected in the Northeast, Midwest, South, and West (table 6).

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.

Students of two or more races

This is the first edition of Projections of Education Statistics to include actual and projected numbers for enrollment in public elementary and secondary school for students of two or more races. Actual numbers for this racial/ethnic group begin in 2008. The 2008, 2009, and 2010 actual values and all the projected values for enrollments of the other racial/ ethnic groups are lower than they would have been if this racial/ethnic category had not been added.

Accuracy of Projections

An analysis of projection errors from the past 28 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 2.6 percent, respectively. For the 1-year-out prediction, this means that the methodol- ogy 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 0.3, 0.6, 1.4, and 3.3 percent, respectively, while the MAPEs for projections of public school enrollment in grades 9-12 were 0.4, 0.7, 1.2, and 2.5 percent, respectively, for the same lead times. An analysis of pro- jection errors from the past ten 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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