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How Did the 100 Largest School Districts Compare To All School Districts?

General Characteristics

In the 2007–08 school year, each of the 100 largest school districts had at least 47,400 students, whereas 72 percent of all regular school districts had fewer than 2,500 students (tables 3 and A-1). However, these smaller districts served only 13 percent of all students; 87 percent of students were enrolled in districts of 2,500 or more students (table 3).

The average school district in the United States and jurisdictions had 5.7 schools; in comparison, the 100 largest school districts averaged 169.1 schools per district (derived from table 1). Two of the three largest districts—New York City Public Schools, New York, and the Puerto Rico Department of Education—each had more than 1,400 schools (table A-1).

School Characteristics

Average regular school5 size based on student membership ranged from a low of 350 students (in the Puerto Rico Department of Education) to a high of 1,472 (in the Gwinnett County School District, Georgia) in the 100 largest school districts in the 2007–08 school year (table A-2). The largest regular school in the 100 largest districts was the 6,306 student Chicago International Charter, Illinois, in the City of Chicago School District 299, Illinois.6

The 100 largest school districts had more students per school than the average school district (677 vs. 513) (table 1). Eleven of the 100 largest school districts had an average regular school size of more than 1,000 students (table A-2). In addition to larger school sizes, the 100 largest school districts also had a higher median pupil/teacher ratio than the average school district (15.4 to 1 vs. 15.2 to 1) (table 1). Among the 100 largest public school districts, Alpine District, Utah, had the highest median pupil/teacher ratio in regular schools (26.5 to 1) and the Puerto Rico Department of Education, had the smallest (12.2 to 1) (table A-3). The median pupil/teacher ratio for regular primary schools among the 100 largest public school districts was lower than that for high schools (15.2 to 1 vs. 17.1 to 1).

Of the 15,225 schools with membership in the 100 largest public school districts, 10,025 were primary schools, 2,490 were middle schools, 2,080 were high schools, and 630 were schools with other instructional levels (table A-4). The Puerto Rico Department of Education—which had the most schools with membership in total—had the largest number of primary (870) and other instructional level (185) schools of the 100 largest public school districts, whereas New York City Public Schools, New York, had the largest number of middle schools (263) and high schools (245).

School staff. For the United States and jurisdictions, 51 percent of FTE staff were teachers,7 while in the 100 largest districts 53 percent of staff were teachers (table A-5). Fifty-nine of the 100 largest districts reported that 50 percent or more of staff were teachers, and 8 districts reported that 60 percent or more of staff were teachers (these districts were New York City Public Schools, New York; City of Chicago School District 299, Illinois; Clark County School District, Nevada; Duval, Florida; Greenville 01, South Carolina; Washoe County School District, Nevada; San Francisco Unified, California; and Lewisville Independent School District, Texas). In 25 of the 100 largest school districts 1 percent or more of the staff were district administrators.

Title I eligibility. Ninety-eight of the 100 largest school districts reported data for Title I eligible schools and programs for the 2007–08 school year (table A-6). The percentage of Title I eligible schools in these districts ranged from 5 percent (in Jordan District, Utah) to 100 percent (the District of Columbia Public Schools; Santa Ana Unified, California; Cleveland Municipal City, Ohio; and Clayton County, Georgia). Within 98 of the 100 largest school districts that reported data, 60 percent of students attended a Title I eligible school, the same as the percent of all students in the United States and jurisdictions who attend Title I eligible schools (Hoffman 2009).

Magnet schools and charter schools. Among the 100 largest school districts there were 1,225 magnet schools8 (table A-7). The largest number of magnet schools among these districts was in the City of Chicago School District 299, Illinois, with 292 magnet schools (or 46 percent of its schools and 48 percent of its students in magnet schools). There were 821 charter schools administered by the 100 largest school districts in the 2007–08 school year. This number does not include charter schools that are independent of the school district.9 Three percent of the students in these districts attended one of these charter schools. In the United States and jurisdictions, there were 4,388 charter schools, including both independent and dependent charter schools, attended by 3 percent of students in 2007–08 (Hoffman 2009). The largest number of charter schools administered by any of the 100 largest school districts was 125 schools in Los Angeles Unified, California.

Student Body

Overall, the 100 largest school districts in 2007–08 enrolled 22 percent of the United States and jurisdictions' public school students (table 1). Certain student characteristics, such as race/ethnicity, poverty level, and disability status, varied across the 100 largest school districts about which the CCD collected data in 2007–08.

Race/ethnicity. American Indians/Alaska Natives, Asians/Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, Blacks, and Whites are the five racial/ethnic groups about which the CCD collected data in 2007–08. The 100 largest school districts served 35 percent of the 22.4 million public school students in the United States and jurisdictions who are Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, or American Indian/Alaska Native, compared to serving 12 percent of the 27.5 million students in the U.S. and jurisdictions who are White (derived from tables 1 and 2).10 In 67 of the 100 largest districts, Whites comprised less than 50 percent of student membership (derived from table A-8). In more than one-third (35) of the 100 largest districts, students who were Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, or American Indian/Alaska Native comprised more than 75 percent of the student membership (table A-8). Seven of the 10 largest school districts had combined Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native student memberships of more than 75 percent.

Even with the relatively high combined Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native membership in the 100 largest school districts, 33 of the districts reported 50 percent or more of their students as White (table A-8 and table A-9). In 6 of these 33 districts, at least 75 percent of students were White (table A-9). In 13 of the 100 largest districts, half or more of the membership was Black. Twenty-three districts reported that the majority of students were Hispanic; 4 of these were among the 10 largest districts. In Hawaii, a one-district state, and San Francisco Unified, California, the majority of students were Asian/Pacific Islander.

Free and reduced-price lunch eligibility. The 100 largest school districts had a disproportionate percentage of students eligible for the free and reduced-price lunch program relative to all public school districts. Among the 95 largest school districts that reported free and reduced-price lunch eligibility, 52 percent of students were eligible, compared to 41 percent of students in all districts (table 2). Forty-one of these 95 districts reported 50 percent or more of their students as eligible for the free and reduced-price lunch program (table A-9).

Students with disabilities. Approximately 1.3 million students in the 100 largest school districts had Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) (table A-10). Students with IEPs made up 11 percent of all students in these districts, slightly lower than the percentage for the United States and jurisdictions as a whole (12 percent).11 About 2 percent of the schools in the 100 largest school districts were special education schools (derived from table A-11).

High school completers, the averaged freshman graduation rate (AFGR), and grades 9–12 dropout rate. The number of 2006–07 high school completers in the 87 of the 100 largest school districts for which data were available ranged from 1,958 (in the Brownsville Independent School District, Texas) to 31,718 (in the Puerto Rico Department of Education) (table A-12). The AFGR12 was 63 percent for the 100 largest school districts in 2006–07, as compared to a rate of 74 percent for the United States and jurisdictions (Stillwell 2009). This ranged from a low of 37 percent (in Cleveland Municipal City, Ohio) to a high of 95 percent (in Loudoun County Public Schools, Virginia). For the 99 of the 100 largest school districts for which data were available, the grade 9–12 dropout rate13 was 7 percent. Among these 99 districts, this ranged from 0.7 percent (in Capistrano Unified, California) to 24 percent (in Detroit City School District, Michigan).

Enrollment by grade level. In the 2007–08 school year, the majority of students enrolled in the 100 largest school districts were enrolled in grades prekindergarten through grade 6 (6.1 million) followed by grades 7 through 9 (2.7 million) and grades 10 through 12 (2. 3 million) (table A-13). Of the 17 of the 100 largest school districts that used ungraded status for some students, 125,750 students were assigned as ungraded students.

Revenues and Expenditures for Fiscal Year (FY) 2007

All revenue and expenditure data presented in this report are in current (unadjusted) dollars. In the 2006–07 school year (FY 2007), the 100 largest school districts received approximately $130 billion in revenues for public elementary and secondary education (table A-14). Of this approximately $130 billion, 31 percent ($40 billion) went to the 5 largest school districts (New York City Public Schools, New York; Los Angeles Unified, California; Puerto Rico Department of Education; City of Chicago School District 299, Illinois; and Dade, Florida). Current expenditures per pupil in FY 2007 ranged from a low of $5,886 (in Alpine District, Utah) to a high of $21,801 (in Boston, Massachusetts) in the 100 largest school districts in FY 2007. (See Glossary section, appendix C for definitions of specific revenues and expenditures.)

Across the 100 largest districts, state sources accounted for 45 percent of revenues, local sources for 45 percent, and federal sources for 10 percent (table A-15). Revenues from the federal government received by the 100 largest school districts constituted between 1 percent (in Loudoun County Public Schools, Virginia) and 18 percent (in the San Antonio Independent School District, Texas) and 29 percent (in the Puerto Rico Department of Education) of all revenues to the district.

The percentage of total current expenditures for instruction ranged from a low of 31 percent (in the Philadelphia City School District, Pennsylvania) to highs of 65 percent (in New York City Public Schools, New York) and 96 percent (in the Puerto Rico Department of Education) in the 100 largest school districts (table A-15).

Expenditures for charter and private schools. Payments by, or on behalf of, public school districts to independent charter schools and private schools are not included in the expenditures in this report. In some states these payments are made by some entity other than the public school district, and are therefore not reported on the School District Finance Survey. Information on expenditures for independent charter schools and private schools, for those school districts reporting these expenditures, can be found on the Build a Table application.

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5 A regular school is a public elementary/secondary school that does not focus primarily on vocational, special, or alternative education.
6 Data on school enrollment can be found in the following CCD file: "Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey," 2007–08, Version 1a. This data source is available online at http://nces.ed.gov/ccd/pubschuniv.asp.
7 Data on teachers and staffing can be found in the following CCD file: "State Nonfiscal Universe Survey of Public Elementary/Secondary Education," 2007–08, Version 1a. This data source is available online at http://nces.ed.gov/ccd/stnfis.asp. Percentage may differ from other published estimates due to inclusion of Puerto Rico, the outlying areas, the Bureau of Indian Education, and the Department of Defense dependents schools.
8 Counts of magnet schools include magnet programs that exist within schools that are not primarily magnet schools.
9 Because districts are administrative units, not geographic units, charter schools located in the same geographic area as the district's schools, but not administered by the district, are not included in this total or in table A-7.
10 For the 100 largest school districts, the numbers of students in different racial/ethnic categories are reported at the school level and are aggregated up to the district level.
11 Data on Individualized Education Programs can be found in the following CCD file: "Local Education Agency Universe Survey," 2007–08, Version 1a. This data source is available online at http://nces.ed.gov/ccd/pubagency.asp.
12 The averaged freshman graduation rate for 2006–07 was calculated as total high school diploma recipients in 2006–07 divided by the averaged class membership of 8th-graders in 2002–03, 9th-graders in 2003–04, and 10th-graders in 2004–05. See the Methodology section, appendix B, for more information.
13 The grades 9–12 dropout rate is calculated by dividing the number of grades 9–12 dropouts by the grades 9–12 enrollment. See the Methodology section, appendix B, for more information.

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