NCES Blog

National Center for Education Statistics

Education at a Glance 2021: Putting U.S. Data in a Global Context

International comparisons provide reference points for researchers and policy analysts to understand trends and patterns in national education data and are important as U.S. students compete in an increasingly global economy.

Education at a Glance, an annual publication produced by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), provides data on the structure, finances, and performance of education systems in 38 OECD countries, including the United States, as well as a number of OECD partner countries. The report also includes state-level information on key benchmarks to inform state and local policies on global competitiveness.

The recently released 2021 edition of the report shows that the United States is above the international average on some measures, such as participation in and funding of postsecondary education, but lags behind in others, such as participation in early childhood education programs. The report also presents some initial comparisons on countries’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Postsecondary Educational Attainment

The percentage of U.S. 25- to 34-year-olds with a postsecondary degree increased by 10 percentage points between 2010 and 2020, reaching 52 percent, compared with the OECD average of 45 percent (figure 1). Attainment rates varied widely across the United States in 2020, from 33 percent for those living in Nevada to 61 percent for those living in Massachusetts and 77 percent for those living in the District of Columbia.


Figure 1. Percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds with a postsecondary degree, by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) country: 2020

1 Year of reference differs from 2020. Refer to the source table for more details.
SOURCE: OECD (2021), Table A1.2. See Source section for more information and Annex 3 for notes.


In the United States in 2020, 25- to 34-year-old women were more likely than 25- to 34-year-old men to attain a postsecondary education: 57 percent of women had a postsecondary qualification, compared with 47 percent of men, a difference of 10 percentage points. Across OECD countries, the postsecondary education gap between 25- to 34-year-old men and women was wider (13 percentage points) than the gap in the United States (10 percentage points). In 2020, the postsecondary attainment rate of 25- to 34-year-old men in the United States was 8 percentage points higher than the OECD average, whereas the rate of 25- to 34-year-old women in the United States was 5 percentage points higher than the OECD average.

Postsecondary Education Spending

U.S. spending on postsecondary education is also relatively high compared with the OECD average, in both absolute and relative terms. The United States spent $34,036 per postsecondary student in 2018, the second-highest amount after Luxembourg and nearly double the OECD average ($17,065). Also, U.S. spending on postsecondary education as a percentage of GDP (2.5 percent) was substantially higher than the OECD average (1.4 percent). These total expenditures include amounts received from governments, students, and all other sources.

Early Childhood Education

The level of participation in early childhood education programs in the United States is below the OECD average and falling further behind. Between 2005 and 2019, average enrollment rates for 3- to 5-year-olds across OECD countries increased from 77 to 87 percent. In contrast, the rate in the United States remained stable at 66 percent during this time period. Among U.S. states, the 2019 enrollment rates for 3- to 5-year-olds ranged from less than 50 percent in Idaho and North Dakota to 70 percent or more in New York (70 percent), Vermont (76 percent), Connecticut (76 percent), New Jersey (77 percent), and the District of Columbia (88 percent).

COVID-19 Pandemic

Education at a Glance also presents a first look at countries’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The spread of COVID-19 impeded access to in-person education in many countries around the world in 2020 and 2021. By mid-May 2021, 37 OECD and partner countries had experienced periods of full school closure since the start of 2020.

Despite the impact of the crisis on employment, the share of NEETs (those neither in employment nor education or training) among 18- to 24-year-olds did not greatly increase in most OECD and partner countries during the first year of the COVID-19 crisis. On average, the share of 18- to 24-year-old NEETs in OECD countries rose from 14.4 percent in 2019 to 16.1 percent in 2020. However, Canada, Columbia, and the United States experienced an increase of more than 4 percentage points. In the United States, the share of 18- to 24-year-old NEETs increased from 14.6 percent in 2019 to 19.3 percent in 2020.

In 2020, many postsecondary education institutions around the world closed down to control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, potentially affecting more than 3.9 million international and foreign students studying in OECD countries. Early estimates show the percentage of international students attending postsecondary institutions in the United States declined by 16 percent between 2020 and 2021.

Browse the full report to see how the United States compares with other countries on these and other important education-related topics and learn more about how other countries’ education systems responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

By Rachel Dinkes, AIR

New Report on the Effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Undergraduate Student Experiences in Spring 2020

NCES recently released a report on the experiences of undergraduate students early in the COVID-19 pandemic. The report uses early release data from the 2019–20 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:20) to describe how the pandemic disrupted students’ enrollment, housing, and finances in the spring of 2020. It also discusses how institutions helped students with these issues.

NPSAS:20 student surveys started in March 2020, and items about the COVID-19 pandemic were added in April 2020 to collect information about the effects of the pandemic on students’ educational experiences between January 1 and June 30, 2020. These early release data do not include students who answered before the pandemic questions were added. The data show that 87 percent of students had their enrollment disrupted or changed during this time. Students who experienced disruptions may have withdrawn or taken a leave of absence, had an extended school break, had changes made to their study-abroad program, or had classes cancelled or moved online.

Twenty-eight percent of students had a housing disruption or change, and 40 percent had a financial disruption or change. Students who had a housing disruption had to move or had difficulty finding safe and stable housing. Students who had a financial disruption may have lost a job or income or may have had difficulty getting food; they may have also received financial help from their postsecondary institutions.

The report also provides information about the experiences of students with different characteristics. For example, students with Pell Grants had a similar rate of enrollment disruption (87 percent) as those without them (88 percent). Those with Pell Grants had a lower rate of housing disruption (23 percent) than those without them (31 percent). However, they had a higher rate of financial disruption (48 percent) than their peers without Pell Grants (34 percent).


Figure 1. Percentage of undergraduates who experienced enrollment, housing, or financial disruptions or changes at their institution due to the COVID-19 pandemic, by Pell Grant recipient status: Spring 2020

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2019–20 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:20, preliminary data).


The final NPSAS:20 raw data will be available in late 2022. Sign up for the IES Newsflash to receive announcements about NCES data products.

 

By Tracy Hunt-White

Students’ Internet Access Before and During the Coronavirus Pandemic by Household Socioeconomic Status

The pandemic has focused attention on the resources needed for students to engage equitably in educational opportunities, particularly during remote learning. While access to computers and the internet were important to education prior to the pandemic—as tools for word processing, research, and communication after school hours, or even as the primary means of schooling—they became essential tools for students to remain engaged during the 2020–21 academic year. Reflecting this importance both before and during the pandemic, recent NCES blogs have highlighted data on virtual schools and geographic differences in digital access. This blog presents additional insight on these topics from the Condition of Education 2021. Specifically, it highlights patterns of inequity in access to educational technology by socioeconomic status, both before and during the coronavirus pandemic.

Before the Coronavirus Pandemic

According to the American Community Survey (ACS),1 the higher the level of parental educational attainment, the higher the percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds with home internet access in 2019. For instance, the percentage with home internet access was highest for those whose parents had attained a bachelor’s or higher degree (99 percent) and lowest for those whose parents had less than a high school credential (83 percent) (figure 1).

Similarly, the higher the level of family income, the higher the percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds with home internet access in 2019. Specifically, the percentage with home internet access was highest for those in families in the highest income quarter (99 percent) and lowest for those in families in the lowest income quarter (89 percent) (figure 1).2


Figure 1. Percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds with home internet access and home internet access only through a smartphone, by parental education and family income quarter: 2019

1 Includes those who completed high school through equivalency credentials, such as the GED.
NOTE: Includes only 3- to 18-year-olds living in households (respondents living in group quarters such as shelters, healthcare facilities, or correctional facilities were not asked about internet access). Includes 3- to 18-year-olds who had home internet access only through a smartphone but did not have any of the following types of computers: desktop or laptop, tablet or other portable wireless computer, or “some other type of computer.” Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2019. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 702.12.


While internet access is nearly universal in the United States (95 percent of all 3- to 18-year-olds had access in 2019), not all families access the internet the same way. Specifically, 88 percent had access through a computer,3 and 6 percent relied on a smartphone for their home internet access.4,5

In 2019, the higher the level of parental educational attainment, the lower the percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds who relied on a smartphone for their home internet access. Similarly, the higher the level of family income, the lower the percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds who relied on a smartphone for their home internet access. For instance, the percentage who relied on a smartphone for their home internet access was lowest for those in families in the highest income quarter (1 percent) and highest for those in families in the lowest income quarter (14 percent) (figure 1).

Taken together with the patterns for overall home internet access, these findings reveal that access only through a smartphone is generally more common for groups with lower rates of internet access overall. Importantly, although smartphones can be useful tools for staying connected, they offer more limited functionality for applications such as word processing or interactive learning platforms. In other words, overall levels of internet access mask further inequities in mode of access, which have implications for whether/how the internet can be used as an educational tool.

During the Coronavirus Pandemic

As students moved en masse to online learning during the pandemic, access to internet-connected devices became a requirement for students to participate effectively in their new learning environments. The pre-pandemic data described above suggest that not all students would have been in a position to take advantage of these remote classrooms, and that this would be true of a higher percentage of students whose parents had lower incomes or lower levels of educational attainment.  

Some schools and districts helped students meet these needs by providing computers or paying for home internet access. Data from the Household Pulse Survey (HPS) show that 59 percent of adults6 with children in the home enrolled in school7 reported that computers were provided by their school or district. This percentage was generally higher for those with lower 2019 household incomes, ranging from 68 percent for adults with household incomes below $25,000 to 50 percent for adults with household incomes over $150,000 (figure 2). A similar pattern was observed for internet access. Overall, 4 percent of adults said internet access was paid for by their students’ district or school, ranging from 8 percent for adults in the lowest household income range to about 1 percent for those in the highest household income range. These patterns are consistent with higher rates of assistance going to families with higher rates of expected need (as indicated in figure 1).


Figure 2. Among adults 18 years old and over who had children under 18 in the home enrolled in school, percentage reporting that computers and internet access were always or usually available and provided or paid for by schools or school districts, by income level: September 2 to 14, 2020

NOTE: Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data. Data in this figure are considered experimental and do not meet NCES standards for response rates. The survey question refers to enrollment at any time during the 2020–21 school year.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Household Pulse Survey, collection period of September 2 to 14, 2020. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, tables 218.85 and 218.90.


Even with this assistance from schools and districts, however, socioeconomic inequalities in students’ access to computers and internet were not eliminated. In general, the percentage of adults who reported that these resources were always or usually available increased with household income. For example, in September 2020, the percentage of adults reporting that computers were always or usually available was highest for the two household income levels at or above $100,000 and lowest for the two household income levels below $50,000. Similarly, the percentage of adults reporting that internet access was always or usually available was higher for the three household income levels at or above $75,000 than for the three household income levels below $75,000.

Both before and during the pandemic, these data show that overall access to education technology in the United States is high. This access is bolstered by widespread access to mobile devices like smartphones and—at least during the 2020–21 academic year—by resources provided by students’ schools and districts, particularly for students from lower socioecnomic backgrounds. Nevertheless, inequalities persist. As the prevalence of technology in education grows, it will be important to continue to track equity not only in access but also in quality of access and frequency and competency of use.

Explore the following resources to learn more about students’ access to, use of, and competency with education technology.

General

Access

  • Condition of Education 2021

Use

Competency

 

By Véronique Irwin, NCES


[1] The American Community Survey (ACS) provides a large monthly sample of demographic, socioeconomic, and housing data comparable in content to the Long Forms of the Decennial Census. Aggregated over time, these data serve as a replacement for the Long Form of the Decennial Census. This section of the blog post uses data from ACS to describe the percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds with home internet access and the percentage with home internet access only through a smartphone in 2019.

[2] The highest quarter refers to the top 25 percent of all family incomes; the middle-high quarter refers to the 51st through the 75th percentile of all family incomes; the middle-low quarter refers to the 26th through the 50th percentile of all family incomes; and the lowest quarter refers to the bottom 25 percent of all family incomes.

[3] Refers to the percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds with home internet access through one or more of the following types of computers: desktop or laptop, tablet or other portable wireless computer, or “some other type of computer.” Includes homes having both smartphones and any of these types of computers.

[4] Refers to the percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds who had home internet access only through a smartphone but did not have any of the types of computers listed in endnote 3.

[5] Detail does not sum to totals because of rounding.

[6] The Household Pulse Survey, conducted by the Census Bureau and other agencies including NCES, gathers information from adults about household educational activities (as well as other topics). Because the data focus on adults, findings from HPS are not directly comparable to those from ACS mentioned above.

[7] According to HPS data, 52 million adults had children under age 18 in the home enrolled in school in September 2020. Overall, two-thirds (67 percent) of these adults reported that classes for their children had moved to a distance learning format using online resources.

Students’ Access to the Internet and Digital Devices at Home

This blog continues a robust discussion about National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data collected in the recent past that can illuminate the issue of students’ access to the internet and digital devices at home. A few years ago—well before the coronavirus pandemic and stay-at-home orders shone a bright light on the inequities across the nation—NCES began dedicating resources to improve its data collection and policymaking around education technology and equity at the district, state, and national levels.

The 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading questionnaire asked 4th- and 8th-grade students if they had internet access at home and if there was a computer or tablet at home that they could use (referred to in this blog as having “digital access”). These data provide a pre–coronavirus pandemic snapshot of students’ digital access. Across all public schools, 81 percent of 4th-grade students and 88 percent of 8th-grade students said that they had digital access (figures 1 and 2). Thus, 19 percent of 4th-grade students and 12 percent of 8th-grade students in public schools may not have either access to the internet or the devices required to carry out distance learning.  


Figure 1. Percentage of 4th-grade public school students in the NAEP reading assessment that reported having internet access and a computer or tablet at home, by state: 2019

* Significantly different from the National Public estimate at the .05 level of statistical significance.
NOTE: Statistical comparison tests are based on unrounded numbers. Not all apparent differences between estimates are statistically significant.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2019 Reading Assessment.


Figure 2. Percentage of 8th-grade public school students in the NAEP reading assessment that reported having internet access and a computer or tablet at home, by state: 2019

* Significantly different from the National Public estimate at the .05 level of statistical significance.
NOTE: Statistical comparison tests are based on unrounded numbers. Not all apparent differences between estimates are statistically significant.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2019 Reading Assessment.


There were also differences across states in 2019. For 4th-grade students, the percentages who had digital access varied by state, ranging from 70 percent in New Mexico to 88 percent in New Jersey (table 1). Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming had lower percentages of students who had digital access than the national average (figure 1 and table 1). For 8th-grade students, the percentages who had access ranged from 81 percent in Oklahoma to 93 percent in Connecticut (table 1). Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia had lower percentages of students who had access than the national average (figure 2 and table 1).


Table 1. Percentage of public school students in the NAEP reading assessment that reported having internet access and a computer or tablet at home, by grade and state: 2019

 

Grade 4

 

Grade 8

 

State

Percent

s.e

 

Percent

s.e

 

   National public

81

(0.2)

 

88

(0.2)

 

Alabama

79

(1.2)

 

86

(0.8)

Alaska

 

 

Arizona

78

(0.9)

84

(0.9)

Arkansas

73

(0.9)

83

(1.1)

California

81

(0.9)

 

88

(0.9)

 

Colorado

 

 

Connecticut

85

(0.8)

93

(0.6)

Delaware

81

(0.9)

 

90

(0.6)

 

District of Columbia

83

(0.8)

90

(0.6)

DoDEA

88

(0.7)

96

(0.4)

Florida

85

(0.7)

89

(0.7)

 

Georgia

83

(0.9)

90

(0.7)

Hawaii

79

(1)

 

86

(0.8)

Idaho

77

(0.9)

88

(0.8)

 

Illinois

83

(0.8)

90

(0.6)

Indiana

80

(0.9)

 

90

(1.1)

 

Iowa

81

(0.9)

 

90

(0.7)

 

Kansas

78

(0.9)

88

(0.7)

 

Kentucky

81

(0.8)

 

87

(0.7)

Louisiana

79

(1)

 

85

(0.9)

Maine

82

(0.9)

 

89

(0.7)

 

Maryland

82

(0.8)

 

91

(0.6)

Massachusetts

87

(0.8)

93

(0.7)

Michigan

80

(1)

 

90

(0.8)

 

Minnesota

83

(1)

92

(0.7)

Mississippi

77

(1.2)

84

(0.7)

Missouri

78

(0.8)

89

(0.8)

 

Montana

 

 

Nebraska

81

(0.9)

 

90

(0.7)

Nevada

79

(1)

 

85

(0.7)

New Hampshire

 

 

New Jersey

88

(0.8)

93

(0.6)

New Mexico

70

(1.2)

82

(0.8)

New York

84

(0.7)

91

(0.7)

North Carolina

81

(0.8)

 

89

(0.8)

 

North Dakota

81

(1)

 

90

(0.7)

Ohio

82

(0.9)

 

91

(0.7)

Oklahoma

73

(1.1)

81

(0.9)

Oregon

77

(1)

87

(0.8)

 

Pennsylvania

85

(0.8)

91

(0.7)

Rhode Island

84

(0.8)

90

(0.6)

South Carolina

81

(1)

 

90

(0.9)

 

South Dakota

 

 

Tennessee

77

(0.9)

86

(0.9)

Texas

75

(0.9)

82

(1)

Utah

 

 

Vermont

81

(0.9)

 

91

(0.7)

Virginia

82

(0.8)

 

91

(0.8)

Washington

80

(1)

 

89

(0.8)

 

West Virginia

81

(1)

 

86

(0.7)

Wisconsin

83

(0.9)

 

91

(0.7)

Wyoming

78

(0.9)

88

(0.7)

 

↑ Significantly higher than the estimate for National Public at the .05 level of statistical significance.
↓ Significantly higher than the estimate for National Public at the .05 level of statistical significance.
‡ Reporting standards not met. Sample size insufficient to permit a reliable estimate.
† Not applicable.
NOTE: Statistical comparison tests are based on unrounded numbers. Not all apparent differences between estimates are statistically significant. “National public” refers to the results for all students in public schools.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2019 Reading Assessment.


Looking at the results of NAEP’s 2019 Trial Urban Districts Assessment (TUDA), Miami-Dade, Florida, had the highest percentages of 4th- and 8th-grade students who had digital access (88 percent and 93 percent, respectively) (table 2). Fresno, California, had the lowest percentage of 4th-grade students (67 percent) who had access and Dallas, Texas, had the lowest percentage of 8th-grade students (73 percent) who had access.


Table 2. Percentage of public school students in the NAEP reading assessment that reported having internet access and a computer or tablet at home, by grade and Trial Urban District Assessments (TUDA): 2019

 

Grade 4

 

Grade 8

 

Large city

Percentage

 

Percentage

 

   All large cities

78

 

85

 

Albuquerque

75

 

85

 

Atlanta

82

86

 

Austin

78

 

83

 

Baltimore City

73

84

 

Boston

81

89

Charlotte

83

91

Chicago

80

 

88

 

Clark County (NV)

78

 

84

 

Cleveland

74

80

Dallas

71

73

Denver

 

 

Detroit

70

79

District of Columbia (DCPS)

83

90

Duval County (FL)

84

89

Fort Worth (TX)

72

88

Fresno

67

77

Guilford County (NC)

78

 

85

 

Hillsborough County (FL)

81

 

87

 

Houston

71

75

Jefferson County (KY)

82

88

Los Angeles

76

 

85

 

Miami-Dade

88

93

Milwaukee

75

 

85

 

New York City

81

 

89

Philadelphia

78

 

86

 

San Diego

81

 

90

Shelby County (TN)

78

 

86

 

Significantly higher than the estimate for Large City at the .05 level of statistical significance.
↓ Significantly lower than the estimate for Large City at the .05 level of statistical significance.
‡ Reporting standards not met. Sample size insufficient to permit a reliable estimate.
NOTE: Statistical comparison tests are based on unrounded numbers. Not all apparent differences between estimates are statistically significant.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2019 Reading Assessment.


In 2019, higher percentages of 8th-grade students than of 4th-grade students had digital access. This pattern was consistent across all states and TUDA jurisdictions. On average, in both 4th and 8th grades, higher percentages of students in suburban areas than of students in cities, towns, and rural areas had access (table 3).


Table 3. Percentage of public school students in the NAEP reading assessment that reported having internet access and a computer or tablet at home, by grade and locale: 2019

 

Grade 4

 

Grade 8

 

Locale

Percentage

s.e

 

Percentage

s.e

 

   National public

81

(0.2)

 

88

(0.2)

 

City

79

(0.4)

86

(0.4)

Suburban

84

(0.3)

 

92

(0.3)

 

Town

77

(0.8)

86

(0.6)

Rural

78

(0.4)

87

(0.4)

↓ Significantly lower than the estimate for Suburban at the .05 level of statistical significance.
NOTE: Statistical comparison tests are based on unrounded numbers. Not all apparent differences between estimates are statistically significant.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2019 Reading Assessment.


While the NAEP data reveal state-level patterns in students’ digital access before the pandemic, the Household Pulse Survey (HPS) provides insight into the digital access of students across the country during the pandemic. The HPS is conducted by the Census Bureau and seven other federal statistical agency partners, including NCES. Since April 23, 2020, the HPS has provided weekly or biweekly estimates of the availability of computers and internet access to children for educational purposes.

In April 2020, 88 percent of adults who had children under 18 in the home enrolled in school reported that computers were always or usually available for educational purposes. By the end of March 2021, that percentage increased to 94 percent (table 4).

A similar pattern emerged in the HPS data for internet access. In April 2020, 91 percent of adults who had children under 18 in the home enrolled in school reported that the internet was always or usually available for educational purposes. In March 2021, that percentage had increased to 94 percent (table 4).


Table 4. Percentage of adults who had children under 18 in the home enrolled in school who reported that computers and internet access were always or usually available for educational purposes: 2020–21, selected time periods

 

Computers available

Access to internet

 

Percentage

s.e.

 

Percentage

s.e.

 

April 23 to May 5, 2020

88

(0.5)

 

91

(0.4)

 

March 17 to March 29, 2021

94

(0.4)

94

(0.4)

↑ Significantly higher than the estimate for April 23 to May 5, 2020, at the .05 level of statistical significance.
NOTE: Statistical comparison tests are based on unrounded numbers. Not all apparent differences between estimates are statistically significant.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Household Pulse Survey, selected periods, April 2021 through March 2021.


While these data provide a recent look into the technology landscape for students both before and during the pandemic, there is still a need to collect more and better data to understand digital inequities. For example, future NCES surveys could ask schools, students, and teachers about their technology use and access at home, what resources for learning and instruction they have at home, and the environment in which many students and teachers now find themselves learning and teaching.

 

Resources for more information:

 

By Cadelle Hemphill, AIR; Yan Wang, AIR: Diana Forster, AIR; Chad Scott, AIR; and Grady Wilburn, NCES

Announcing the Condition of Education 2021 Release

NCES is pleased to present the 2021 edition of the Condition of Education, an annual report mandated by the U.S. Congress that summarizes the latest data on education in the United States. This report uses data from across the center and from other sources and is designed to help policymakers and the public monitor educational progress.

Beginning in 2021, individual indicators can be accessed online on the newly redesigned Condition of Education Indicator System website. A synthesis of key findings from these indicators can be found in the Report on the Condition of Education, a more user-friendly PDF report.

A total of 86 indicators are included in this year’s Condition of Education, 55 of which were updated this year. As in prior years, these indicators present a range of topics from prekindergarten through postsecondary education, as well as labor force outcomes and international comparisons. Additionally, this year’s 55 updated indicators include 17 indicators on school crime and safety.

For the 2021 edition of the Condition of Education, most data were collected prior to 2020, either during the 2018–19 academic year or in fall 2019. Therefore, with some exceptions, this year’s report presents findings from prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

At the elementary and secondary level (prekindergarten through grade 12), the data show that 50.7 million students were enrolled in public schools fall 2018, the most recent year for which data were available at the time this report was written. Public charter school enrollment accounted for 7 percent (3.3 million students) of these public school enrollments, more than doubling from 3 percent (1.6 million students) in 2009. In 2019, U.S. 4th- and 8th-grade students scored above the scale centerpoint (500 out of 1000) on both the math and science assessments in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

In 2020, 95 percent of 25- to 29-year-olds had at least a high school diploma or equivalent, while 39 percent had a bachelor’s or higher degree. These levels of educational attainment are associated with economic outcomes, such as employment and earnings. For example, among those working full time, year round, annual median earnings in 2019 were 59 percent higher for 25- to 34-year-olds with a bachelor’s or higher degree than for those with a high school diploma or equivalent.

In addition to regularly updated annual indicators, this year’s two spotlight indicators highlight early findings on the educational impact of the coronavirus pandemic from the Household Pulse Survey (HPS).

  • The first spotlight examines distance learning at the elementary and secondary level at the beginning of the 2020–21 academic year. Overall, among adults with children under 18 in the home enrolled in school, two-thirds reported in September 2020 that classes had been moved to a distance learning format using online resources. In order to participate in these remote learning settings, students must have access to computers and the internet. More than 90 percent of adults with children in their household reported that one or both of these resources were always or usually available to children for educational purposes in September 2020. At the same time, 59 percent of adults reported that computers were provided by the child’s school or district, while 4 percent reported that internet access was paid for by the child’s school or district. Although higher percentages of lower income adults reported such assistance, this did not eliminate inequalities in access to these resources by household income.
  • The second spotlight examines changes in postsecondary education plans for fall 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Among adults 18 years old and over who had household members planning to take classes in fall 2020 from a postsecondary institution, 45 percent reported that the classes at least one household member planned would be in different formats in the fall (e.g., formats would change from in-person to online), 31 percent reported that all plans to take classes in the fall had been canceled for at least one household member, and 12 percent reported that at least one household member would take fewer classes in the fall. Some 28 percent reported no change in fall plans to take postsecondary classes for at least one household member. The two most frequently cited reasons for the cancellation of plans were having the coronavirus or having concerns about getting the coronavirus (46 percent), followed by not being able to pay for classes/educational expenses because of changes to income from the pandemic (42 percent).

The Condition of Education also includes an At a Glance section, a Reader’s Guide, a Glossary, and a Guide to Sources, all of which provide additional background information. Each indicator includes references to the source data tables used to produce the indicator.

As new data are released throughout the year, indicators will be updated and made available online.

In addition to publishing the Condition of Education, NCES produces a wide range of other reports and datasets designed to help inform policymakers and the public about significant trends and topics in education. More information about the latest activities and releases at NCES may be found on our website or by following us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

 

By James L. Woodworth, NCES Commissioner