Author: National Center for Education Statistics
California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas enroll close to 40 percent of the nation’s public school students.
The importance of these “Mega-States” goes beyond the sheer size of their population. They now serve more than half of the nation’s English language learners (ELL), as well as some of the largest concentrations of children from lower-income families. As policymakers and educators look at the nation’s changing demographics and explore ways to close achievement gaps, the educational progress of children in these states is of interest far beyond their state borders. That’s why the National Center for Education Statistics and the National Assessment Governing Board focused this special report on educational outcomes in the five largest states.
A snapshot of the Mega-States
The Mega-States are home to nearly one-third of the nation’s public schools.
In 2010, there were about 49.5 million students in public schools nationwide, and close to 19 million of them attended schools in the Mega-States. Illinois educates over 2 million students, Florida and New York have more than 2.5 million students each, and California and Texas combined account for over 11 million students. By comparison, all other states have between 89,000 and 1.8 million students.
The Mega-States exemplify our nation’s changing demographics
The Mega-States are at the forefront of the demographic shifts in our nation. California, Texas, New York, and Florida had the largest increases in the immigrant population over the last decade. Illinois had the sixth largest increase.1
Most of our nation’s ELL students are being educated in the Mega-States. California enrolls nearly 1.5 million ELL students—the largest number in the nation. That’s more than twice the amount of any other Mega-State.
More than one-third of all families below the poverty line live in the Mega-States. About 9 million families in the United States reported income below the poverty line in 2011; 3.4 million of them were in the Mega-States.2
1 Data from Center for Immigration Studies: http://www.cis.org/2000-2010-record-setting-decade-of-immigration, table 2.
2 Data from U.S. Census Bureau, 2011 American Community Survey: http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_11_1YR_C17023&prodType=table.
|Number of operating schools||Number of students||Current expenditures per pupil||Student/ teacher ratio||Percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price school lunch||Number of English language learners|
|NOTE: The results for current expenditures per pupil are based on fiscal year 2009, and the results for the number of English language learners are based on school year 2009–10. The other results shown in the table are based on school year 2010–11.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), “Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey,” 2010–11, Version 1a; and “State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary/Secondary Education,” 2010–11, Version 1a; and “National Public Education Financial Survey,” FY09 (2008–09); and Consolidated State Performance Reports, 2009–10.
Compared to the national average, California, Florida, and Texas all have higher percentages of students who are eligible for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). New York is about the same as the national average, while Illinois is lower.
NAEP uses the percentages of students who are eligible for NSLP as a proxy for income. Students from lower-income families are eligible for either free or reduced-price school lunches, while students from higher-income families are not (see the Technical Notes for eligibility criteria).
Resources vary widely across the Mega-States
Although the five Mega-States share many common characteristics, they have important differences. For example, expenditures per pupil ranged from $8,562 in Texas to $17,746 in New York, while the national average is $10,591.
California has a student/teacher ratio of 24 students per teacher compared to the national average of 16 students per teacher. Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas are below the national average.
NCES 2013-450 Ordering information
National Center for Education Statistics (2013). The Nation’s Report Card: Mega-States: An Analysis of Student Performance in the Five Most Heavily Populated States in the Nation (NCES 2013–450). Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C.
For more information, see the results of the Mega-States report on the Nation's Report Card website.