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Annual Reports and Information Staff (Annual Reports)

A Letter from the Commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics

August 2023

On behalf of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), I am pleased to present the 2023 edition of the Condition of Education. The Condition is an annual report mandated by the U.S. Congress that summarizes the latest data on education in the United States, including international comparisons. This year’s edition of the Condition offers a comprehensive review of education in this country during the coronavirus pandemic. It contains data spanning from early childhood to postsecondary and beyond, and covers topics such as enrollment, student achievement, teacher openings, and public school strategies for pandemic recovery. This edition of the Condition will be a valuable reference for policymakers and all those who are working to help the country recover from a once-a-century public health crisis.

The Condition of Education is designed to provide high quality and useful information to policymakers as well as parents, educators, and the education community. This report uses data from across the center, including the National Teacher and Principal Survey, Common Core of Data, Integrated Postsecondary Education System, and School Pulse Panel. In order to provide a comprehensive report, the Condition of Education also leverages data from outside of NCES, including data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics.   

The foundation of the Condition of Education is a series of online indicators. Indicators examine relationships; show changes over time; and/or compare experiences of persons from different backgrounds, places, and types of schools. Each indicator provides detailed information on a unique topic, ranging from prekindergarten through postsecondary education, as well as labor force outcomes. The Report on the Condition of Education offers a synthesized overview of core topics from across these indicators. Beyond the core topics represented in the summary report, the online indicator system also includes sections focused on School Crime and Safety and the condition of education by geographic locale, called Education Across America.

Each year, the Annual Reports and Information Staff make refinements to help our readers better understand the condition of education in the United States. This year, the report provides greater access to equitable data by presenting data on U.S. outlying areas and other jurisdictions when available. In an effort to make the data more readily accessible to all, the Annual Reports and Information Staff also expanded the use of interactive data visualizations in the online indicator portal and adapted the text to help readers more easily locate key statistics.

This year’s Condition also includes two Spotlight indicators. These Spotlights examine challenges faced by schools during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Teacher Openings in Elementary and Secondary Schools. Among public schools with at least one open teaching position, the percentage of schools that found it difficult or were unable to fill these positions was higher in 2020–21 than in 2011–12 across 12 reported subject areas. This was also true of private schools in 10 of 12 reported subjects. Over a similar period, from 2012–13 to 2019–20, the number of persons completing traditional teacher preparation programs decreased by 28 percent, from 161,000 in 2012–13 to 116,100 in 2019–20.  
  • Recovery from the Coronavirus Pandemic in K–12 education. Using experimental data from the School Pulse Panel, this indicator shows that public schools reported wide-ranging concerns from students and parents during the coronavirus pandemic, including academic concerns, social concerns, and health concerns. Some of the most commonly used strategies to support students’ learning recovery included: identifying individual needs with diagnostic assessment data (79 percent), identifying individual needs with formative assessment data (76 percent), and summer 2021 learning/enrichment programs (76 percent). Reported effectiveness of these strategies varied. Nevertheless, public schools reported that some learning recovery had taken place between the beginning and end of the 2021–22 school year.  Specifically, public schools reported on average that 36 percent of students were behind grade level in at least one academic subject at the end of the 2021–22 school year, compared to a reported 50 percent on average at the beginning of the school year.

Findings from throughout the indicators offer additional information to complicate and deepen our understanding of these Spotlight findings. These additional findings speak to the value of exploring a wide range of data sources across the Condition. For instance:

  • Despite difficulty hiring, the number of master’s degrees conferred in education was 5 percent higher in 2020–21 than in 2018–19 (the last full academic year prior to the coronavirus pandemic).
  • Despite reports of learning recovery over the course of the 2021–22 school year (in terms of the percentage of students behind grade level in at least one subject), data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) show declines in scale scores for 4th and 8th grade students from 2019 to 2022 in both mathematics and reading.

Additionally, the Condition of Education covers a wide range of outcomes across the educational career. For example, some key findings include:

  • The percentage of 3- to 4-year-olds enrolled in school in 2021 (50 percent) was 10 percentage points higher than 2020 (40 percent), but remained lower than 2019 (54 percent). Some 86 percent of 5-year-olds were enrolled in school in 2021, compared with 91 percent in 2019.
  • Despite overall public school enrollment declines during the pandemic, these downward trends were not universally observed across grade levels or across school types. The decrease in total public enrollment during the pandemic was driven by enrollment declines at the pre K–8 level, particularly from fall 2019 to fall 2020, while enrollment in grades 9–12 continued to increase each year from fall 2019 to fall 2021. Between fall 2019 and fall 2020, while traditional public school enrollment decreased by 4 percent, public charter school enrollment increased by 7 percent.
  • Between fall 2010 and fall 2021, total undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions decreased by 15 percent (from 18.1 million to 15.4 million students), with 42 percent (1.1 million students) of this decline occurring during the pandemic. Meanwhile, total enrollment in postbaccalaureate programs increased by 5 percent between fall 2010 and fall 2019 (from 2.9 million to 3.1 million students) and continued to increase by another 5 percent during the pandemic (to 3.2 million students in fall 2021).
  • Of the degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions in 2020–21, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields made up 8 percent of associate’s degrees, 21 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 17 percent of master’s degrees, and 15 percent of doctor’s degrees.  The percentage of degrees conferred in a STEM field varied by student race/ethnicity and was highest for Asian students at all degree levels except for doctor’s degrees, which was highest for students of Two or more races and White students.
  • Between 2010 and 2022, educational attainment rates among 25- to 29-year-olds increased at different levels of attainment. In general, educational attainment rates increased for both male and female 25- to 29-year-olds as well as for most racial/ethnic groups. However, attainment gaps between some groups persisted in 2022.

The Condition also includes findings At a Glance, which allow readers to quickly make comparisons within and across indicators, as well as a Reader’s Guide, a Glossary, and a Guide to Sources that provide additional information to help place the indicators in context. In addition, each indicator references the source data tables that were used to produce that indicator. Most of these data tables are in NCES’s Digest of Education Statistics.

By providing this high quality and useful information, the Condition of Education serves as an important resource for policymakers as well as parents, educators, and the education community.

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 TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

signature Peggy G. Carr, Ph.D.
Peggy G. Carr, Ph.D.
National Center for Education Statistics