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Annual Reports and Information Staff (Annual Reports)

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

May 2021

On behalf of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), I am 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 1,000) 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.

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James L. Woodworth
Commissioner
National Center for Education Statistics