The Introduction provides an overview of key data presented throughout this volume, describing in brief the participation of students, teachers, and faculty in U.S. educational institutions; the performance of U.S. elementary/secondary students overall and in comparison to students in other countries; the numbers of high school graduates and postsecondary degrees; and the amounts of expenditures on education at the elementary/secondary and postsecondary levels.
In fall 2012, about 76.3 million people were enrolled in American schools and colleges (table 1). About 4.7 million people were employed as elementary and secondary school teachers or as college faculty, in full-time equivalents (FTE). Other professional, administrative, and support staff at educational institutions totaled 5.6 million. All data for 2012 in this Introduction are projected, except for data on educational attainment. Some data for other years are projected or estimated as noted. In discussions of historical trends, different time periods and specific years are cited, depending on the timing of important changes as well as the availability of relevant data.
A pattern of annual increases in total public elementary and secondary school enrollment began in 1985, but enrollment stabilized at 49.3 million between 2006 and 2008, before beginning to increase again (table 3). Overall, public school enrollment rose 26 percent, from 39.4 million to 49.8 million, between 1985 and 2012. Private school enrollment fluctuated during this period, with the fall 2012 enrollment of 5.3 million being 5 percent lower than the enrollment of 5.6 million in 1985. About 10 percent of elementary and secondary school students were enrolled in private schools in 2012.
In public schools between 1985 and 2012, there was a 30 percent increase in elementary enrollment (prekindergarten through grade 8), compared with a 19 percent increase in secondary enrollment (grades 9 through 12) (table 3). Part of the relatively fast growth in public elementary school enrollment resulted from the expansion of prekindergarten enrollment (table 39). Between fall 1985 and fall 2010, enrollment in prekindergarten increased 745 percent, while enrollment in other elementary grades (including kindergarten through grade 8 plus ungraded elementary programs) increased 24 percent. The number of children enrolled in prekindergarten increased from 0.2 million in 1985 to 1.3 million in 2010, and the number enrolled in other elementary grades increased from 26.9 million to 33.3 million. Public secondary school enrollment declined 8 percent from 1985 to 1990, but then increased 33 percent from 1990 to 2007, before declining 2 percent from 2007 to 2012 (table 3). Between 1990 and 2012, the net increase in public secondary school enrollment was 30 percent, compared with a 17 percent increase in public elementary school enrollment. Overall, public school enrollment rose 3 percent between 2002 and 2012.
Since the enrollment rates of 5- and 6-year-olds, 7- to 13-year-olds, and 14- to 17-year-olds changed by about 2 or fewer percentage points from 1985 to 2011, increases in public elementary and secondary school enrollment primarily reflect increases in the number of children in these age groups (tables 7 and 19). For example, the enrollment rate of 7- to 13-year-olds decreased from 99 to 98 percent between 1985 and 2011, but the number of 7- to 13-year-olds increased by 25 percent. Increases in both the enrollment rate of 3- and 4-year-old children (from 39 percent in 1985 to 52 percent in 2011) and the number of children in this age group (from 7.1 million to 8.2 million) also contributed to overall enrollment increases.
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) projects record levels of total elementary and secondary enrollment from 2012 (55.1 million) through at least 2021 (58.4 million) (table 3). For public schools, the projected fall 2012 enrollment is expected to be a new record, and new records are expected every year through 2021, the last year for which NCES enrollment projections have been developed. Public elementary school enrollment (prekindergarten through grade 8) is projected to increase by 7 percent between 2012 and 2021. Public secondary school enrollment (grades 9 through 12) is expected to increase 5 percent between 2012 and 2021. Overall, total public school enrollment is expected to increase 7 percent between 2012 and 2021.
A projected 3.7 million full-time-equivalent (FTE) elementary and secondary school teachers were engaged in classroom instruction in fall 2012 (table 4). This number has risen 7 percent since 2002. The 2012 projected number of FTE teachers includes 3.3 million public school teachers and 0.4 million private school teachers.
The number of public school teachers has increased by a larger percentage than the number of public school students over the past 10 years, resulting in declines in the pupil/teacher ratio (table 76). In fall 2002, the number of public school pupils per teacher was 15.9, compared with a projected number of 15.2 public school pupils per teacher in fall 2012.
The average salary for public school teachers in 2011–12 was $56,643 in current dollars (i.e., dollars that are not adjusted for inflation) (table 90). In constant (i.e., inflation-adjusted) dollars, the average salary was about 1 percent higher in 2011–12 than in 1990–91.
Most of the student performance data in the Digest are drawn from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The NAEP assessments have been conducted using three basic designs: the national main NAEP, state NAEP, and long-term trend NAEP. The national main NAEP and state NAEP provide current information about student performance in a variety of subjects, while long-term trend NAEP provides information on performance since the early 1970s in reading and mathematics only. Results from long-term trend NAEP are included in the discussion in chapter 2 of the Digest, while the information in this Introduction includes only results from the national main and state NAEP.
The main NAEP reports current information for the nation and specific geographic regions of the country. The assessment program includes students drawn from both public and private schools and reports results for student achievement at grades 4, 8, and 12. The main NAEP assessments follow the frameworks developed by the National Assessment Governing Board and use the latest advances in assessment methodology. The state NAEP is identical in content to the national main NAEP, but the state NAEP reports information only for public school students. Chapter 2 presents more information on the NAEP designs and methodology, and additional details appear in Appendix A: Guide to Sources.
The main NAEP assessment data are reported on a scale of 0 to 500. From 2009 to 2011, there were no measurable changes in average reading scores for 4th-grade males and females or for 4th-grade students from any of the five racial/ethnic groups (table 141). From 1992 to 2011, male 4th-graders' average reading scores increased from 213 to 218 and female 4th-graders' scores increased from 221 to 225 (tables 141 and 142). The 2011 average NAEP reading scale score for 8th-graders was 1 point higher than the 2009 score and 5 points higher than the 1992 score. For 12th-graders, the 2009 average reading score was 4 points lower than the score in 1992 but 2 points higher than the score in 2005 (12th-graders were not assessed in 2007 or 2011).
The 2011 main NAEP reading assessment of states found that the average reading proficiency of public school 4th- and 8th-graders varied across participating jurisdictions (the 50 states, the Department of Defense overseas and domestic schools, and the District of Columbia). For 4th-graders in public schools, the U.S. average score was 220, with average scores in participating jurisdictions ranging from 201 in the District of Columbia to 237 in Massachusetts (table 146). For 8th-graders in public schools, the U.S. average score was 264, with average scores in participating jurisdictions ranging from 242 in the District of Columbia to 275 in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Massachusetts (table 148).
The average mathematics score for the nation's 4th-graders in 2011 was higher than the scores in the eight previous assessment years (table 160). On a 0- to 500-point scale, 4th-graders scored 1 point higher in 2011 than in 2009 and 28 points higher than in 1990 (the first assessment year). Average scores for White, Black, and Hispanic 4th-graders were higher in 2011 than in any of the previous assessment years. The 25-point score gap between White and Black 4th-graders in 2011 was not significantly different from the gap in 2009. However, larger gains from 1990 to 2011 for Black 4th-graders than for White 4th-graders contributed to a smaller gap in 2011 than in 1990. The 20-point score gap between White and Hispanic 4th-graders in 2011 was not significantly different from the gap in either 2009 or 1990. For the nation's 8th-graders, the average mathematics score in 2011 was also higher than the scores in the eight previous assessment years. Eighth-graders scored 1 point higher in 2011 than in 2009 and 21 points higher than in 1990. The average score for female 8th-graders was higher in 2011 than in 2009, while there was no significant change in the score for males. Scores for both groups were higher in 2011 than in the earlier assessment years, from 1990 to 2007. Male 8th-graders scored 1 point higher, on average, than female 8th-graders in 2011. While there were no significant changes from 2009 to 2011 in the average scores for White or Black 8th-graders, the average score for Hispanic 8th-graders was 4 points higher in 2011 than in 2009. Scores for all three groups were higher in 2011 than in 1990. The 31-point score gap between White and Black 8th-graders in 2011 did not differ significantly from the gap in either 2009 or 1990. The 23-point score gap between White and Hispanic 8th-graders in 2011 was smaller than the gap in 2009 but not significantly different from the gap in 1990. For 12th-graders, the average mathematics score (reported on a scale of 0 to 300) was 3 points higher in 2009 than in 2005 (data for 12th-graders were not collected in 2011). Average scores increased from 2005 to 2009 for both male and female 12th-graders as well as for 12th-graders from all the racial/ethnic groups.
The 2011 main NAEP assessment of states found that the average mathematics proficiency of public school 4th- and 8th-graders varied across participating jurisdictions (the 50 states, the Department of Defense overseas and domestic schools, and the District of Columbia). For 4th-graders in public schools, the U.S. average score was 240, with average scores in participating jurisdictions ranging from 222 in the District of Columbia to 252 in New Hampshire and 253 in Massachusetts (table 164). For 8th-graders in public schools, the U.S. average score was 283, with average scores in participating jurisdictions ranging from 260 in the District of Columbia to 299 in Massachusetts (table 165).
NAEP has assessed the science abilities of students in grades 4, 8, and 12 in both public and private schools since 1996. As of 2009, however, NAEP science assessments are based on a new framework, so results from these assessments cannot be compared to results from earlier science assessments. Scores are based on a scale ranging from 0 to 300. In 2009, White 4th-graders had a higher average science score (163) than did Black (127), Hispanic (131), Asian/Pacific Islander (160), and American Indian/Alaska Native (135) 4th-graders (table 168). The average science score was higher for male 4th-graders (151) than for female 4th-graders (149). In 2009, the pattern of differences in average science scores by students' race/ethnicity at grade 8 was similar to the pattern at grade 4. The average science score also was higher for male 8th-graders (152) than for female 8th-graders (148). At grade 12, average scores for White (159) and Asian/Pacific Islander (164) students were higher than the scores for Black (125), Hispanic (134), and American Indian/Alaska Native (144) students. The average science score in 2009 for male 12th-graders (153) was higher than the score for female 12th-graders (147). In 2011, a science assessment was conducted at grade 8 only. The average 8th-grade science score increased from 150 in 2009 to 152 in 2011. Although the average science score of White 8th-graders continued to be higher than the average scores of 8th-graders in the other racial/ethnic groups in 2011, score gaps between White and Black 8th-graders and between White and Hispanic 8th-graders narrowed from 2009 to 2011. In 2011, the average score of male 8th-graders was 5 points higher than the average score of female 8th-graders, which was not significantly different from the 4-point gap in 2009.
The 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) assessed students' mathematics and science performance at grade 4 in 45 countries and at grade 8 in 38 countries. In addition to countries, a number of subnational entities—including the public school systems in several U.S. states—also participated in TIMSS as separate education systems. Results for the participating states are included in the discussion in chapter 6 of the Digest, while this Introduction includes only results for the United States and other countries. TIMSS assessments are curriculum based and measure what students have actually learned against the subject matter that is expected to be taught in the participating countries by the end of grades 4 and 8. At both grades, TIMSS scores are reported on a scale of 0 to 1,000, with the scale average set at 500. In 2011, the average mathematics scores of U.S. 4th-graders (541) and 8th-graders (509) were higher than the scale average (tables 460 and 461). U.S. 4th-graders scored higher in mathematics, on average, than their counterparts in 37 countries and lower than those in 3 countries (table 460). Average mathematics scores in the other 4 countries were not measurably different from the U.S. average. At grade 8, the average U.S. mathematics score was higher than the average scores of students in 27 countries in 2011 and below the average scores of students in 4 countries (table 461). Average 8th-grade mathematics scores in the other 6 countries were not measurably different from the U.S. average. The average science scores of both U.S. 4th-graders (544) and U.S. 8th-graders (525) were higher than the TIMSS scale average of 500 in 2011. The average U.S. 4th-grade science score was higher than the average scores of students in 39 countries and lower than those of students in 5 countries. At grade 8, the average U.S. science score was higher than the average scores of students in 28 countries, lower than those in 6 countries, and not measurably different from those in the other 3 countries.
The 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) assessed 15-year-olds' reading, mathematics, and science literacy in 34 countries that are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and in 31 non-OECD jurisdictions. PISA scores are reported on a scale of 0 to 1,000. In reading literacy, the average score of 15-year-olds in the United States was 500, which was not measurably different from the OECD average of 493 (table 463). The average reading literacy score in the United States was lower than the average score in 6 of the 33 other OECD countries that participated in the 2009 assessment, higher than the average score in 13 of the other OECD countries, and not measurably different from the average score in 14 of the OECD countries. Three of the 31 participating non-OECD jurisdictions had higher average reading literacy scores than the United States. In mathematics literacy, U.S. 15-year-olds' average score of 487 on the 2009 PISA was lower than the OECD average score of 496. The average mathematics literacy score in the United States was lower than the average score in 17 OECD countries, higher than the average score in 5 OECD countries, and not measurably different from the average score in 11 OECD countries. Six of the non-OECD jurisdictions had higher average mathematics literacy scores than the United States. In science literacy, the average score of 15-year-olds in the United States was not measurably different from the OECD average score. The U.S. average science literacy score was lower than the average score in 12 OECD countries, higher than the average score in 9 OECD countries, and not measurably different from the average score in 12 OECD countries. Six of the non-OECD jurisdictions had higher science literacy scores than the United States.
The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) measures the reading knowledge and skills of 4th-graders over time. On the 2011 PIRLS, U.S. 4th-graders had an average reading literacy score of 556 (table 462). The U.S. average score in 2011 was 14 points higher than in 2001 and 16 points higher than in 2006. In all 3 assessment years, the U.S. average score was higher than the PIRLS scale average. (PIRLS scores are reported on a scale from 0 to 1,000, with the scale average set at 500.) In 2011, PIRLS assessed 4th-grade reading literacy in 40 countries. The average reading literacy score of 4th-graders in the United States was higher than the average score in 33 of the 39 other participating countries, lower than the average score in 3 countries, and not measurably different from the average in the remaining 3 countries.
High School Graduates and Dropouts
About 3,376,000 high school students are expected to graduate during the 2012–13 school year (table 122), including about 3,092,000 public school graduates and 283,000 private school graduates. High school graduates include only recipients of diplomas, not recipients of equivalency credentials. The number of high school graduates projected for 2012–13 is lower than the record high in 2009–10, but exceeds the high point during the baby boom era in 1975–76, when 3,142,000 students earned diplomas. In 2009–10, an estimated 78.2 percent of public high school students graduated on time—that is, received a diploma 4 years after beginning their freshman year (table 124).
The number of General Educational Development (GED) credentials issued by the states to GED test passers rose from 330,000 in 1977 to 487,000 in 2000 (table 127). A record number of 648,000 GED credentials were issued in 2001. In 2002, there were revisions to the GED test and to the data reporting procedures. In 2001, test takers were required to successfully complete all five components of the GED or else begin the five-part series again with the new test that was introduced in 2002. Prior to 2002, reporting was based on summary data from the states on the number of GED credentials issued. As of 2002, reporting has been based on individual GED candidate- and test-level records collected by the GED Testing Service. Between 2002 and 2011, the number of persons passing the GED tests increased by 32 percent, from 330,000 to 434,000.1
The percentage of dropouts among 16- to 24-year-olds has decreased over the past two decades. This percentage, known as the status dropout rate, includes all people in the 16- to 24-year-old age group who are not enrolled in school and who have not completed a high school program, regardless of when they left school. (People who left school but went on to receive a GED credential are not treated as dropouts in this measure.) Between 1990 and 2011, the status dropout rate declined from 12.1 percent to 7.1 percent (table 128). Although the status dropout rate declined for both Blacks and Hispanics during this period, their rates in 2011 (7.3 and 13.6 percent, respectively) remained higher than the rate for Whites (5.0 percent). This measure is based on the civilian noninstitutionalized population, which excludes people in prisons, people in the military, and other people not living in households.
The number of computers used for instruction in public elementary and secondary schools has increased. In 2008, the average public school contained 189 instructional computers, compared to 110 in 2000 (table 120). Most of these computers (98 percent) had internet access in 2008, up from 77 percent in 2000. There were 3 students per computer with internet access in 2008, compared to 7 students per computer with internet access in 2000.
College enrollment was 21.0 million in fall 2011, which was nearly as high as the record enrollment in fall 2010 (table 3). College enrollment is expected to set new records from fall 2012 through fall 2021. Between fall 2011 and fall 2021, enrollment is expected to increase by 13 percent. Despite decreases in the size of the traditional college-age population (18 to 24 years old) during the late 1980s and early 1990s, total enrollment increased during this period (tables 19 and 221). The traditional college-age population rose 11 percent between 2001 and 2011, and total college enrollment increased 32 percent during the same period. Between 2001 and 2011, the number of full-time students increased by 38 percent, compared with a 23 percent increase in part-time students (table 221). During the same time period, the number of males enrolled increased 30 percent, while the number of females enrolled increased 33 percent.
In fall 2011, degree-granting institutions—defined as postsecondary institutions that grant an associate's or higher degree and are eligible for Title IV federal financial aid programs—employed 1.5 million faculty members, including 0.8 million full-time and 0.8 million part-time faculty (table 286). In addition, degree-granting institutions employed 0.4 million graduate assistants.
During the 2012–13 academic year, postsecondary degrees are projected to number 993,000 associate's degrees; 1,812,000 bachelor's degrees; 756,000 master's degrees; and 175,000 doctor's degrees (table 310). The doctor's degree total includes most degrees formerly classified as first-professional, such as M.D., D.D.S., and law degrees. Between 2000–01 and 2010–11 (the last year of actual data), the number of degrees conferred increased at all levels. The number of associate's degrees was 63 percent higher in 2010–11 than in 2000–01, the number of bachelor's degrees was 38 percent higher, the number of master's degrees was 54 percent higher, and the number of doctor's degrees was 37 percent higher.
Between 2000–01 and 2010–11, the number of bachelor's degrees awarded to males increased 38 percent, as did the number of bachelor's degrees awarded to females. Females earned 57 percent of all bachelor's degrees in 2010–11, the same percentage as in 2000–01. Between 2000–01 and 2010–11, the number of White students earning bachelor's degrees increased 28 percent, compared with the larger increases of 55 percent for Black students, 98 percent for Hispanic students, 53 percent for Asian/Pacific Islander students, and 32 percent for American Indian/Alaska Native students (table 328). In 2010–11, White students earned 69 percent of all bachelor's degrees awarded (vs. 75 percent in 2000–01), Black students earned 10 percent (vs. 9 percent in 2000–01), Hispanic students earned 9 percent (vs. 6 percent in 2000–01), and Asian/Pacific Islander students earned 7 percent (vs. 6 percent in 2000–01). American Indian/Alaska Native students earned about 1 percent of the degrees in both years.
For the 2011–12 academic year, annual prices for undergraduate tuition, room, and board were estimated to be $14,292 at public institutions, $37,768 at private nonprofit institutions, and $23,330 at private for-profit institutions (table 381). Between 2001–02 and 2011–12, prices for undergraduate tuition, room, and board at public institutions rose 40 percent, and prices at private nonprofit institutions rose 28 percent, after adjustment for inflation. Prices for total tuition, room, and board at private for-profit institutions were 2 percent lower in 2011–12 than in 2001–02.
The U.S. Census Bureau collects annual statistics on the educational attainment of the population. Between 2002 and 2012, the percentage of the adult population 25 years of age and over who had completed high school rose from 84 percent to 88 percent, and the percentage of adults with a bachelor's degree increased from 27 percent to 31 percent (table 8). High school completers include those people who graduated from high school with a diploma, as well as those who completed high school through equivalency programs. The percentage of young adults (25- to 29-year-olds) who had completed high school increased from 86 percent in 2002 to 90 percent in 2012 (table 9).2 The percentage of young adults who had completed a bachelor's degree increased from 29 percent in 2002 to 33 percent in 2012.
Expenditures for public and private education, from prekindergarten through graduate school (excluding postsecondary schools not awarding associate's or higher degrees), are estimated at $1.2 trillion for 2011–12 (table 28). Expenditures of elementary and secondary schools are expected to total $700 billion, while those of degree-granting postsecondary institutions are expected to total $483 billion. Total expenditures for education are expected to amount to 7.8 percent of the gross domestic product in 2011–12, about 0.5 percentage points higher than in 2001–02.
1 Information on changes in GED test series
and reporting is based on the 2003 edition of Who Passed the GED Tests?,
by the GED Testing Service of the American Council on Education, as well as communication
with staff of the GED Testing Service.
2 For the 2002 data on high school completion and bachelor's degree attainment of 25- to 29-year-olds, see Digest of Education Statistics 2011 (NCES 2012-001), table 8.