This chapter contains a variety of statistics on public and private elementary and secondary education. Data are presented for enrollments, teachers and other school staff, schools, dropouts, achievement, school violence, and revenues and expenditures. These data are derived from surveys, censuses, and administrative data collections conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and other public and private organizations. The information ranges from counts of students and schools to state graduation requirements.
Public elementary and secondary school enrollment rose from 49.5 million in 2010 to 50.4 million in 2015, an increase of 2 percent (table 203.10 and figure 7). Public elementary enrollment (prekindergarten through grade 8) increased 2 percent between 2010 and 2015 (from 34.6 million to 35.4 million), while public secondary enrollment (grades 9 through 12) was 1 percent higher in 2015 (15.1 million) than in 2010 (14.9 million). Although public school enrollment increased overall between 2010 and 2015, there were enrollment decreases for some racial/ethnic groups and increases for others (table 203.50). Between 2010 and 2015, the enrollment of Hispanic students increased 14 percent and the enrollment of Asian/Pacific Islander students increased 9 percent. In contrast, the enrollment of American Indian/Alaska Native students decreased 10 percent, the enrollment of White students decreased 5 percent, and the enrollment of Black students decreased 2 percent. The reported number of students of Two or more races increased 48 percent between 2010 and 2015.
From 2010 to 2015, changes in public elementary and secondary school enrollment varied from state to state. Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia had higher enrollment in 2015 than in 2010, while 16 states had lower enrollment in 2015 than in 2010 (table 203.20 and figure 8). The largest public school enrollment increases occurred in the District of Columbia (18 percent), North Dakota (13 percent), and Utah (11 percent), and increases of more than 5 percent occurred in 10 other states (Texas, Nevada, Oregon, Colorado, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Nebraska, Florida, and South Carolina). The largest decrease in public school enrollment occurred in Vermont (9 percent), and decreases of more than 4 percent occurred in 3 other states (New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut).
Enrollment in private elementary and secondary schools in 2015 (5.8 million) was 5 percent lower than in 2005 (6.1 million) (table 205.10). In 2015, private school students made up 10.3 percent of all elementary and secondary school students.
Sixty-five percent of 3- to 5-year-olds were enrolled in preprimary education (nursery school and kindergarten) in 2016, which was not measurably different from the percentage enrolled in 2005 (table 202.10 and figure 9). However, the percentage of these children in full-day programs increased from 58 percent in 2005 to 65 percent in 2016.
In 2016, a higher percentage of 3- to 5-year-old children not yet enrolled in kindergarten (49 percent) were cared for primarily in center-based programs than had no regular nonparental care (27 percent) or were cared for primarily in home-based settings by relatives (14 percent) or by nonrelatives (8 percent) (table 202.30). An earlier survey in 2005–06 found that there were differences in the average quality of care 4-year-old children received in these settings. A higher percentage of children in Head Start and other center-based programs (35 percent) received high-quality care than those in home-based relative and nonrelative care (9 percent), according to the ratings of trained observers (web-only table 202.60).
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), enacted in 1975, mandates that children and youth ages 3–21 with disabilities be provided a free and appropriate public school education. The percentage of total public school enrollment that represents children served by federally supported special education programs increased from 8.3 percent to 13.8 percent between 1976–77 and 2004–05 (table 204.30 and Digest of Education Statistics 2016, table 204.30). Much of this overall increase can be attributed to a rise in the percentage of students identified as having specific learning disabilities from 1976–77 (1.8 percent) to 2004–05 (5.7 percent). The overall percentage of students being served in programs for those with disabilities decreased between 2004–05 (13.8 percent) and 2015–16 (13.2 percent). However, there were different patterns of change in the percentages of students served with some specific conditions between 2004–05 and 2015–16. The percentage of children identified as having other health impairments (limited strength, vitality, or alertness due to chronic or acute health problems such as a heart condition, tuberculosis, rheumatic fever, nephritis, asthma, sickle cell anemia, hemophilia, epilepsy, lead poisoning, leukemia, or diabetes) rose from 1.1 to 1.8 percent of total public school enrollment; the percentage with autism rose from 0.4 to 1.2 percent; and the percentage with developmental delay rose from 0.7 to 0.9 percent. The percentage of children with specific learning disabilities declined from 5.7 percent to 4.6 percent of total public school enrollment during this period. In fall 2015, some 95 percent of 6- to 21-year-old students with disabilities were served in regular schools; 3 percent were served in a separate school for students with disabilities; 1 percent were placed in regular private schools by their parents; and less than 1 percent each were served in one of the following environments: in a separate residential facility, homebound or in a hospital, or in a correctional facility (table 204.60).
During the 1970s and early 1980s, public school enrollment decreased while the number of teachers generally increased. For public schools, the number of pupils per teacher—that is, the pupil/teacher ratio1—declined from 22.3 in 1970 to 17.9 in 1985 (table 208.20 and figure 7). After enrollment started increasing in 1985, the public school pupil/teacher ratio continued to decline, reaching 17.2 in 1989. After a period of relative stability from the late 1980s through the mid-1990s, the ratio declined from 17.3 in 1995 to 15.3 in 2008. After 2008, the public school pupil/teacher ratio increased, reaching 16.0 in 2015. In comparison, the private school pupil/teacher ratio was 11.9 in 2015. The average class size in 2011–12 was 21.2 pupils for public elementary schools and 26.8 pupils for public secondary schools (table 209.30).
The percentage of public school teachers who were females increased from 75 percent in 1999–2000 to 77 percent in 2015–16 (tables 209.10 and 209.22). During the same time period, the percentage of teachers who were White declined from 84 percent to 80 percent and the number of teachers who were Black declined from 8 to 7 percent. The percentage of teachers who were Hispanic increased from 6 to 9 percent between 1999–2000 and 2015–16. Between 1999–2000 and 2015–16, the percentage of public school teachers who had completed a postbaccalaureate degree increased from 47 to 57 percent. The percentage of teachers with over 20 years of teaching experience declined from 32 percent in 1999–2000 to 22 percent in 2015–16; however, the percentage of teachers with 10 to 20 years of experience increased from 29 to 39 percent during this period.
Public school principals tend to be older and have more advanced credentials than public school teachers. In 2015–16, some 19 percent of public school principals were under age 40, and 98 percent had a master’s or higher degree (table 212.08). In comparison, 43 percent of public school teachers were under age 40, and 57 percent had a master’s or higher degree. A lower percentage of public school principals than of teachers were female: 54 percent of principals were female, compared with 77 percent of teachers.
From 1969–70 to 1980, there was an 8 percent increase in the number of public school teachers, compared with a 48 percent increase in the number of all other public school staff2 (table B and table 213.10). Consequently, the percentage of staff who were teachers declined from 60 percent in 1969–70 to 52 percent in 1980. From 1980 to 2015, the number of teachers and the number of all other staff grew at more similar rates (44 and 63 percent, respectively) than they did in the 1970s. As a result, the proportion of teachers among total staff was 3 percentage points lower in 2015 than in 1980, in contrast to the decrease of 8 percentage points during the 1970s. The numbers of staff in two categories increased more than 100 percent between 1980 and 2015: the number of instructional aides rose 135 percent, and the number of instruction coordinators rose 326 percent. Taken together, the percentage of staff with direct instructional responsibilities (teachers and instructional aides) was higher in 2015 (61 percent) than in 1980 (60 percent). In 2015, there were 8 pupils per staff member (total staff) at public schools, compared with 10 pupils per staff member in 1980 (table 213.10). At private schools in 2011–12, the number of pupils per staff member was 6 (web-only table 205.60).
In more recent years, the numbers of most types of staff have increased (table 213.10). Overall, the number of public school staff was 3 percent higher in fall 2015 than in fall 2010. The number of officials and administrators rose 5 percent during this period, and the number of principals and assistant principals rose 10 percent. Also, the number of instruction coordinators was 26 percent higher, the number of instructional aides was 4 percent higher, and the number of support staff was 4 percent higher. The number of teachers was 2 percent higher and the number of guidance counselors was 3 percent higher. In contrast, the number of librarians decreased by 14 percent.
|Table B. Number of public school staff, by selected categories: 1969–70, 1980, and 2015|
|Selected staff category||1969–70||1980||2015|
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Statistics of State School Systems, 1969–70; Statistics of Public Elementary and Secondary Schools, 1980; and Common Core of Data (CCD), “State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary/Secondary Education,” 2015–16.
During most of the last century, the trend of consolidating small schools brought declines in the total number of public schools in the United States. In 1929–30, there were approximately 248,000 public schools, compared with about 98,000 in 2015–16 (table 214.10). However, the number of public schools has increased in recent decades: Between 1988–89 and 2006–07, there was an increase of approximately 15,600 schools. Since 2006–07, the number of public schools has remained relatively stable, varying by fewer than 500 schools from year to year.
While the total number of public schools in the country has remained relatively stable in recent years, new schools have opened and some schools have closed. In 2015–16, there were 1,160 school closures (web-only table 216.95). The schools that closed had enrolled about 195,000 students in the prior school year (2014–15). Of the schools that closed, 893 were regular schools, 32 were special education schools, 14 were vocational schools, and 221 were alternative schools. Of these closed schools, 280 were classified as charter schools. The number of schools that closed in 2015–16 was lower than the number in 2000–01 (1,193); however, the number of annual school closures fluctuated during this period, ranging from 1,160 to 2,168. School closures do not necessarily reflect the number of school buildings that have been closed, since a school may share a building with another school, or one school may have multiple buildings.
Since the early 1970s, public school systems have been shifting away from junior high schools (schools consisting of either grades 7 and 8 or grades 7–9) and moving toward middle schools (a subset of elementary schools beginning with grade 4, 5, or 6 and ending with grade 6, 7, or 8) (table 216.10). Although the number of all elementary schools (schools beginning with grade 6 or below and ending with grade 8 or below) was similar in 1970–71 and 2000–01 (64,000 and 64,600, respectively), the number of middle schools increased by 462 percent (from 2,100 in 1970–71 to 11,700 in 2000–01). During the same period, the number of junior high schools declined by 57 percent (from 7,800 in 1970–71 to 3,300 in 2000–01). The number of all elementary schools was 1 percent higher in 2015–16 than in 2005–06, while the subset of middle schools rose by 4 percent to 13,000. During the same period, the number of junior high schools declined by 20 percent to 2,600. The total number of secondary schools in 2015–16 (24,000) was about the same as the number in 2005–06.
The average number of students in public elementary schools in 2015–16 (482) was higher than in 2005–06 (473) (table 216.45). The average enrollment size of public secondary schools decreased from 709 students in 2005–06 to 698 students in 2015–16. The average size of regular public secondary schools—which exclude alternative, special education, and vocational education schools—decreased from 819 students in 2005–06 to 797 students in 2015–16.
Over the past two decades, the range of options that parents have for the education of their children has expanded. Private schools have been a traditional alternative to public school education, but there are now more options for parents to choose public charter schools, and more parents are also homeschooling their children. Between fall 1999 and fall 2015, enrollment in elementary and secondary private schools decreased from 6.0 million to 5.8 million, a decline of 0.3 million or 4 percent (table 205.10). Although private school enrollment declined through much of this period, it was higher in fall 2015 (5.8 million) than in fall 2011 (5.3 million). From fall 1999 to fall 2015, the percentage of students who were enrolled in private schools declined from 11.4 percent to 10.3 percent. In contrast, enrollment in public charter schools increased between fall 1999 and fall 2015, rising from 0.3 million to 2.8 million, an increase of 2.5 million students (table 216.20). During this period, the percentage of public elementary and secondary school students who were in charter schools increased from 0.7 percent to 5.7 percent. In addition, there has been an increase in the number and percentage of 5- to 17-year-olds who are homeschooled (tables 206.10 and 206.20). About 1.7 million children were homeschooled in 2016, compared to 0.9 million in 1999.3 Also, the percentage of 5- to 17-year-olds who were homeschooled in 2016 (3.3 percent) was higher than in 1999 (1.7 percent).
Charter schools are the typical form of school choice available to parents within the public education sector; however, there is also some opportunity for school choice among traditional public schools. In 2016, the parents of 41 percent of all students in grades 1–12 indicated that public school choice was available to them (table 206.40). Also in 2016, some 20 percent of the students in grades 1–12 were enrolled in public schools chosen by their families (table 206.30). Some 71 percent of students attended an assigned public school and 9 percent attended a private school. There were differences by some characteristics in the percentages of students who attended public schools chosen by their parents and the percentages of students who attended private schools in 2016. For example, the percentage of students attending chosen public schools was higher for Black students (32 percent) and Hispanic students (25 percent) than for White students (14 percent). In contrast, the percentage attending private schools was higher for White students (11 percent) than for Black students (8 percent) and Hispanic students (6 percent). There were also some differences in the percentage of students in chosen public schools by different levels of parental educational attainment. A lower percentage of students whose parents had completed only a bachelor’s degree (18 percent) were enrolled in chosen schools, compared to students whose parents had not completed high school (23 percent) or who had only completed high school (21 percent). In contrast, the percentage of students attending private schools was higher for students whose parents had a bachelor’s degree (13 percent) or graduate degree (18 percent) than for students whose parents had less than a high school diploma (5 percent), only a high school diploma (4 percent), or only some college or a vocational degree (6 percent). The percentage of students attending chosen public schools was higher for students living in cities (31 percent) than for students in suburban areas (17 percent), towns (14 percent), and rural areas (11 percent).
Compared with students in assigned public schools, a higher percentage of students in chosen public schools had parents who were very satisfied with some elements of their children’s education in 2016 (table 206.50). Among students in grades 3 through 12, the percentage of students whose parents were very satisfied with their school was higher for students in chosen schools (60 percent) than for students in assigned schools (54 percent). Similarly, the percentage of students whose parents were very satisfied with their school’s academic standards was higher for students in chosen schools (60 percent) than for students in assigned schools (53 percent). Also, higher percentages of students in chosen schools than in assigned schools had parents who were very satisfied with school order and discipline (57 vs. 53 percent) as well as with staff interaction with parents (51 vs. 47 percent). There was no measurable difference in the percentage of students who had parents who were highly satisfied with the teachers in their school, whether assigned or chosen.
About 3,643,000 high school students are expected to graduate during the 2018–19 school year (table 219.10), including 3,285,000 public school graduates and 358,000 private school graduates. High school graduates include only recipients of diplomas, not recipients of equivalency credentials. The 2018–19 projection of high school graduates is slightly lower than the prior record high projection of 3,651,000 graduates for 2017–18, but it exceeds the baby boom era’s high point in 1975–76, when 3,142,000 students earned diplomas. In 2015–16, about 84 percent of public high school students graduated with a regular diploma within 4 years of first starting 9th grade (table 219.46). This rate is known as the 4-year adjusted cohort graduation rate (ACGR).
The number of GED credentials issued by states to GED test passers rose from 330,000 in 1977 to 487,000 in 2000 (table 219.60). 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.4 In 2013, some 541,000 people passed the GED tests, up from 387,000 in 2003.
The status dropout rate has decreased over the past two decades (table 219.70). The status dropout rate is the percentage of the civilian noninstitutionalized 16- to 24-year-old population 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.) Between 1990 and 2016, the status dropout rate declined from 12.1 to 6.1 percent. During this period, the status dropout rate for Black 16- to 24-year-olds declined from 13.2 percent to 6.2 percent and the rate for Hispanic 16- to 24-year-olds declined from 32.4 to 8.6 percent. In 2016, the status dropout rate for White 16- to 24-year-olds (5.2 percent) was lower than the rate for Hispanic 16- to 24-year-olds, but it was not measurably different from the rate for Black 16- to 24-year-olds.
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 (which includes the Trial Urban District Assessment), and national long-term trend 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. Because the assessment items reflect curricula associated with specific grade levels, the main NAEP uses samples of students at those grade levels.
Since 1990, NAEP assessments have also been conducted at the state level. Each participating state receives assessment results that report on the performance of students in that state. In its content, the state assessment is identical to the assessment conducted nationally. From 1990 through 2001, the national sample was a subset of the combined sample of students assessed in each participating state along with an additional sample from the states that did not participate in the state assessment. For mathematics, reading, science, and writing assessments since 2002, a combined sample of public schools has been selected for 4th- and 8th-grade national NAEP and state NAEP (including the Trial Urban District Assessment).
NAEP long-term trend assessments are designed to give information on the changes in the basic achievement level of America’s youth since the early 1970s. They are administered nationally and report student performance in reading and mathematics at ages 9, 13, and 17. Measuring long-term trends of student achievement requires the precise replication of past procedures. For example, students of specific ages are sampled in order to maintain consistency with the original sample design. Similarly, the long-term trend instrument does not evolve based on changes in curricula or in educational practices. The differences in procedures between the main NAEP and the long-term trend NAEP mean that their results cannot be compared directly.
The following paragraphs discuss results for the national main NAEP, state NAEP, and long-term trend NAEP. Readers should keep in mind that comparisons of NAEP scores in the text (like all comparisons of estimates in the Digest) are based on statistical testing of unrounded values.
The main NAEP reading assessment data are reported on a scale of 0 to 500. In 2017, the average reading score for 4th-grade students (222) was not measurably different from the 2015 score but was higher than the 1992 score (217) (table 221.10). At grade 4, the 2017 scores for White (232), Black (206), Hispanic (209), and Asian/Pacific Islander (239) students were not measurably different from the scores in 2015, but the score for each group was higher than in 1992 (224, 192, 197, and 216, respectively). In 2017, the average score for American Indian/Alaska Native 4th-graders (202) was not measurably different from the scores in 2015 and 1994 (1994 was the first year data were available for 4th-grade American Indian/Alaska Native students). For 8th-grade students, the score in 2017 (267) was higher than in 2015 (265) or 1992 (260). At grade 8, the 2017 scores for White (275), Black (249), Hispanic (255), and Asian/Pacific Islander (282) students were not measurably different from the scores in 2015. Consistent with the findings at grade 4, the scores for White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islander 8th-grade students were higher in 2017 than in 1992. In 2017, the score for 8th-grade American Indian/Alaska Native students (253) was not measurably different from the scores in 2015 and in 1994 (1994 was the first year data were available for 8th-grade American Indian/Alaska Native students). For 12th-grade students, the score in 2015 (287) was not measurably different from the score in 2013, but it was lower than the score in 1992 (292). At grade 12, the 2015 scores for White (295), Hispanic (276), and Asian/Pacific Islander (297) students were not measurably different from the scores in 2013 and in 1992. For Black students, the 2015 score (266) was lower than the 1992 score (273), but it was not measurably different from the 2013 score.
From 1992 through 2017, the average reading scores for White 4th- and 8th-grade students were higher than those of their Black and Hispanic peers (table 221.10). Although the White-Black and White-Hispanic achievement gaps did not change measurably from 2015 to 2017 at either grade 4 or 8, some of the racial/ethnic achievement gaps have narrowed since 1992. At grade 4, the White-Black gap narrowed from 32 points in 1992 to 26 points in 2017; at grade 8, the White-Hispanic gap narrowed from 26 points in 1992 to 19 points in 2017.
While there was no measurable change from 2015 to 2017 in the average reading score for 4th-grade public school students nationally, scores were lower in 2017 than in 2015 in nine 9 states (table 221.40). The 4th-grade scores in the District of Columbia and the remaining 41 states did not change measurably from 2015 to 2017. The scores for 8th-grade public school students were higher in 2017 than in 2015 nationally and in 9 states (table 221.60). However, 8th-grade students in Montana scored lower in 2017 than in 2015, and the scores in the remaining 40 states and the District of Columbia did not change measurably from 2015 to 2017.
Reported on a scale of 0 to 500, NAEP long-term trend results in reading are available for 13 assessment years going back to the first in 1971. The average reading score for 9-year-olds was higher in 2012 (221) than in assessment years prior to 2008, increasing 5 points since 2004 and 13 points since 1971 (table 221.85). The score for 13-year-olds in 2012 (263) was higher than in all previous assessment years except for 1992. The score for 17-year-olds was higher in 2012 (287) than in 2004 (283), but it was not measurably different from the score in 1971 (285).
White, Black, and Hispanic 9-, 13-, and 17-year-old students all had higher average reading scores in 2012 than they did in the first assessment year (which was 1975 for Hispanic students because separate data for Hispanics were not collected in 1971). The scores were higher in 2012 than in 2004 for White, Black, and Hispanic students at all three ages (table 221.85). Reading results for 2012 continued to show gaps in scores between White and Black students (ranging from 23 to 26 points, depending on age) and between White and Hispanic students (about 21 points at all three ages). The White-Black and White-Hispanic achievement gaps were smaller in 2012 than in the first assessment year at all three ages. For example, the White-Black reading gap for 17-year-olds was 53 points in 1971 compared with 26 points in 2012. Similarly, the White-Hispanic gap for 17-year-olds narrowed from 41 points in 1975 to 21 points in 2012.
In 2012, female 9-, 13-, and 17-year-old students continued to have higher average reading scores than male students at all three ages (table 221.85). The gap between male and female 9-year-olds was 5 points in 2012; this was narrower than the gap in 1971 (13 points). The 8-point gender gap for 13-year-olds in 2012 was not measurably different from the gap in 1971. At age 17, the 8-point gap between males and females in 2012 was not measurably different from the gap in 1971.
The main NAEP mathematics assessment data for 4th- and 8th-graders are reported on a scale of 0 to 500 (table 222.10). The average 4th-grade mathematics score in 2017 (240) was not measurably different from the score in 2015, but it was higher than the score in 1990 (213). At grade 4, the scores in 2017 for White (248), Black (223), Hispanic (229), and Asian/Pacific Islander (258) students were not measurably different from the 2015 scores, but the score for each group was higher than in 1990 (220, 188, 200, and 225, respectively). The 2017 score for 4th-grade American Indian/Alaska Native students (227) was not measurably different from the scores in 2015 and in 1996 (1996 was the first year data were available for 4th-grade American Indian/Alaska Native students). The 8th-grade score in 2017 (283) was not measurably different from the score in 2015, but it was higher than the score in 1990 (263). At grade 8, the scores for White (293), Black (260), Hispanic (269), and Asian/Pacific Islander (310) students in 2017 were not measurably different from the scores in 2015, but the score for each group was higher than in 1990 (270, 237, 246, and 275, respectively). In 2017, the score for 8th-grade American Indian/Alaska Native students (267) was not measurably different from the scores in 2015 and in 2000 (2000 was the first year data were available for 8th-grade American Indian/Alaska Native students). Due to changes in the 12th-grade mathematics assessment framework, a new trend line started in 2005, with scores reported on a scale of 0 to 300. The 12th-grade score in 2015 (152) was lower than the score in 2013 (153) but not measurably different from the score in 2005, the first year the revised assessment was administered.
From 1990 through 2017, the average mathematics scores for White students in grades 4 and 8 were higher than those of their Black and Hispanic peers (table 222.10). Although the 4th-grade White-Black and White-Hispanic achievement gaps did not change measurably from 2015 to 2017, the White-Black achievement gap narrowed from 32 points in 1990 to 25 points in 2017. The 4th-grade White-Hispanic gap in 2017 (19 points) was not measurably different from the White-Hispanic gap in 1990. The 8th-grade White-Black gap (32 points) and White-Hispanic gap (24 points) in 2017 were not measurably different from the gaps in 2015 or in 1990.
While there was no measurable change from 2015 to 2017 in the average mathematics score for 4th-grade public school students nationally, the score was higher in 2017 than in 2015 in one state (Florida) (table 222.50). The mathematics scores for public school 4th-grade students were lower in 2017 than in 2015 in 10 states. For the remaining 39 states and the District of Columbia, scores in 2017 were not measurably different from the scores in 2015. At grade 8, the national average mathematics score for public school students in 2017 was not measurably different from the score in 2015 (table 222.60). In one state (Florida), the score for 8th-grade public school students was higher in 2017 than in 2015. In 3 states—Alaska, Rhode Island, and Vermont—the score for 8th-grade students in public schools was lower in 2017 than in 2015. The scores in the remaining 46 states and the District of Columbia showed no measurable difference between 2015 and 2017.
NAEP long-term trend mathematics results, reported on a scale of 0 to 500, are available for 12 assessment years, going back to the first in 1973. In 2012, the average mathematics score for 9-year-olds (244) was higher than in all previous assessment years prior to 2008 (table 222.85). The score for 9-year-olds in 2012 was 5 points higher than in 2004 and 25 points higher than in 1973. The score for 13-year-olds in 2012 (285) was higher than in all previous assessment years. For 13-year-olds, the score in 2012 was 6 points higher than in 2004 and 19 points higher than in 1973. In contrast, the score for 17-year-olds in 2012 (306) was not measurably different from the scores in 2004 and in 1973.
White, Black, and Hispanic 9-, 13-, and 17-year-olds all had higher average mathematics scores in 2012 than in 1973 (table 222.85). In comparison to 2004, scores were higher in 2012 for White 9- and 13-year-olds; Hispanic 13-year-olds; and Black 13-year-olds. Mathematics results for 2012 continued to show achievement gaps between White and Hispanic students (ranging from 17 to 21 points [based on unrounded scores], depending on age) and between White and Black students (ranging from 25 to 28 points). For 9-year-olds, the White-Black gap was lower in 2012 than in 1973. For 13- and 17-year-olds, both the White-Black and the White-Hispanic gaps were lower in 2012 than in 1973. For example, among 17-year-olds, the White-Black gap was 40 points in 1973 compared to 26 points in 2012, and the White-Hispanic gap was 33 points in 1973 compared to 19 points in 2012.
While there was no significant difference between the average mathematics scores of male and female 9- and 13-year-olds in 2012, male students did score higher than female students at age 17 (table 222.85). At age 17, the 4-point gender score gap in 2012 was smaller than the gap in 1973 (8 points).
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 (table 223.10). In 2015, the average 4th-grade science score (154) was higher than the score in 2009 (150). The 8th-grade score in 2015 (154) was higher than the scores in 2009 (150) and in 2011 (152). The 12th-grade score in 2015 (150) was not measurably different from the score in 2009. In addition, the 5-point gender gap between male and female 12th-graders in 2015 was not measurably different from the gap in 2009. While the scores for White 4th- and 8th-grade students remained higher than those of their Black and Hispanic peers in 2015, racial/ethnic achievement gaps in 2015 were smaller than in 2009. At grade 4, the White-Black achievement gap was 36 points in 2009 and 33 points in 2015, and the White-Hispanic achievement gap was 32 points in 2009 and 27 points in 2015. While the scores for White 12th-grade students remained higher than those of their Black and Hispanic peers in 2015, these racial/ethnic achievement gaps were not measurably different between 2009 and 2015.
Skills of Young Children
In addition to student performance data available through NAEP, the Digest presents data from other surveys to provide additional perspectives on student achievement. Differences among demographic groups in the acquisition of cognitive skills have been demonstrated at relatively early ages in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey’s Birth Cohort (ECLS-B) study as well as its Kindergarten Class (ECLS-K) studies.
In 2003–04, about 64 percent of 2-year-olds demonstrated proficiency in expressive vocabulary, which measured toddlers’ ability to communicate using gestures, words, and sentences (web-only table 220.20). The percentage of 2-year-olds demonstrating expressive vocabulary was higher for females (69 percent) than for males (59 percent). Also, a higher percentage of White (71 percent) and Asian (62 percent) 2-year-olds demonstrated expressive vocabulary than of Black, Hispanic, or American Indian/Alaska Native 2-year-olds (56, 54, and 50 percent, respectively). The percentage of 2-year-olds from families with high socioeconomic status (SES) who demonstrated expressive vocabulary (75 percent) was higher than the percentage of children from low-SES families who did so (52 percent).
Patterns of differences were also observed by race/ethnicity and SES for children at about 4 years of age (48 to 57 months old). In 2005–06, average early reading scores were higher for White (27) and Asian (31) 48- to 57-month-old children than for Black (23), Hispanic (21), and American Indian/Alaska Native (20) children (table 220.30). High-SES children (33) had higher early reading scores than low-SES children (19) at this age. These same patterns were observed among 48- to 57-month-old children with respect to average mathematics scores. White (32) and Asian (35) 48- to 57-month-old children had higher mathematics scores than Black (27), Hispanic (26), and American Indian/Alaska Native (23) children. High-SES children (36) had higher average mathematics scores than low-SES children (24) at this age.
Children who enrolled in kindergarten for the first time in 2010–11 showed similar patterns of score differences by race/ethnicity and SES (tables 220.40 and web-only table 220.41). In fall 2010, average mathematics scores were higher for first-time kindergartners from high-SES families (43) than for those from low-SES families (28). White (38) and Asian (39) first-time kindergartners had higher mathematics scores than their Black (32), Hispanic (31), and American Indian/Alaska Native (33) peers. Similarly, average early reading scores in fall 2010 were higher for White (55) and Asian (57) first-time kindergartners than for their Black (52), Hispanic (49), and American Indian/Alaska Native (50) peers. High-SES children (60) had higher early reading scores than low-SES children (47). Most of these same patterns were observed among these children during 4th grade in spring 2014. White (114) and Asian (117) 4th-graders had higher mathematics scores than their Black (100) and Hispanic (106) peers. Asian 4th-graders had higher mathematics scores than American Indian/Alaska Native (111) 4th-graders; however, there was no measurable difference between the mathematics scores for White and American Indian/Alaska Native students. Mathematics scores were higher for 4th-graders from high-SES families (118) than for those from low-SES families (102). Early reading scores were also higher for White (126) and Asian (127) 4th-graders than for their Black (118), Hispanic (120), and American Indian/Alaska Native (121) peers, and 4th-graders from high-SES families (130) had higher early reading scores than those from low-SES families (116).
Coursetaking in High School
The average number of science and mathematics courses completed by public high school graduates increased between 1982 and 2009. The average number of mathematics courses (Carnegie units) completed in high school rose from 2.6 in 1982 to 3.9 in 2009, and the number of science courses rose from 2.2 to 3.5 (table 225.10). The average number of courses in career/technical areas completed by public high school graduates was lower in 2009 (2.5 units) than in 2000 (2.9 units). As a result of the increased academic course load, the percentage of public and private high school graduates completing the 1983 National Commission on Excellence recommendations (4 units of English, 3 units of social studies, 3 units of science, 3 units of mathematics, and 2 units of foreign language) rose from 10 percent in 1982 to 62 percent in 2009 (web-only table 225.50).
In 2015–16, some 69 percent of public schools reported one or more violent incidents, such as a serious violent incident, a physical attack, or a threat of a physical attack (table 229.10). This 2015–16 percentage was not measurably different from the percentage of schools reporting violent incidents in 1999–2000. Serious violent incidents is a subcategory of violent incidents that includes the crimes of rape, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault. The percentage of schools reporting a serious violent incident in 2015–16 (15 percent) was lower than the percentage reporting a serious violent incident in 1999–2000 (20 percent). The percentage of schools reporting a physical attack or fight without a weapon in 2015–16 (65 percent) was not measurably different from the percentage in 1999–2000; however, the percentage of schools reporting a physical attack or fight with a weapon in 2015–16 (3 percent) was lower than the percentage in 1999–2000 (5 percent). Also, the percentage of schools reporting a threat of a physical attack without a weapon in 2015–16 (39 percent) was lower than the percentage in 1999–2000 (52 percent). Overall, schools reported 18 violent incidents per 1,000 students in 2015–16, which was lower than the 31 violent incidents per 1,000 students reported in 1999–2000 (table 229.20).
On the National Crime Victimization Survey, students ages 12 to 18 reported a decrease in victimizations at school between 1992 and 2016 (table 228.20). The total victimization rates for students ages 12 to 18 declined 84 percent, from 181 victimizations per 1,000 students in 1992 to 29 victimizations per 1,000 students in 2016. This pattern of decline in total victimization rates between 1992 and 2016 also held for thefts, violent victimizations, and serious violent victimizations. Thefts at school declined from a rate of 114 thefts per 1,000 students to 12 thefts per 1,000 students. The rate of violent victimization at school declined overall from 68 victimizations per 1,000 students in 1992 to 18 victimizations per 1,000 in 2016. Serious violent victimizations at school declined from 8 victimizations per 1,000 students in 1992 to 3 victimizations per 1,000 in 2015.
The state share of revenues for public elementary and secondary schools generally grew from the 1930s through the mid-1980s, while the local share declined during the same time period (table 235.10 and figure 10).5 However, this pattern changed in the late 1980s, when the local share began to increase at the same time that the state share decreased. Between 1986–87 and 1993–94, the state share declined from 49.7 percent to 45.2 percent, while the local share rose from 43.9 percent to 47.8 percent. Between 1993–94 and 2000–01, the state share rose again to 49.7 percent—the highest share since 1986–87—but declined every school year thereafter until 2005–06, when the state share was 46.5 percent. In more recent years, the federal share in 2014–15 (8.5 percent) was lower than in 2004–05 (9.2 percent). Also, the state share in 2014–15 (46.6 percent) was lower than in 2004–05 (46.9 percent). In contrast, the local share in 2014–15 (45.0 percent) was higher than in 2004–05 (44.0 percent).
After adjustment for inflation, current expenditures per student at public schools (based on fall enrollment) rose during the 1980s but remained stable during the first part of the 1990s (table 236.55 and figure 11). There was an increase of 37 percent from 1980–81 to 1990–91, followed by minor fluctuations from 1990–91 to 1994–95. Current expenditures per student increased 34 percent from 1994–95 to 2008–09 but declined 5 percent from 2008–09 to 2012–13. Current expenditures per student increased in both 2013–14 and 2014–15, reaching $11,445 in unadjusted dollars in 2014–15. The expenditure for public school student transportation was $932 per student in 2014–15 (also in unadjusted dollars), and 55 percent of students were transported at public expense in 2007–08 (table 236.90).
1The pupil/teacher ratio is based on all teachers—including teachers of students with disabilities and other special teachers—and all students enrolled in the fall of the school year. Unlike the pupil/teacher ratio, the average class size excludes students and teachers in classes that are exclusively for special education students. Class size averages are based on surveys of teachers reporting on the counts of students in their classes.
2 “All other public school staff” includes administrative staff, principals, librarians, guidance counselors, secretaries, custodial staff, food service workers, school bus drivers, and other professional and nonprofessional staff.
3 The number of homeschooled children in 1999 is from Homeschooling in the United States: 1999 (NCES 2001-033), available at https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2001033. While National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES) administrations prior to 2012 were administered via telephone with an interviewer, NHES:2016 used self-administered paper-and-pencil questionnaires that were mailed to respondents. Measurable differences in estimates between 1999 and 2016 could reflect actual changes in the population, or the changes could be due to the mode change from telephone to mail.
4 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.
5 For data on individual years from 1980–81 through 1988–89, see Digest of Education Statistics 2011 (NCES 2012-001), table 180.