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ACS Children

The NCES ACS Children’s tabulation is an annually updated custom data collection of demographic, economic, social, and housing and economic data characteristics about school-age children and their families developed from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 5-year American Community Survey (ACS) data. The Children’s tabulation defines a child as a person age 0 to 17 (at time of survey response) or a person age 18 or 19 who is not a high school graduate (based on the educational attainment response in the ACS questionnaire). The tabulations include demographic, social, economic, and housing characteristics iterated for six groups of school-age children. All iterations contain data for nation, states, and school districts. These iterations provide estimates for:

  1. Total children
  2. Grade-relevant children
  3. Grade-relevant children enrolled in school
  4. Grade-relevant children enrolled in public school

Relevancy

A child is relevant to a school district if he/she lives within the territory of the district and his/her assigned grade is within the grade range for which a district is financially responsible. One of the unique features of school district geography is the potential for multiple districts to share the same physical territory but serve children of different grade levels. These overlapping boundaries typically occur in areas organized by Elementary and Secondary school districts. In cases where district boundaries overlap, this tabulation provides data iterations that offer both a physical count (total children within district boundaries) and a functional count (children within district boundaries for whom a district is financially responsible) to address areas where school districts do not serve all grade levels. When a child’s residence is located within multiple districts, it assigns the child as relevant to a single school district (based on the child’s assigned grade and the district that serves that grade level). This allows children to be tabulated as part of the total child population for each applicable district, but avoids duplicate tabulation when the intent is to identify children for whom a district is financially responsible. Non-district geographies (U.S. and States) are not affected by relevancy assignments.

Relevant district assignments are dependent on a number of characteristics including: a child’s grade level, the location of a child’s residence relative to school district boundaries, and the grade span served by school districts in which a child resides. These elements are discussed below:

Child’s Grade Level

Each child is assigned a grade level based on the ACS responses for grade enrolled or age of respondent and school attainment level if the child is not enrolled in school.

Location of Child’s Residence Relative to School District Boundary

This ACS product assigns a child to a school district based on place of residence, not place of attendance. Children who attend school outside of the district in which they reside will not be counted in their attending district. This design will affect districts with students who participate in inter-district choice plans or with students attending private schools located outside the boundaries of the public school district. This tabulation does not identify charter school systems unless they have geographic boundaries that are reported by a state. Similarly, it does not provide information for individual school attendance areas, except by default in those cases where a school’s attendance area is the same as the school district boundary.

District Grade Span

The Census Bureau updates boundaries for Elementary, Secondary, and Unified school districts, but does not require districts to fit a specific grade span for classification. It relies on school district grade spans reported by states to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) for the Common Core of Data (CCD) to adjust grade responses reported in the boundary update. The Common Core of Data identifies the administrative universe of public school districts in the U.S., and it identifies the lowest and highest grades served by each district. Grades may range from Pre-Kindergarten (PK) to Grade 12. The grade range of an Elementary district may be augmented down to the 1st grade and up no farther than 8th grade. The grade range of a Secondary district may be augmented up to 12th grade and down no farther than 7th grade. The grade range of a Unified district may be augmented up to 12th grade and down to 1st grade. In areas covered exclusively by Elementary districts (i.e., without Secondary districts) the grade range is augmented to accommodate the secondary age students.

Most census blocks are part of a school district (or districts) that serves all grade levels. In some cases, all grade levels may not be covered for all blocks. For example, a block may be covered by an Elementary district (PK-6) and a Secondary district (8th-12th), but not be covered for the 7th grade. If a grade is not claimed by any district, it is assigned to the districts that are present in the following order: (1) Unified, (2) Elementary, (3) Secondary district. Conversely, if a grade is claimed by more than one district, the precedence is (1) Secondary, (2) Elementary, (3) Unified district. School district grade spans are not automatically augmented to include Pre-kindergarten or Kindergarten, however in a limited number of districts, the lower grade is adjusted to include Pre-Kindergarten or Kindergarten. These adjustments occur after direct contact and confirmation with local districts.