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Education Statistics Quarterly
Vol 3, Issue 1, Topic: Link to Crosscutting Statistics
Digest of Education Statistics: 2000
By: Thomas D. Snyder and Charlene M. Hoffman
This article was excerpted from the Foreword and Introduction to the Compendium of the same name. The sample survey and universe data are from numerous sources, both government and private, and draw especially on the results of surveys and activities carried out by NCES.

The 2000 edition of the Digest of Education Statistics, produced by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), is the 36th in a series of publications initiated in 1962. (The Digest has been issued annually except for combined editions for the years 1977–78, 1983–84, and 1985–86.) Its primary purpose is to provide a compilation of statistical information covering the broad field of American education from kindergarten through graduate school.

The publication contains information on a variety of subjects in the field of education statistics, including the number of schools and colleges, teachers, enrollments, and graduates, in addition to educational attainment, finances, federal funds for education, employment and income of graduates, libraries, and international education. Supplemental information on population trends, attitudes on education, education characteristics of the labor force, government finances, and economic trends provide background for evaluating education data.

In addition to updating many of the statistics that have appeared in previous years, this edition contains a significant amount of new material, including

  • public school building deficiencies and renovation plans;
  • distribution of high school completers, by selected characteristics;
  • percent of high school dropouts, by income level, labor force status, and educational attainment;
  • average proficiency in reading for eighth-graders, by selected characteristics and state;
  • states with assessment programs in language arts, reading, and writing;
  • enrollment and degrees conferred in women’s colleges, by institution;
  • total revenue of private not-for-profit degree-granting institutions, by source of funds and type of institution; and
  • total expenses of private not-for-profit degree-granting institutions, by purpose and type of institution.
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In the fall of 2000, about 68.0 million persons were enrolled in American schools and colleges (table A). About 4.0 million were employed as elementary and secondary school teachers and as college faculty. Other professional, administrative, and support staff of educational institutions numbered 4.4 million. Thus, about 76.4 million people were involved, directly or indirectly, in providing or receiving formal education. In a nation with a population of about 275 million, more than 1 out of every 4 persons participated in formal education.

Table A.—Estimated number of participants in elementary and secondary education and in degree-granting institutions: Fall 2000

Table A. - Estimated number of participants in elementary and secondary education and in degree-granting institutions: Fall 2000

1 Enrollment figures include students in local public school systems and in most private schools (religiously affiliated and nonsectarian). Elementary and secondary enrollment includes most kindergarten and some nursery school enrollment, but excludes preprimary enrollment in schools that do not offer first grade or above. Enrollment figures for degree-granting institutions comprise full-time and part-time students enrolled in degree-credit and nondegree-credit programs in universities, other 4-year colleges, and 2-year colleges that participated in Title IV federal financial aid programs.

2 Data for teachers and other staff in public and private elementary and secondary schools and colleges and universities are reported in terms of full-time equivalents.

NOTE: Detail may not sum to totals due to rounding.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, unpublished projections and estimates. (This table was prepared in August 2000.) (Originally published as table 1 on p. 11 of the complete report from which this article is excerpted.)

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Since the enrollment rates of kindergarten and elementary school-age children have not changed much in recent years, increases in elementary school enrollment have been driven primarily by increases in the number of young people. Enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools rose 19 percent between 1985 and 2000.* The fastest public school growth occurred in the elementary grades, where enrollment rose 24 percent over the same period, from 27.0 million to a record high of 33.5 million in 2000. Secondary enrollments in public schools declined 8 percent from 1985 to 1990, but then rose by 19 percent from 1990 to 2000, for a net increase of 9 percent.

Enrollment in private elementary and secondary schools grew more slowly than enrollment in public schools over this period, rising 7 percent, from 5.6 million in 1985 to 6.0 million in 2000. As a result, the percentage of students enrolled in private schools declined slightly, from 12 percent in 1985 to 11 percent in 2000.

NCES forecasts record levels of enrollment for the next several years. The fall 2000 public school enrollment marks a new record, and new records are expected every year through the early 2000s. Public elementary enrollment is projected to grow slowly through 2001 and then decline slightly, so that the fall 2010 projection is slightly lower than the 2000 enrollment. In contrast, public secondary school enrollment is expected to have an increase of 4 percent between 2000 and 2010.


An estimated 3.3 million elementary and secondary school teachers were engaged in classroom instruction in the fall of 2000. This number has risen in recent years, up about 18 percent since 1990. The number of public school teachers in 2000 was 2.9 million, and the number of private school teachers was about 0.4 million. About 2.0 million teachers taught in elementary schools, while about 1.3 million were teaching at the secondary level.

The number of public school teachers has risen slightly faster than the number of students over the past 10 years, resulting in small declines in the pupil/teacher ratio. In the fall of 1999, there were 16.2 public school pupils per teacher, compared with 17.2 public school pupils per teacher 10 years earlier. During the same time period, the pupil/teacher ratio in private schools remained relatively stable. Data from the end of the 1990s suggest a continuation of the historical trend toward lower public school pupil/teacher ratios, which had been stable during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The salaries of public school teachers, which lost purchasing power to inflation during the 1970s, rose faster than the inflation rate during the 1980s. The rising salaries reflected an interest by state and local education agencies in boosting teacher salary schedules and, to some extent, an increase in teachers’ experience and education levels. Since 1990–91, salaries for teachers have generally maintained pace with inflation. The average salary for teachers in 1998–99 was $40,582, about the same in constant dollars as at the beginning of the decade.

Student performance

The national results that follow are based on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Long-Term Trend Assessment component (Campbell, Hombo, and Mazzeo 2000).

Reading. Overall, the reading achievement scores for the country’s 9-, 13-, and 17-year-old students are mixed. Reading performance scores for 9- and 13-year-olds were higher in 1999 than they were in 1971. However, the 1999 scores were about the same as the 1984 scores. The reading performance of 17-year-olds was about the same in 1999 as it was in 1971.

Black 9-, 13-, and 17-year-olds exhibited higher reading performance in 1999 than in 1971. However, performance for all three age groups in 1984 was about the same as in 1999. The performance levels of white 9- and 13-year-olds also rose between 1971 and 1999. Separate data for Hispanics were not gathered in 1971, but changes between 1975 and 1999 indicate an increase among 9-, 13-, and 17-year-olds. There was no significant difference between the 1984 and 1999 reading performance of 9-, 13-, and 17-year-old Hispanics.

Mathematics. Results from assessments of mathematics proficiency indicate that 9-, 13-, and 17-year-old students improved their performance between 1973 and 1999. However, there has been no significant change for any of the three age groups since 1994.

White, black, and Hispanic students improved their mathematics performance between 1973 and 1999, among all three age groups. However, mathematics scores for white, black, and Hispanic 9-, 13-, and 17-year-olds did not improve between 1994 and 1999.

Science. Long-term changes in science performance have been mixed, though changes over the past 10 years have been generally positive. In 1999, science performance among 17-year-olds was lower than in 1970, but higher than in 1990. The science performance level of 13-year-olds in 1999 was about the same as the level in 1970 and in 1990. The science performance of 9-year-olds increased between 1970 and 1999, but there was no significant difference between 1990 and 1999.

The science performance of white 9- and 13-year-olds was higher in 1999 than it was in 1970. The performance score for white 17-year-olds was lower in 1999 than in 1970. However, only the 17-year-olds had a higher score in 1999 than in 1990. Black 9- and 13-year-olds had higher science performance in 1999 than in the 1970s. The scores for black 9-, 13-, and 17-year-olds in 1999 were about the same as scores in 1990. The scores for 9-, 13-, and 17-year-old Hispanic children were higher in 1999 than in 1977. Scores for Hispanic 17-year-olds showed an increase between 1990 and 1999.

International comparisons. The results of the 1995 Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) show that U.S. fourth- and eighth-graders compare more favorably with students in other countries in science than in mathematics. In mathematics, U.S. eighth-graders scored below the international average, falling below 20 of the 41 countries tested. Fourth-graders performed above the international average, scoring below 7 of the 26 countries tested, including Singapore, Korea, and Japan. Students at both the fourth- and eighth-grade levels scored above the international average in science. Eighth-grade students in the United States were outperformed by those in 9 out of 41 countries. Fourth-grade students once again compared more favorably with their international counterparts than eighth-grade students. Out of 26 countries that participated in the fourth-grade assessment, students in only 1 country outperformed the U.S. students in science.

The international standing of U.S. students was stronger at the 8th grade than at the 12th grade in both mathematics and science among the countries that participated in the assessments at both grade levels. U.S. 12th-graders performed below the international average and among the lowest scoring of the 21 countries on the assessment of mathematics general knowledge. U.S. students were outperformed by those in 14 countries, and outperformed those in 2 countries. U.S. 12th-graders also performed below the international average and among the lowest scoring of the 21 countries on the assessment of science general knowledge. U.S. students were outperformed by students in 11 countries, and they outperformed students in 2 countries. Our students’ scores were not significantly different from those of seven countries, including France, Germany, Italy, and the Russian Federation.

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College enrollment hit a record level of 14.5 million in fall 1998 and was expected to reach a new high of 15.1 million in 2000. Despite decreases in the traditional college age population during the 1980s and early 1990s, total enrollment increased because of the high enrollment rate of older women and recent high school graduates. Between 1990 and 1998, the number of fulltime students increased by 10 percent compared to no increase in part-time students.

Faculty and staff

During the fall of 1997, there were 990,000 faculty members in degree-granting institutions. Making up this figure were 569,000 full-time and 421,000 part-time faculty. In 1992, full-time instructors generally taught more hours and more students than part-time instructors, with 61 percent of full-time instructors teaching 8 or more hours per week and two-thirds teaching 50 or more students. About 30 percent of part-time instructors taught 8 or more hours per week, and 30 percent taught 50 or more students.

White males constituted a disproportionate share of full-time college faculty in 1997. Overall, about 55 percent of full-time faculty were white males. However, this distribution varied substantially by rank of faculty. Among full professors, the proportion of white males was 72 percent. The proportion was somewhat lower among the lower ranked faculty, with white males making up 39 percent of the lecturers.

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The number of high school graduates in 1999–2000 totaled about 2.8 million. Approximately 2.5 million graduated from public schools, and less than 0.3 million graduated from private schools. The number of high school graduates has declined from its peak in 1976–77, when 3.2 million students earned diplomas. In contrast, the number of GED credentials issued rose from 342,000 in 1975 to 516,000 in 1999. The dropout rate also declined over this period, from 14 percent of all 16- to 24-year-olds in 1977 to 11 percent in 1999. The number of postsecondary degrees conferred during the 1999–2000 school year by degree level has been projected: 559,000 associate’s degrees, 1,185,000 bachelor’s degrees, 398,000 master’s degrees, 78,400 first-professional degrees, and 45,200 doctor’s degrees.

The Bureau of the Census has collected annual statistics on the educational attainment of the population in terms of years of school completed. Between 1990 and 1999, the proportion of the adult population 25 years of age and over with 4 years of high school or more rose from 78 percent to 83 percent, and the proportion of adults with at least 4 years of college increased from 21 percent to 25 percent. During the same period, the proportion of young adults (25- to 29-year-olds) with 4 years of high school or more showed a small increase of about 2 percentage points, reaching 88 percent in 1999, and the proportion with at least 4 years of college rose from 23 percent to 28 percent.

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Expenditures for public and private education, from preprimary through graduate school (excluding postsecondary schools not awarding associate’s or higher degrees), are estimated at $647 billion for 1999–2000. The expenditures of elementary and secondary schools are expected to total about $389 billion for 1999–2000, while those of colleges and universities will be about $258 billion. Viewed in another context, the total expenditures for education are expected to amount to about 7.0 percent of the gross domestic product in 1999–2000, about the same percentage as in the recent past.

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The statistical highlights presented here provide a quantitative description of the current American education scene. Clearly, from the large number of participants, the number of years that people spend in school, and the large sums expended by educational institutions, it is evident that the American people have a high regard for education. Assessment data indicate that there have been improvements in the mathematics and science performance of 17-year-olds between 1990 and 1999. A high proportion of high school graduates are going on to college. Yet, wide variations in student proficiency from state to state and mediocre mathematics scores of American students in international assessments pose challenges.

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*The 2000 enrollment data are based on projections.

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Campbell, J.R., Hombo, C.M., and Mazzeo, J. (2000). NAEP 1999 Trends in Academic Progress: Three Decades of Student Performance (NCES 2000–469). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

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Data sources: Over 50 sources of data, including most NCES studies.

For technical information, see the complete report:

Snyder, T.D., and Hoffman, C.M. (2001). Digest of Education Statistics: 2000 (NCES 2001–034).

Author affiliations: T.D. Snyder and C.M. Hoffman, NCES.

For questions about content, contact Thomas D. Snyder.

To obtain the complete report (NCES 2001–034), call the toll- free ED Pubs number (877–433–7827), visit the NCES Web Site (, or contact GPO (202–512–1800).

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