As the U.S. population increases, so does its enrollment at all levels of public and private education. At the elementary and secondary levels, growth is due largely to the increase in the size of the school-age population. At the postsecondary level, both population growth and increasing enrollment rates help explain rising enrollments. Adult education is also increasing due to demographic shifts in the age of the U.S. population, increasing rates of enrollment, and changing employer requirements for skills. As enrollments have increased, the cohorts of learners have become more diverse than ever before, with students who are members of racial/ethnic minorities or speak a language other than English at home making up an increasing share of the school-age population.
- Rising immigration and a 25 percent increase in the number of annual births that began in the mid-1970s and peaked in 1990 have boosted school enrollment. Public elementary and secondary enrollment reached an estimated 48.3 million in 2004 and is projected to increase to an all-time high of 50.0 million in 2014. The West is projected to experience the largest increase in enrollments of all regions in the country.
- The number of private school students enrolled in kindergarten through
grade 12 increased from 1989–90 to 2001-02, though at a slower rate
than enrollments in public schools. Thus, the percentage of private school
students as a percentage of total elementary and secondary enrollment decreased
slightly over this period. Catholic schools retained the largest enrollment
share of private school students, but there was a shift in the distribution
of students from Catholic to other religious and nonsectarian private schools
at both the elementary and secondary levels during this period.
- About 1.1 million, or 2.2 percent, of all students were homeschooled
in the United States in the spring of 2003, an increase from 850,000, or
1.7 percent, of all students in 1999. The majority of homeschooled students
received all of their education at home, but some attended school up to 25
hours per week.
- The percentage of public school students who are racial/ethnic minorities
increased from 22 percent in 1972 to 42 percent in 2003, primarily due to
growth in Hispanic enrollments. In 2003, minority public school enrollment
(54 percent) exceeded White enrollment (46 percent) in the West.
- The number of children ages 5-17 who spoke a language other than English
at home more than doubled between 1979 and 2003. Among these children, the
number who spoke English with difficulty (i.e., did not speak English "very well")
also grew markedly during this period. For both of these groups of children,
Spanish was the language most frequently spoken at home.
- In 2000, some 3.9 million children, or 8 percent of those enrolled in
public elementary and secondary schools, were classified as having mental
retardation, an emotional disturbance, or a specific learning disability
and received services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
(IDEA). Males were twice as likely as females to be served under IDEA, and
Black and American Indian children were both overrepresented in the population
of children classified as having one of these categories of disability.
- In the next 10 years, undergraduate enrollment is projected to increase.
Women's undergraduate enrollment is expected to increase at a faster rate
than men's, and full-time enrollment is projected to increase at a faster
rate than part-time enrollment. During this period, the growth in enrollment
at 4-year institutions is expected to be greater than at 2-year institutions.
How well does the American educational system—and its students—perform? Data from national and international assessments of students' academic achievement can help answer this question, as can data on adults' educational and work experiences, literacy levels, and earnings later in life. In some areas, such as reading, mathematics, and science, the performance of elementary and secondary students has shown some improvement over the past decade, but not in all grades assessed and not equally for all students. The association between education and the earnings and employment of adults helps underscore the importance of education for individuals and society and the outcomes of different levels of educational attainment.
- According to data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten
Class of 1998 (ECLS-K), smaller percentages of children from homes with more
family risk factors, such as poverty and a primary home language other than
English, mastered more complex reading and mathematics skills by the spring
of 3rd grade compared with their peers with fewer or no risk factors. For
example, in reading, the percentage of children who had two or more risk
factors and were proficient at deriving meaning from text increased from
0 to 24 percent from the spring of kindergarten to the spring of grade 3,
versus an increase of 0 to 54 percent for those with no risk factors.
- The reading performance of 8th-graders assessed by the National Assessment
of Educational Progress (NAEP) improved between 1992 and 2003, but no measurable
difference was found in the performance of 4th-graders. Females outperformed
males in both grades, and White and Asian/Pacific Islander students outperformed
American Indian, Hispanic, and Black students.
- The mathematics performance of 4th- and 8th-graders assessed by NAEP
improved steadily from 1990 to 2003. For both grades, the average scores
in 2003 were higher than in all previous assessments, and the percentages
of students performing at or above the Basic and Proficient levels
and at the Advanced level, defined as "superior performance," were
higher in 2003 than in 1990. In both grades, males outperformed females,
and White and Asian/Pacific Islander students outperformed Black, Hispanic,
and American Indian students.
- According to findings from NAEP in 2003, students in large central city
public schools had lower average scores in reading and mathematics than students
in rural, urban fringe, and all central city schools. In both subjects, the
percentages of 4th- and 8th-graders in large central city public schools
who performed at or above the Proficient level were lower than the
- The 2003 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)
assessed students' mathematics performance at grade 4 in 25 countries and
at grade 8 in 45 countries. Findings from TIMSS showed that U.S. students
at grades 4 and 8 scored above the international average in mathematics in
2003. U.S. 4th-graders showed no measurable change in mathematics from 1995
to 2003, while 8th-graders showed improvement over this period.
- According to findings from TIMSS on science performance, U.S. students
at grades 4 and 8 scored above the international average in 2003. U.S. 4th-graders
showed no measurable change in science from 1995 to 2003, while 8th-graders
showed improvement over this period.
- The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA)—which reports
on the mathematics literacy and problem-solving ability of 15-year-olds in
29 participating Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
industrialized countries—showed that U.S. 15-year-olds, on average, scored
below the international average for participating OECD countries in combined
mathematics literacy, specific mathematics skill areas, and problem solving
- The percentage of adults age 25 or older who reported having read a novel,
short story, play, or poem in the past 12 months decreased between 1982 and
2002. A strong positive relationship existed between reading literature and
educational attainment in 2002: the more education a person had, the more
likely that person was to report having read literature in the past 12 months.
- White, Black, and Hispanic young adults (ages 25-34) who have at least
a bachelor's degree have higher median earnings than their peers with less
education, and these differences increased between 1977 and 2003. Gaps in
the median earnings of young adults by race/ethnicity existed at all levels
of educational attainment during this period, with Whites earning more than
Blacks or Hispanics at each level. Between 1977 and 2003, the earnings gap
between Blacks and Whites decreased among those who did not complete or go
beyond high school, while no change was detected at higher levels of educational
attainment. There was no measurable change in the earnings gap between Whites
and Hispanics at any of the levels of educational attainment.
- In 2004, 5 percent of young adults (individuals between the ages of 25
and 34) were unemployed. Although this percentage has fluctuated since 1971,
one constant has been a relationship between unemployment and educational
attainment. Generally speaking, the more education a young adult has attained,
the less likely that person is to be unemployed. For example, over this 33-year
period, young adults with at least a bachelor's degree were less likely to
be unemployed than their peers with less education, a pattern that held for
White, Black, and Hispanic young adults.
Many factors are associated with school success, persistence, and progress toward high school graduation or a college degree. These include students' early school experiences, motivation and effort, and courses taken and other learning experiences, as well as various student characteristics, such as sex, race/ethnicity, parents' educational attainment, and family income. Monitoring these factors in relation to the progress of different groups of students through the educational system and tracking students' attainment are important for knowing how well we are doing as a nation in education.
- Among children enrolled in kindergarten in fall 1998, about 1 out of
10 was either repeating kindergarten or had a delayed entry (had not enrolled
the year he or she became age eligible). Both groups were more likely than
their on-time classmates to be male and less likely to have attended preschool.
Compared with those who entered on time, delayed entrants were more likely
to be White and to have parents with a bachelor's degree or higher. However,
kindergarten repeaters were more likely than on-time entrants to have parents
with less than a high school education.
- The status dropout rate represents the percentage of an age group that
is not enrolled in school and has not earned a high school diploma or its
equivalent. Since 1972, status dropout rates for Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics
ages 16–24 have declined; nonetheless, rates for Hispanics have remained
higher than those for other racial/ethnic groups. Although the status dropout
rate declined over the whole 30-year period from 1972 through 2002, it remained
fairly stable over the last decade (1992 through 2002).
- Between 1972 and 2003, the rate at which high school completers enrolled
in college in the fall immediately after high school increased from 49 to
64 percent, but it has remained at about 64 percent since 1998. Between the
mid-1980s and the late 1990s, the difference between the rates of immediate
enrollment of Blacks and Whites declined, but the difference between the
rates of immediate enrollment of Hispanics and Whites increased.
- Among the cohort of 1992 high school seniors who had enrolled in any
postsecondary education by 2000, 66 percent enrolled first in a postsecondary
institution in their home state and also lived in their home state in 2000.
Students whose highest degree was a bachelor's degree were more likely than
those whose highest degree was an associate's degree to have either enrolled
in a postsecondary institution outside of their home state or lived outside
their home state after high school.
- Twelfth-graders in 1992 were more likely than their counterparts in 1972
and 1982 to enroll in postsecondary education within 8.5 years of high school
graduation. Among those who earned more than 10 postsecondary credits, the
proportion earning a bachelor's degree by their mid-twenties increased (50
percent of the class of 1992 did so vs. 43 and 46 percent, respectively,
of the classes of 1982 and 1972).
- The percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds who have completed high school
has increased since 1971. By 2003, some 87 percent of these young adults
had received a high school diploma or its equivalent, and many had received
additional education. However, racial/ethnic differences in levels of educational
The school environment is shaped by many factors, including curricular offerings, methods of instruction and assessment, scheduling, the configuration of classrooms and schools, and the climate for learning. Monitoring these and other factors provides a better understanding of the conditions in schools that can influence education.
- Students in 20 states, accounting for more than half of all public school
students in the United States, were required to pass exit examinations (such
as minimum competency, standards-based, or end-of-course examinations) in
order to graduate from high school in 2004. Five additional states will be
phasing in exit examinations between 2004 and 2008. By 2009, of the 25 states
with exit examinations in place, all but 6 will use these examinations to
meet the accountability requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
- Students attending school in a central city or urban fringe/large town
and in schools with a 12th-grade enrollment of 450 or more were more likely
than their peers to have the opportunity to take four or more advanced courses
each in mathematics, English, science, and a foreign language in 2000. Students
attending schools in the Northeast and Southeast were also more likely than
their peers in schools in Central states to have such an opportunity.
- The average number of hours per year that U.S. public school students
spent in school increased between 1987–88 and 1999–2000. On average,
middle school students spent more time in school than elementary or high
school students. In both years, students who attended rural schools spent
more time in school than students in urban fringe/large town schools, as
did those in the Midwest than those in the Northeast, South, and West.
- Approximately 50 percent of all disabled students in 2003–04 spent 80
percent or more of their day in a regular classroom, up from 45 percent in
1994–95. Black students with disabilities spent less time in a regular
classroom on average than their peers of other races/ethnicities with disabilities.
- Charter schools—public schools of choice that have been exempted from
some local and state regulations to provide greater flexibility than regular
public schools—differ from one another and from regular public schools in
their origins, the authority under which they are chartered, and the students
they serve. Among students enrolled in charter schools in 2003, 51 percent
attended schools chartered by a school district, 28 percent attended schools
chartered by a state board of education, 16 percent attended schools chartered
by a postsecondary institution, and 6 percent attended schools chartered
by a state chartering agency.
- There was a general decline in the rate at which students ages 12-18
were victims of nonfatal crime—including theft, violent crime, and serious
violent crime—at school from 1992 through 2002. The rates of these crimes
when students were away from school also decreased. In each year observed,
the rates for serious violent crime—rape, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated
assault—were lower when students were at school than away from school.
The postsecondary education system encompasses various types of institutions, both public and private. Although issues of student access, persistence, and attainment have been predominant concerns in postsecondary education, the contexts in which postsecondary education takes place matter as well. Important aspects of this context include the diversity of the undergraduate and graduate populations; differences in the educational missions, policies, and services of colleges and universities; the types of courses that students take; and the ways in which colleges and universities attract and employ faculty and other resources.
- In 2002, some 29 percent of all students enrolled in degree-granting institutions were racial/ethnic minorities (American Indian, Asian/Pacific Islander, Black, or Hispanic). That year, 12 percent of Black students attended an institution where they made up at least 80 percent of the total enrollment. This was more than twice the percentage of Hispanic students who attended an institution where they made up at least 80 percent of the total enrollment. About one-fifth of Black and Hispanic students attended an institution where they were the majority.
- Inflation-adjusted average salaries for full-time faculty increased 8
percent between 1987–88 and 2002–03. Combining salary with benefits, full-time faculty received a total compensation package averaging $78,300 in 2002–03,
about $8,300 more than they received in 1987–88 after adjusting for inflation.
Faculty at private 4-year doctoral/research universities earned more and
received more in benefits than faculty at other types of institutions.
- Academic libraries are not only providing a broad array of electronic
services to their primary clientele but are also increasingly providing these
services to off-campus users other than their primary clientele. Although
academic libraries at institutions with graduate programs are generally taking
the lead in providing electronic services, gaps between types of institutions
- Many states have implemented laws and policies to promote successful
transfers of students from community colleges to 4-year institutions. In
fall 2000, most community college students attended institutions in states
with legislation on transfer and articulation, cooperative agreements, and
requirements for reporting transfer data (78, 89, and 90 percent of community
college students, respectively), and more than half attended institutions
in states with common core courses and statewide articulation guides (66
and 57 percent, respectively) (figure A).
Figure A. Transfer and articulation policies: Percentage of public 2-year students enrolled in institutions in states with
selected transfer and articulation policies: 2000
NOTE: Transfer is the procedure by which credits students earn at one institution are applied toward a degree at another institution;
articulation refers to the statewide policies and/or agreements among institutions to accept the transfer of credits. For more information,
see http://www.ecs.org/html/issue.asp?issueid=220. A summary of state policies and activities enacted since 2001 is available at
http://www.ecs.org. Much of this recent activity refines or expands earlier policies.
SOURCE: Education Commission of the States. (2001, February). Transfer and Articulation Policies. This information is the sole property of
the Education Commission of the States, copyright © 2001. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Retrieved November 4, 2004, from
http://www.ecs.org/clearinghouse/23/75/2375.htm; and U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2003).
Digest of Education Statistics 2002 (NCES 2003-060), table 201. Data from U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education
Statistics, 2000 Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, "Fall Enrollment Survey" (IPEDS-EF:00). (Originally published on p. 84 of
the complete report from which this article is excerpted.)
Society and its members—families, individuals, employers, and governmental and private organizations—provide support for education in various ways. This support includes learning activities that take place outside schools and colleges as well as financial support for learning inside schools and colleges. Parents contribute to the education of their children in the home through reading, playing, and engaging in other activities with young children and helping them with their homework. Communities impart learning and values through various modes, both formal and informal. Financial investments in education are made both by individuals through income spent on their own education (or the education of their children) and by the public through public appropriations for education. These investments in education are made at all levels of the education system. Other collective entities, such as employers and other kinds of organizations, also invest in various forms of education for their members.
- According to data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth
Cohort (ECLS-B), children about 9 months of age with family risk factors—living in a household below the poverty level, having a primary home language other than English, having a mother whose highest education was less than a high school diploma, and living in a single-parent household—were less likely to have family members who read to them, told them stories, and sang to them daily in 2001-02.
- In 1999–2000, expenditures per student in public elementary/secondary schools were highest in the most affluent school districts and next highest in school districts with the most low-income families. Between 1989–90 and 1999–2000,
total expenditures per student in constant dollars increased the least for
the most affluent districts. Current expenditures per student, which include
instructional, administrative, and operation and maintenance expenditures,
followed the same pattern.
- The proportion of total revenue for public elementary and secondary education
from local sources in constant dollars declined nationally from 1989–90 to 2001-02,
reflecting decreases in the proportion of local revenue from property tax
revenue and other local revenue. In both the Midwest and Northeast, the proportion
of total public school revenue from local sources declined during this period,
while the proportion changed little in the South and West.
- Between 1989–90 and 2001-02, total expenditures per student in public elementary/secondary schools, which include all expenditures allocable to per student costs divided by fall enrollment, increased by 24 percent, from $7,365 to $9,139 in constant dollars. Among the five major categories of public elementary and secondary school expenditure (instruction, administration, operation and maintenance, capital expenditures, and other), capital expenditures increased the most in percentage terms (70 percent) between 1989–90 and 2001-02. In comparison, instructional expenditures increased by 21 percent. Despite these increases, more than half of the total amount spent went toward instructional expenditures in 2001-02.
- Public revenue per student at the elementary and secondary levels increased
109 percent in constant dollars between 1969-70 and 2001-02. After first declining and then increasing since the mid-1980s, total public revenue comprised a similar percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2001-02
as in 1969-70 (4.08 and 3.98 percent, respectively).
- The education and general revenues per student of public 2- and 4-year
degree-granting institutions increased by 33 percent in constant dollars
from 1969-70 to 2000–01. During this period, government appropriations per
student to institutions increased by 3 percent, from $5,227 to $5,409, while
the revenues per student to institutions from sources other than government
appropriations increased at a faster rate. Tuition and fees per student increased
from $1,364 to $2,716 (by 99 percent), and other sources of education and
general revenues increased from $2,204 to $3,571 (by 62 percent).
Trends in the condition of American education continue to show promise and challenge, as well as underscore the importance of schooling. Progress in reading achievement is uneven, while performance has risen in mathematics. International assessments also present a mixed picture. Certain family risk factors present a challenge to students' educational progress and achievement.
In elementary and secondary education, enrollments have followed population shifts and are projected to increase each year through 2014 to an all-time high of 50 million, with the West expected to experience the largest increase in enrollments. Over the past three decades, rates of enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary education have increased and are projected to continue to do so throughout the next 10 years.
NCES produces an array of reports each month that present findings about the U.S. education system. The Condition of Education 2005 is the culmination of a yearlong project. It includes data that were available by early April 2005. In the coming months, a number of other reports and surveys informing us about education will be released, including the first follow-up to the Birth Cohort of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study; 2005 National Report Cards in reading, mathematics, and science; the National Assessment of Adult Literacy; and the 10-year follow-up to the Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study of 1992/93. As is true of the indicators in this volume, these surveys and reports will continue to inform Americans about the condition of education.
Data sources: Many studies from NCES and other sources.
For technical information, see the complete report:
U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2005). The Condition of Education 2005 (NCES 2005-094).
For questions about content, contact Tom Snyder (Tom.Snyder@ed.gov).
To obtain the complete report (NCES 2005-094), call the toll-free ED Pubs number (877-433-7827), visit the NCES Electronic Catalog (http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch), or contact GPO (202-512-1800).