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          Author: Lee Hoffman
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This report summarizes information about public elementary and secondary schools and local education agencies in the United States during the 2000-01 school year. The information is provided by state education agencies through the Common Core of Data (CCD) survey system.

Types of Public Schools and Agencies

States reported 93,273 public elementary/secondary schools in the 2000-01 school year (table A). This was an increase of almost 7.1 percent over the more than 87,125 schools reported 5 years earlier, in the fall of 1995. Most of these were regular schools, those that offer a comprehensive curriculum and may provide other programs and services as well. A smaller number of schools focused primarily on special education, vocational/ technical education, or alternative programs. Students in these specialized schools were often enrolled in a regular school as well, and were reported as part of the membership of that regular school (table A). (See Key Terms for more information about school types.)

Table A.-Public elementary and secondary schools in the United States: 2000-01

  Total Regular Special Vocational Alternative
Total schools in          
United States 93,273 85,422 2,008 1,025 4,818
Reporting students 90,640 84,596 1,654 345 4,045
Not reporting students 2,633 826 354 680 773
NOTE: Totals include the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data, "Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey," 2000-01

Among the schools that reported students in membership, 93 percent were regular schools (table 1). The second largest category with student membership was that of alternative education schools (4 percent) followed by special education schools (almost 2 percent). Note that two-thirds of the vocational schools identified in table A, as well as smaller proportions of other types of schools, do not appear on table 1 because no students were reported in membership for these schools.

Most local education agencies are those that are typically thought of as "school districts." Operated by a local school board, they provide instructional services for students and comprised 88 percent of local agencies in 2000-01 (table 2). A smaller proportion, 8 percent, were supervisory unions or regional education service agencies whose major responsibility is to offer administrative, special program, testing, or other services to school districts. Finally, around 5 percent of the reported agencies were operated directly by a state or federal government or were other than any of the preceding categories. The number of regular school districts increased by less than 1 percent from the 14,766 reported in 1995 to a total of 14,859 in 2000-01.

Charter school districts. The governance of charter schools varies from state to state. In some cases they are not considered under the administration of the regular public school district within whose boundaries they operate, and are reported on the CCD with a separate education agency associated with each charter school. When this occurs, these agencies are reported under the category of "other education agency." For example, in the District of Columbia the establishment of 33 charter schools explains why the District is shown with 34 total agencies on table 2.

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Student Membership

In the 2000-01 school year, 90,640 public schools provided instruction to 47.2 million students in the United States (table 1), an increase of less than 1 percent from the 46.9 million students in 1999. Five states (California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas) each enrolled more than 2 million students in their public schools. At the other end of the size distribution, the District of Columbia and Wyoming reported fewer than 100,000 students.

Most of the 2000-01 students, 98 percent, were reported enrolled in regular schools. One percent were in alternative schools. Special education or vocational schools each accounted for less than one-half of 1 percent of students. Kansas, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Oklahoma reported operating only regular schools.

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Instructional Level

Schools come in all combinations of grades. To allow comparisons across states, instructional level is determined in this report by the lowest and highest grade in a school. Among the 90,640 schools with membership during the 2000-01 school year, 58 percent spanned the primary grades, beginning with prekindergarten or kindergarten and going no higher than grade 8 (table 3; see Key Terms for complete definitions of instructional levels). Middle schools, those with grade spans ranging from as low as grade 4 to as high as grade 9, made up 17 percent of schools with students. High schools (low grade of 7 or higher, high grade of 12) accounted for an additional 19 percent of schools. Some 6 percent of schools had a grade configuration that did not fit into any of these three categories.

A total of 14,514 regular school districts reported students in membership for 2000-01 (table 4). As with the instructional level of schools, grade span categories were assigned by the lowest and highest grades offered. Approximately 74 percent of school districts included the range of grades from prekindergarten or kindergarten to 9 or higher, and these districts accounted for 92 percent of all public school students. (In fact, only in Illinois, Montana, and Vermont did as many as one-third of the students attend school districts with other grade spans.) A little more than 5 percent of students were in districts with no grade higher than 8, and about 2 percent were in secondary districts with no grade lower than 7. Less than 1 percent of students were enrolled in districts with some other range of grades.

Tables A-6 and A-7 provide more details about the distribution of regular public school districts by grade span.

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School and School District Size

Primary schools tended to be smaller than middle and high schools (table 5). The average number of students in a primary school was 443 in 2000-01. Middle schools served, on the average, 605 students each while the average-size high school had 751 students. There was considerable range in school size across the states. High schools ranged from an average of fewer than 300 students in Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota to more than 1,400 students in Florida and Hawaii.

Student/teacher ratios were higher in primary schools, which had a median number of 16.0 students for each teacher, than in high schools, with a median number of 14.8 students per teacher (table 6). (The median is the point at which half the schools had larger student/teacher ratios and half had smaller. Note also that student/teacher ratio is not the same as average class size, since not all teachers are assigned to a classroom.) The median number of primary students for each teacher ranged from a low of fewer than 13.0 in Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming to a high of 21.0 or more in Kentucky and Utah.

Twenty-four school districts enrolled 100,000 or more students, while 1,794 districts served fewer than 150 students (table 7). While few in number, the larger districts included a considerable portion of the students in America's schools. Although less than 2 percent of school districts reported 25,000 or more students, almost one-third (32 percent) of students attended school in these districts. At the other end of the size range, more than one-third of school districts had fewer than 600 students but these districts accounted for only 3 percent of public school enrollment.

Tables A-1 through A-5 provide more detailed information about the distribution of schools and school districts by membership size.

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Other School Characteristics

The majority of schools, 57 percent, were in large or midsize cities or their accompanying urban fringe areas (table 8). These schools accounted for more than two-thirds (69 percent) of all public school students. About 1 of every 6 students was in a large city school in 2000-01; a smaller proportion, about 1 in 10, attended a rural school that was not within the fringes of an urban area.

Table 9 shows the number of Title I eligible schools by state, and the number of these that have school wide Title I programs. Seven states did not indicate which of their schools were eligible for Title I services. Among those states that could provide this information, more than 7 out of 10 public school students in the District of Columbia, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota were in Title I eligible schools. Within the states identifying schools with school wide Title I programs, more than half of the students were enrolled in these schools in the District of Columbia, Mississippi, and Texas.

States were asked to identify magnet schools. Thirty-nine states were able to report magnet school information (table 9). Of these, 21 states had at least one magnet school, 2 states reported no magnet schools, and an additional 16 reported that magnet schools were not administered in their state. California and Illinois reported the greatest number of magnet schools, 447 and 372, respectively. Illinois serves 13 percent of its students in magnet schools; in California the figure is 9 percent.

Thirty-seven states (including the District of Columbia) recognized charter schools in 2000-01. Of this group, 35 reported that one or more charter schools were in operation (table 9). The number of schools ranged from a single charter school in Maine and Mississippi to more than 300 in Arizona and California. In four states, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, and Michigan, charter schools enrolled more than 2 percent of all public school students.

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Student Program Participation and Selected Characteristics

Nationally, 13 percent of public school students had a Special Education Individual Education Programs (IEP) in 2000-01 (table 10). Among those states reporting students with IEPs, the proportion ranged from less than 10 percent in Colorado to more than 19 percent in New Mexico and Rhode Island.

Some 39 states (including the District of Columbia) reported the number of students who were English language learners and receiving services for limited English proficiency (LEP). In California there were 1.5 million LEP service recipients (one-fourth of all students) in 2000-01, while Texas reported more than half a million students (14 percent) receiving LEP services.

Thirty-three states (including the District of Columbia) provided information about the number of migrant students enrolled during the 1999-2000 school year or the following summer. Because a single migrant student may enroll in several schools during the year, this is a duplicated count of students. Therefore, table 10 cannot estimate the proportion of students who were migrants. The greatest number of migrant students served, almost 294,000 when regular school year and summer program participants were combined, was reported by California.

All but five states reported the number of students eligible for free or reduced-price meals. More than half of all students were eligible for this program in the District of Columbia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and West Virginia. The largest numbers of students eligible for free or reduced-price meals were in California and Texas with 2.8 and 1.8 million eligible students, respectively.

Table 11 shows the distribution of minority students (all groups except White, not Hispanic, see Key Terms) across cities, urban fringe areas, and small towns or rural communities in 2000-01. A majority, 62 percent, of students in large or midsize city schools were minority students while only 20 percent of students in small town and rural schools were. Three-fourths or more of students were minority group members in the large or midsize city schools of the District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York. Small town and rural schools tended to have smaller proportions of minority students, but this was not the case for all states. In the small town and rural schools of Arizona, Hawaii, Mississippi, and New Mexico half or more of the students were minority group members. (The District of Columbia is not included in this list because it operates a single school outside the District's boundaries.)

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Technical Notes

The Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe and the Local Education Agency Universe Surveys are annual state-level collections of information about the numbers and types of public schools and education agencies, the numbers and selected characteristics of students, and the numbers of dropouts, high school completers, and education staff. These two surveys also include directory information such as school and agency names, addresses, and telephone numbers. The School and Agency Surveys are part of the Common Core of Data (CCD) collection of the National Center for Education Statistics. All of the CCD surveys use information reported by state education agencies.

Enrollments. Because some students may receive a public education outside a local school district or school (for example, may attend a state-operated residential school), the numbers of students reported on the CCD school or local education agency surveys are not used as the official state totals in CCD publications. The total numbers of students shown in tables 1 and 11 of this publication are those reported on the 2000-01 State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary/Secondary Education. However, the percentages of students shown in the tables are based on the School or Agency Survey.

A student cannot be reported in the membership counts of more than a single school on the CCD. Students who are dually enrolled in a regular school and a vocational school, for example, can only be reported among the membership of one of these schools. It should be noted that this report excludes a disproportionately high number of vocational schools for which enrollment presumably is attributed to a regular school.

Missing data. Not all states collect and report all of the data items requested on the CCD surveys. NCES imputes (replaces a nonresponse with a plausible value) some missing items on the State Nonfiscal Survey. Imputations are not used with the School and Agency Surveys. Missing information is treated differently within individual states and across all states as a whole. An individual state is considered to have missing data if an item is reported by less than 70 percent of its schools or agencies. For example, table 11 shows missing data for Tennessee, which did not report minority student enrollment on the Agency Universe. However, when information is missing for no more than 5 percent of cases across the United States, NCES calculates totals and identifies them as totals for reporting states rather than the United States. For example, table 11 sums the number of minority students reported, because data were missing for less than 5 percent of all students nation wide.

Data quality. Staff at NCES and its collection agent, the Bureau of the Census, edit all CCD reports and ask state CCD Coordinators to correct or confirm any numbers that appear out of range when compared with other states or with the state's reports in previous years. Tables include footnote explanations for some seemingly anomalous numbers.

Additional follow-up checks were carried out for two items. States were asked to reconfirm any missing or not applicable entries for Title I school or magnet school status. Each state that was contacted provided the requested confirmation or correction.

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Key Terms

A public school provides educational services to students, has an assigned administrator, receives public funds as its primary support, and is operated by an education agency. A single school may operate at multiple locations (for example, an urban "storefront school" for potential dropouts with a single principal responsible for programs at several addresses). And, two schools may operate at the same location, as is the case when a kindergarten-grade 12 facility has both an elementary and a high school principal. Except in table A, this report excluded 2,654 schools (21 of these were in the outlying areas) that did not report any students in membership for the 2000-01 school year.

Regular schools do not focus primarily on special, vocational, or alternative education, although they may offer these programs in addition to the regular curriculum. A special education school focuses primarily on special education, with materials and instructional approaches adapted to meet the students' needs. A vocational education school focuses primarily on vocational, technical or career education and provides education or training in at least one semiskilled or technical occupation. An alternative education school addresses the needs of students that typically cannot be met in the regular school setting, and provides nontraditional education.

Title I schools
are designated as eligible for participation in programs authorized by Title I of Public Law 103-382. Those with school-wide programs are schools in which all students have been designated by state and federal regulations as eligible for participation in Title I programs.

Magnet schools are those designed to attract students of different racial/ethnic backgrounds for the purpose of reducing racial isolation, or to provide an academic or social focus on a specific theme (e.g., performing arts).

Charter schools provide free public elementary/secondary education under a charter granted by the state legislature or other appropriate authority.

Membership is the annual headcount of students enrolled in school on October 1, or the school day closest to that date. In any given year, some small schools will not have any pupils. And, in reporting to the CCD, states assign students who attend more than one school to a single school rather than prorating students across all the schools they attend.

Instructional levels are calculated from the lowest and highest grades for which students are reported in a school. Primary schools are those with a low grade of prekindergarten through grade 3 and a high grade of up to 8. Middle schools contain a low grade of 4 to 7 and a high grade ranging from 4 to 9. (A 4th grade center would be counted as a middle school.) High schools have a low grade of 7 to 12 and must extend through grade 12. All other grade configurations, including schools that are completely ungraded, are grouped under the heading of "other."

IEP counts are reported at the school district level and reflect the numbers of students with individualized education programs under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)-Part B.

Free or reduced-price meal eligibility is the number of students in a school who indicate that they are eligible to receive free pr reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Act.

Limited English proficient students are those served in appropriate programs of language assistance (e.g., English as a Second Language, High Intensity Language Training, bilingual education). Does not include students enrolled in programs to learn a language other that English. Students may be referred to as English Language Learners.

Migrant students are those whose parents or guardians are employed on a seasonal or temporary basis for agricultural or fishery work, and who have established a temporary residence for this purpose.

The race/ethnicity categories used in the CCD are American Indian/Alaskan native; Asian/Pacific islander; black, not Hispanic; Hispanic; and white, not Hispanic. They are mutually exclusive. Minority students, in this report, include all categories except white, not Hispanic.

School locale code is assigned on the basis of the school's physical address, or mailing address, if the former is not reported. The locale code categories are:

  • Large city-central city of a metropolitan statistical area (MSA) or consolidated MSA (CMSA), with a population of at least 250,000.

  • Midsize city-central city of an MSA or CMSA, with a population less than 250,000.

  • Urban fringe of a large city-any incorporated place, Census-designated place (CDP), or non-place territory within a CMSA or MSA of a large city and defined as urban by the U.S. Bureau of the Census.

  • Urban fringe of a midsize city-any incorporated place, CDP, or non-place within a CMSA or MSA of a midsize central city and defined as urban by the U.S. Bureau of the Census.

  • Large town- an incorporated place or CDP with a population of at least 25,000 and located outside a CMSA or MSA.

  • Small town-an incorporated place or CDP with a population between 2,500 and 24,999 and located outside a CMSA or MSA.

  • Rural-any incorporated place, CDP, or non-place territory designated as rural by the U.S. Bureau of the Census; excludes places that are within an MSA.

  • Rural Urban Fringe - any place meeting the definition for rural that is within an MSA.

Regular school districts are agencies responsible for providing free public education for school-age children residing within their jurisdiction. This category excludes local supervisory unions that provide management services for a group of associated school districts, although it includes the "component" districts that receive these services. The category also excludes regional education service agencies that typically provide school districts with research, testing, or data processing services; state and federally operated school districts; and other agencies that do not fall into these groupings. Most states reported education agencies that administered only charter schools under this last category. There were 2,076 agencies not considered regular school districts in 2000-01; 998 of these reported students and 1,078 did not. This report also excluded 345 regular school districts that did not report any students in membership for the 2000-01 school year. This condition can occur when a small district has no pupils or contracts with another district to educate the students under its jurisdiction.

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This paper was improved by the suggestions of the reviewers, Myrna Holgate, Idaho Department of Education; Bob Jones, Oregon Department of Education; Donna Mills, Delaware Department of Education; and Charlene Hoffman and Frank Morgan, National Center for Education Statistics. Bruce Taylor of NCES, whose careful review was much appreciated, chaired the adjudication. Beth Young and Tai Phan of NCES, and Jennifer Savage of the Education Statistical Services Institute, ensured the quality of the information and the analyses. Julia Naum of the U.S. Bureau of the Census prepared the tables and Susan Baldridge, Pinkerton Computer Consultants, Inc., formatted the final document.

More Information

For further information about this report or related publications and data sets, contact Lena McDowell at (202) 502-7396 or by electronic mail at More NCES publications are available at

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