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The purpose of this publication is to provide basic descriptive information about the 100 largest school districts (ranked by student membership, that is, the number of students enrolled at the beginning of the school year) for the 2007–08 school year in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Bureau of Indian Education, the Department of Defense dependents schools (overseas and domestic), and the four outlying areas (American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands). In this report, the term "United States and jurisdictions" refers to these entities. This is different from most National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports, which include only the 50 states and the District of Columbia in the totals.

Over one in five public school students in the United States and jurisdictions is served by one of the 100 largest school districts (table 1). These districts are distinct from all school districts by characteristics other than just the size of their membership. They also vary by average school size, median pupil/teacher ratio, and the distribution of students in various racial and ethnic categories (tables 1 and 2).

In this report, the terms "public school districts," "school districts," and "elementary and secondary school districts" are used interchangeably. These include regular school districts; local supervisory unions that provide management services for a group of associated school districts; regional education service agencies that typically provide school districts with research, testing, and data processing services; state and federally operated agencies; and other agencies that do not fall into these groupings (e.g., charter schools reported as their own school districts). A "regular school district," a subset of "public school districts" or "school districts," is an agency responsible for providing free public education for school-age children residing within its jurisdiction. With the exception of the New York City Public Schools, New York, all of the 100 largest districts are regular school districts.1

To provide context for the information on the 100 largest districts, tables 1–4 provide data for the United States and jurisdictions and data for the 100 largest school districts; tables 1 and 2 also include data for the 500 largest districts. Figure 1 shows the location of the 100 largest school districts. Appendix A presents basic data tables for the 100 largest school districts. Appendix D (tables D-1 to D-4) provides supplementary information about the 100 and 500 largest school districts. Table D-1 lists the 500 largest school districts with some identifying information. Table D-2 is an alphabetic list of the 500 largest districts that includes their rank by membership size. Table D-3 provides a count of the number of 100 largest districts by state. Table D-4 provides selected data for the 100 largest school districts in the 1997–98 school year for comparison with the data in table A-1 for the 2007–08 school year.

1 See appendix B for more information on the New York City Public Schools, New York district.