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State Indicators in Education 1997

September 1997

(NCES 97-376) Ordering information

Introduction and Overview

In 1989, at what is now commonly called the nation's first "education summit," most of the nation's governors met with members of the White House and the U.S. Congress in Charlottesville, Virginia to begin to develop a coordinated national education strategy. Presiding over the meeting were the co-chairs of the National Governors' Association—a national association of state governors. As was customary, one co-chair was from the Republican party and the other from the Democratic party.

Deliberations at the first education summit led to the subsequent adoption of the first six National Education Goals 1 and the formation of the National Education Goals Panel. As some state governors themselves might say, it is significant that these products of the education summit bore the word "national" rather than "federal" in their titles. The meeting and its products were at once an assertion that education in the United States is a national concern, but still primarily a state and local responsibility.

A common education indicator called "Sources of funds for education" supports this contention. When revenues for public elementary and secondary education are traced to the original source of the funds, one finds that state governments contribute, on average, about the same percentage as local governments. Combined, state and local governments account for 93 percent of public education funding nationwide.

At the higher education level, state government's role is relatively even more substantial, contributing 37 percent of governments contribute 11 and 4 percent, respectively. (The remainder comes from tuition and fees, endowments and other private contributions, and sales and services.)

Since the Charlottesville summit, Americans have seen continued activity on education policy between the separate branches and levels of government. The Goals Panel, for example, has included members from the Congress, the White House, the U.S. Department of Education, and the ranks of governors and state legislators. The Goals Panel continues to produce a report every year which measures our country's and each state's progress toward the Goals.

Early in 1996, forty-three of the nation's governors met in a second "education summit" in Palisades, New York, along with corporate chief executives from their states, and other invited guests. The meeting was sponsored by two organizations run by U.S. state governors—the Education Commission of the States and The National Governors’ Association—and the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM), which served as host. The second summit's governors agreed to develop and establish within two years internationally competitive standards, assessments to measure progress toward meeting them, and accountability systems.

By joining efforts with the Federal government in some of these activities over the past ten years, the governors have acknowledged that the Federal government has an important role to play in the collection and dissemination of some of the comparative data needed to manage the quality of American education.

0In 1988, the U.S. Congress authorized the establishment of a Special Study Panel on Education Indicators for the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). This panel was chartered in July 1989 and directed to prepare a report, published in 1991, Education Counts: An Indicator System to Monitor the Nation's Educational Health. The Panel's report recommended a variety of ways in which NCES should increase its collection and presentation of indicator data. Among the many recommendations, the report urged NCES to: strengthen its national role in data collection and provide technical assistance to the states; improve its capacity to collect international data; and develop a "mixed model" of indicators — international and national indicators, state and local indicators, and a subset of indicators held in common.

Two of NCES's primary indicators projects include The Condition of Education and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The Condition is an annual compendium of statistical information on American education, including trends over time, international country comparisons, and some comparisons among various groups (by sex, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and others). However, the Condition contains very few state-by-state comparisons.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is a congressionally-mandated assessment of the academic achievement of American students. Begun in the late 1960s, NAEP has been reporting assessment results state-by-state, on a trial basis, only since 1990. In that year, 37 states, the District of Columbia, and two territories participated in a trial state assessment program in eighth-grade mathematics. In the 1992 fourth-grade reading and mathematics and eighth-grade mathematics trial state assessments, voluntary participation increased to 41 states, the District of Columbia, and 2 territories. The same number of jurisdictions participated in the 1994 Trial State Assessment of fourth grade reading. Forty-three states participated in the 1996 Trial State Assessment of fourth and eighth grade mathematics.

NCES's Digest of Education Statistics is, perhaps, the most comprehensive source of education statistics in the United States. Published annually or biennially since 1962, it provides national and state statistics for all levels of American public and private education. Using both government and private sources, with particular emphasis upon surveys and projects conducted by NCES, the publication reports on the number of education institutions, teachers, enrollments, and graduates; educational attainment; finances; government funding; and outcomes of education. Background information on population trends, public attitudes toward education, education characteristics of the labor force, government finances, and economic trends is also presented. Most of the data is presented in over 400 tables, but some graphics are also included. Many of the tables contain state-by-state data.

For some time, NCES has also compiled similar volumes of education statistics focused on the U.S. states. These publications, two volumes of Historical Trends: State Education Facts and one volume of State Projections for Public Elementary and Secondary Enrollment, Graduates, and Teachers were compiled every few years, largely in order to present historical trends or future projections in state education statistics.

An NCES state indicator report published a year ago, State Comparisons of Education Statistics: 1969–70 to 1993–94 expanded on these earlier efforts with much new material, aggregated at the state level for the first time. But, State Comparisons also presents time series of NCES's most frequently requested state level statistics. About thirty graphics (bar charts and maps) and a considerable amount of explanatory text are also included.

This volume, State Indicators in Education 1997, is a logical extension of these earlier efforts. There is not an attempt in this report, however, to include the total volume of data that the Digest or State Comparisons presents, mostly in tabular form. Rather, the emphasis in this report veers toward explaining and presenting certain patterns and relationships in the data. While there are fewer data, there is more text and there are more graphics. State Indicators in Education, then, is perhaps more like a state-level version of NCES's indicator report, The Condition of Education, and less like a state-level version of NCES's comprehensive data volume, the Digest of Education Statistics.

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