This publication provides basic descriptive information about the 100 largest school districts in the United States, Department of Defense Schools and outlying areas (American Samoa, Guam, Northern Marianas, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands). Almost one in every four public school students in this nation is served by one of these 100 districts. They are distinguished from smaller districts by characteristics in addition to sheer size, such as average and median school size, pupil-teacher ratios, number of high school graduates, number of pupils receiving special education services, and minority enrollment as a proportion of total enrollment.
Information about the characteristics cited above is found in the twelve basic tables. Four text tables provide national and 100 largest school district data and precede the basic tables for the purpose of establishing a meaningful context for the information on the 100 largest districts. Following the basic tables, appendix A lists the 500 largest school districts with some identifying information and basic statistical data. Appendix B is an alphabetical list of the 500 districts indicating their rank by size. Appendix C provides the same data as table 1 but for the 1987-88 school year. Appendix D contains the basic table information for the 1996-97 school year. On all basic tables and appendices, with the exception of Appendix B, districts are presented by decreasing order of size.
In the 1997-98
school year, there were 16,411 public school districts in the United
States and its outlying areas, over 91,000 schools and 46.9 million
students in public education. There were 2.8 million teachers in the
1997-98 school year and 2.6 million high school graduates in the 1996-97
school year. The 100 largest school districts made up less than one
percent of all total public school districts but served 23 percent of
the total public elementary and secondary school students (table A).
The 100 largest school districts represent more than 16 percent of schools and employ 20 percent of all teachers. The 500 largest districts make up 3 percent of all school districts and serve 20.1 million students, or 43 percent of the total public elementary and secondary school student population in the United States.
All of the 100 largest school districts have at least 40,000 students and 26 of these school districts have over 100,000 students. The largest school district in the country is the New York City Public Schools, with 1,071,853 pupils enrolled in 1,153 schools. (The New York City School District is so large it has more students than the sixth- through tenth-size ranked school districts added together). The second largest school district is the Los Angeles Unified School District with 680,430 students in 645 schools.
the 100 largest districts reported all of the types of staff. In 87
of those districts, 45 percent or more of their staff were teachers,
and in 9 of these districts over 60 percent were teachers. Only 14 of
the 89 districts that reported staff had over 1 percent of their staff
assigned to district administration (table 11).
The District of Columbia, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico each have only one school district for the entire jurisdiction, and each is represented among the 100 largest school districts (table 1). There are 34 states that contain at least one of the 100 largest school districts. Two states, Florida and Texas, have 14 districts respectively among the 100 largest: California has 11. Only a few other states
As expected, these
100 largest districts tend to be in cities and counties having large
populations, with administrative offices typically located in large
cities and their environs. Many of the districts are in states where
the school districts are coterminous with counties. Over 70 percent
of these districts are located in coastal and gulf coast states.
The number of high school graduates as a percentage of all students in the 100 largest school districts was lower than that of the average school district: 4.5 percent of students were graduates in the 100 largest school districts compared to 5.6 percent for the average school district (table A).
A substantial number of the 100 largest school districts have a disproportionately high percentage of racial/ethnic minorities in their student population. The 100 largest districts, with 23 percent of the nation's public school students, served 38 percent of the 17.6 million minority public school students1. The proportion of minority students in the 100 largest school districts is almost double the proportion of minority students in all public schools. In the 1997-98 school year, 66 percent of the students in the 100 largest school districts were minority students compared to 38 percent of students nationally (table C). In fact, 8 out of the 10 largest school districts had over 75 percent minority student membership (table 8).
Even with the relatively high minority membership in the 100 largest school districts, 46 of the 100 largest school districts report 50 percent or more of their students as white, non-Hispanic (table 9). Of these 46 districts, 14 report minority representation of less than 25 percent of their student body (table 8). In 19 districts of the 100 largest districts, half or more of the membership is black, non-Hispanic, 10 districts report that the majority of their students are Hispanic, and in one district, the majority of the students are Asian/Pacific Islanders (table 9).
Students in the
100 largest school districts were also more likely to be eligible for
the free lunch program. Among schools that reported free lunch eligibility,
49 percent of students in the 100 largest school districts were eligible
compared to 35 percent of all students (table C).
Among the 88 of the 100 largest school districts that reported free
lunch, 38 districts reported over 50 percent of their students eligible
for the free lunch program (table 9)
Twelve percent of students in the 100 largest school districts had individualized education programs (IEPs) for students with disabilities. In the largest school district, New York City Public Schools, 13 percent, or 141,850 students, were reported to have IEPs (table 3). Most of these students were in regular schools, as only three percent of schools in the 100 largest school districts are special education schools (table 2).
The 100 largest
school districts spent $58 billion (23 percent) of the $257 billion
in current expenditures spent on the nation as a whole. The two largest
school districts, New York City Public Schools and Los Angeles Unified,
spent one out of five of the dollars expended by the 100 largest school
districts. With the exception of DC Public Schools (49 percent), all
of the 100 largest school districts devoted more than 50 percent of
their current expenditures to instruction. New York City Public Schools
spent the greatest proportion, 72 percent, on instruction among the
100 largest school districts.
the 100 largest school districts between 1987 and 1997
The number of students in the 100 largest school districts increased by 16 percent between 1987-88 and 1997-98, the number of teachers increased by 18 percent, and the number of schools 7 percent. While the numbers of students, teachers and schools have increased between these two years, the proportion of the national total that the 100 largest school districts made up did not change. For example, the number of students in the 100 largest school districts went from 23.3 percent of all districts in 1987-88 to 23.1 percent in 1997-98 (table D).
1 The numbers of student in different racial/ethnic categories are reported at the school level and are aggregated up to the school district level. The national figure was calculated by taking the percent of minority students among those districts that reported race/ethnicity (99.3 percent of districts) and applying this to the total number of public school students.
2 National revenue and expenditure data were calculated from the state-level National Public Education Finance Survey (NPEFS) and can be found in Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education: School Year 1995-96. The percentage distribution was based on school district level data found on the F-33 survey. Department of Defense schools are not included in these national totals.
U.S. Department of Commerce, Statistical Abstract of the United States,
1997 (117th edition) Washington, DC, 1997.
Table 1 presents basic data: numbers of students receiving educational services; full-time equivalent (FTE) teachers; 1996-97 graduates; and schools for each of the 100 largest districts. Also shown is information to fully identify each school district and its city, state, and county, since the name of the district is not always sufficient for this purpose. On this and all the other tables, the districts are shown in decreasing order of size (pupils in membership as of October 1997). Since the districts are arrayed by number of pupils, it is easy to note the differences in the numbers of teachers, graduates, and schools as they relate to districts of similar size. For example, Prince George's County Public Schools, Maryland, though smaller in size than San Diego City Unified, California, has more graduates and teachers.
For all school districts other than the District of Columbia, Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Virginia school districts, the teacher count was derived from the school universe. (For a more detailed description of the surveys see the methodology section).
Table 2 presents the number of schools in the 100 largest districts, by type of school. All but five of the districts have specialized schools devoted to special, vocational, or alternative education. It can be seen from this table that districts vary widely in their use of specialized versus general schools in educating students with special needs.
Table 3 presents the numbers of students assigned to these schools. It should be noted that students attending a specialized school are often counted at their nonspecialized (regular) home school rather than at the specialized school they attend. The number of students having Individualized Education Programs (IEP) in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act-Part B, is shown in the last column of table 3.
In tables 4 through 9 only schools with student membership (or regular schools having membership, as specified in table 4) are used in the data sets from which these tables are derived. In tables 5 through 9 this restriction to schools with membership was required to determine pupil membership by grade in order to determine school categories.
Table 4 provides information on school characteristics in the 100 largest school districts by displaying an array of school size (pupils in membership) at different percentile levels, as well as mean school size for each district (computed using regular schools having membership). For example, the table shows that in New York City Public Schools 25 percent of the schools have a pupil membership of 601 or fewer, and another 25 percent have a membership of 1,170 or more. Dividing all the students in regular schools by the number of such schools yields a mean, or average, size of 995.3 students. If all the regular schools in New York City were listed by size, the school at the mid-point on the list (the median) would have 850 pupils in membership.
The average school size ranges from a low of 411.5 pupils (Puerto Rico Department of Education) to a high of 1,235.3 (Santa Ana Unified, California) for these districts. The largest school in these districts, and also the largest school in the United States, is the 5,160-student Roosevelt Senior High in the Los Angeles Unified District, California.
In table 5, data are given on the number of students assigned to graded (three categories) and ungraded levels. In accounting for their students, 56 of the 100 largest districts assign all of their students to numbered grades and 44 use the "ungraded" status for students in some settings, such as special education, vocational education, and other specialized and alternative programs. In this table, students assigned to all types of schools are counted in the grade for which they are reported.
Table 6 answers the question of how many "elementary" and "high" schools there are in any selection of school districts. Since nearly every conceivable grade span is found among the 15,000 schools in the 100 largest districts, the following four categories are used: primary (low grade of prekindergarten to 3; high grade up to 8), middle (low grade 4 to 7; high grade 4 to 9), high (low grade 7 to 12; high grade 12), and other (all other configurations). Although 94 of these school districts have some schools in the "other" category, only in the Puerto Rico school system is the number very high (224, or 15 percent). Several districts in Florida that have fewer pupils than Puerto Rico, however, have higher percentages of schools in this category: Lee County School District (19 percent), Volusia County (17 percent); and Palm Beach County School District and Brevard County School District (16 percent).
Table 7 presents median pupil/teacher ratios for the schools found in the categories established in table 6. Since teacher counts by school were not available for the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Tennessee, and Virginia, no pupil-teacher ratio could be calculated for the districts in these states. Among the 100 largest districts, the median pupil/teacher ratio for all schools in a district varied from 14.5:1 in Northside Independent School District, Texas to 23.6:1 in Garden Grove Unified, California.
Table 8 gives the number of schools in each district in five ranges of the percent minority student membership, as well as the overall minority student percentage for each district. In this report, minority is defined as all other race/ethnicities than white, non-Hispanic. Eight out of the 10 largest school districts have more than 75 percent minority student membership.
8 dealt with the number of schools in each district having a strong
minority presence of any kind, table 9
presents the percentage of students in the district by specific racial/ethnic
category. This table illustrates that some school districts are made
up of many minority groups while others have high concentrations of
one minority group. For example, the New York City Public Schools have
38 percent Hispanic students and 36 percent black students while the
Philadelphia City School District has a much higher percentage of black
students (64 percent) than any other minority group.
10 deals with the school district revenues and expenditures
and is based on fiscal year 1996 (which is school year 1995-96) local
government financial data collected by the Governments Division of the
U.S. Census Bureau. It presents the amount of revenue received, by source
(local, state, and federal); current expenditures and those current
expenditures for instruction; and, current expenditures per pupil in
membership for fiscal year 1996. Data for Puerto Rico were obtained
from the National Public Education Financial Survey. Among the 100 largest
school districts, Newark City, New Jersey, had the highest expenditure
per pupil ($11,266), and Puerto Rico Department of Education, the lowest
($2,763). Overall, there were 8 school districts with per pupil expenditures
greater than $7,000 and 6 school districts with per pupil expenditures
less than $4,000.
Table 12 reports the dropout rates for the districts that complied with the CCD definition of a dropout. For the 1996-97 school year data, 31 states complied with the CCD definition of a dropout and their district data are reported in this table. If a district was missing dropouts for any grades 7 through 12 the 7-12 aggregate could not be calculated. All dropouts must be assigned to a grade, therefore ungraded membership is prorated into the rate.
Author: Lee Hoffman