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Characteristics of the 100 Largest Public Elementary and Secondary School Districts in the United States: 1997-98


The primary source of the nonfiscal data for this report is the 1997-98 Common Core of Data (CCD). Information was reported to NCES by state education agencies in the spring of 1998. There are three nonfiscal CCD surveys collecting basic descriptive data on public education in the nation: the school (Public School Universe Survey), local education agency (Education Agency Universe Survey), and state (State Nonfiscal Survey) forms. Fiscal data are gathered at the state level by NCES in the National Public Education Finance Survey and at the local level in the 1996 Annual Survey of Local Government Finances (F-33 series of the Census of Local Governments) conducted by the Governments Division of the Bureau of the Census. A CCD coordinator in each state education agency provides all responses. Since the information is supplied by state education agencies, any item of data missing for one school district is generally missing for other districts in the same state.

Districts represented in this report are of various physical sizes and geographic locations. Three of the 100 largest districts, District of Columbia, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, are also states. Some districts comprise of a good deal of a state's total student membership, while others make up only a fraction of the state's total student membership.

Response Rates

Notwithstanding the item nonresponse situations cited below, most of these data represent school-district level figures. District level data were provided by all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Schools, and five outlying areas: American Samoa, Guam, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Department of Defense Overseas schools and the outlying areas are included in the national totals in this report.

Item Nonresponse

There were some items for which data were not available at the desired levels. The following nonresponse situations in the CCD school and agency universe surveys relate to information presented in this report: no teacher counts-Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Tennessee and Virginia (school universe); no schools reporting free lunch eligible data-Arizona, District of Columbia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington.

Data for the nonfiscal national totals were taken from the public school and agency surveys except in the case of teacher totals for Massachusetts, Minnesota, Tennessee and Virginia. The state totals for these three states were obtained from the 1995-96 State Nonfiscal survey. For all school districts other than the Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Boston School Districts and school districts in Tennessee and Virginia, the teacher count was taken from the school universe. Because of non-reporting at the school level, the Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Boston School Districts and Tennessee and Virginia school districts' teacher counts were obtained from the agency universe.

Fiscal national data were taken from the National Public Education Finance Survey (NPEFS). Data for Puerto Rico were taken from the 1995-96 National Public Education Finance Survey as well.

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Current expenditures-Funds spent for operating local public schools and local education agencies, including such items as salaries for school personnel, student transportation, school books and materials, and energy costs, but excluding capital outlay and interest on school debt.
Dropouts-These counts include students enrolled at any time during the previous year who are not enrolled at the beginning of the current school year, and have not graduated or transferred to another school. The 7-12th grade rate is calculated by dividing the dropout count from the 7-12th grade membership, with ungraded student prorated in.

Federal revenues-Include direct grants-in-aid to school for agencies, funds distributed through a state or intermediate agency, and revenues in lieu of taxes to compensate a school district for nontaxable federal institutions within a district's boundary.

Free lunch eligible-Students who are eligible for the Free Lunch Program under the National School Lunch Act. This count should not include those eligible only for reduced-price lunch. Any school that reported more than 95 percent free lunch eligible students is adjusted on the CCD files to 95 percent for student confidentiality. Caution should be used when interpreting this data, eight states did not report free lunch eligibility and many others may have included reduced price lunch students.

Graduates-Students who completed the course of public elementary and secondary education offered by the school district and received a high school diploma, high school equivalency, or other completing requirements as defined by state law or policy during the period September 1994 through August 1995.

Guidance counselors-Professional staff assigned specific duties and school time for counseling students and parents, consultation of learning problems, evaluating student abilities, and assisting students on career and personal development.

Instructional expenditures-Current expenditures for activities directly associated with the interaction between teachers and students. These include teacher salaries and benefits, supplies (such as textbooks), and purchased instructional services.

Instructional support staff-Includes instructional coordinators and supervisors and instructional aides.

LEA administrators-Local education agency superintendents, deputy and assistant superintendents, and other persons with district-wide responsibilities such as business manager and administrative assistants.

Library/media staff-Professional staff members who are assigned specific duties and school time for professional library and media service activities. Includes library/media specialists and support staff.

Local revenues-Include revenues from such sources as local property and nonproperty taxes, investments, and revenues from student activities, textbook sales, transportation and tuition fees, and food service revenues.

Other staff-Includes support staff for local education agencies, schools, student support services and other areas such as data processing, health, transportation, etc.

Per pupil expenditure-Current expenditure for public elementary and secondary education in a state divided by the student membership. The numbers reported here, based on membership, can be expected to be smaller than per pupil expenditures based on average daily attendance, because the membership counts are generally larger than average daily attendance. As with pupil-teacher ratio, the average reported here does not reflect variations across school districts, grade levels, or programs.

Public school-An institution which provides educational services and has the following characteristics:

  • Has one or more grade groups (prekindergarten through grade 12) or is ungraded;
  • Has one or more teachers to give instruction;
  • Is located in one or more buildings or sites;
  • Has an assigned administrator;
  • Receives public funds as primary support;
  • Is operated by an education agency.

Pupil/teacher ratio-The ratio of pupils to teachers in a school district, based on the total number of pupils and the total full-time-equivalent (FTE) number of teachers reported in the schools associated with the school district. The pupil/teacher ratio is not a class size but rather a district level measure of pupils and teachers.

Pupils in membership-Count of all students whose names have been entered on the roll, minus those whose names have been withdrawn, on or before the closest school day to October 1. Membership counts at the district level may include students for whom the district is providing educational services through some other agency or institution.

Regular school-A public elementary/secondary school that does not focus primarily on vocational, special, or alternative education.

Regular school district-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; regional education service agencies that typically provide school districts with research, testing, of data processing services; state and federally operated school districts; and other agencies that do not fall into these groupings.

Revenues-Additions to assets which do not incur an obligation that must be met at some future date, do not represent exchanges of fixed assets, and are available for expenditure by the local education agencies in the state. Revenues include funds from local, intermediate, state, and federal sources.

School administrators-Staff members whose activities are concerned with directing and managing the operation of a particular school.

Schools having membership-Schools at which students are counted for administrative purposes, even though the students may attend one or more other schools for all or part of their school day.

State revenues-Include both direct funds from state governments and revenues in lieu of taxation. Revenues in lieu of taxes are paid to compensate a school district for nontaxable state institutions or facilities within the district's boundary.

Teachers-Sum of full-time-equivalent (FTE) count of teachers by school for all schools in a school district.

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