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Nation's Total Public School Enrollment Did Not Change from Fall 2020 to Fall 2021
August 16, 2022

Enrollment rises for prekindergarten and kindergarten, but declines for grades 1-7

WASHINGTON (August 16, 2022)—The total number of students reported to be attending public elementary and secondary schools in the United States in fall 2021 was unchanged compared to fall 2020, according to preliminary data released today by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) within the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES).

“Compared with fall 2020, total public school enrollment in prekindergarten through grade 12 was unchanged in fall 2021, with 49.4 million students enrolled in fall 2020 and 49.5 million students in fall 2021,” said NCES Commissioner Peggy G. Carr. “However, there were changes in enrollment when you look at individual grade levels. Prekindergarten enrollment rose by 14 percent, and enrollment of kindergarteners rose by 5 percent, while public school enrollment counts in each of the grades 1 through 7 decreased.”

Comparing total public school pre-pandemic enrollment in fall 2019 to fall 2021, enrollment dropped from 50.8 million students in fall 2019 to 49.5 million students in fall 2021. This is the second consecutive year in which preliminary fall total enrollment counts are below pre-pandemic fall 2019 enrollment counts.

The preliminary enrollment counts released today are a subset of the NCES Common Core of Data (CCD). The CCD is the U.S. Department of Education's primary database on public elementary and secondary education in the United States, and is a comprehensive, annual, national database of all public elementary and secondary schools and school districts. The CCD program collects data annually and publishes datafiles with student enrollment, schools’ finances, graduation rates, and other vital data.

The preliminary release for 202122 includes data from 49 states, the District of Columbia, the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands. Data from the state of Washington, Guam, and American Samoa were not available as of the submission deadline. Fall 2021 tabulations reported today include imputations for all grades in Washington and prekindergarten for California and Oregon.

Key findings from the preliminary 2020-21 CCD data include:

  • Enrollment changes across years varied by grade groupings:
    • Between fall 2020 and fall 2021, there were 14 percent and 5 percent increases in prekindergarten and kindergarten public school enrollment, respectively.
    • In fall 2021, public school enrollment counts in each of the grades 1 through 7 decreased.
  • Within states:
    • From fall 2020 to fall 2021, changes in public school enrollment varied by state. Thirty-two states had changes in public school enrollment representing less than 1 percent.
    • The largest enrollment percentage increases were in Idaho, Montana, and Pennsylvania, with each reporting an increase in public school enrollment greater than 2 percent between fall 2020 and fall 2021.
    • New York reported a 2 percent decrease in public school enrollment. Additionally, Puerto Rico reported a 6 percent decrease in public school enrollment.

Figure 1. Percentage change in public school enrollment between SY 2020-21 and SY 2021-22, by state or jurisdiction

Figure1. Percentage change in public school enrollment between SY 2020-21 and SY 2021-22, by state or jurisdiction

NOTE: California includes imputations for nonreported prekindergarten enrollments for SY 2021-22, and Oregon includes imputations for nonreported prekindergarten enrollment for SY 2020-21 and SY 2021-22. Washington, American Samoa, and Guam were not able to submit SY 2021-22 membership data as of the submission deadline.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), "State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary/Secondary Education," 2020-21 and 2021-22 Preliminary

While the preliminary files released today have been reviewed to verify that the counts are within expected ranges, the data in this release has not yet undergone the full data quality review process and may contain errors that have not yet been resolved. These data are meant to provide users with a timely release. Due to the preliminary nature of the data, users should analyze the data with caution. NCES plans to release the final national results in spring 2023. The final release will include enrollment counts for all states and territories, and will report student counts by grade level, race/ethnicity, and sex.

The preliminary CCD Data Files can be downloaded here: https://nces.ed.gov/ccd/files.asp#Fiscal:2,SchoolYearId:36,Page:1

Digest of Education Statistics Tables:
Enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools, by level, grade, and state or jurisdiction: Fall 2021

Enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools, by level, grade, and race/ethnicity: Selected years, fall 1999 through fall 2021

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The National Center for Education Statistics, a principal agency of the U.S. Federal Statistical System, is the statistical center of the U.S. Department of Education and the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education in the U.S. and other nations. NCES fulfills a congressional mandate to collect, collate, analyze, and report complete statistics on the condition of American education; conduct and publish reports; and review and report on education activities internationally. Follow NCES on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube and subscribe to the NCES News Flashto receive email notifications when new data is released.

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) is the independent and nonpartisan statistics, research, and evaluation arm of the U.S. Department of Education. Its mission is to provide scientific evidence on which to ground education practice and policy and to share this information in formats that are useful and accessible to educators, parents, policymakers, researchers, and the public.

Contact: National Center for Education Statistics
Annual Reports and Information Staff
Aris.nces@ed.gov or James Elias, Hager Sharp, jelias@hagersharp.com