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New NCES Data Show Shifts in Mode of Instruction and Health and Safety Strategies at Nation’s Public Schools

December 15, 2021

NCES Expands Data Collections Related to the Pandemic’s Impact on Public Schools

WASHINGTON (December 15, 2021)—Almost all (99%) public school fourth- and eighth-graders are attending school full-time in-person, according to data released today by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), within the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES). While nearly all public schools offered in-person instruction to all students, about one-third offered remote instruction to at least some students. The findings, from the inaugural experimental School Pulse Panel (SPP) and the new round of data collected through the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), are part of NCES’s innovative approach to delivering timely information regarding the pandemic’s impact on elementary and secondary schools in the U.S.

“These critical data expand our understanding of the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the operation of U.S. public schools and how schools have responded to the pandemic,” said NCES Commissioner Peggy G. Carr. “It is encouraging to see that almost all public school students have returned to classrooms for in-person instruction during this academic year.”

The School Pulse Panel is a new study sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences, the statistics, research, and evaluation arm of the U.S. Department of Education. The study is administered by NCES in partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau. The School Pulse Panel collects extensive data on issues concerning the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students and staff in the U.S. from a nationally representative sample of public primary, middle, high, and combined-grade schools. The NAEP data are comprised of the public schools sampled to participate in the 2022 NAEP assessment. The NAEP data are from a sample of 7,400 public schools serving fourth- and eighth-graders collected from September through December.

“The School Pulse Panel provides a snapshot on critical issues, such as the instructional mode offered by schools; enrollment counts of students using various instructional modes; strategies to address pandemic-related learning needs; safe and healthy school mitigation strategies; special education services; use of technology; and information on staffing,” said NCES Associate Commissioner Chris Chapman. “We are grateful for all of the school officials who participated in these data collections while also doing the difficult job of reopening schools and educating students during the pandemic. These data are essential and will support our understanding of the pandemic’s impact on American students.”

“The School Pulse Panel and NAEP pre-assessment data are part of IES’s strategy to provide reliable and timely information to measure the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on American education and help the nation identify the path to recovery,” said IES Director Mark Schneider.

The School Pulse Panel provides reliable data on a wealth of information focused on school reopening efforts, virus spread mitigation strategies, services offered for students and staff, and technology use, as reported by principals in U.S. public schools. The data collected in this survey will help to inform ongoing policy and funding discussions. Winter data collection for the School Pulse Panel is scheduled to begin in early 2022.

This is the initial experimental data product release from the School Pulse Panel. Experimental data products are innovative statistical products created using new data sources or methodologies. Experimental data may not meet all NCES quality standards but are of sufficient benefit to data users in the absence of other relevant products. NCES clearly identifies experimental data products upon their release. The data released today can be found at the IES dashboard at

Key Findings:

Mode of instruction

  • As of September, all public schools (100%) offered in-person instruction, and approximately one-third (34%) offered remote instruction.
  • Overall, about 99 percent of fourth- and eighth-grade public school students attended school full-time in-person in fall 2021. This was true of students who attended schools where 25 percent or less of the students were races other than White, as well as for those in schools where 76 percent or more of the students were races other than White.

Supporting learning needs

  • To help address pandemic-related learning needs, during the 2020-21 school year, 48 percent of public schools offered before- or after-school programs.
  • During the summer after the 2020-21 school year, 85 percent offered summer school and 51 percent offered academic camps to address pandemic-driven learning needs.
  • As of the summer of 2021, nearly all (96%) of public schools planned to conduct diagnostic student assessments at the start of 2021-22. Nearly all (99%) also planned to use the results to address pandemic-related learning needs.

Health and safety

  • About one in five public schools offered on-site vaccinations to eligible students in 2020-21.
  • As of September, about 39 percent of public schools reported over three-quarters of their staff have been vaccinated. About 24 percent of public schools reported not knowing the percentage of their staff who have been vaccinated.
  • As of September, three-quarters of public schools reported requiring or requesting students to stay home after a possible COVID-19 exposure.

Education technology support

  • Public schools continue to provide devices and Internet access to students. As of September, almost three-quarters (70%) continue to provide internet at home to those who need it, and more than 90 percent of schools reported providing devices to students who needed them.

Social, emotional, mental well-being support

  • As of September, 42 percent of public schools reported hiring new staff to focus on students’ social, emotional, and mental well-being.
  • In addition to adding new staff, as of September, 86 percent of public schools encouraged existing staff to address students’ social, emotional, and mental well-being.
  • As of September, 59 percent of public schools offered professional development to train teachers to support students’ social, emotional, and mental well-being.


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: Josue DeLaRosa, NCES,, (202) 705-6692