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Nearly One-Third of Public Schools Have One or More Portable Buildings in Use

February 15, 2024

NCES data also cover school renovation and repair, teacher planning time, and parent engagement

WASHINGTON (February 15, 2024)—Nearly one-third of public schools (31 percent) have one or more non-permanent (portable) buildings in use on campus, according to data released today by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the statistical center within the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, major repair, renovation, or modernization work was being performed in 21 percent of all public schools as of December of this academic year, when the survey was administered. The average age of the main instructional building among reporting U.S. public schools is 49 years, with 38 percent constructed before 1970.1

“The condition of our school facilities plays a critical role in the education of more than 49 million U.S public school students,” said NCES Commissioner Peggy G. Carr. “School facilities provide a setting for learning and affect health and comfort of the school’s students and staff. As such, these data provide insight into the current condition of our schools as the nation continues down the road to learning recovery.”

The NCES data provide information on matters related to air quality inside and outside of public schools. Thirty-nine percent of schools have an Indoor Air Quality Coordinator on campus. This position is responsible for monitoring air quality conditions at the school and reporting air quality issues and complaints.

In addition, 60 percent of schools reported that they have designated vehicle loading and unloading areas at least 25 feet from all building air intakes, including doors and windows. Eighteen percent of schools have an anti-idling program in place, which includes signage and active monitoring during pick-up and drop-off times for students.

The latest data from the School Pulse Panel (SPP) also address learning recovery activities, including planning time for teachers, the use of instructional coaches, and parent engagement. On average, public schools provide 53 minutes of planning time for teachers each school day. Of schools with dedicated planning time, 28 percent reported that they have increased the amount of time teachers have for planning since 2019-20, the academic year when the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Fifty-nine percent of public schools reported having one or more instructional coaches working at their school. Among these schools, 64 percent had literacy coaches, 44 percent had math coaches, and 48 percent reported having instructional coaches that worked in other subject areas beyond reading and math. Forty-two percent of public schools that had one or more instructional coaches working at their school reported that they have added instructional coach positions since the 2019-20 school year.

Almost all public schools reported that they have ways to inform parents about their children’s learning beyond report cards or summative assessments. This comes in the form of teacher communications to parents about areas in which their child is making progress or having difficulty (95 percent), parent-teacher conferences (95 percent), and online systems where parents can access their child’s grades on assignments, tests, etc. (87 percent). Forty-four percent of public schools have a parent/family engagement specialist or outreach worker at their school. Among all public schools, 17 percent reported adding this type of position since the 2019-20 school year.

The findings released today are part of an experimental data product from the School Pulse Panel, NCES’s innovative approach to delivering timely information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on public K-12 schools in the U.S. The data, collected between December 7 and 21 of 2023, came from 1,625 participating public K-12 schools from every state and the District of Columbia.

Additional data collected from 100 public K-12 schools in the U.S. Outlying Areas – American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands – are also available. Results from this collection include the finding that major repair, renovation, or modernization work was being performed in 33 percent of all Outlying Area public schools as of December of this academic year.

Experimental data products are innovative statistical tools created using new data sources or methodologies. Experimental data may not meet all of NCES’s quality standards but are of sufficient benefit to data users in the absence of other relevant products to justify release. NCES clearly identifies experimental data products upon their release.

All data released today can be found on the School Pulse Panel dashboard at https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/spp/results.asp.

Key Findings

Public School Facilities

  • Almost all public schools have one or more permanent buildings in use at their school (96 percent); 31 percent of public schools have one or more non-permanent (portable) buildings in use.
  • Among reporting U.S. public schools2:
    • The average age of the main instructional building is 49 years old. The following percentages of reporting public schools’ main instructional buildings were built during the following time periods:
      • Pre-1970: 38 percent
      • 1970 – 1999: 21 percent
      • 2000 – present: 20 percent
    • Forty-seven percent reported that their main instructional building has undergone a major renovation since it was built, with 29 percent reporting this renovation has occurred since 2010.
    • Forty-six percent reported that they have had a major building replacement or addition to the school since it was built, with 26 percent reporting the replacement or addition has occurred since 2010.
  • In December 2023, 21 percent of all public schools reported having major repair, renovation, or modernization work currently being performed at their school.
  • Thirty-nine percent of public schools have an Indoor Air Quality Coordinator (IAQC) at their school. An IAQC monitors air quality conditions at the school and is responsible for reporting air quality issues and complaints.
  • Sixty percent of public schools reported that they have designated vehicle loading and unloading areas at least 25 feet from all building air intakes, including doors and windows. Eighteen percent of public schools reported that they have an anti-idling program in place, which includes signage and active monitoring, during pick-up and drop-off.
  • Most public schools have dedicated library space available (89 percent).
    • Compared to the national estimate (89 percent), higher percentages of public schools with the following characteristics reported having dedicated library space available:
      • With 500-999 students (96 percent)
      • With a student body made up of 0-25 percent students of color (96 percent)
      • In rural areas (94 percent)
      • With 300-499 students (93 percent)
      • Elementary schools (93 percent)
      • In low-poverty neighborhoods (92 percent)
    • Compared to the national estimate (89 percent), lower percentages of public schools with the following characteristics reported having dedicated library space available:
      • In cities (84 percent)
      • In high-poverty neighborhoods (81 percent)
      • With a student body made up of 76 percent or more students of color (80 percent)
      • High/secondary schools (80 percent)
      • With 0-299 students (77 percent)
  • Nearly all public schools (93 percent) reported having some kind of athletic amenities on-site. The most commonly reported types of facilities were:
    • A gymnasium (69 percent)
    • All-purpose grass field (68 percent)
    • Outdoor basketball court (56 percent)
    • Baseball/softball field (38 percent)
    • Weight room (29 percent)
    • Outdoor track (28 percent)

Learning Recovery: Teacher Planning Time and Instructional Coaches

  • On average, public schools reported that their teachers have about 266 minutes dedicated for planning time per week, or 53 minutes per school day. A majority of this time comes in the form of individual planning (192 minutes per week), while a lower portion comes in the form of collaborative planning (76 minutes per week).
    • Teachers at elementary schools have less time dedicated for planning per school day (49 minutes) compared to the national estimate (53 minutes), while teachers at middle/combined schools (57 minutes), high/secondary schools (59 minutes), and schools with 1,000 or more students (62 minutes) have more time dedicated for planning compared to the national estimate.
  • Of schools with dedicated planning time, 28 percent of public schools reported that they have increased the amount of time teachers have for planning since the 2019-20 school year. Among these schools that increased planning time, the average amount of increased planning time was 79 minutes per week, or about 16 minutes per school day.
  • In December 2023, 59 percent of public schools reported having one or more instructional coaches working at their school. Twenty-nine percent of public schools reported having two or more instructional coaches. Among the 59 percent of public schools that have one or more instructional coaches working at their school, the following percentages have instructional coaches working as:
    • Literacy coaches (64 percent)
    • Math coaches (44 percent)
    • Other coaches (48 percent)
  • Among the 59 percent of public schools that have one or more instructional coaches working at their school, 42 percent reported that they have added instructional coach positions since the 2019-20 school year.

Learning Recovery: Parental Engagement

  • Nearly all public schools reported using the following methods to engage with parents: email (97 percent), phone (97 percent), in-person meetings (97 percent), and web- or phone-based applications (91 percent). Smaller percentages reported engaging with parents through parent-teacher associations or organizations (71 percent) and at-home visits (46 percent).
  • Almost all public schools reported that they have ways to inform parents about their child’s learning progress beyond report cards or summative assessments. This comes in the form of teacher communications to the parents about areas in which their child is making progress or having difficulty (95 percent), parent-teacher conferences (95 percent), and online systems where parents can access their child’s grades on assignments, tests, etc. (87 percent).
  • Forty-four percent of public schools reported that they have a parent/family engagement specialist or outreach worker at their school. Among all public schools, 17 percent reported that they have added this type of position since the 2019-20 school year.

Technical Note

Statistics from sample surveys are subject to sampling and non-sampling error.

All comparisons in this statistical press release have been tested and found to be statistically significant, unless otherwise noted. NCES statistical tests are generally conducted at a 95 percent level of confidence.

1 These data were reported by 80 percent of public schools. Twenty percent of public schools reported that they did not know the year when their school’s main instructional building was constructed.
2 Between 20 and 22 percent of schools responded "don't know" to questions about the age of their main instructional building, major renovations, and major replacements or additions.

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The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 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 and progress of American education; conduct and publish reports; and review and report on education activities internationally.

Follow NCES on X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube and subscribe to the NCES Newsflash to receive email notifications when new data are 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:
Josh De La Rosa, National Center for Education Statistics, ARIS.NCES@ed.gov
Erik Robelen, Hager Sharp, erobelen@hagersharp.com