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A Majority of Grade 9-12 Public Schools Rate Themselves Favorably on Preparing Students for College

March 19, 2024

NCES data also explore availability of advanced coursework, security officers in public schools

WASHINGTON (March 19, 2024)—A majority of public schools offering any of grades 9 or above (9-12 schools) say they do a "good," "very good," or "excellent" job preparing students for college (77 percent) and the workforce (86 percent), according to new data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the statistical center within the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES). For college preparation, 47 percent of schools overall rated themselves as doing a “very good” or “excellent” job, whereas the percentage was lower for schools in high-poverty neighborhoods and schools with fewer than 300 students (30 percent each), and higher for schools that enroll 1,000 or more students (74 percent).

“This latest report provides valuable insights on how schools rate their own work preparing students for college and the workforce,” said NCES Commissioner Peggy G. Carr. “One noteworthy finding is that a lower percentage of schools in high-poverty neighborhoods give themselves the highest marks, ‘excellent’ or ‘very good,’ in preparing students for college, when compared with the national population of schools. I hope these data will spark important conversations that lead to improved opportunities for all students.”

The new NCES data also provide insights into the availability of advanced coursework in public schools. Among 9-12 schools, 73 percent offer at least one of the following types of advanced coursework: Advanced Placement (AP), pre-Advanced Placement (Pre-AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), or dual enrollment courses. Among these schools, 78 percent offer dual enrollment courses, 76 percent offer AP courses, 22 percent offer pre-AP courses, and 5 percent offer IB courses.

In addition to data on advanced coursework offerings, this month’s collection explored the availability of independent world language courses taught in K-12 public schools. Independent courses are taught in 43 percent of public schools, with the world languages taught in the highest percentages of schools being Spanish (40 percent), French (12 percent), American Sign Language (4 percent), and German (4 percent). Among schools teaching one or more independent world language courses, the majority do so in a traditional classroom setting (76 percent), while 19 percent do so online and 5 percent do so in hybrid settings.

The new survey data also address the use of security officers in K-12 public schools. Forty-eight percent of public schools have a school resource officer (SRO) present at school at least once a week this school year, the data show. Eleven percent of public schools have a sworn law enforcement officer (SLEO) and 22 percent have a security officer present at school at least once per week during the 2023-24 school year. Among schools with an SRO or SLEO present at least once per week, 92 percent reported that these officers routinely carry a firearm and 60 percent routinely wear body cameras. The latter represents an increase from the 53 percent of schools that said their SRO or SLEOs routinely wore a body camera last school year. For more data on this topic, NCES recently released the School Survey on Crime and Safety, based on data for the 2021-22 academic year. That report addressed school security officers and a variety of other topics.

Among public schools that have security personnel, school leaders’ view of these personnel on campus is generally favorable. About two-thirds say they “strongly agree” that such security officers have a positive impact on the school community, and 10 percent or fewer say they “strongly disagree.” (See chart in Key Findings section for details.)

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 January 9 and 23 of 2024, came from 1,625 participating public K-12 schools from every state and the District of Columbia.

Additional data collected from 98 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 21 percent of OA public schools have an SRO present at school at least once a week this school 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

College and Career Readiness

  • Among public schools offering any of grades 9 or above (“9-12 schools”), 73 percent offer at least one of the following types of advanced coursework: Advanced Placement (AP), Pre-Advanced Placement (Pre-AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), or dual enrollment courses. Among these schools, 78 percent offer dual enrollment courses, 76 percent offer AP courses, 22 percent offer pre-AP courses, and 5 percent offer IB courses.
    • Compared to the national estimate for 9-12 schools that offer one of the types of advanced coursework listed above (73 percent), higher percentages of these schools with the following characteristics reported offering at least one of these types of advanced coursework:
      • With 1,000 or more students (100 percent)
      • With 500-999 students (89 percent)
      • In the Northeast (89 percent)
      • With a student body made up of 0-25 percent students of color (84 percent)
    • A lower percentage of 9-12 schools with fewer than 300 students (50 percent) offer at least one of these types of advanced coursework compared to the national estimate (73 percent).
  • For 9-12 schools offering AP courses, an average of 10 AP courses are offered.
    • Compared to this national average (10 AP courses), schools with the following characteristics reported offering more AP courses, on average:
      • With 1,000 or more students (15 AP courses)
      • In suburban areas (13 AP courses)
    • Compared to this national average (10 AP courses), schools with the following characteristics reported offering fewer AP courses, on average:
      • In towns (8 AP courses)
      • With 500-999 students (8 AP courses)
      • In high-poverty neighborhoods (7 AP courses)
      • In rural areas (6 AP courses)
      • With 300-499 students (6 AP courses)
      • With fewer than 300 students (4 AP courses)
    • Eighty-seven percent of 9-12 schools align their graduation requirements to public postsecondary admissions requirements and 62 percent include college and career milestones in their graduation requirements.
  • The table below displays the percentage of 9-12 schools by their response to the prompts “My school does a(n) __________ job preparing students for college” and “My school does a(n) __________ job preparing students for the workforce.
      Poor Fair Good Very good Excellent
    College 1%! 20% 30% 32% 15%
    The workforce 1%! 12% 36% 35% 15%
    ! Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation is between 30 and 50, which indicates that the standard error for this estimate is 30 to 50 percent of the estimate’s value.
    • A higher percentage of 9-12 schools that enroll 1,000 or more students (74 percent) reported doing a “very good” or “excellent” job preparing students for college compared to the national estimate (47 percent).
    • Compared to the national estimate of 9-12 schools that reported doing a “very good” or “excellent” job preparing students for college (47 percent), lower percentages of these schools with the following characteristics reported doing a “very good” or “excellent” job preparing students:
      • In high-poverty neighborhoods (30 percent)
      • With fewer than 300 students (30 percent)

World Language Program

  • Forty-three percent of public schools teach one or more world languages as independent classes at their school. The world languages taught in the highest percentages of schools are Spanish (40 percent), French (12 percent), American Sign Language (4 percent), and German (4 percent).
    • Independent world language classes are more commonly offered in high/secondary schools (82 percent) compared to middle/combined schools (61 percent), and least commonly offered in elementary schools (20 percent).
  • Among public schools that teach one or more world languages as independent classes at their school, the following percentages teach these classes in these selected settings or modes:
    • Traditional classroom (76 percent)
    • Online (19 percent)
    • Hybrid (5 percent)
  • Twenty-five percent of all public schools operate some type of dual language program, which includes a developmental program, a two-way immersion program, a one-way immersion program, or a heritage language program.1 Specifically, 13 percent of all public schools offer a one-way immersion program, 9 percent offer a two-way immersion program, 6 percent offer a developmental program, and 3 percent offer a heritage language program (definitions below).
    • Among public schools offering any type of dual language program (25 percent), 82 percent require educators to be certified to teach in these dual language programs and 28 percent offer a Seal of Biliteracy, which is an award given by a school, district, or state in recognition of students who have studied and attained proficiency in two or more languages by high school graduation.

School Crime and Safety

  • Forty-eight percent of public schools have a School Resource Officer (SRO) present at school at least once per week during the 2023-24 school year. Eleven percent have a sworn law enforcement officer (SLEO) and 22 percent have a security officer present at school at least once per week during the 2023-24 school year. (See definitions below.)
  • Among public schools with an SRO or SLEO at their school at least once per week, the following percentages reported that their officers routinely:
    • Carry a firearm (92 percent)
    • Carry physical restraints (86 percent, a statistically significant decrease from 2022-23 school year [90 percent])
    • Carry chemical aerosol sprays (62 percent)
    • Wear a body camera (60 percent, a statistically significant increase from 2022-23 [53 percent])
  • The table below displays the percentage of public schools that have various types of security personnel at their school at least once per week, by their level of agreement with the statement “The [type of security personnel] at my school makes a positive impact on our school community”:
      Strongly
    disagree
    Somewhat
    disagree
    Neither
    agree nor
    disagree
    Somewhat
    agree
    Strongly
    agree
    School Resource Officer 10%* 2% 5% 17% 66%
    Sworn law enforcement offer 10%* 5%! 19% 63%
    Security officer 7% 3% 4% 22% 63%
    * Statistically significantly higher (p < .05) compared to 2022-23 school year.
    ! Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation is between 30 and 50, which indicates that the standard error for this estimate is 30 to 50 percent of the estimate’s value.
    ‡ Reporting standards not met. The coefficient of variation is greater than 50 or there are too few cases for a reliable estimate.
  • Four percent of public schools reported that they have a staff member, aside from any security personnel, who legally carries a firearm on school property.

Principal Autonomy

  • The following percentages of public schools reported that their principal has a “major influence” on decisions concerning selected activities at their school:
    • Evaluating teachers (93 percent)
    • Hiring new full-time teachers (90 percent)
    • Setting discipline policy (61 percent)
    • Deciding how the school budget will be spent (60 percent)
    • Determining the content of in-service professional development programs for teachers (59 percent)
    • Setting performance standards for students (43 percent)
    • Establishing curriculum (29 percent)

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.

Definitions of specific dual language programs

  • Developmental Program (also known as a maintenance program): dual language program that enrolls primarily students who are native speakers of the partner language.
  • Two-way Immersion Program (also known as a bilingual program): dual language program that enrolls a balance of native English speakers and native speakers of the partner language.
  • One-way Immersion Program (also known as a foreign language program): dual language program that enrolls primarily native English speakers.
  • Heritage Language Program: dual language program that mainly enrolls students who are dominant in English, but whose parents, grandparents, or other ancestors spoke the partner language.

Definitions of security personnel

  • Sworn Law Enforcement Officer (SLEO): an individual who ordinarily carries a firearm and a badge, has full arrest powers, and is paid from governmental funds.
  • School Resource Officer (SRO): a sworn law enforcement officer with arrest authority, who has specialized training and is assigned to work in collaboration with school organizations; all SROs are SLEOs, but not all SLEOs are SROs.
  • Security Officer: an individual who works to maintain safety and security at school but is NOT a SLEO and does not have the same authority as SLEOs (e.g., cannot make arrests).
1 SPP questions related to dual language programs were aimed at measuring language offerings for all students, not education specifically for English learners.

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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