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Annual Condition of Education Shows Breadth of Changes to Education in United States Since the Start of the COVID-19 Pandemic

May 24, 2023

Report to Congress summarizes pandemic-era data on school enrollments, learning recovery strategies and challenges, and difficulty hiring K–12 teachers

WASHINGTON (May 24, 2023)—The 2023 Report on Condition of Education 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), presents the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic in every dimension of American education from prekindergarten (preK) and elementary school through college and beyond.

“Blending data from over a dozen sources, the 2023 edition of the Report on the Condition of Education contributes to our understanding of the challenges and recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.” said NCES Commissioner Peggy G. Carr. “These challenges include declines in math and reading scores during the pandemic and greater numbers of students seeking mental health services. This is happening against the backdrop of difficulties hiring teachers and changes in enrollment patterns, for example a drop and partial rebound for public preK and kindergarten enrollment. Our understanding of these issues will grow as NCES continues to collect and report data in the coming months and years.”

The annual Report on the Condition of Education is mandated by the U.S. Congress and is designed to serve as a useful resource to families, practitioners, researchers, and policymakers. Topics range from preK through postsecondary education, as well as labor force outcomes and international comparisons. This report offers a summary of findings from a series of online indicators. A selection of these indicators will be released today alongside the report, with more to follow later this summer.

As part of the 2023 release, NCES is making available several enhancements today to the Condition of Education system. One of these enhancements includes the release of two new indicators spotlighting challenges faced by schools during the coronavirus pandemic. The first focuses on teacher openings and finds that generally, among public and private schools with open teaching positions in particular subject-matter fields, higher percentages reported having difficulties filling these openings in 2020–21 than in 2011–12. The second features a closer look at pandemic-era challenges and public school strategies for pandemic recovery.

Additional enhancements for 2023 include new reporting for Puerto Rico in the areas of family characteristics, public school enrollment, public school revenues and expenditures, and measures of achievement in mathematics from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

NCES is also releasing today the latest set of Digest of Education Statistics tables. These 184 Digest of Education Statistics tables provide more a more detailed look at the topics discussed within the Condition of Education system.

The Condition of Education system, including the full report and indicators can be accessed at https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe. Today’s release also includes a national dashboard (At a Glance), a Reader’s Guide, and a Glossary.

The Report on the Condition of Education is a compilation of statistical information collected and assembled from other statistical products. For more information on the data sources, please visit https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/sources.

Key Findings

Teacher Openings During the Coronavirus Pandemic and Challenges and Strategies For Recovering from the Pandemic

  • Among public schools with at least one open teaching position, the percentage of schools that found it difficult or were unable to fill these positions was higher in 2020–21 than in 2011–12 across 12 reported subject areas. This was also true of private schools in 10 of 12 reported subjects.
  • Among public schools hiring for open teaching positions in special education, 40 percent reported having difficulties filling the opening in 2020-21, compared with 17 percent in 2011–12.
  • Between 2012–13 and 2019–20, the number of persons enrolled in traditional teacher preparation programs decreased by 30 percent, and the number of persons completing traditional teacher preparation programs decreased by 28 percent.
  • In April 2022, some 69 percent of public schools reported that the percentage of students who sought mental health services from school had increased since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Overall, only 13 percent of schools strongly agreed, and 43 percent moderately agreed, that their school was able to effectively provide mental health services to all students in need.

Preprimary, Elementary, and Secondary Education

  • In fall 2021, more than a year into the coronavirus pandemic, school enrollments generally remained lower than their pre-pandemic levels.
  • The percentage of 3- to 4-year-olds enrolled in school in 2021 (50 percent) was 10 percentage points higher than 2020 (40 percent) but remained lower than 2019 (54 percent). Some 86 percent of 5-year-olds were enrolled in school in 2021, compared with 91 percent in 2019.
  • Between fall 2010 and fall 2019, total public elementary and secondary school enrollment increased by 3 percent, from 49.5 million to 50.8 million students. Total enrollment then dropped by 3 percent to 49.4 million students in fall 2020 and remained at a similar level (49.4 million students) in fall 2021.
  • From fall 2020 to fall 2021, enrollments in preK and kindergarten both rebounded somewhat (increasing by 14 and 5 percent, respectively), while enrollment in grades 1–8 decreased by 1 percent. However, preK and kindergarten enrollments in 2021 remained lower than 2019 levels.
  • Between fall 2010 and fall 2021, traditional public schools and public charter schools experienced different trends in enrollment. During this period, public charter school enrollment more than doubled, from 1.8 million students in fall 2010 to 3.7 million students in fall 2021—an overall increase of 1.9 million students.

Postsecondary Education

  • In 2021, the overall rate for male students who immediately enrolled in college (55 percent) was lower than the rate for female students (70 percent).
    • Patterns of enrollment over time differed between male and female students. While the immediate college enrollment rate for male students was lower in 2021 than in 2010 (55 vs. 63 percent), the rates for female students in these two years were not measurably different from each other.
  • Between fall 2010 and fall 2021, total undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions decreased by 15 percent (from 18.1 million to 15.4 million students). Drops in undergraduate enrollment during the coronavirus pandemic (i.e., between fall 2019 and fall 2021) accounted for 42 percent of the total decline during the period between fall 2010 and fall 2021.
  • Total enrollment in postbaccalaureate programs increased by 5 percent between fall 2010 and fall 2019 (from 2.9 million to 3.1 million students) and continued to increase by another 5 percent during the pandemic (to 3.2 million students in fall 2021).
  • Among students who began at 2-year institutions in 2013,
    • completion rates 8 years after entry were higher among full-time students (45 percent for non-first-time students and 37 percent for first-time students) than among part-time students (24 percent for non-first-time students and 19 percent for first-time students); and
    • transfer rates 8 years after entry were higher among non-first-time students (38 percent for part-time students and 26 percent for full-time students) than among first-time students (25 percent for part-time students and 22 percent for full-time students).

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

  • In general, greater percentages of high school graduates had completed mathematics and science courses in 2019 than in 2009, including courses in algebra II (85 vs. 80 percent), precalculus/mathematical analysis (40 vs. 36 percent), and all three subjects of biology, chemistry, and physics (35 vs. 30 percent). However, the percentage of graduates who had completed calculus was lower in 2019 than in 2009 (16 vs. 18 percent).
  • In 2019, at grade 8, both the U.S. average mathematics score (515) and the U.S. average science score (522) were higher than the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) scale centerpoint (500 for both assessments). In mathematics, 10 education systems had higher average mathematics scores than the United States, 7 had scores that were not measurably different, and 28 education systems had lower average scores. In science, 10 education systems had higher average science scores than the United States, 9 had scores that were not measurably different, and 26 education systems had lower average scores.
  • Of the degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions in 2020–21, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields made up 8 percent of associate’s degrees, 21 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 17 percent of master’s degrees, and 15 percent of doctor’s degrees. The percentage of degrees conferred in a STEM field varied by student race/ethnicity and was highest for Asian students at all degree levels except for doctor’s degrees, which was highest for students of Two or more races and White students.
  • In 2022, the average 4th-grade NAEP mathematics score (236) was lower than the score in 2019 (241), but it was higher than the score in 1990 (213). Similarly, for 8th-grade students, the average mathematics score in 2022 (274) was lower than the score in 2019 (282), but it was higher than the score in 1990 (263). Compared to 2019, the score gap between the highest-performing (90th percentile) and lowest-performing (10th percentile) students in 2022 was larger at grade 4 but not measurably different at grade 8.

Population Characteristics and Economic Outcomes

  • Between 2010 and 2022, educational attainment rates among 25- to 29-year-olds increased at different levels of attainment. In general, educational attainment rates increased for both male and female 25- to 29-year-olds as well as for most racial/ethnic groups. However, attainment gaps between some groups persisted in 2022.
  • In March 2022, the employment rate of 25- to 34-year-olds was higher for those with higher levels of educational attainment.
  • At all levels of education attainment, the employment rate of 25- to 34-year-olds in March 2022 was higher than the rate in March 2021. For 25- to 34-year-olds who worked full time, year-round, higher educational attainment was also associated with higher median earnings. This pattern was consistent for each year from 2010 through 2021.

NOTE 1: In July 2023, NCES revised estimates from the January 2022 through December 2022 collections of the School Pulse Panel (SPP). In April 2022, some 69 percent of public schools reported that the percentage of students who sought mental health services from school had increased since the start of the coronavirus pandemic or a one percentage points less than initially reported. Additionally, in April 2022, only 13 percent of schools strongly agreed, and 43 percent moderately agreed, that their school was able to effectively provide mental health services to all students in need or a one percentage point increase for schools who strongly agreed and a one percentage point decrease for schools who moderately agreed than initially reported. (published October 17, 2023)

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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 and progress 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 Newsflash to 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:
Josh Delarosa, National Center for Education Statistics, ARIS.NCES@ed.gov
James Elias, Hager Sharp, jelias@hagersharp.com