IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

New Report on School Choice in the United States

Across the United States, parents have an increasing number of educational options for their children, including traditional public schools, public charter schools, private schools, and homeschooling. Although the majority of students attend traditional public schools, the numbers of students attending public charter schools or homeschool programs are growing, according to recently released data.

Using survey data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the newly released School Choice in the United States: 2019 report provides information on student enrollment; individual, family, and school characteristics of students enrolled in different educational settings; achievement; school crime and safety; and differences in the school choice options that parents select and their satisfaction with their children’s school.

 

School Enrollment Trends

Over time, the numbers of students enrolled in traditional public schools, public charter schools, and homeschool programs have increased (see figure 1). Enrollment in traditional public schools was 1 percent higher in fall 2016 (47.3 million) than in fall 2000 (46.6 million). 

Public charter schools grew at a much more rapid rate in that time, with enrollment increasing by more than 500 percent, from 0.4 million in fall 2000 to 3.0 million in fall 2016. Enrollment in homeschool programs has also grown, nearly doubling from 1999 (0.9 million) to 2016 (1.7 million). However, private school enrollment fell 4 percent between fall 1999 and fall 2015.

 


Figure 1. Enrollment in traditional public schools, public charter schools, private schools, and homeschooling

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), “Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey,” 2000–01 and 2016–17; Private School Universe Survey (PSS), 1999–2000 and 2015–16; Parent Survey and Parent and Family Involvement in Education Survey of the National Household Education Surveys Program (Parent-NHES:1999 and PFI-NHES:2016).


 

Student and School Characteristics

This report also explores enrollment in different school options across a range of characteristics, including students’ racial/ethnic background (see figure 2), family composition, household poverty status, parent education and employment, and more.

For example, public schools enrolled higher percentages of Black and Hispanic students than did private schools in fall 2015. Within the public school sector, public charter schools enrolled higher percentages of Black and Hispanic students and lower percentages of White and Asian/Pacific Islander students than did traditional public schools in fall 2016. And, the percentages of students who were homeschooled in 2016 were higher for White and Hispanic students than for Black and Asian students.

 


Figure 2. Percentage distribution of elementary and secondary enrollment, by school type and student race/ethnicity: 2015 and 2016
 

#Rounds to zero.
NOTE: Figure excludes homeschooled children. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Private School Universe Survey (PSS), 2015–16; and Common Core of Data (CCD), "Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey," 2016–17.


 

In 2016, about 58 percent of public charter school students were enrolled in schools in cities, compared with 29 percent of traditional public school students; traditional public school students were more likely than public charter school students to attend schools in suburban areas, towns, and rural areas.

In 2015, about 43 percent of private school students were enrolled in schools in cities, and 40 percent were enrolled in schools in suburban areas. However, homeschooling in 2016 was more prevalent among students in rural areas than among those in cities and suburban areas.

 

Parental Choice

In 2016, parents whose children were enrolled in public or private schools were asked about their decisions regarding school choice. Twenty-eight percent of students had parents who reported that they had considered schools other than the one in which their children were currently enrolled, and 80 percent had parents who reported that their children’s current school was their first choice. Among public school students, 20 percent had parents who reported they moved to their current neighborhood so their children could attend their current public school.

Each of these percentages was higher for students from nonpoor households than for students from near-poor or poor households (see figure 3). For example, 31 percent of students in nonpoor households had parents who reported that they considered other schools for their children, compared with 23 percent of students in near-poor households and 21 percent of students in poor households.

 


Figure 3. Percentage of students enrolled in grades 1 through 12 whose parents considered other schools, reported current school was their first choice, or moved to their current neighborhood for the public school, by family poverty status: 2016

1 Includes public school students only. Private school students are excluded.
NOTE: Data exclude homeschooled children.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Parent and Family Involvement Survey of the National Household Education Surveys Program (PFI-NCES:2016).


 

Browse the full School Choice in the United States: 2019 report to learn more about these and other trends related to school choice and student enrollment.

 

By Amy Rathbun and Ke Wang

Education at a Glance 2019: Putting U.S. Data in a Global Context

International comparisons provide reference points for researchers and policy analysts to understand trends and patterns in national education data and are important as U.S. students compete in an increasingly global economy.

Education at a Glance, an annual publication produced by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), provides data on the structure, finances, and progress of education systems in 36 OECD countries, including the United States, as well as a number of OECD partner countries. The report also includes state-level information on key benchmarks to inform state and local policies on global competitiveness. 

The recently released 2019 edition of the report shows that the United States is above the international average on some measures, such as participation in and funding of higher education, but lags behind in others, such as participation in early childhood education programs.

 

Distribution of 25- to 34-Year-Olds With a College Education, by Level of Education

The percentage of U.S. 25- to 34-year-olds with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree increased by 8 percentage points between 2008 and 2018, reaching 49 percent, compared with the OECD average of 44 percent. However, the attainment rates varied widely across the United States in 2017, from 32 percent for those living in Louisiana and West Virginia to 58 percent for those living in Massachusetts and 73 percent for those living in the District of Columbia.

The percentage of U.S. students completing a bachelor’s degree within 4 years was 38 percent in 2018, about the same as the average among OECD countries with available data (39 percent); however, after an additional 2 years, the U.S. graduation rate (69 percent) was slightly above the OECD average of 67 percent (achieved after 3 years). While a higher percentage of U.S. young adults had completed a bachelor’s degree compared with young adults in other OECD countries, a lower percentage had completed a master’s or doctoral degree. Eleven percent of 25- to 34-year-olds in the United States had completed a master’s or doctoral degree, compared with an average of 15 percent across OECD countries.

 

Higher Education Spending

U.S. spending on higher education is also relatively high compared with the OECD average, in both absolute and relative terms. The United States spent $30,165 per higher education student in 2017, the second-highest amount after Luxembourg and nearly double the OECD average ($15,556). Also, U.S. spending on higher education as a percentage of GDP (2.5 percent) was substantially higher than the OECD average (1.5 percent). These total expenditures include amounts received from governments, students, and all other sources. 

 

Early Childhood Education

Contrasting with enrollment patterns at the higher education level, the level of participation in early childhood education programs in the United States is below the OECD average and falling further behind. Between 2005 and 2017, average enrollment rates for 3- to 5-year-olds across OECD countries increased from 76 to 86 percent. In contrast, the rate in the United States remained stable at 66 percent during this time period. Among U.S. states, the 2017 enrollment rates for 3- to 5-year-olds ranged from less than 50 percent in Idaho, North Dakota, and Wyoming to more than 70 percent in Connecticut, the District of Columbia, and New Jersey.

Going deeper into the data, on average, 88 percent of 4-year-olds in OECD countries were enrolled in education programs in 2017, compared with 66 percent in the United States. The enrollment rate for 3-year-olds in the United States was 42 percent, compared with the OECD average of 77 percent.

 

Gender Gaps in Employment

Education at a Glance also looks at employment and other outcomes from education. The report found that the 2017 gender gap in employment rates was lower for those who had completed higher levels of education. This pattern holds in the United States, where the gender gap in the employment rate was particularly high among 25- to 34-year-olds who had not completed high school. For this age group, the employment rate was 73 percent for men and 41 percent for women, a difference of 32 percentage points, compared with the average difference of 28 percentage points across OECD countries. The gender gap in the employment rate was 14 percentage points among U.S. adults with only a high school education and 7 percentage points among those who had completed college.

In 2017, the gender differences in average earnings were also wider in the United States than in the OECD averages. These gender gaps in earnings between male and female full-time workers existed across all levels of education. In the United States, college-educated 25- to 64-year-old women earned 71 percent of what their male peers earned. This gender gap was wider than for all other OECD countries except for Chile, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Poland, and the Slovak Republic.

This is just a sample of the information that can be found in Education at a Glance 2019. You can also find information on the working conditions of teachers, including time spent in the classroom and salary data; student/teacher ratios; college tuitions and loans; and education finance and per student expenditures. Education at a Glance also contains data on the international United Nations Sustainable Development Goals related to education.

Browse the full report to see how the United States compares with other countries on these important education-related topics.

 


Percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds with a college education, by level of education: 2018

1 Year of reference differs from 2018 (see NOTE).                                                                                                                                       

NOTE: Reporting of some countries is not consistent with international categories. Please refer to Education at a Glance Database, http://stats.oecd.org. for details. Comparisons follow International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) 2011 education levels: “Associate’s or similar degrees” refers to ISCED 2011 level 5, “Bachelor’s or equivalent” refers to level 6, “Master’s or equivalent” refers to level 7, and “Doctoral or equivalent” refers to level 8. Countries are ranked in descending order of the total percentage of tertiary-educated 25- to 34-year-olds. See Annex 3 for additional notes (https://doi.org/10.1787/f8d7880d-en).

SOURCE: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2019), Education at a Glance Database, http://stats.oecd.org


 

By Thomas Snyder 

Back to School by the Numbers: 2019–20 School Year

Across the country, hallways and classrooms are full of activity as students return for the 2019–20 school year. Each year, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) compiles back-to-school facts and figures that give a snapshot of our schools and colleges for the coming year. You can see the full report on the NCES website, but here are a few “by-the-numbers” highlights. You can also click on the hyperlinks throughout the blog to see additional data on these topics.

The staff of NCES and of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) hopes our nation’s students, teachers, administrators, school staffs, and families have an outstanding school year!

 

 

56.6 million

The number of students expected to attend public and private elementary and secondary schools this year—slightly more than in the 2018–19­ school year (56.5 million).

Overall, 50.8 million students are expected to attend public schools this year. The racial and ethnic profile of public school students includes 23.7 million White students, 13.9 million Hispanic students, 7.7 million Black students, 2.7 million Asian students, 2.1 million students of Two or more races, 0.5 million American Indian/Alaska Native students, and 0.2 million Pacific Islander students.

About 5.8 million students are expected to attend private schools this year.

 

$13,440

The projected per student expenditure in public elementary and secondary schools in 2019–20. Total expenditures for public elementary and secondary schools are projected to be $680 billion for the 2019–20 school year.

 

3.7 million

The number of teachers in fall 2019. There will be 3.2 million teachers in public schools and 0.5 million teachers in private schools.

 

3.7 million

The number of students expected to graduate from high school this school year, including 3.3 million from public schools and nearly 0.4 million from private schools.

 

19.9 million

The number of students expected to attend American colleges and universities this fall—lower than the peak of 21.0 million in 2010. About 13.9 million students will attend four-year institutions and 6.0 million will attend two-year institutions.

 

56.7%

The projected percentage of female postsecondary students in fall 2019, for a total of 11.3 million female students, compared with 8.6 million male students.

 

By Sidney Wilkinson-Flicker

New Report Shows Increased Diversity in U.S. Schools, Disparities in Outcomes

The school-age population in the United States is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse. An NCES report released in February 2019, Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups 2018, examines how education experiences and outcomes vary among racial/ethnic groups. The report contains 36 indicators that cover preprimary to postsecondary education, as well as family background characteristics and labor force outcomes.

Between 2000 and 2017, the percentage of 5- to 17-year-olds who were White decreased from 62 to 51 percent, while the percentage who were Hispanic increased from 16 to 25 percent.

 


Figure 1. Percentage distribution of the U.S. resident population ages 5–17, by race/ethnicity: 2000 and 2017

# Rounds to zero.

NOTE: Data are for the resident population as of July 1 of the indicated year.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, 2000 Population Estimates, retrieved August 14, 2012, from http://www.census.gov/popest/data/national/asrh/2011/index.html; and 2017 Population Estimates, retrieved September 5, 2017, from https://www.census.gov/data/datasets/2016/demo/popest/nation-detail.html. See Digest of Education Statistics 2017, table 101.20.


 

Prior research shows that living in poverty during early childhood is associated with lower-than-average academic performance that begins in kindergarten[1] and extends through high school, leading to lower-than-average rates of school completion.[2] In 2016, the percentages of children living in poverty were highest for Black and American Indian/Alaska Native children and lowest for White and Asian children.

 


Figure 2. Percentage of children under age 18 living in poverty, by race/ethnicity: 2016

NOTE: Data shown are based only on related children in a family; that is, all children in the household who are related to the householder by birth, marriage, or adoption (except a child who is the spouse of the householder).

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2016. See Digest of Education Statistics 2017, table 102.60.


 

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)—given to a representative sample of students across the United States—measures student performance over time in various subjects (including reading, math, and science) at grades 4, 8, and 12. Average grade 4 reading scores were higher in 2017 than in 1992 for the racial/ethnic groups with available data. Between 1992 and 2017, the White-Black score gap narrowed from 32 points in 1992 to 26 points in 2017. However, the White-Hispanic gap in 2017 was not measurably different from the corresponding gap in 1992.

 


Figure 3. Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading scale scores of grade 4 students, by selected race/ethnicity: 1992 and 2017

NOTE: Includes public and private schools. Testing accommodations (e.g., extended time, small group testing) for children with disabilities and English language learners were not permitted in 1992.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 1992 and 2017 Reading Assessments, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2017, table 221.10.


 

Looking at higher education, between 2000 and 2016, the largest changes in the racial/ethnic composition of undergraduate students were for White students and Hispanic students. The share of undergraduates who were White decreased from 70 to 56 percent, and the share who were Hispanic increased from 10 to 19 percent.

 


Figure 4. Percentage of total undergraduate student enrollment in degree-granting institutions, by race/ethnicity: Fall 2000 and fall 2016

NOTE: Other includes Asian students, Pacific Islander students, and students of Two or more races.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Spring 2001 and Spring 2017, Fall Enrollment component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2017, table 306.10.


 

Postsecondary graduation rates vary widely by racial/ethnic group. For instance, among first-time students at 4-year institutions who enrolled in 2010, 74 percent of Asian students had graduated within 6 years. This was approximately 35 percentage points higher than the graduation rates for American Indian/Alaska Native students and Black students.   

 


Figure 5: Graduation rates within 6 years from first institution attended for first-time, full-time bachelor's degree-seeking students at 4-year postsecondary institutions, by race/ethnicity: Cohort entry year 2010

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Winter 2016–17, Graduation Rates component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2017, table 326.10.


 

The report also includes a new spotlight indicator, which highlights institutions that serve a large number of students from minority racial and ethnic groups. For instance, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are defined as “any historically Black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of Black Americans.” In fall 2016, there were 102 HBCUs that enrolled over 292,000 students, 77 percent of whom were Black.

 



 

The spotlight also highlights other groups of minority-serving institutions—Hispanic-serving institutions, Tribally controlled colleges and universities, and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-serving institutions—describes how an institution is recognized as belonging to one of these groups, and discusses other institution characteristics, such as enrollment and degrees conferred.

For more information, visit the report’s website, where you can browse the indicators or download the full report

 

By Cris de Brey

 


[1] Mulligan, G.M., Hastedt, S., and McCarroll, J.C. (2012). First-Time Kindergartners in 2010–11: First Findings From the Kindergarten Rounds of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010–11 (ECLS-K:2011) (NCES 2012-049). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2012049.

[2] Ross, T., Kena, G., Rathbun, A., KewalRamani, A., Zhang, J., Kristapovich, P., and Manning, E. (2012). Higher Education: Gaps in Access and Persistence Study (NCES 2012-046). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2012046.

Celebrating 150 Years of Education Data

Statistics paint a portrait of our Nation. They provide important information that can help track progress and show areas that need attention. Beginning with the first Census in 1790, federal statistics have been used to allocate representation in Congress. Labor statistics have been gathered since the middle of the 19th century. And since 1870, the federal government has collected statistics on the condition and progress of American education.

One of the early Commissioners, John Eaton, lamented in his 1875 report to Congress that, “When the work of collecting educational statistics was begun by the Office, it was found that there was no authentic list of the colleges in the United States, or of academies, or normal schools, or schools of science, law, or medicine, or of any other class of educational institutions.” In the beginning, data were collected on basic items such as public school enrollment and attendance, teachers and their salaries, high school graduates, and expenditures. Over the years, the level of detail gradually has increased to address the needs of policy makers and the public. For example, data collections were expanded after WWII to provide more information on the growth of postsecondary education resulting from the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, also known as the GI Bill.

Patterns of enrollment change help to illustrate the growth in the nation’s education system. In 1900, relatively few students ever attended high school or college.  Of the 17.1 million students in 1900, only about 0.6 million, 4 percent of students, were enrolled in grades 9 through 12 and 0.2 million, 1 percent of students, were enrolled in postsecondary education.  During the first half of the 20th century, high school became a key part of the educational experience for most Americans. Between 1899-1900 and 1949-50, both population growth and an increase in the number of students attending high school and postsecondary education led to shifts in the distribution of students at different levels. Of the 31.2 million students in 1949-50, about 71 percent were enrolled in prekindergarten through grade 8, about 21 percent were enrolled in grades 9 through 12, and about 9 percent were enrolled in college. From 1949–50 to more recent years, enrollment in postsecondary education has become more common. Of the 75.7 million students enrolled in 2015, about 26 percent were enrolled in postsecondary education. About 52 percent of students were enrolled in prekindergarten through grade 8 in 2015, and about 22 percent were enrolled in grades 9 through 12.   

In 1962, the National Center for Education Statistics was authorized by legislation, which underscored the expanding role of education statistics within the federal system. This new role was highlighted by major advances in gathering policy-relevant and research-oriented information about our education system through the establishment of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in the late 1960s and the beginning of the National Longitudinal Study of 1972. Elementary and secondary administrative record systems were expanded by working collaboratively with state education agencies through the Common Core of Data beginning in the late 1970s.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) was developed from existing systems to better meet the needs of institutional, state, and federal decision makers. At the same time, the Center developed new sample surveys to efficiently meet research and policy needs. These new surveys included the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (1986-87), the Schools and Staffing Survey (1987-88) and the National Household Education Survey (1991).

NCES longitudinal studies have continued to strongly support research and policy analyses at all levels from early childhood to postsecondary education.  One example was the groundbreaking Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (2001), which obtained nationally representative data on children from birth to kindergarten entry. NCES has continued a tradition of innovation by including digitally based assessments in the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress and by introducing interactive geographic mapping to our website. NCES strives to improve measures of the condition of education by collecting data that reflect the educational experiences of all students, while maintaining a faithful commitment to accuracy, transparency, and objectivity. Find out more about the history of NCES here or by visiting the NCES webpage at nces.ed.gov.

 

By Tom Snyder