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Institute of Education Sciences

Spotlight on American Education Week, Part 1: Celebrating U.S. Public Education with the National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS)

In 1921, the National Education Association (NEA) sponsored the first American Education Week to express gratitude for U.S. public school educators who work hard every day to ensure all students receive a quality education. To celebrate education professionals working in the more than 98,000 U.S. public schools during this year’s American Education Week, NCES will share facts and figures from the National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS) in two blogs (read part 2 here).

The NTPS is a great resource for educators looking to better understand the characteristics and experiences of their professional communities both nationally and by state (using the NTPS State Dashboard). The NTPS collects information about school conditions and the demographics of public and private school teachers and principals, providing data that policymakers and researchers use to inform funding and other decisions.

In honor of American Education Week, here are some selected facts and figures about U.S. public schools from the NTPS (note that these data were collected prior to the coronavirus pandemic).

AEW Day 1: U.S. Public Schools (2017–18 NTPS)

  • The majority of elementary teachers teach in self-contained classrooms (i.e., they instruct the same group of students all or most of the day), while the majority of middle and high school teachers teach in departmentalized classrooms (i.e., they teach several classes of different students all or most of the day in different subjects).[1]
    • The average class size for teachers in self-contained classrooms in primary schools was 21 students (figure 1).
    • The average class size for teachers in departmentalized classrooms in middle schools was 25 students, which was higher than the average class size for teachers in departmentalized classrooms in high schools (23 students).

Figure 1. Average class size in U.S. public schools, by class type and school level: 2017–18

NOTE: Self-contained classes are defined as instruction to the same group of students all or most of the day in multiple subjects. Departmentalized instruction is defined as instruction to several classes of different students most or all of the day in one or more subjects. Among all public school teachers, 25 percent teach self-contained classes in primary schools, 1 percent do so in middle schools, and 1 percent do so in high schools; 8 percent teach departmentalized classes in primary schools, 14 percent do so in middle schools, and 24 do so percent in high schools; and 15 percent teach other types of classes, such as elementary subject specialist classes, team-taught classes, and "pull-out" or "push-in" classes in primary schools, 3 percent do so in middle schools, and 3 percent do so in high schools.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS), "Public School Teacher Data File," 2017–18.


AEW Day 2: Parent Involvement in U.S. Public Schools (2017–18 NTPS)

The National Parent Teacher Association reports that “the most accurate predictors of student achievement in school are not family income or social status, but the extent to which the family . . . becomes involved in the child’s education at school.”[2]

  • Most U.S. public schools offered at least one opportunity for parents and/or guardians to participate in an event or activity at their child’s school, such as parent-teacher conferences and back-to-school nights.
  • Among principals in schools that offered various opportunities for parent participation, the percentages of primary school principals who reported that 76–100 percent of parents attended an engagement opportunity were higher than the percentages of middle and high school principals for most opportunities (figure 2).
    • More parents of primary school students than parents of middle and high school students attended open house or back-to-school night events, parent-teacher conferences, subject-area events,[3] and parent education workshop courses; volunteered in the school; and signed a school-parent compact.[4]

Figure 2. Percentage of principals in schools that offered various opportunities for parent participation who reported that 76–100 percent of parents participated in different opportunities, by opportunity type and school level: 2017–18

! Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation (CV) for this estimate is between 30 and 50 percent.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS), "Public School Teacher Data File," 2017–18.


AEW Day 3: Education Support Professionals in U.S. Public Schools (2015–16 NTPS)

Education support professionals are nonteaching staff, including nurses, librarians, and student support services professionals (such as school counselors, psychologists, social workers) whose contributions keep schools organized and help students stay safe, healthy, and ready to learn.

  • Ninety-four percent of all public schools had at least one full- or part-time counselor, psychologist, or social worker; the percentage of schools that had at least one full- or part-time counselor (81 percent) was greater than the percentages that had at least one full- or part-time psychologist (67 percent) and social worker (42 percent). Six percent had neither a counselor, psychologist, nor social worker on staff.
    • High poverty schools—schools where 75 percent or more of students were approved for the free or reduced-price lunch (FRPL) program—had fewer education support professionals on staff than did schools with lower FRPL participation rates (0–34 percent, 35–49 percent, and 50–74 percent).
      • Eight percent of high-poverty schools had neither a counselor, psychologist, nor social worker on staff, compared with 3 percent of schools with 0–34 percent or with 35–49 percent FRPL participation.

Next, in part 2 of the NTPS blog series for American Education Week, we will share facts and findings about educators.

 

In honor of American Education Week, NCES would like to thank every parent and/or guardian, education support professional, educator, and principal who makes public education possible for students every day!

The data in this blog would not be possible without the participation of teachers, principals, and school staff in the NTPS. We are currently conducting the 2020–21 NTPS to learn more about teaching experiences during the pandemic. If you were contacted about participating in the 2020–21 NTPS and have questions, please email ntps@census.gov or call 1-888-595-1338.

For more information about the National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS), please visit https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/ntps/. More findings and details are available in the NTPS school, teacher, and principal reports.

 

By Julia Merlin, NCES


[1] There may be meaningful differences within the student body at middle and high schools that offer self-contained classrooms that differ from the characteristics of those students in self-contained classrooms at primary schools.
[2] National PTA. 2000. Building Successful Partnerships: A Guide for Developing Parent and Family Involvement Programs. Bloomington, Indiana: National Education Service, 11–12.
[3] Special subject-area events include events such as science fairs and concerts.
[4] A school-parent compact is an agreement between school community members (e.g., parents, principals, teachers, students) that acknowledges the shared responsibility for students learning and/or the school's policies.

Why Do Parents Choose Schools for Their Children?

Have you ever wondered why parents choose a specific school for their child? New data from the Parent and Family Involvement (PFI) Survey of the National Household Education Surveys (NHES) program allow us to identify the factors that parents of K–12 students rate as “very important” when choosing a school. In the 2018–19 school year, 36 percent of students had parents who indicated that they had considered multiple schools for their child. Among these students, 79 percent had parents who indicated that the quality of teachers, principals, or other school staff was very important (figure 1). Other factors that a majority of students’ parents indicated as being very important include safety (including student discipline) (71 percent) and curriculum focus or unique academic programs (e.g., language immersion, STEM focus) (59 percent).


Figure 1. Among K–12 students whose parents considered multiple schools, percentage whose parents indicated that selected factors were “very important” when choosing child’s school, by school type: 2018–19

SOURCE: Hanson, R., and Pugliese, C. (2020). Parent and Family Involvement in Education: 2019 (NCES 2020-076). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.


Although parents of students attending different types of schools (i.e., public assigned schools, public chosen schools, private religious schools, or private nonreligious schools) rated most factors for choosing a school similarly, some differences were observed. For example, higher percentages of students in private nonreligious schools than of students in all other kinds of schools had parents who indicated that the following factors were very important when choosing a school:

  • Quality of teachers, principals, or other school staff (92 percent) (figure 1)
  • Curriculum focus or unique academic programs (74 percent) (figure 1)
  • Number of students in class (58 percent) (figure 2)

In addition, a higher percentage of students in private nonreligious schools (42 percent) than of students in public schools (30 percent for public assigned schools and 31 percent for public chosen schools) had parents who indicated that student body characteristics were very important when choosing a school (figure 2). Conversely, a lower percentage of students in private nonreligious schools (14 percent) than of students in any other school type (ranging from 22 to 29 percent) had parents who rated cost as very important.


Figure 2. Among K–12 students whose parents considered multiple schools, percentage whose parents indicated that selected factors were “very important” when choosing child’s school, by school type: 2018–19

SOURCE: Hanson, R., and Pugliese, C. (2020). Parent and Family Involvement in Education: 2019 (NCES 2020-076). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.


Thirty percent of students in public assigned schools had parents who reported that they had considered other schools for their child. What did parents of students in public assigned schools value more than other parents (figure 3)?

  • Extracurricular options (including before- and after-school programs): 31 percent of parents of students in public assigned schools indicated that this factor was very important, compared with 25 percent in public chosen schools and 24 percent in private religious schools.
  • Special facilities (e.g., gymnasium, planetarium, library): 26 percent of parents of students in public assigned schools indicated that this factor was very important, compared with 20 percent in public chosen schools and 15 percent in private religious schools.
  • Quality or availability of special education (including services for students with disabilities): 25 percent of parents of students in public assigned schools indicated that this factor was very important, compared with 13 percent in private religious schools and 17 percent in private nonreligious schools.

Figure 3. Among K–12 students whose parents considered multiple schools, percentage whose parents indicated that selected factors were “very important” when choosing child’s school, by school type: 2018–19

SOURCE: Hanson, R., and Pugliese, C. (2020). Parent and Family Involvement in Education: 2019 (NCES 2020-076). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.


On the other hand, a lower percentage of students in public assigned schools had parents who indicated that the quality of teachers, principals, or other school staff was very important (77 percent) than did students in any other type of school (82 percent of students in public chosen schools, 84 percent of students in private religious schools, and 92 percent of students in private nonreligious schools) (figure 1).

Only 38 percent of students in private religious schools had parents who indicated that the religious orientation of the school was very important when choosing a school (figure 4). Likewise, only a quarter of students overall had parents who indicated that convenience of location was very important when choosing a school.


Figure 4. Among K–12 students whose parents considered multiple schools, percentage whose parents indicated that selected factors were “very important” when choosing child’s school, by school type: 2018–19

SOURCE: Hanson, R., and Pugliese, C. (2020). Parent and Family Involvement in Education: 2019 (NCES 2020-076). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.


More details about the characteristics and factors that play a role in school choice, as well as additional statistics on family involvement in schools, are available in the recent NCES release Parent and Family Involvement in Education: 2019.

 

By Sarah Grady, NCES