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National Center for Education Statistics

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.

Listening to Schools: The National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS) Shares Educators’ Perspectives on Coronavirus Impacts on Education

As the 2020–21 school year gets underway, many are considering the tremendous impact the coronavirus will have on classrooms—whether in person or virtual—across the United States. What can be done to support policymakers and education sector leaders as they strive to address, amongst other concerns, potentially unequitable learning opportunities and mental health challenges?

The National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS) will gather critical information from teachers and principals about the changes implemented and lessons learned by schools and their staff during the 2020–21 school year. The NTPS is a nationwide system of related surveys that collect data on elementary and secondary education in the United States, including teaching and working conditions in schools and characteristics of public and private school teachers and principals at the state level.

Conducted every 2 to 3 years, NTPS provides critical representative data to policymakers and researchers on school organization, staff evaluations, teacher and principal preparation and professional development, classes taught, school characteristics, demographics of the teacher and principal labor force, and other important education topics. These data serve to inform those who set funding and other priorities, including Congress, the U.S. Department of Education, state education agencies, and public school districts. The data also allow important comparative analyses of key education personnel in public and private educational settings.

Unlike many other studies capturing information about the coronavirus and related education issues, NTPS allows for comparisons at the national level, between states for public schools and by affiliation for private schools, and over time. It is important that NTPS questionnaires reach selected teachers, principals, and other staff during these changing times. The information they provide will help decision makers evaluate the effects of school workplace conditions, salaries, and training opportunities on the educational workforce and aid in the U.S Department of Education’s program planning in the areas of teacher recruitment and retention, teaching policies, and teacher education.

But participation is key! If school staff do not participate in NTPS when selected, the data will provide an incomplete and possibly misleading description of the impact of the coronavirus on school communities, potentially affecting funding and other policy decisions.  

 

What do we know about the coronavirus and the 202021 school year?

By May 2020, in just the United States alone, at least 50.8 million public school students were affected by ordered or recommended K–12 school closures. According to Education Week reports, school districts unveiled a variety of reopening plans for the 2020–21 school year that include remote, hybrid or partial in-person, or full in-person learning approaches. As of September 2, 73 percent of the 100 largest school districts had announced they wiould resume with remote learning only. Information from the Census Bureau’s experimental weekly Household Pulse Survey suggests that students in one of every six households do not usually have access to the internet for education purposes.

Regardless of each school district’s decision for the beginning of the school year, local and state education leaders are responsible for numerous decisions on behalf of their schools, students, teachers, and school staff that rely heavily on the availability of reliable data. But most of the existing information on the education sector’s response to the coronavirus is at the district or state level and does not typically include information about experiences of teachers and principals directly from these critical education providers. Also, because of varying reporting resources and practices across the nation’s 130,000 public and private K–12 schools, a consistent national-level understanding of coronavirus-related education problems is not readily available. As a result, key policymakers and other decision makers currently have little information from individual teachers or principals about coronavirus-related problems specifically and education issues more generally. NTPS provides an opportunity for the voices of teachers, principals, and other school staff to be included in the conversation.

 

How can NTPS show what is happening in K–12 schools across the United States?

Last administered in 2017–18, the NTPS is set to resume in the 2020–21 school year and new questions have been added to reflect changes that may have occurred due to the coronavirus. This offers an opportunity for sampled teachers, principals, and schools to provide valuable data that explain their experience as educators during the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to new items, data gleaned from recurring questions will capture changes over time and yield important insights into areas of success and areas in need of further support. Data from prior school years has already been used during the pandemic to highlight differences in the number of health staff, such as school nurses, and mental health staff, such as counselors, psychologists, and social workers. Gathering more responses to these and other questions will allow for trend analyses, giving policymakers and other decision makers a better understanding of changes occurring at the teacher, principal, and school levels.

 

How will the survey be conducted?

The NTPS data collection process is both voluntary and self-administered, meaning all questionnaires can be completed without any in-person contact and without interruption for staff who may be fully working remotely. Teachers, principals, and schools who have been sampled to participate in the survey will be contacted by mail and e-mail and invited to complete the questionnaires online. Sampled participants will also receive paper surveys at their school mailing addresses.

 

Why is this survey important?

Responses from sampled schools ensure that NTPS estimates are reliable and accurately reflect the activities of all U.S. public and private schools. These data are vital as policymakers, researchers, families, and school staff strive to understand and respond to the effects of the current pandemic and build a better, stronger education sector for the future—including improved response options for potential future pandemics. NTPS responses during the 2020–21 school year can be compared to data from future NTPS cycles to understand possible longer-term impacts of the current significant changes to education delivery in the country and across the states. These data provide national and state policymakers with a distinct understanding of the condition of K–12 education in their communities and will remain important as leaders monitor changes in the education sector in future years.

For more information about the National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS), please visit https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/ntps/.

 

By Julia Merlin, NCES

New Data on Public and Private School Teacher Characteristics, Experiences, and Training

Teachers and principals have a critical impact on the education experience of students in the United States. The National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS) collects data from public and private school principals and teachers in order to better understand their characteristics and experiences. Using data collected during the 2017–18 school year, reports describing these findings for schools and principals were released in August 2019, and a new report about teachers was released in April 2020. During the 2015–16 school year, NTPS collected data about only public schools, principals, and teachers. The data collection for the 2017–18 school year included data about private schools, principals, and teachers as well.

Among the findings from the recently released teacher report are the following:

  • Race and ethnicity. Seventy-nine percent of all public school teachers in the 2017–18 school year were non-Hispanic White, 7 percent were non-Hispanic Black, and 9 percent were Hispanic. Among private school teachers, 85 percent were non-Hispanic White, 3 percent were non-Hispanic Black, and 7 percent were Hispanic.
     
  • Salary. Regular full-time teachers in public schools had a higher average base salary ($57,900) than regular full-time teachers in private schools ($45,300) in the 2017–18 school year.
     
  • Work outside of school. In the 2017–18 school year, 18 percent of public school teachers and 21 percent of private school teachers held jobs outside their school system during the school year.
     
  • Evaluation. In the 2017–18 school year, 78 percent of public school teachers and 69 percent of private school teachers were evaluated during the last school year.
     
    • ​Among teachers who were evaluated, higher percentages of private school teachers than public school teachers agreed with statements about the positive impact of evaluations on their teaching. Eighty-three percent of private school teachers agreed that the evaluation process helped them determine their success with students, 84 percent agreed that the evaluation process positively affected their teaching, and 81 percent agreed that the evaluation process led to improved student learning (figure 1). Comparable estimates for public school teachers were 72 percent, 73 percent, and 69 percent, respectively.

 


Figure 1. Percentage of teachers who agreed with different statements about the positive impact of evaluations, by school type: 2017–18


 

More information about these and other topics (including teachers’ years of experience, class size, and professional development) are available in the full report.

NTPS is a nationally representative survey of teachers and principals from public and private schools. For the public sector (but not the private sector), NTPS includes state representative data as well. NTPS uses scientifically proven methods to select a small sample of school faculty to provide information about major education issues related to school and staffing characteristics while minimizing the burden on teacher and principal communities. Without the cooperation and participation of districts and their teachers and principals, reports such as these could not be produced.

Data files for the 2017–18 NTPS will be released later this year. In order to protect the identities of respondents, researchers must apply for a restricted-use license to access the full restricted-use data files. Data will also be available through NCES’s online data tool, DataLab, where users can create custom tables and regressions without a restricted-use license.

 

By Maura Spiegelman, NCES

NCES Releases Two Short Reports on Shortened School Weeks and High School Start Times

Recently, NCES released two short analyses using data from the 2017–18 National Teacher and Principal Survey.

The first report focuses on the practice of shortened school weeks in U.S. public schools. About 1.9 percent of public schools in the United States operate on a shortened-week schedule (less than 5 days per week). Some of the reasons school districts operate schools on such schedules include attracting high-quality teachers and reducing costs. The report finds that shortened school weeks are more prevalent at rural, western, and smaller schools, and this practice varies by state.



The second report focuses on high school start times. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that middle and high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later to give students the opportunity to get a sufficient amount of sleep. The report looks at average public high school start times by various school characteristics and state. Findings include the following:

  • A higher percentage of public high schools in cities (26 percent) than of those in suburban (18 percent), town (13 percent), and rural (11 percent) areas reported a school starting time of 8:30 a.m. or later.
     
  • A higher percentage of charter schools (24 percent) than of traditional public schools (17 percent) reported a school starting time of 8:30 a.m. or later.

Both reports are based on data collected by NCES as part of the National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS). NTPS is a nationally representative survey of teachers and principals from public and private schools, and for the public sector, NTPS is state representative. NTPS uses scientifically proven methods to select a small sample of school faculty to provide information about major education issues related to school and staffing characteristics while minimizing the burden on teacher and principal communities. Without the cooperation and participation of districts and their teachers and principals, reports such as these could not be produced.

 

By Cris de Brey, NCES

New Data Tell the Story of Public and Private Schools and Their Leaders

Which schools would you guess, on average, spend more instructional time on English, reading, and language arts—public schools or private schools? How about on mathematics?

These questions and many others are answered in recently released reports on U.S. public and private schools and principals. The data in these reports are from the 2017–18 National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS), which is administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). NTPS previously collected data from public schools, principals, and teachers during the 2015–16 school year, but this is the first private school collection since the 2011–12 school year. (The latest NTPS data on public and private school teachers will be released later this year.)

The NTPS collects data about principals’ educational backgrounds and goals, as well as the climate of their schools and other general information about their schools and special programs and services provided. These data serve as a resource for researchers, policymakers, and the general public who are interested in understanding the current experiences and conditions of U.S. public and private schools.

The 2017–18 NTPS featured several new topic areas, such as the following:

  • School instruction time. Overall, schools reported that third-graders spent a weekly average of 500 minutes on instruction in English, reading, and language arts; 350 minutes on instruction in arithmetic or mathematics; and 170 minutes each on instruction in science and social studies or history. Here are some data to answer the questions from the beginning of this post:
    • Public schools reported that third-graders spent a weekly average of 540 minutes on instruction in English, reading, and language arts; 370 minutes on instruction in arithmetic or mathematics; 170 minutes on instruction in science; and 160 minutes on instruction in social studies or history.
    • Private schools reported that third-graders spent a weekly average of 400 minutes on instruction in English, reading, and language arts; 280 minutes on instruction in arithmetic or mathematics; and 170 minutes each on instruction in science and social studies or history.
       

Figure 1. Average minutes reported by public and private schools that third-grade students spend on selected subjects per week: 2017–18

NOTE: Schools that reported 0 minutes per week for a subject were excluded from the calculations of average minutes per week.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS), “Public School and Private School Documentation Data Files,” 2017–18. Please see Characteristics of Public and Private Elementary and Secondary Schools in the United States: Results From the 2017–18 National Teacher and Principal Survey First Look, table 7.


 

  • ​Principals’ professional development. Overall, 83 percent of all principals reported participating in any professional development activities in the 2016–17 school year. Specifically, 85 percent of public school principals and 77 percent of private school principals reported doing so.
  • Evaluation of principals. Among public school principals, relatively more principals in traditional public schools were evaluated during the last school year than were principals in public charter schools (79 and 69 percent, respectively). Relatively more private school principals in Catholic and nonsectarian schools (63 and 58 percent, respectively) were evaluated during the last school year than were principals in other religious schools (41 percent).

Data files for the 2017–18 school and principal questionnaires will be released later this year. In order to protect the identities of responding schools and principals, researchers must apply for a restricted-use license to access the full restricted-use data files. Data will also be available through NCES’ online data tool, DataLab, where users can create custom tables and regressions without a restricted-use license.

 

By Maura Spiegelman