NCES Blog

National Center for Education Statistics

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

New Data Available on Crime and Safety in Public Schools

The prevalence of crime in America’s public schools continues to be a topic of much concern and discussion among parents, students, educators, and policymakers. A new report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) provides the latest data to help inform conversations and debate about school safety.

The report, Crime, Violence, Discipline, and Safety in U.S. Public Schools, presents new information from the 2017–18 School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS). SSOCS is a nationally representative survey of school principals that collects detailed information on both incidents of crime in U.S. public schools and the practices and programs schools have implemented to promote school safety.

This report presents selected findings on a wide range of topics, including violent and nonviolent incidents, disciplinary problems and actions, security measures, security staff, mental health services, and limitations on crime prevention. In addition to presenting updates for data that have been published in prior SSOCS reports, the new report highlights topics not covered in previous reports, including the number of incidents involving the use or possession of a firearm or explosive device at school as well as the percentage of schools that have “panic buttons” or silent alarms that directly connect to law enforcement in the event of an incident.

Data on both school crime incidents and school safety practices are available by various school characteristics, such as school type, enrollment size, and locale (i.e., whether the school is located in an urban, suburban, or rural area).  

One key finding highlighted in the report is that most schools have written plans for various emergency scenarios. In school year 2017–18, the most common types of plans reported were for responses to natural disasters (94 percent), active shooters (92 percent), and bomb threats or incidents (91 percent).

 



 

The report also presented other key findings from the 2017–18 school year:

  • Seventy-one percent of U.S. public schools reported that at least one violent incident occurred at school during the school year.
  • Three percent of schools reported that there was at least one incident involving the possession of a firearm or explosive device at their school.
  • Forty-six percent of traditional public schools had a school resource officer present at school at least once a week, compared with only 19 percent of charter schools. Conversely, a higher percentage of charter schools than of traditional public schools had a security guard or other security personnel present at least once a week (35 vs. 21 percent).
  • Restorative circles were used more frequently in schools with a higher enrollment of minority students. A restorative circle is a formal mediation process led by a facilitator who brings affected parties of a problem together to explore what happened, reflect on their roles, and find solutions that address individual and community concerns. Among schools with at least 50 percent minority enrollment, half (50 percent) reported involving students in restorative circles. However, in schools with lower minority enrollment (20 to 50 percent), a lower percentage of schools reported involving students in restorative circles (38 percent).
  • Fifty-one percent of schools provided diagnostic mental health assessments to evaluate students for mental health disorders, and 38 percent provided treatment to students for mental health disorders.

To access the full report, please visit https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2019/2019061.pdf. SSOCS:2018 data files will be released later this year. Due to the sensitive nature of SSOCS data, researchers must apply for a restricted-use license to access the full SSOCS:2018 restricted-use data file. A public-use data file—with some sensitive variables removed—will be released after the restricted-use data file.

 

By Sam Correa and Melissa Diliberti (AIR) and Rachel Hansen (NCES)

 

 

Revenues and Expenditures for Public Schools Rebound for Third Consecutive Year in School Year 2015–16

Revenues and expenditures per pupil on elementary and secondary education increased in school year 2015–16 (fiscal year [FY] 2016), continuing a recent upward trend in the amount of money spent on public preK–12 education. This is the third consecutive year that per pupil revenues and expenditures have increased, reversing three consecutive years of declines in spending between FY 10 and FY 13 after adjusting for inflation. The findings come from the recently released Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary School Districts: School Year 2015–16 (Fiscal Year 2016).

 

 

The national median of total revenues across all school districts was $12,953 per pupil in FY 16, reflecting an increase of 3.2 percent from FY 15, after adjusting for inflation.[1] This increase in revenues per pupil follows an increase of 2.0 percent for FY 15 and 1.6 percent for FY 14. These increases in revenues per pupil between FY 14 and FY 16 contrast with the decreases from FY 10 to FY 13. The national median of current expenditures per pupil was $10,881 in FY 16, reflecting an increase of 2.4 percent from FY 15. Current expenditures per pupil also increased in FY 15 (1.7 percent) and FY 14 (1.0 percent). These increases in median revenues and current expenditures per pupil between FY 14 and FY 16 represent a full recovery in education spending following the decreases from FY 10 to FY 13.

The school district finance data can help us understand differences in funding levels for various types of districts. For example, median current expenditures per pupil in independent charter school districts were lower than in noncharter and mixed charter/noncharter school districts in 21 out of the 25 states that were able to report finance data for independent charter school districts. Three of the 4 states where median current expenditures were higher for independent charter school districts had policies that affected charter school spending. The new School District Finance Survey (F-33) data offer researchers extensive opportunities to investigate local patterns of revenues and expenditures and how they relate to conditions for other districts across the country.

 

 

By Stephen Q. Cornman, NCES; Malia Howell, Stephen Wheeler, and Osei Ampadu, U.S. Census Bureau; and Lei Zhou, Activate Research


[1] In order to compare from one year to the next, revenues are converted to constant dollars, which adjusts figures for inflation. Inflation adjustments use the Consumer Price Index (CPI) published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. For comparability to fiscal education data, NCES adjusts the CPI from a calendar year basis to a school fiscal year basis (July through June). See Digest of Education Statistics 2016, table 106.70, https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d16/tables/dt16_106.70.asp.

A Closer Look at Charter School Characteristics

Charter school enrollment has grown significantly over time. Between fall 2000 and fall 2015, overall public charter school enrollment increased from 0.4 million to 2.8 million students, and the percentage of public school students who attended charter schools increased from 1 to 6 percent. The number of charter schools also increased during this period, from 1,990 to 6,860.

The characteristics of charter schools and traditional public schools differ in some ways. A higher percentage of charter schools are located in cities and a lower percentage are located in rural areas as compared to traditional public schools.

There are also some differences in the characteristics of students who attend charter schools and traditional public schools. A higher percentage of charter schools had higher percentages of minority students enrolled. In school year 2015–16, more than half of the students were White in 58 percent of traditional public schools. In comparison, 34 percent of charter schools had more than 50 percent White enrollment. In 9 percent of traditional public schools more than half of students were Black compared to 23 percent for charter schools. In 16 percent of traditional public schools, more than half of students were Hispanic compared to 25 percent for charter schools.

High-poverty schools are those in which more than 75 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch (FRPL) under the National School Lunch Program. In the 2015–16 school year, 24 percent of traditional public schools were high-poverty compared with 35 percent of public charter schools. In contrast, low-poverty schools–in which less than 25 percent of students qualify for FRPL–accounted for 16 percent of traditional public schools and 21 percent of public charter schools.

Access indicators from the Condition of Education on the characteristics of traditional public schools and public charter schools as well as charter school enrollment for more data!

 

By Lauren Musu