NCES Blog

National Center for Education Statistics

Back to School by the Numbers: 2021–22 School Year

Across the country, students are preparing to head back to school—whether in person, online, or through some combination of the two—for the 2021–22 academic year. Each year, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) compiles a Back-to-School Fast Fact that provides a snapshot of schools and colleges in the United States. Here are a few “by-the-numbers” highlights from this year’s edition.

Note: Due to the coronavirus pandemic, projected data were not available for this year’s Fast Fact. Therefore, some of the data presented below were collected in 2020 or 2021, but most of the data were collected before the pandemic began. Data collected in 2020 or 2021 are preliminary and subject to change.

 

 

48.1 million

The number of students who attended public elementary and secondary schools in fall 2020. 

The racial and ethnic profile of public school students includes 22.0 million White students, 13.4 million Hispanic students, 7.2 million Black students, 2.6 million Asian students, 2.2 million students of Two or more races, 0.4 million American Indian/Alaska Native students, and 0.2 million Pacific Islander students.

Additionally, in fall 2017, about 5.7 million students attended private schools.

 

3.7 million

The number of students projected to have graduated from high school in the 2018–19 school year, including 3.3 million students from public schools and 0.4 million students from private schools.

 

43 percent

The percentage of fourth- and eighth-grade students who were enrolled in remote instruction in February 2021.

In comparison, in May 2021, 26 percent of fourth- and eighth-grade students were enrolled in remote instruction.

 

2.3 million

The number of teachers in public schools in fall 2019.

Additionally, in fall 2017, there were 0.5 million teachers in private schools.

 

$13,187

The current expenditure per student in public elementary and secondary schools in the 2018–19 school year.

Total current expenditures in public elementary and secondary schools were $667 billion for the 2018–19 school year.

 

19.6 million

The number of students that attended colleges and universities in fall 2019—lower than the peak of 21.0 million in 2010.

About 5.6 million attended 2-year institutions and 14.0 million students attended 4-year institutions in fall 2019.

 

11.3 million

The number of female postsecondary students in fall 2019.

In comparison, there were 8.4 million male postsecondary students in fall 2019.

 

7.3 million

The number of postsecondary students who were enrolled in any distance education course in fall 2019.

In comparison, there were 12.3 million students who were not enrolled in distance education in fall 2019.

 

Be sure to check out the full Fast Fact to learn more about these and other back-to-school data.

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!

 

By Megan Barnett and Sarah Hein, AIR

2020 Edition of America’s Children Report Explores Differences in Children’s Well-Being by Metropolitan Status

Each year, NCES contributes data and insights to America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, an annual report produced by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. The Forum assembles 23 federal agencies to collaboratively present the public with policy-relevant statistics related to America’s children and their families.

The 2020 edition of America’s Children in Brief examines indicators of children’s well-being in the following domains: demographic background, family and social environment, economic circumstances, health care, physical environment and safety, behavior, education, and health. This year’s report has a special focus on differences by metropolitan status,[1] giving readers a closer look at how measures of well-being vary based on the type of community in which children and their families live.

For example, the report includes information and federal data about birth rates among adolescent mothers, adolescent alcohol use, and adolescent depression and how these data vary by geographic area. Some key highlights of these topics are below:

  • The birth rate among females ages 15–19 was 17 per 1,000 in 2018.
    • The birth rate was highest for adolescents living in rural counties (26 per 1,000), followed by those living in micropolitan counties (24 per 1,000) and metropolitan counties (16 per 1,000).
       
  • In 2019, 4 percent of 8th-, 9 percent of 10th-, and 14 percent of 12th-grade students reported binge drinking.
    • Binge drinking was reported by 18 percent of 12th-grade students living in nonmetropolitan areas compared with 14 percent of 12th-grade students living in metropolitan areas.
       
  • In 2018, 14 percent of the population ages 12–17 had at least one major depressive episode during the past year.
    • This percentage did not differ by metropolitan status (14 percent in metropolitan areas, 15 percent in micropolitan areas, and 13 percent in rural areas).

The 2020 edition also presents new NCES data on differences in high school completion rates by metropolitan status. Many entry-level jobs and colleges/universities require applicants to produce a high school diploma or its equivalent. Thus, measuring how high school completion rates vary across time and for different groups of students is important since they are strongly related to future income.[2]

In 2018, among young adults ages 18–24 who lived in metropolitan areas, 94 percent had completed high school with a diploma or an alternative credential, such as a GED certificate (figure 1). This rate was higher than the 89 percent completion rate for young adults living in nonmetropolitan areas. Furthermore, the high school completion rate for young adults who lived in metropolitan areas increased from 91 percent in 2010 to 94 percent in 2018. The completion rate for young adults who lived in nonmetropolitan areas was not measurably different between these two years (88 percent in 2010 and 89 percent in 2018).


Figure 1. Percentage of young adults ages 18–24 who have completed high school, by metropolitan status: 2010 and 2018

NOTE: Diploma equivalents include alternative credentials obtained by passing examinations such as the General Educational Development (GED) test. This figure excludes those still enrolled in high school or enrolled in a lower education level. The U.S. Office of Management and Budget classifies some counties as within a metropolitan statistical area. The remaining counties are considered nonmetropolitan. Nonmetropolitan counties include counties in micropolitan statistical and rural areas. Total includes those whose household metropolitan status was “not identified,” which is not separately shown.

SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, School Enrollment Supplement.


With the 2020 publication of America’s Children in Brief, the Forum continues two decades of collaboration among agencies across the federal government to advance readers’ understanding of children and youth throughout the country.

To access to the full report that examines these differences in more detail, visit childstats.gov. Be sure to follow the Forum on Twitter @childstats to keep up with Forum activities, and check back next year for new insights into America’s children from reliable federal statistical agencies like NCES.

 

By Amanda Dean, AIR


[1] For information about how metropolitan status is defined in this report, read the “Geographic Classifications” section in the introduction to the report.

[2] Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (n.d.) High school graduation [Website]. Retrieved from https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/social-determinants-health/interventions-resources/high-school-graduation.

New Report Highlights Progress and Challenges in U.S. High School Dropout and Completion Rates

A new NCES report has some good news about overall high school dropout and completion rates, but it also highlights some areas of concern.

Using a broad range of data, the recently released Trends in High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States report shows that the educational attainment of young adults has risen in recent decades. The public high school graduation rate is up, and the status dropout rate (the percentage of 16- to 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in school and have not completed high school) is down. Despite these encouraging trends, there are significant disparities in educational attainment among young adults in the United States. The report shines new light on these disparities by analyzing detailed data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

For large population groups, the report provides status dropout rates calculated using annual data from the American Community Survey (ACS), administered by the U.S. Census Bureau. For example, in 2017, some 5.4 percent of 16- to 24-year-olds who were not enrolled in high school lacked a high school diploma or equivalent credential.

For smaller population groups, there are not enough ACS respondents during any given year to allow for precise and reliable estimates of the high school status dropout rate. For these demographic subgroups, NCES pools the data from 5 years of the ACS in order to obtain enough respondents to accurately describe patterns in the dropout rate.

For example, while the overall status dropout rate for Asian 16- to 24-year-olds was below the national average in 2017, the rates for specific subgroups of Asian young adults varied widely. Based on 5 years of ACS data, high school status dropout rates among Asian 16- to 24-year-olds ranged from 1.1 percent for individuals of Korean descent to 23.2 percent for individuals of Burmese descent. These rates represent the “average” status dropout rate for the period from 2013 to 2017. They offer greater precision than the 1-year estimates, but the 5-year time span might make them difficult to interpret at first glance. 

 


Figure 1. Percentage of high school dropouts among persons 16 through 24 years old (status dropout rate), by selected Asian subgroups: 2013–2017

‡ Reporting standards not met. Either there are too few cases for a reliable estimate or the coefficient of variation (CV) is 50 percent or greater.
If the estimation procedure were repeated many times, 95 percent of the calculated confidence intervals would contain the true status dropout rate for the population group.
NOTE: “Status” dropouts are 16- to 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in school and who have not completed a high school program, regardless of when they left school. People who received an alternative credential such as a GED are counted as high school completers. This figure presents 5-year average status dropout rates for the period from 2013 to 2017. Use of a 5-year average increases the sample size, thereby reducing the sampling error and producing more stable estimates. Data are based on sample surveys of the entire population of 16- to 24-year-olds residing within the United States, including both noninstitutionalized persons (e.g., those living in households, college housing, or military housing located within the United States) and institutionalized persons (e.g., those living in prisons, nursing facilities, or other healthcare facilities). Estimates may differ from those based on the Current Population Survey (CPS) because of differences in survey design and target populations. Asian subgroups exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2013–2017.


 

The 5-year ACS data can also be used to describe status dropout rates for smaller geographic areas with more precision than the annual ACS data. For example, the average 2013–2017 status dropout rates ranged from 3.8 percent in Massachusetts to 9.6 percent in Louisiana. The 5-year ACS data allowed us to calculate more accurate status dropout rates for each state and, in many cases, for racial/ethnic subgroups within the state. Access the complete state-level dropout rates by race/ethnicity here.
 


Figure 2. Percentage of high school dropouts among persons 16 through 24 years old (status dropout rate), by state: 2013–2017

NOTE: “Status” dropouts are 16- to 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in school and who have not completed a high school program, regardless of when they left school. People who received an alternative credential such as a GED are counted as high school completers. This figure presents 5-year average status dropout rates for the period from 2013 to 2017. Use of a 5-year average increases the sample size, thereby reducing the sampling error and producing more stable estimates. Data are based on sample surveys of the entire population of 16- to 24-year-olds residing within the United States, including both noninstitutionalized persons (e.g., those living in households, college housing, or military housing located within the United States) and institutionalized persons (e.g., those living in prisons, nursing facilities, or other healthcare facilities). Estimates may differ from those based on the Current Population Survey (CPS) because of differences in survey design and target populations.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2013–2017. See table 2.3.


 

For more information about high school dropout and completion rates, check out the recently released Trends in High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States report. For more information about the 5-year ACS datasets, visit https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/guidance/estimates.html.

 

By Joel McFarland

NCES’s Top Hits of 2019

As 2019 comes to an end, we’re taking stock of NCES’s most downloaded reports, most viewed indicators, Fast Facts, and blog posts, and most engaging tweets over the past year. As you reflect on 2019 and kick off 2020, we encourage you to take a few minutes to explore the wide range of education data NCES produces.

 

Top Five Reports, by PDF downloads

1. Condition of Education 2019 (8,526)

2. Condition of Education 2018 (5,789)

3Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups 2018 (4,743)

4. Student Reports of Bullying: Results From the 2015 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey (4,587)

5. Digest of Education Statistics 2017 (4,554)

 

Top Five indicators from the Condition of Education, by number of web sessions

1. Children and Youth With Disabilities (86,084)

2. Public High School Graduation Rates (68,977)

3. Undergraduate Enrollment (58,494)

4. English Language Learners in Public Schools (50,789)

5. Education Expenditures by Country (43,474)

 

Top Five Fast Facts, by number of web sessions

1. Back to School Statistics (227,510)

2. College Graduate Rates (109,617)

3. Tuition Costs of Colleges and Universities (107,895)

4. College Endowments (71,056)

5. High School Dropout Rates (67,408)

 

Top Five Blog Posts, by number of web sessions

1. Free or Reduced Price Lunch: A Proxy for Poverty? (5,522)

2. Explore Data on Mental Health Services in K–12 Public Schools for Mental Health Awareness Month (4,311)

3. Educational Attainment Differences by Students’ Socioeconomic Status (3,903)

4. Education and Training Opportunities in America’s Prisons (3,877)

5. Measuring Student Safety: Bullying Rates at School (3,706)

 

Top Five Tweets, by number of impressions

1. Condition of Education (45,408 impressions)

 

2. School Choice in the United States (44,097 impressions)

 

3. NAEP Music and Visual Arts Assessment (32,440 impressions)

 

4. International Education Week (29,997 impressions)

 

5. Pop Quiz (25,188 impressions)

 

Be sure to check our blog site and the NCES website in 2020 to keep up-to-date with NCES’s latest activities and releases. You can also follow NCES on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for daily updates and content.

 

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