National Center for Education Statistics

New Data Reveal Public School Enrollment Decreased 3 Percent in 2020–21 School Year

NCES recently released revised Common Core of Data (CCD) Preliminary Files, which are the product of the school year (SY) 2020–21 CCD data collection. CCD, the Department of Education’s primary database on public elementary and secondary education in the United States, provides comprehensive annual data on enrollment, school finances, and student graduation rates.

Here are a few key takeaways from the newly released data files:

Public school enrollment in SY 2020–21 was lower than it was in SY 2019–20.

Overall, the number of students enrolled in public schools decreased by 3 percent from SY 2019–20 to SY 2020–21. Note that Illinois did not submit data in time to be included in this preliminary report. The SY 2019–20 and SY 2020–21 total enrollment counts for California, Oregon, American Samoa, and the Bureau of Indian Education do not include prekindergarten counts.

The rate of decline in public school enrollment in SY 2020–21 was not consistent across all states.

Within states, the largest decreases were in Mississippi and Vermont (5 percent each), followed by Washington, New Mexico, Kentucky, New Hampshire, and Maine (each between 4 and 5 percent) (figure 1). Eighteen states had decreases of 3 percent or more; 29 states had decreases between 1 and 3 percent; and the District of Columbia, South Dakota, and Utah had changes of less than 1 percent.

Lower grade levels experienced a greater rate of decline in public school enrollment than did higher grade levels in SY 2020–21.

Public school enrollment decreased by 13 percent for prekindergarten and kindergarten and by 3 percent for grades 1–8. Public school enrollment increased by 0.4 percent for grades 9–12.

Most other jurisdictions experienced declines in public school enrollment in SY 2020–21.

Public school enrollment decreased in Puerto Rico (6 percent), Guam (5 percent), and American Samoa (2 percent). The Virgin Islands, however, experienced an increase of less than 1 percent.

To access the CCD preliminary data files and learn more about public school enrollment in SY 2020–21, visit the CCD data files webpage.

Access NCES-Led Presentations from the Annual Conference Held by the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR)

Several NCES experts presented at the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) Annual Conference, a 4-day virtual event held this past May that focused on “Data Collection, Measurement, and Public Opinion During a Pandemic.” Access their presentations below to learn more about their research.

Be sure to also check out this blog post to access other NCES-led presentations from the 2021 American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting. 


By Megan Barnett, AIR

Access NCES-Led Sessions From the 2021 American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting

This past April, several NCES experts presented at the AERA 2021 Virtual Annual Meeting, a 4-day event focused on the theme of “Accepting Educational Responsibility.” Check out their session summaries below and access their presentations from the event.

National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)

Peggy Carr—NCES Associate Commissioner for Assessments—led a session called “Update on NAEP 2021.” Carr explained the rationale for postponing data collection for the Nation’s Report Card during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, introduced the 2021 Monthly School Survey that provides insight into learning opportunities offered by schools during the pandemic (including an overview of results thus far), and discussed next steps for NAEP.

Common Education Data Standards (CEDS)

Nancy Sharkey—the CEDS Program Lead at NCES—along with her colleagues from AEM and several other research organizations, provided an introduction to the CEDS program and an overview of how states can use CEDS in their policy making and research. Explore their session “Common Education Data Standards: How States Use This Common Vocabulary for Policy and Research” to learn more.

Sharkey also copresented a session called “Developing Informed Data Requests: How to Use Common Education Data Standards and Tools.” Learn about the background of CEDS and explore two of the program’s resources: CEDS Elements and the Align tool.

Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) Grant Program

Kristen King—the SLDS Grant Program Officer at NCES—along with her colleagues from AEM, led a session called “SLDS Capacity Survey: Prerelease Findings” that provided an overview of the SLDS program’s history, goals, and evolution over time. The session also discussed the background and methods of the SLDS State Data Capacity Survey and explored the survey’s prerelease findings.

More information on these topics can be found on the NAEP, CEDS, and SLDS pages of the NCES website. For more information about AERA’s 2021 Virtual Annual Meeting, visit the AERA website.


By Megan Barnett, AIR

Machine-Readable Tables for the Digest of Education Statistics

NCES is excited to announce the release of more than 100 Digest of Education Statistics tables in a new format that makes them easier for researchers to read and use. These tables, known as machine-readable tables (MRT), have a uniform design that allows the data to be read in a standard format.

Each MRT file contains data from one Digest table. In addition to data values, each MRT file includes metadata information pertaining to that particular table. The MRT file, which is an Excel file, includes three tabs:

  •  “MRT-README” tab: provides a brief introduction to MRT and lists all variable names and descriptions used in the table.
  •  “meta” tab: includes all table-specific metadata information, such as the Digest table number and title, general note, data source note, and URL for the corresponding Digest table.
  •  “data” tab: contains all the cell data in a format that is homogeneous across all Digest tables, such as row level headers, column level headers, data values, standard errors, data years, and special notes at the cell level.

The new MRT format facilitates access to and use of Digest table data by software programs. Those seeking to simply view the data or make a simple calculation can continue to access these data in the traditional table format on the Digest of Education Statistics webpage.

There are two ways to access the MRT files, either as a batch or as individual files. To download all available MRT files, visit the Digest MRT webpage. To download individual MRT files, click on the “Download machine readable table” link from the corresponding Digest table’s HTML page (see below).

User feedback is essential to the design of future MRTs (more MRT files will be released in the coming months). NCES welcomes any comments on or suggestions to improve the usability of these tables. For example, NCES is interested in hearing how MRT files are used for research or other applications and any changes that could improve their ease of use. Please contact us with your feedback or questions.  


By Jizhi Zhang and Paul Bailey, AIR

National Spending for Public Schools Increases for the Sixth Consecutive Year in School Year 2018–19

NCES just released a finance tables report, Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education: FY19 (NCES 2021-302), which draws from data in the National Public Education Financial Survey (NPEFS). The results show that spending1 on elementary and secondary education increased in school year 2018–19 (fiscal year [FY] 2019), after adjusting for inflation. This is the sixth consecutive year that year-over-year education spending increased since 2012–13. This increase follows declines in year-over-year spending for the prior 4 years (2009–10 to 2012–13).

Current expenditures per pupil2 for the day-to-day operation of public elementary and secondary schools rose to $13,187 in FY19, an increase of 2.1 percent from FY18, after adjusting for inflation (figure 1).3 Current expenditures per pupil also increased over the previous year in FY18 (by 0.9 percent), in FY17 (by 1.7 percent), in FY16 (by 2.8 percent), in FY15 (by 2.7 percent), and in FY14 (by 1.2 percent). In FY19, education spending was 11.8 percent higher than the lowest point of the Great Recession in FY13 and 6.1 percent higher than spending prior to the Great Recession in FY10.

Figure 1. National inflation-adjusted current expenditures per pupil for public elementary and secondary school districts: FY10 through FY19

NOTE: Spending is reported in constant FY19 dollars, based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), "National Public Education Financial Survey," fiscal years 2010 through 2018 Final Version 2a; and fiscal year 2019, Provisional Version 1a; and Digest of Education Statistics 2019, retrieved January 8, 2021, from

Without adjusting for geographic cost differences, current expenditures per pupil ranged from $7,950 in Utah to $24,882 in New York (figure 2). In addition to New York, current expenditures per pupil were highest in the District of Columbia ($22,831), New Jersey ($21,331), Vermont ($21,217), and Connecticut ($21,140). In addition to Utah, current expenditures per pupil were lowest in Idaho ($8,043), Arizona ($8,773), Nevada ($9,126), and Oklahoma ($9,203).

Figure 2. Current expenditures per pupil for public elementary and secondary education, by state: FY19

NOTE: These data are not adjusted for geographic cost differences.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), “National Public Education Financial Survey (NPEFS),” FY19, Provisional Version 1a and “State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary/Secondary Education,” school year 2018–19, Provisional Version 1a.

These new NPEFS data offer researchers extensive opportunities to investigate state and national patterns of revenues and expenditures. Explore the report and learn more.

[1] Spending refers to current expenditures. Current expenditures comprise expenditures for the day-to-day operation of schools and school districts for public elementary/secondary education, including expenditures for staff salaries and benefits, supplies, and purchased services. Current expenditures include instruction, instruction-related support services (e.g., social work, health, psychological services), and other elementary/secondary current expenditures but exclude expenditures on capital outlay, other programs, and interest on long-term debt.
[2] Per pupil expenditures are calculated using student membership derived from the State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary/Secondary Education. In some states, adjustments are made to ensure consistency between membership and reported fiscal data. More information on these adjustments can be found in the data file documentation at
[3] In order to compare spending from one year to the next, expenditures are converted to constant dollars, which adjusts figures for inflation. Inflation adjustments utilize 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 to a school fiscal year basis (July through June). See Digest of Education Statistics 2019, table 106.70, retrieved January 8, 2021, from


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