What Public Education Really Looks Like

This week is American Education Week, a wonderful opportunity to celebrate public education and honor individuals who are making a difference in ensuring that every child receives a quality education. This year’s theme is “Great Public Schools: A Basic Right and Our Responsibility,” and will be reflected in special observances each day of the weeklong celebration.

In honor of this, I thought I would let the numbers speak for themselves and share some statistics of the current state of the American Public Education System. Pew Research Center has found today’s American students as a whole to be more diverse – and on track to be better educated – than their parents and grandparents. Very interesting, and in some cases, eye-opening!

  • Roughly 53.5 million K-12 students will head to the classroom in 2015, to:
    • 129,200 schools across the country
    • including approximately 5,700 charter schools and 30,900 private schools
  • About 1.3 million children are expected to attend public prekindergarten, bringing the total enrollment to approximately 3.7 million students
  • About 4.1 million public school students are expected to enroll in 9th grade in fall 2015
  • America’s K-12 students are more racially diverse than ever, due largely to fast growth in the number of Hispanic and Asian school-age children born in the U.S.
  • Students today are more likely to stay in school. As of 2013, America’s high school dropout rate had reached a record low: Just 6.8% of 16- to 24-year-olds that year had dropped out of high school, down from 10.9% in 2000.
  • America’s students have improved in math and science over the past 20 years – but remain behind students in many other industrialized nations. The United States ranks 35th out of 64 countries in math and 27th in science, according to a cross-national test known as PISA.
  • Americans are critical of the quality of the nation’s K-12 science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) instruction: Only 29% believe U.S. STEM education is above average or the best in the world, and 29% say it is below average.
  • At the same time, Americans believe math and science skills are less critical to success than communication and reading skills: 90% say communication is one of the most important skills for American children to get ahead, while 79% name math and only 58% name science.
  • Millennials are on track to be the most educated generation to date, in part because of gains for women. Millennial women are nearly four times as likely as women in the Silent generation to have a bachelor’s degree at the minimum.
  • Public school systems will employ about 3.1 million full-time teachers in fall 2015, making the average pupil/teacher ratio 16:0.
  • Current expenditures for public elementary and secondary schools are projected to be $634 billion for the 2015–16 school year. This includes salaries and benefits for school personnel, student transportation, school books and materials, and energy costs.
  • The current expenditure per student is projected at $12,605 for the 2015–16 school year
  • About 3.3 million students are expected to graduate from high school in 2015–16, including 3.0 million students from public high schools and about 0.3 million students from private high schools
  • The percentage of students enrolling in college in the fall immediately following high school completion was 65.9 percent in 2013

I don’t know about you, but I found many of these to be very encouraging! Of course, there is always more that can be done. In Thursday’s blog, I will share some of the areas I’d love to see us grow in.




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