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WebMemo #134 on Education

August 9, 2002

Education Statistics


Class Size
Degree Attainment
Federal Funding
Higher Education
International Comparisons
School Choice
School Violence
Special Education

Achievement on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)

According to the 2000 NAEP assessments, only 32 percent of 4th graders are proficient in reading, while a dismal 26 percent are proficient in mathematics, 29 percent in science, and 18 percent in history. Proficiency rates decline by the 12th grade in most subjects. Over half of all poor students fail to reach the basic level on NAEP assessments in most subjects.[1]

For more information on NAEP

Class Size

In the 1999-2000 school year, the pubpil/teacher ratio was 16 to 1. The average class size was 22 students[2]

Degree Attainment

In 1998, 71 percent of students graduated on-time from high school. Just over half of minority students graduated. Georgia had the lowest graduation rate at 54 percent and Iowa the highest at 93 percent. Roughly 9 percent of dropouts earned a General Educational Development (GED) credential or equivalent.[3] In 2000, 66 percent of adults with a diploma or GED aged 25-19 had some college experience. One-third had completed a bachelor's degree or higher.[4]


Approximately 47 million children attend public elementary and secondary schools. 5.9 million attend private schools.[5] As many as 1.9 million children are home schooled.[6]

As of the 2000 school year, there were 92,012 public elementary and secondary schools and 27,223 private elementary and secondary schools.[7]


Over the past 30 years, average per-pupil expenditures for public elementary and secondary schools have nearly doubled, rising from $3,367 in 1970 to $6,584 in 2000 in constant dollars.[8]

The average private school tuition nationwide, according to a 1996 Cato Institute study, was $3,116, with 67 percent of all private elementary and secondary schools charging $2,500 or less.[9]

Total K-12 federal, state, and local spending for Education, both public and private, climbed to over $420 billion for the 2000-2001 school year.[10]

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Statistics of State School Systems; Statistics of Public Elementary and Secondary School Systems; Statistics of Nonpublic Secondary Schools; Statistics of Nonpublic Elementary and Secondary Schools; Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education; Fall Enrollment in Institutions of Higher Education; Financial Statistics of Institutions of Higher Education; Common Core of Data surveys; and Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System surveys.

Federal Funding

In 2001, taxpayers spent an estimated $92.8 billion on Education at the federal level, of which about 40 percent went through the Department of Education. The Departments of Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Labor, Defense, and Energy also spent large amounts of money.[11]

$48 billion went to elementary and secondary school programs. Just under half of this amount was spent on programs under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind Act), as well as special Education and vocational education.[12]

Higher Education

Half of undergraduates receive financial aid.[13] More women than men earn associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees. In 1999-2000, the total cost of tuition and room and board was estimated to be $7,302 at public colleges and $20,277 at private colleges.[14]

All public post-secondary 2-year institutions, 81 percent of public 4-year institutions, and 63 percent of private 4-year institutions offer remedial courses in reading, writing, or mathematics.[15]

International Comparisons

Despite higher than average per-pupil expenditures, American 8th graders ranked 19th out of 38 countries on the most recent international mathematics comparison, the Third International Mathematics and Science Study-Repeat (TIMSS-R) of 1999. American students scored 18th out of 38 countries in science.[16] On the TIMSS 1995 study, which tested 12th graders, American students were ranked 19th out of 21 countries in both math and science general knowledge.[17]

Source: Ludger Woessman, "Why Student in Some Countries Do Better," Education Next, Summer 2001, p. 69. http://www.educationnext.org/20012/67.html

School Choice

38 states and the District of Columbia have enacted charter school laws. As of fall 2001, more than 2,300 charter schools nationwide were serving over half a million children.[19]

10 states have publicly sponsored private school choice programs, from vouchers to tax credits.

Students attending nearly 10,000 failing schools will be eligible for public school choice or supplemental services this fall under the No Child Left Behind Act.[20]

School Violence

Over half of all public schools reported a criminal incident to the police. Incidents ranged from fistfights, theft, or vandalism to serious violent crimes. 10 percent of schools reported serious violent crimes.[21]

Special Education

In 1999-2000, 13 percent of public school children were enrolled in special Education, of which nearly half were considered learning-disabled.[22] Over the past decade, the number of students with disabilities served in regular classrooms has increased.[23]


The average salary for public elementary and secondary school teachers is $42,898.[24] Salaries range from $23,135 to $81,067.[25]


The average public school has 110 computers; 98 percent of public schools have access to the Internet.[26] The number of computers in public schools increased from a ratio of over 63 students for every computer in 1985 to less than five per computer in 2000.[27]

Looking for more statistics? Visit the National Center for Education Statistics.

Krista Kafer is Senior Policy Analyst for Education at the Heritage Foundation

Show references in this report

[1] U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, at http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/sitemap.asp.

[2] U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Condition of Education 2002, p. 6,at /static/reportimages/2C84FE48655DB922A9E8822B7305AFFE.pdf (cited hereafter as Condition 2002).

[3] Jay P. Greene, Ph.D., High school Graduation Rates in the United States, Manhattan Institute, November 2001, at http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/cr_baeo.htm.

[4] U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Condition of Education 2001, Table 31-3, at http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/2001/section3/tables/t31_3.html, and Table 31-2, at http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/2001/section3/tables/t31_2.html.

[5] U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics 2000, Table 3, at http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2001/digest/dt003.html(cited hereafter as Digest 2000).

[6] Dr. Brian Ray, "Homeschooling Teaching Strategies," ERIC Digest #EDO SP 2000 6, ERIC Clearinghouse on Teaching and Teacher Education, 2000, at http://www.ericsp.org/pages/digests/home_schooling.html.

[7] U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics 2001, Table 89, at http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2002/digest2001/tables/dt089.asp(cited hereafter as Digest 2001).

[8] Digest 2000, Table 170, at http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2001/digest/dt170.html.

[9] Center for Education Reform, Nine Lies About School Choice: Answering the Critics, September 2000, at http://www.edreform.com/pubs/ninelies2000.htm.

[13] Digest 2000, Table 317, at http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2001/digest/dt317.html.

[15] U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Condition of Education 2000, p. 76, at /static/reportimages/6CD8851A3DE0893EA1ED44F6BA0E5C5C.pdf.

[16] 1999 Third International Math and Science Study-Repeat (TIMSS-R). See TIMSS 1999 International Mathematics Report, International Study Center, Lynch School of Education, Boston College, December 2000, p. 32.

[17] See TIMSS Highlights from the Final Year of Secondary School, International Study Center, Lynch School of Education, Boston College, February 1998, p. 1.

[18] Condition 2002, Indicator 15,at /static/reportimages/2C84FE48655DB922A9E8822B7305AFFE.pdf.

[19] See Center for Education Reform, "Charter School Highlights and Statistics," at www.edreform.com.

[20] U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Education Watch, December 13, 2001, at /static/reportimages/1CDD16CEFA739684E4FC5891E30E3418.pdf.

[23] Condition 2002, Indicator 28, at /static/reportimages/EBD767F42649493F7848390E1B999524.pdf.

[25] F. Howard Nelson and Jewell C. Gould, Teacher Salaries, Expenditures and Federal Revenue in School Districts Serving the Nation's Largest Cities, 1990-91 to 2000-01, American Federation of Teachers, Washington, D.C., October 2001, at /static/reportimages/BB4B06739D70ADD727D53CEAA7035405.pdf.

[27] U.S. Bureau of the Census, Statistical Abstract of the United States (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, various years).

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