About this series:
As K-12 enrollment surges to 51.7 million this fall, past the record set in 1971 as a result of the post-World War II baby boom, Education Week takes a look at the children, teachers, and schools behind the numbers. The five-week series began last week; the final installment will appear in the Oct. 9 issue.
Week 1: The U.S. Department of Education projects that public and private K-12 enrollment this school year will set a record and that enrollment will continue to climb each year until 2006, when it is expected to reach 54.6 million. Some districts, such as Clark County, Nev., have been struggling for years to cope with the population boom; others are facing new challenges in serving the additional students. The first part of the series looks at those challenges as seen by teachers and school administrators and takes a peek back at the previous record-setting class through the eyes of someone who started working in the schools in 1971. ("Enrollment Crunch Stretches the Bounds of the Possible," and "Immigration Plays Key Supporting Role in Record-Enrollment Drama," Sept. 11, 1996.)
This Week: Many of the nation's high school students, at least chronologically, are not considered typical. Some of these students, who are 19, 20, or older, are still in school because family, social, or educational problems delayed them at some point or because they are in special education programs; others are immigrants who either don't speak English as a native language or were delayed in starting school in their native countries.
Week 3: As the number of Americans 65 and older continues to expand, the elderly are becoming an increasingly powerful political group. In states with large communities of retirees, schools are looking for inventive ways to interest senior citizens in supporting the public schools.
Week 4: A crush of new students this year and into the next century has school officials scrambling to find space. Many school districts are facing an electorate that is increasingly less supportive of school construction initiatives, and officials are wondering who ultimately will underwrite the $60 billion price tag for new schools.
Week 5: The percentage of students attending private schools hasn't changed much since 1971, but the parents who turn to private education are vastly different than they were 25 years ago.