School & District Management Explainer

Education Statistics: Facts About American Schools

By Maya Riser-Kositsky — January 03, 2019 | Corrected: November 22, 2021 | Updated: August 02, 2022 9 min read
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Corrected: An earlier version of this article incorrectly described how many public school students attend suburban schools. It is a plurality of students.

How many K-12 public schools, districts, and students are there? What does the American student population look like? And how much are we, as a nation, spending on the education of these youth?

These data points can give perspective to the implications and potential impact of education policies. The Education Week library provides answers to these questions, and some other enlightening facts, below.

This page will be updated when new federal data becomes available. Federal data is typically released several years after it is collected.

SCHOOLS AND DISTRICTS

How many schools are there in the U.S.?

There are 130,930 public and private K-12 schools in the U.S., according to 2017-18 data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Here’s how they break down:

  • All: 130,930
  • Elementary schools: 87,498
  • Secondary schools: 26,727
  • Combined schools: 15,804
  • Other: 901

Here’s what this looks like in chart form:

Note: The data above reflects the following categorization from NCES: Elementary schools include schools beginning with grade 6 or below and with no grade higher than 8. (This includes middle schools.) Secondary schools include schools with no grade lower than 7. Combined schools include schools beginning with grade 6 or below and ending with grade 9 or above. Other includes special education, alternative, and other schools not classified by grade span.

How many are traditional public schools, public charter schools, or private schools?

While charter schools are often the topic of debate, they make up only a small portion of all schools.

  • Traditional public schools: 91,328 (2018-19, Source)
  • Public charter schools: 7,427 (2018-19, Source)
  • Private schools: 32,461 (2017-18, Source)

For more on charters, including how they work and who oversees them, read this explainer.

Among public schools, how many high schools are there in the U.S.?

  • Total public schools: 98,469
  • Secondary and high schools: 23,529
  • Middle schools: 16,264
  • Elementary schools: 52,322
  • Prekindergarten: 1,453
  • Other, ungraded, and not applicable/not reported: 4,901

(2019-20, Source)

What is the average public school size?

The average public school enrollment is 529 students, according to data from 2019. That’s up 3 students from the average school size in 2015, according to NCES.

What is the average public school size by type of location?

  • City: 588 students
  • Suburban: 654 students
  • Town: 444 students
  • Rural: 368 students

(2019, Source)

How many schools offer online courses?

According to 2017-18 NCES data, 21% of public schools, including charters, offer at least one course entirely online. Almost a third (30.3%) of charter schools offer an entire course online, versus 20.2% of traditional public schools.

How many virtual schools are there?

According to 2019-20 NCES data, there are 691 virtual schools in the U.S. The NCES defines virtual schools as “having instruction during which students and teachers are separated by time and/or location and interact via internet-connected computers or other electronic devices.”

How many school districts are there?

There are 13,452 regular school districts in the U.S. (2018-19, Source)

Note: Regular districts exclude regional education service agencies and supervisory union administrative centers, state-operated agencies, federally operated agencies, and other types of local education agencies, such as independent charter schools.

Where are the largest school districts in the U.S.?

Big cities like New York and Los Angeles lead the list of the largest school districts, as identified by NCES in 2018. But the rest of the top 10 may surprise you:

RankDistrict nameState Enrollment
1New York CityNY960,484
2Los Angeles UnifiedCA495,255
3ChicagoIL359,476
4Miami-Dade CountyFL350,434
5Clark CountyNV330,225
6Broward CountyFL270,978
7Hillsborough CountyFL220,252
8HoustonTX209,772
9Orange CountyFL208,203
10Palm Beach CountyFL192,533

What’s the average tenure of a big-city superintendent?

Superintendents in large cities stick around for an average of 6 years, according to a 2018 report by the Broad Center.

STUDENTS

How many students attend public schools?

In America’s public schools, there are over 49.9 million students, based on federal projections for the fall of 2022.

How many students attend charter schools?

According to data from three years earlier, over 3.4 million students, or 6.8 percent of all public school students, attend charter schools.

How many students attend private schools? What are the religious affiliations of those schools?

In total, almost 5.5 million students attend private schools, according to 2019 NCES data.

  • 34.9% of those in Catholic schools
  • 25.7% in nonsectarian (non-religious) schools
  • 14.8% in un-affiliated religious schools
  • 12.4% in conservative Christian schools
  • 12.2% in other religiously affiliated schools

How many students are homeschooled?

The COVID-19 pandemic led to a huge increase in the rates of home schooling in the U.S. Even after the first year of the pandemic, in the 2020-21 school year, 5.4 percent of all students were home-schooled, according to the August 2021 Household Pulse Survey.

In 2019, only 3.23 percent of all students were home-schooled, according to NCES 2019 data.

So who are the nation’s home schoolers? This overview of home schooling includes more information on the topic.

Where do most students attend school—the city, the suburbs or rural areas?

According to 2019 data, a plurality of public school students attend suburban schools, but enrollment in urban schools is not far behind.

  • Suburban: 39.1% of public school students
  • City: 30.6% of public school students
  • Rural: 19.5% of public school students
  • Town: 10.8% of public school students

Meanwhile, most private school students attend schools in the city.

  • City: 43.5% of private school students
  • Suburban: 40.2% of private school students
  • Rural: 10.4% of private school students
  • Town: 5.9% of private school students

What are the demographics of public school students?

Here’s a racial breakdown of the student population in American public schools, as of 2020:

  • White students: 45.8%
  • Hispanic students: 28.0%
  • Black students: 15.0%
  • Asian students: 5.4%
  • Two or more race students: 4.5%
  • American Indian/Alaska Native students: 0.9%
  • Pacific Islander students: 0.4%

The 2015-16 school year was the first in which the majority of public schoolchildren were minorities. For a look back at what that milestone meant for schools, revisit this story from 2014.

See Also

special populations getty 920 wide
Collage by Gina Tomko/Education Week and Getty

How many students have computers and internet access at home?

As of 2019, 98.1 percent of children ages 3-18 lived in a household with a computer or smartphone and 94.6 percent lived in a household with internet access. However, of the 94.6 percent, 6.5 percent only had internet through a smartphone. In 2019, 5.4 percent of children ages 3-18 lived in a household with no internet at all.

How many students graduate high school?

The national graduation rate is 86 percent, according to 2018-19 NCES data.

How has that changed over time?

The graduation rate has increased by 7 percentage points from 2010-2011 to 2018-19. What’s behind record rises in U.S. graduation rates? More on that here.

How many students graduate in my state?

Hover over a state in this interactive map to see its graduation rate in 2018-19, broken down by demographic groups:

TEACHERS AND PRINCIPALS

How many teachers are there in the U.S.?

In America’s public schools there will be over 3.1 million full-time-equivalent teachers in the fall of 2022, according to federal projections.

How many principals are there?

There are 90,850 public school principals in the U.S., according to 2017-18 numbers from NCES.

What percent of teachers are women?

Teaching continues to be a profession dominated by women. According to 2017-18 numbers from NCES 76.5 percent of teachers are female, while 23.5 percent are male.

What are the racial demographics of teachers?

When it comes to race, America’s teachers look very different from its student population.

  • 79.3% White
  • 9.3% Hispanic
  • 6.7% Black
  • 2.1% Asian
  • 1.8% Two or more races
  • 0.5% American Indian/Alaska Native
  • 0.2% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander

(2017-18, Source)

For a more detailed look at the profile of America’s teaching force, including average age and years of experience, read this report on the latest federal data.

Who are U.S. public school principals?

Like teachers, most American principals are white and female.

  • 53.7% Female
  • 46.3% Male
  • 77.7% White
  • 10.5% Black
  • 8.9% Hispanic
  • 0.9% Asian
  • 1.0% Two or more races
  • 0.7% American Indian/Alaska Native
  • 0.2% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander

(2017-18, Source)

Another finding from recent federal data: Charter school principals are more diverse. Read more.

What’s the average U.S. teacher salary?

The average base salary for teachers is $57,900, according to 2017-18 data from NCES.

Of course, teacher salaries vary widely from state to state. Although its findings differ from the federal data, the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union, releases an annual ranking of state salaries. Here are 2021 numbers.

How does that compare with principals’ salaries?

According to 2017-18 data, the average public school principal salary is $98,300.

How big are the teachers’ unions?

According to NCES data from 2017-18, 69.4 percent of teachers are members of a union.

In June 2022, the National Education Association had about 2.33 million full-time-equivalent members who are active educators or retirees.

As of June 2021, the American Federation of Teachers had about 1.69 million members.

What is the average student to teacher ratio in schools?

On average, in the fall of 2022, there will be 15.8 students assigned to a single teacher on average in public schools, NCES projections show.

The state with highest student to teacher ratio is, as of 2019, Arizona, with 23.6 students for each teacher. The state with lowest student to teacher ratio? Vermont, with 10.8 students for each teacher.

Note: The pupil/teacher ratio includes teachers for students with disabilities and other special teachers, while these teachers are generally excluded from class size calculations.

SCHOOL SPENDING

How much does the U.S. spend on K-12 education?

In 2019-20, almost $795 billion was spent on public elementary and secondary education by local, state, and federal agencies. State and local governments provided about $734 billion (or 92.4 percent) of the funding, while the federal government chipped in around $60 billion (or 7.6 percent).

For more on where money for education comes from and how it’s spent, see this article.

How much is spent per pupil?

Education Week examines per-pupil spending as part of its annual Quality Counts report. On average, the nation spends $13,679 to educate each student. These expenditures vary state to state. Vermont has the highest per-pupil expenditures in the nation at $23,205, as adjusted for variations in regional costs. At the other end of the scale, Utah spends the least at $8,352 per student.

Hover over a state to see its per-pupil spending, as adjusted for regional cost differences:

Have more education statistics you’d like to see on this page?

Email library@educationweek.org with your suggestions or feedback.

Sources: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics; U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau; The Broad Center; Education Week Research Center, 2021.

How to Cite This Article
Riser-Kositsky, M. (2019, January 3). Education Statistics: Facts About American Schools. Education Week. Retrieved Month Day, Year from https://www.edweek.org/leadership/education-statistics-facts-about-american-schools/2019/01
A version of this article appeared in the January 16, 2019 edition of Education Week as Education Statistics

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