School & District Management Explainer

Education Statistics: Facts About American Schools

By Maya Riser-Kositsky — January 03, 2019 | Corrected: November 22, 2021 | Updated: January 09, 2024 10 min read
Image of a data dashboard.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

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 128,961 public and private K-12 schools in the U.S., according to 2019-20 data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Here’s how they break down:

  • All: 128,961
  • Prekindergarten, elementary, and middle schools: 88,909
  • Secondary and high schools: 27,155
  • Other, ungraded, and not applicable/not reported: 12,897

Here’s what this looks like in chart form:

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: 90,922 (2019-20, Source)
  • Public charter schools: 7,547 (2019-20, Source)
  • Private schools: 30,492 (2019-20, 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 555 students, according to data from 2021. That’s up 29 students from the average school size in 2015, according to NCES.

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

  • City: 562 students
  • Suburban: 637 students
  • Town: 437 students
  • Rural: 367 students

(2021, Source)

How many schools offer online courses?

According to 2020-21 NCES data, 28.7 percent of public schools, including charters, offered at least one course entirely online before the pandemic. Almost a third (30.6 percent) of charter schools offered an entire course online, versus 28.5 percent 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 13,318 regular school districts in the U.S. (2021-22, 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.

What is the most common size for a school district?

In 2021-22, the plurality of regular school districts (23.9 percent) had 1,000 to 2,499 students enrolled. In the 1979-80 school year, in contrast, small school districts were the largest category, making up 26.5 percent of all districts.

How has the size of school districts changed over time?

The number of regular school districts in the U.S. decreased from 15,944 in 1979-80 to 13,318 in 2021-22. In that time, the percent of districts that were large (over 25,000 students) grew from 1.1 percent of districts to 2 percent. The percent of very small districts (with enrollment under 300 students), decreased from 26.5 percent to 19.2 percent in that same period.

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 2021. But the rest of the top 10 may surprise you:

RankDistrict nameState Enrollment
1New York CityNY859,514
2Los Angeles UnifiedCA435,958
3ChicagoIL329,836
4Miami-Dade CountyFL328,589
5Clark CountyNV315,787
6Broward CountyFL256,037
7Hillsborough CountyFL224,149
8Orange CountyFL203,224
9HoustonTX194,607
10Palm Beach CountyFL187,943

STUDENTS

How many students attend public schools?

In America’s public schools, there are over 49 million students, based on federal projections for the fall of 2023.

How many students attend charter schools?

According to data from two years earlier, over 3.64 million students, or 7.5 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 2021 NCES data.

  • 33.4% of those in Catholic schools
  • 25.5% in nonsectarian (non-religious) schools
  • 13.4% in un-affiliated religious schools
  • 14.3% in conservative Christian schools
  • 13.6% 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 2021 data, a plurality of public school students attend suburban schools, but enrollment in urban schools is not far behind.

  • Suburban: 38.9% of public school students
  • City: 29.8% of public school students
  • Rural: 20% of public school students
  • Town: 10.8% of public school students

Meanwhile, as of 2019-20, most private school students attend schools in the city.

  • City: 42.7% of private school students
  • Suburban: 40.4% of private school students
  • Rural: 10.8% of private school students
  • Town: 6.1% 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 2021:

  • White students: 45.2%
  • Hispanic students: 28.4%
  • Black students: 14.9%
  • Asian students: 5.4%
  • Two or more race students: 4.7%
  • American Indian/Alaska Native students: 0.9%
  • Pacific Islander students: 0.4%
    Note: Percentages do not total 100 because of rounding.

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 internet access at home?

As of 2021, 97.1 percent of children ages 3-18 lived in a household with internet access. However, of the 97.1 percent, 4.5 percent only had internet through a smartphone. In 2021, 2.9 percent of children ages 3-18 lived in a household with no internet at all, down significantly from 5.4 percent in 2019.

How many students graduate high school?

The national graduation rate is 87 percent, according to 2019-20 NCES data.

How has that changed over time?

The graduation rate has increased by 8 percentage points from 2010-2011 to 2019-20.

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 2019-20, 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 3.2 million full-time-equivalent teachers in the fall of 2024, according to federal projections.

How many principals are there?

There are 91,900 public school principals in the U.S., according to 2020-21 numbers from NCES.

What percent of teachers are women?

Teaching continues to be a profession dominated by women. According to 2020-21 numbers from NCES, 76.8 percent of teachers are female, while 23.2 percent are male.

What are the racial demographics of teachers?

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

  • 79.9% White
  • 9.4% Hispanic
  • 6.1% Black
  • 2.4% Asian
  • 1.6% Two or more races
  • 0.4% American Indian/Alaska Native
  • 0.2% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander

(2020-21, Source)

For a more detailed look at the profile of America’s teaching force, including how many say they’re likely to leave the profession, see the results of the most recent Merrimack College Teacher Survey.

Who are U.S. public school principals?

Like teachers, most American principals are white and female.

  • 56% Female
  • 44% Male
  • 77.1% White
  • 10.4% Black
  • 9.3% Hispanic
  • 1.3% Two or more races
  • 1.0% Asian
  • 0.6% American Indian/Alaska Native
  • 0.3% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander

(2020-21, Source)

Another finding from recent federal data: Charter school principals are more diverse. Only 66.6 percent of charter school principals are white, compared with 78.2 percent of traditional school principals. 16.1 percent of charter principals are Black and 13.2 percent are Hispanic, while only 9.8 percent of traditional school principals are Black and 8.9 percent are Hispanic.

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

The estimated average annual salary for teachers is $66,397, according to 2021-22 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 2022-23 numbers.

How does that compare with principals’ salaries?

According to 2020-21 data, the average public school principal salary is $105,900.

How big are the teachers’ unions?

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

In July 2023, the National Education Association had about 2.3 million full-time-equivalent members who are active educators or, retirees, or community allies.

As of June 2023, the American Federation of Teachers had about 1.7 million members.

What is the average student to teacher ratio in schools?

On average, in the fall of 2024, there will be 15.2 students assigned to a single teacher in public schools, NCES projections show.

The state with highest student to teacher ratio is, as of 2021, Arizona, with 22.2 students for each teacher. The state with lowest student to teacher ratio? Vermont, with 10.5 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.

SUPERINTENDENTS

What are the demographics of school superintendents?

A 2023 survey conducted by AASA, The School Superintendents Association, found that 89 percent of superintendents identify as white, and 73 percent identify as men. The median age of superintendents is 52 years old. There are more younger male superintendents than female ones—37 percent of male superintendents were between the ages of 30 and 50, while only 29 percent of female superintendents fell in that age range.

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

47.5 percent of all superintendent have 5 or fewer years of experience in the position, according to a 2023 survey conducted by AASA.

What’s the average superintendent salary?

The average superintendent salary was $156,468 in 2023, according to a 2023 survey conducted by AASA. That’s a slight decrease from 2022, when superintendents made on average $158,670.

For more facts about superintendents, read more about the survey.

SCHOOL SPENDING

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

In 2020-21, $809 billion was spent on public elementary and secondary education by local, state, and federal agencies. State and local governments provided about 89 percent of the funding, while the federal government chipped in around 10.5 percent. The federal government’s share of education funding was higher than normal due to pandemic relief aid. In 2019-20, only 7.5 percent of total school funding came from the federal government.

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

How much is spent per pupil?

In fiscal year 2021, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, on average the nation spent $14,347 to educate each student. Adjusted for inflation, education funding per pupil nationwide has risen by about $1,800 in the last decade.

These expenditures varied state to state. New York has the highest per-pupil expenditures in the nation at $26,571. At the other end of the scale, Idaho spent the least at $9,053 per student.

Hover over a state to see its per-pupil spending:

Want to see more education statistics?

Take a look at our special education statistics 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

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
Innovative Funding Models: A Deep Dive into Public-Private Partnerships
Discover how innovative funding models drive educational projects forward. Join us for insights into effective PPP implementation.
Content provided by Follett Learning
Budget & Finance Webinar Staffing Schools After ESSER: What School and District Leaders Need to Know
Join our newsroom for insights on investing in critical student support positions as pandemic funds expire.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
How can districts build sustainable tutoring models before the money runs out?
District leaders, low on funds, must decide: broad support for all or deep interventions for few? Let's discuss maximizing tutoring resources.
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Opinion I Invited My Students to Be the Principal for a Day. Here’s What I Learned
When I felt myself slipping into a springtime slump, this simple activity reminded me of my “why” as an educator.
S. Kambar Khoshaba
4 min read
052024 OPINION Khoshaba PRINCIPAL end the year with positivity
E+/Getty + Vanessa Solis/Education Week via Canva
School & District Management The Complicated Fight Over Four-Day School Weeks
Missouri lawmakers want to encourage large districts to maintain five-day weeks—even as four-day weeks grow more popular.
7 min read
Calendar 4 day week
iStock/Getty
School & District Management From Our Research Center Principal Salaries: The Gap Between Expectation and Reality
Exclusive survey data indicate a gap between the expectations and the realities of principal pay.
4 min read
A Black woman is standing on a ladder and looking into the distance with binoculars, in the background is an ascending arrow.
iStock/Getty
School & District Management Schools Successfully Fighting Chronic Absenteeism Have This in Common
A White House summit homed in on chronic absenteeism and strategies to reduce it.
6 min read
An empty elementary school classroom is seen on Aug. 17, 2021 in the Bronx borough of New York. Nationwide, students have been absent at record rates since schools reopened after COVID-forced closures. More than a quarter of students missed at least 10% of the 2021-22 school year.
An empty elementary school classroom is seen on Aug. 17, 2021 in the Bronx borough of New York. A White House summit on May 15, 2024, brought attention to elevated chronic absenteeism and strategies districts have used to fight it.
Brittainy Newman/AP