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Yesterday the U.S. Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics issued an analysis called “Report on the Condition of Education 2023.” At 54 pages, it contains a lot of information on the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on students, teachers, and families. Here are three highlights from the report, as well as some bonus New Jersey facts.
How Are the Students?
The U.S. K-12 population of 49.4 million students enrolled in public schools is increasingly diverse. Here are the demographics for 2021:
• 22.4 million were White;
• 14.1 million were Hispanic;
• 7.4 million were Black;
• 2.7 million were Asian;
• 2.3 million were of two or more races;
• 0.5 million were American Indian/Alaska Native; and
• 182,000 were Pacific Islander.
- The racial/ethnic composition of schools varies among the types of school. For instance, in school year 2019–20, just over half (55 percent) of traditional public schools had enrollments where more than 50 percent of students were White. Only 30 percent of public charter school had enrollments more than 50% white. New Jersey traditional district schools’ enrollment is 41% white, 31% Hispanic, 15% Black, and 3% Asian. In our charter schools, 41% of students are Black and 39% are Hispanic.
- Enrollment has dropped 3% since the pandemic, with 49.4 million students compared with 50.8 million in 2019, mostly within the K-8 population. However, enrollment in public charter schools increased. In NJ, enrollment in district school dropped by about 1.4% while charter enrollment increased by 6%.
- At grades 4 and 8, the average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading and mathematics scores were lower in 2022 than in 2019; in fact, they were the lowest in two decades. (So were New Jersey’s.) However high school graduation rates are up and drop-out rates are down.
- In 2019, some 95 percent of 3- to 18-year-olds had home internet access; specifically, 88 percent had access through a computer, and 6 percent relied on a smartphone for home internet access. In March 21, Gov. Murphy said all NJ students had internet access.
- in April 2022, some 70 percent of public schools reported that the percentage of students who had sought mental health services from school had increased since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Only half of schools felt equipped to meet student needs.
- To try to close learning gaps, schools employed various strategies. The two that were reported as “very effective” or “extremely effective” by the highest percentage of public schools that used them were: identifying individual needs with diagnostic assessment data (56 percent) and identifying individual needs with formative assessment data (52 percent). In comparison, despite being used by 75 percent of public schools, summer 2021 learning/enrichment programs were considered “very effective” or “extremely effective” by just 18 percent of those schools. (The NJ Education Department either doesn’t track school strategies for intervention or hasn’t released that information to the public.)
How Are the Teachers?
- Schools report the hardest-to-fill teaching positions are in special education, foreign languages, and STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math).
- The number of prospective teachers enrolled in traditional teacher preparations programs is down; however, the number of students enrolled in alternative programs is up. Currently 80% of teachers are white, compared to 46% of students. In NJ, 83% of teachers are white, compared to 41% of students.
- Despite difficulty hiring, the number of master’s degrees conferred in education was 5 percent higher in 2020–21 than in 2018–19.
- The average base salary for full-time public school teachers in 2020–21, $61,600, was not measurably different from 2011–12 after adjusting for inflation. In New Jersey the median salary is $72,931.
How Are the Costs?
- In the 2019–20 school year, elementary and secondary public school revenues totaled $871 billion in constant 2021–22 dollars. Between 2010–11 and 2019–20, public school revenues increased by 13 percent in constant 2021–22 dollars, while public school enrollment increased by 3 percent.
- The report includes a map showing total expenditures per student for each state during 2019-2020. New Jersey’s total per pupil cost was $25,200, the third highest in the country. New York and D.C. spend more per pupil than NJ. The U.S. average total cost per pupil that year was $17,013.