A Public Education Primer: Basic (and Sometimes Surprising) Facts about the U.S. Education System

Liam Julian

Center on Education Policy
2006

This practical guide is true to its title: basic. CEP has compiled data, mostly from the National Center for Education Statistics, and presented it in an easy-to-read-and-follow primer. No real commentary here, nor any earth-shattering conclusions from the statistics presented herein. Rather, CEP wrote the primer to give "sufficient background information about public education," encourage "interest in education issues," and stimulate involvement in local schools. For education neophytes, it's a useful starter. And for those already mired in education policy, the primer still contains some intriguing factoids. For example, almost 20 percent of U.S. students are children of immigrants, though some three quarters of them were born on these shores. Also: just 2 percent of school districts enroll over 25,000 students, but they account for 34 percent of the country's public school population. And another: Though college entrance exams are now being taken by more students than ever--including rising percentages of low-income and minority students--SAT scores (mostly math scores) have increased modestly since 1990 (after taking into account the SAT score recentering) and ACT scores have held steady. Pick up a copy here and skim it. You might stumble across a statistic that will surprise you. At the least, you'll acquire a handy reference guide for your bookshelf.