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School Enrollment FAQs

Where can I get public and private school enrollment data?

The Current Population Survey (CPS) has public and private school information in several detailed tables. In the table packages since 2006, Table 3 has public and private enrollment for students in nursery, kindergarten, and elementary school. Table 5 shows public and private college enrollment. Historical Table A-1 shows public and private enrollment for every level of schooling. In the 2005 and older detailed table packages, Table 4 shows public and private school enrollment for nursery and kindergarten students. Table 5 shows public and private school enrollment for nursery, kindergarten, elementary, and high school students. Table 9 shows public and private school enrollment for college students. You can access the CPS tables from the CPS Data on School Enrollment. You can access the CPS tables from the CPS Data on School Enrollment website.

The American Community Survey (ACS) provides public and private school enrollment tables through American FactFinder in tables S1401, B14002, B14003, and B14004. To access these tables, visit the ACS Data on School Enrollment website.



Where can I get school district data?

Census 2000 and 1990 school district data can be found on the School District website. The American Community Survey’s five year data file also provides information on school districts. These data can be located through the American FactFinder.



How is nursery school defined?

A nursery school is defined as a group or class that is organized to provide educational experiences for children during the year or years preceding kindergarten. It includes instruction as an important and integral phase of its program of child care. Private homes in which essentially custodial care is provided are not considered nursery schools. Children attending nursery school are classified as attending during either part of the day or the full day. Part-day attendance refers to those who attend either in the morning or in the afternoon, but not both. Full-day attendance refers to those who attend in both the morning and the afternoon. Children enrolled in Head Start programs or similar programs sponsored by local agencies to provide preschool education to young children are counted under nursery school.



How is vocational school defined and where can I find data on vocational school enrollment?

Vocational school enrollment includes enrollment in business, vocational, technical, secretarial, trade, or correspondence courses which are not counted as regular school enrollment and are not for recreation or adult education classes. Courses counted as college enrollment should not also be included as vocational.

The CPS collects information on vocational school enrollment.

On the Current Population Survey Data on School Enrollment website, detailed table packages provide data on vocational school enrollment.



How are high school dropouts defined?

The annual high school dropout rate is an estimate of the proportion of students who drop out of school in a single year. This section briefly explains how the annual dropout rate is calculated; for further explanation and details of its derivation see Current Population Report, Series P-20, No. 413, School Enrollment--Social and Economic Characteristics of Students: October 1983 [PDF - 1.3M].

Annual dropout rates for a single grade (x) are estimated as the ratio of the number of people who were enrolled in grade (x) in the year preceding the survey and who did not complete grade (x) and are not currently enrolled, to the number enrolled in grade (x) at the start of the year preceding this survey. People reported as enrolled last year but not currently enrolled are presented in Table 4 of Current Population Reports on school enrollment, by the highest grade completed and are presumed to have dropped out of the succeeding grade (except those who graduated this year). Thus, individuals counted as 10th grade dropouts are those not enrolled in school whose highest grade completed is the 9th grade. They include not only those people who were enrolled in the 10th grade in the fall of the year preceding the survey and left school without completing the year, but also those people who finished the 9th grade in the spring preceding the survey and were not enrolled at the survey date. These estimates form the numerator of estimates of the annual grade specific dropout rate.

People currently enrolled in high school are presumed to have successfully completed and been enrolled in the preceding grade in the preceding year. Thus, those who have successfully completed the 10th grade are enrolled in the 11th grade. Along with the people who dropped out of that grade, they comprise the denominator of the estimate of the annual grade-specific dropout rate.


drop-out rate formula

Since people who complete the 12th grade cannot be presumed to enroll in college, the estimate of the number of people enrolled in the 12th grade one year prior to the survey is constructed as the sum of the number of people reported as having graduated from high school "this year" (both those enrolled in the first year of college and people not currently enrolled whose highest grade completed is the 12th grade) and those people not currently enrolled who were enrolled last year and whose highest grade completed is the 11th grade (dropouts). The annual dropout rate for all grades during one year can be obtained by summing the components of the rates for the individual grades. In other words, those people who were enrolled in the tenth, eleventh, or twelfth grade last year and who are not currently enrolled and do not have a diploma.

In addition to the annual rate, two other estimates of dropouts are frequently used. The annual dropout rate is different from a "pool" (or status) measure such as the proportion of an age group who are high school dropouts (not enrolled in school, not high school graduates), which does not depend on when the individuals dropped out. A third measure of dropouts is the cohort measure, most commonly from a longitudinal study, in which one calculates the proportion of a specific group of people enrolled in a specific year, who had not received diplomas (and who were no longer in school) some years later. For example, the proportion of a cohort enrolled in ninth grade in year X, who were not enrolled and had not received a diploma by year X+4.



What is modal grade?

Enrolled people are classified according to their relative progress in school: that is, whether the grade or year in which they were enrolled was below, at, or above the modal (or typical) grade for people of their age at the time of the survey. The modal grade is the year of school in which the largest proportion of students of a given age is enrolled.

On the CPS Data on School Enrollment website, modal grade tables are available on Table 2 from the detailed table package.



What is the difference between school enrollment and educational attainment?

School enrollment refers to the level of schooling currently attending while attainment refers to the level of schooling completed.

For more information on educational attainment, go to the Educational Attainment website.



How far back does school enrollment data date?

The Current Population Survey has school enrollment data from 1947 to the present. For more information on the Current Population Survey, go to the Bureau of Labor Statistics CPS website. Historical CPS tables are available on the CPS Data on School Enrollment website.

The Decennial Census has school enrollment data from 1940 to 2000. You can access census school enrollment characteristics from the Decennial Census Data on School Enrollment webpage or through The Census of Population and Housing website.

For more information on school enrollment data from the American Community Survey, visit the ACS Data on School Enrollment website.



What are the levels of school enrollment?

The statistics on level of school indicate the number of people enrolled at each of five levels — nursery school, kindergarten, elementary school (1st to 8th grades), high school (9th to 12th grades), and college or professional school. The last group includes graduate students in colleges or universities. People enrolled in elementary, middle school, intermediate school or junior high school through the eighth grade are classified as in elementary school. All people enrolled in 9th through 12th grade are classified as in high school.




Source: U.S. Census Bureau |School Enrollment |  Last Revised: July 17, 2012