120 Years of - National Center for Education Statistics

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 120 Years of American Education: A Statistical Portrait

Editor Thomas D. Snyder Center for Education Statistics

U.S. Department of Education Lamar Alexander Secretary Office of Educational Research and Improvement Diane Ravitch Assistant Secretary National Center for Education Statistics Emerson J. Elliott Commissioner

National Center for Education Statistics ``The purpose of the Center shall be to collect, analyze, and disseminate statistics and other data related to education in the United States and in other nations.''--Section 406(b) of the General Education Provisions Act, as amended (20 U.S.C. 1221e?1).

January 1993


Emerson J. Elliott

Commissioner of Education Statistics

NCES statistics and reports are used for myriad purposes. Congress, federal agencies, state and local officials, business leaders, scholars and researchers, the news media, and the general public use our data to formulate programs, apportion resources, monitor services, research issues, and inform and make decisions.

Since 1870, the federal government has collected statistics on the condition and progress of American education. In the beginning, data were collected on very basic items, such as public elementary and secondary school enrollment, attendance, teachers and their salaries, high school graduates, and expenditures. Over the years, the level of detail has gradually increased. Today, the National Center for Education Statistics has a staff of approximately 130 who collect information through nearly 40 surveys and studies and produce more than 175 publications per year.

Statistics paint a portrait of our Nation. By looking at changes in the data over time--like number of schools, participation rates, completion rates, and expenditures--we see how our Nation has progressed. But the questions, too, have changed. Illiteracy, for example, is defined differently today than it was in earlier years. While we once looked only at whether a person could read or write, today we are concerned with how well a person can function in a modern society. Recent additions to the long-term data series contain more qualitative information, especially on student performance and classroom activities.

During the period in which this report was prepared, Diane Ravitch, an educational historian by profession, was Assistant Secretary for Educational Research and Improvement. Dr. Ravitch knows the importance of the record that America's education data collections form, and it was her personal interest and initiative that prompted preparation of this report. Her support, both as Assistant Secretary and as an historian of education, has been invaluable to the production of this volume and in all other efforts of NCES.

The Assistant Secretary's Introduction to this volume states that an historical perspective is indispensable for a full understanding of American education and the changes it has undergone. Such a perspective will help supply that meaning, understanding, and judgment needed to help improve education in America.

I join her in thanking Vance Grant of OERI and Tom Snyder of NCES for producing this work. We will benefit from the better understanding of our past that these education statistics bring to us.

This work supplements other major compilations of education statistics, including the annual Digest and the Condition of Education reports, and reaffirms the mission of the National Center for Education Statistics to provide the Nation with data on the condition and progress of education. Our goal is to make education data accessible, useful, and meaningful to our many publics. I welcome comments for improvements to our data collections and publications.



Many people have contributed in one way or another to the development of 120 Years of American Education. Foremost among these contributors is W. Vance Grant, who has served as an education statistics expert since 1955. Thomas D. Snyder was responsible for the overall development and preparation of 120 Years of American Education, which was prepared under the general direction of Jeanne E. Griffith, Associate Commissioner for Data Development.

William Sonnenberg served as a statistical consultant in all phases of 120 Years of American Education and was responsible for chapter 2, ``Elementary and Secondary Education.'' Irene Baden Harwarth developed a table on higher education enrollment and was responsible for developing charts for the report. Charlene Hoffman developed tables on degrees conferred and managed the typesetting. Carol Sue Fromboluti managed the review process of the publication. Celestine Davis provided statistical assistance.

A number of people outside the Center also expended large amounts of time and effort on 120 Years of American Education. James J. Corina and Robert Craig of Pinkerton Computer Consultants, Inc., provided computer support. Louise Woerner, Barbara Robinson, Jeannette Bernardo, and Jeffrey

Sisson of HCR provided research assistance. Nancy Floyd copyedited this book, and Margery Martin and Wilma Greene provided editorial assistance. Annie Lunsford designed the cover. Jerry Fairbanks and Kim Stiles of the U.S. Government Printing Office provided typesetting assistance.

120 Years of American Education has received extensive reviews by individuals within and outside the Department of Education. We wish to thank them for their time and expert advice. In the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI), Diane Ravitch, Maris Vinovskis, Mary Frase, W. Vance Grant, Fred Beamer, Frank Morgan, John Sietsema, and Irene Baden Harwarth reviewed the entire manuscript. Rosemary Clark and Dave Fleck of the Bureau of the Census also reviewed the entire document. Agency reviews were conducted by the Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Languages Affairs, Office of Management and Budget, Office of Policy and Planning, Office of Private Education, and Office of Vocational and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education.

OERI Deputy Assistant Secretary Francie Alexander and NCES Chief of Staff Paul R. Hall provided leadership and gave enthusiastic support to this project.



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