25 ways American education has changed in the last decade
In 1852, Massachusetts became the first state in the country to pass a mandatory education law. The law required that every town and city in the state have a public primary school that focused on teaching children grammar and basic arithmetic. Parents were obligated to send their children to school for 12 weeks each year until the child was 14 years old. If they failed to comply with the law, parents could be fined or even stripped of their parental rights. In 1917, Mississippi passed its mandatory education law, the last state in the union to do so, and it became standard that all American children would have at least an elementary education.
Plenty of things about American education have changed since then. For example, in 1925 the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) defended John Scopes in the Tennessee v. John Scopes trial which addressed the legality of teaching evolution in schools. While Scopes lost that trial, the anti-evolution legislation was challenged decades later, and today evolution is taught in most science classes around the country. In 1954, the landmark Brown v. Board of Education trial ruled that segregation on the basis of race in schools was unconstitutional, and children of all races, creeds, and colors have learned alongside each other in classrooms ever since.
In this article, Stacker is limiting that historical scope somewhat, looking at 25 ways American education has changed over the last decade alone. Using a variety of sources, we’ve compiled a list of statistical changes, policy changes, subject changes, national standard changes, and changes in teaching methods and student life. Of course, not every change in American education has been sensational or positive, but looking at where the education system has come from makes it easier to see both where it can go and how it can continue to improve.
From class size to the creation of a college-bound culture, read on to see how different education is today than it was in 2010.
You may also like: Best public high schools in every state
The U.S. has fewer children under 18, but higher school enrolment rates
There were more children under 18 in America in 2010 than there were in 2018 (the most recent year data was available): 74 million versus 73 million, according to the Kids Count Data Center. That being said, the National Center for Education Statistics reports there are more children enrolled in both public and private schools in 2019 than there were in 2010. In the fall of 2019, 56 million students enrolled in pre-K through 12th grade at both public and private schools, while in the fall of 2010 that same number was 54.8 million.
Classrooms have become more crowded
Unsurprisingly, as the number of children enrolled in public schools has grown, so has the size of individual classes. The country is not building new schools at the same rate as children are enrolling in schools, leaving some educators feeling as if their primary function is running crowd control rather than teaching. Take, for example, classrooms in Nevada which have seen the biggest jump: during the 2009–2010 school year the average class size was 28, by 2016–2017 it had jumped to 36.
Homeschooling is on the decline
Homeschooling was once a popular form of education that allowed individual families more control over what their children were learning and the pace at which they were moving, but over the last decade, it’s fallen out of fashion. The National Center for Education Statistics takes incremental data on homeschooled students aged 5–17, and its two most recent reports—from 2012 and 2016—reveal a 6% decrease in homeschooled students during that time.
Charter schools have seen the most growth
There has been a lot of buzz in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election about charter schools and their proposed funding. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, public charter schools have seen the most growth of any type of school over the last two decades. In 2000, public charter school enrollment was 0.4 million, increasing to 3 million in 2016.
Student demographics are changing
In 2010 the vast majority of students enrolled in public schools were white. The National Center for Education Statistics reported that 52.4% of PK–12 students were white, while only 23.1% were Hispanic and 2.4% were two or more races. In the fall of 2019, NCES reported that the percentage of white students had dropped to 46.6%, while Hispanic enrollment had increased to 27.4%, and students of two or more races accounted for 4.2% of all enrollment. Research shows that increased diversity in the classroom goes hand in hand with academic accomplishments.
You may also like: Best value public colleges in America
There has been an increase in English-language learners in public schools
Increased diversity brings more than just different worldviews and life experiences; it also brings a wider collection of languages into the classroom. In the American education system, English-language learners (ELLs) are non-native English-speaking students who participate in language assistance programs to help ensure they attain English proficiency and meet the same academic standards that all students are required to meet. There has been a steady increase in the number of ELLs over the last two decades: in the fall of 2016, 9.6% of public school students were ELLs versus 8.1% in the fall of 2000. Amongst these students, the most common language spoken at home is Spanish, at 77%.
Nature preschools and forest kindergartens are at record levels
The number of early childhood education programs that center around the outdoors are at an all-time high in the U.S., with the number of nature preschools and forest kindergartens growing 66% between 2016 and 2017 alone, according to a study by the Natural Start Alliance. In these programs, which seek to counter behavioral issues, childhood obesity rates, and connect young people to skill sets beyond academics while developing their brains, students are outside for 75% of their school days on average. Washington in September 2019 became the first state to officially license outdoor preschools. While the programs exist all over the U.S., Washington will now be able to offer full-day programming as well as financial aid to students.
Teachers are making less
According to the National Education Association, the average teacher salary has gone down 4.5% over the last decade. The association reports that in 63% of school districts around the country starting salaries for public school teachers are below $40,000. Nationally, teachers are paid 21.4% less than similarly educated professionals in other lines of work.
You may also like: How much teachers make around the world
Overall school spending has increased
In the fall of 2019, the National Center for Education projected that U.S. primary and secondary schools would spend just over $680 billion over the new school year. The average amount to be spent per public school pupil was $13,440. Both numbers were way up from what the country spent a decade ago, during the 2010–2011 school year: $527.3 billion overall and $10,663 per pupil.
A college-bound culture
In 2009, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which contained new college reporting requirements for school districts across the country. The intention was to hone in on the best education practices which would enable the public school system to send more students to college. While overall college enrollment has actually gone down since the act passed, school culture has undoubtedly changed from one of child development to one with college as the primary end goal.
You may also like: 15 charities where you can see your direct impact2018 All rights reserved.