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  Chapter Three:

  Educational Attainment
  Female Graduates
  Pupil-Teacher Ratio
  Private School
  College Tuition
  Graduate Education



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Pupil-Teacher Ration

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The pupil-teacher ratio in the nationís public elementary and secondary schools declined by nearly half during the century.
In 1910, a teacher in a public elementary school taught a class of thirty-four pupils, on average. By 1998, each teacher had only nineteen pupils. The reduction in the pupil-teacher ratio was even greater in the high schools, where the average class declined from twenty-eight students in 1910 to fifteen students in 1998. The spread of special education classes, which are relatively small, contributed to the decline in the pupil-teacher ratio. Despite some reversals in this trend during the baby boom years and in particular localities, the overall movement toward smaller classes was unmistakable. 

During the early part of the century, when the U.S. public school system was complacently regarded as the best in the world, pupil-teacher ratios were much less favorable than in the last decades of the twentieth century, when criticism of the same public schools was widespread. Perhaps the most authoritative survey of the educational performance of the public schools was A Nation at Risk, the 1983 report of the National Commission on Excellence in Education. 

During the latter decades of the century, studies of the relationship between class size and student achievement were inconclusive. But reductions in class size may be desirable nonetheless. Because cultural changes, judicial decisions, and administrative policies curtailed their personal authority, teachers at the end of the century may have had more difficulty managing fifteen pupils than their predecessors had controlling and holding the attention of twice that number.

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Source Notes
Source Abbreviations

The pupil-teacher ratio is generally calculated as the number of full-time teachers divided by the number of full-time students. It is an approximation of the average class size, but it is not exactly the same thing. Average class size is probably larger than the pupil-teacher ratio because at some point during the day, some teachers have preparation time and other nonclassroom duties. See HS series H 423 and H 425; SA 1998, table 269; and SA 1999, table 294. See also Digest of Education Statistics 1999 at (accessed August 23, 2000). See the National Commission on Excellence in Educationís report, A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform: A Report to the Nation and the Secretary of Education (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1983). For information on the public school system, see Theodore Caplow, Perverse Incentives: The Neglect of Social Technology in the Public Sector (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1994), pages 47Ė75.


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