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High School Statistics


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Report Highlights:

  • There are 26,727 high schools in the US.
  • In 2021, 16,892 new students will have enrolled in high school.
  • From 2019 to 2020, 15.1 million students will have attended high school.
  • The gender parity for US high schools is 0.99.
  • There are 1.8 million secondary school teachers.
  • The graduation rate is at an all-time high of 85.3%.
  • The dropout rate is at an all-time low of 6% compared to the 15% college drop out rate.

high school statistics

In the US, high schools traditionally signal the beginning of secondary education. They also hold a place of great importance in students’ educational careers. Thus, doing well in high school is often an indicator of a higher quality of life.

Due to the sheer size of the US population, there are a significant number of high schools and high school students. Therefore, it is important to look at several factors and indicators to gain a clear understanding of the entire educational structure.

High School Density

High school density can be quite uneven throughout the US. This can be due to the size of a state, population density, or even whether a particular location can be classified as an urban or rural area. Thus, the numbers can vary quite a bit.

  • There are 26,727 high schools/secondary schools in the United States.
  • Of these, 2,845 are private schools.
  • California is the state that has the highest number of high schools with 3,892 institutions.
  • Delaware is the state with the lowest number of high schools with just 83 schools.
  • District of Columbia isn’t a state, but does have the least number of high schools at 72 schools.

High School Statistics and Rankings

The rankings of high schools are becoming more commonplace. Schools can be ranked according to various elements. These include but aren’t limited to the type of courses offered, whether AP courses are offered, and teacher-to-student ratios.

  • The Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology has been ranked the best high school.
  • The High Technology High School is ranked as the best STEM high school in the nation.
  • Massachusetts has the highest number of best high schools, with 49.6% of schools in the top 25%.
  • Nebraska and Maine ranked at the bottom, with only 5.8% and 3.6% of schools appearing in the top 25%.

High School Student Enrollment

High school student enrollment is rather significant. It can show how much of the current youth population is actively engaged in secondary education. In turn, this can shed light on whether the nation as a whole is achieving greater educational status.

  • It is estimated that 16,892 students will be enrolled in high school in 2021.
  • 15,492 of these students will be enrolled in public school.
  • One of the lowest high school enrollments was in 1990, with only 11,341 students in attendance.
  • 2023 is projected to have one of the highest enrollments with 17,288 students in public and private schools.

High School Students Demographics

In addition to viewing the high school student population as a whole, it is just as important to consider the various demographics. In particular, this includes gender and race. These statistics help to determine how equal the American education system is.

  • From 2019 to 2020, 15.1 million students will attend high school.
  • In 2018, 37,000 male students and 31,000 female students were in high school.
  • The gender parity index (GPI) is 0.99, with slightly fewer girls than boys being enrolled in high school.
  • US high schools rank 115th globally in terms of gender parity.
  • 8% of students were white, 41.1% were Black, 16.1% were Asian, and 33.8% were Hispanic.

High School Teachers

High school teachers play a significant role in how good a school is considered as well as the outcomes of their students. Thus, it is important to consider how many teachers are currently employed as well as their personal and professional backgrounds.

  • In 2017 – 2018, there were 1.8 million secondary school teachers.
  • 64% of secondary school teachers are female.
  • 79% of the teachers are white, 9% are Hispanic, and 7% are Black.
  • 90% of teachers held a standard teaching certificate or advanced professional certificate.
  • 61% of teachers held a postbaccalaureate degree.
  • 40% of teachers had ten to twenty years of teaching experience.
  • 9% had less than 3 years of teaching experience.
  • 45% of high schools had teachers with specialist or academic coaching assignments.

US High School Student Courses and Performances

The courses offered by high schools in addition to student performance is often a good indicator of the overall educational level in the country. Thus, it is important to take a look at the most popular courses as well as how students perform in these areas overall.

  • In 2015, the average reading literacy score of 15-year-olds was 497, slightly higher than the OECD average of 493.
  • The math literacy score for 15-year-olds was 470, lower than the OECD average of 490.
  • The science literacy score for 15-year-olds was 496, slightly higher than the OECD average of 493.
  • 89% of high school students completed Algebra 2 or higher, with 19% finishing calculus or higher.
  • 79% of students took at least one general science course, with 21% taking at least one advanced science course.
  • 98% of students took biology, with 76% taking chemistry, and 41% taking physics.
  • 40% of students earned credits in computer and information sciences.
  • 15% of students earned credits in engineering and technology.
  • In 2016, 2,611,172 students had taken at least one AP exam.
  • Calculus BC had the highest pass rate with 81.1% of students passing the class.
  • Physics 1 had the lowest pass rate with only 39.8% of students passing the class.
  • Males dominated the math and science classes, with 71% enrolled in physics and 58% enrolled in calculus BC.
  • 77% of computer science students were male.
  • However, 61% of biology students and 55% of environmental science students were female.
  • 5% of high schools offered courses entirely online.

High School Graduation Rates

High school graduation rates are good indicators of future quality of life. This factor can often determine how much an individual may earn as well as how successful they will be. Graduation rates can also outline how well an education system has improved with time.

  • It is estimated that 3,650,000 students will have graduated from high school in 2020.
  • The national graduation rate is 85.3%, an all-time high.
  • 52% of states’ graduation rates increased.
  • 79% of Black students, 81% of Hispanic students, and 89.7% of white students graduated on time.
  • Black students’ graduation rates have increased by 12 percentage points but is still 6.3 points below the national average.
  • Hispanic students’ graduation rates have increased by 10 percentage points but is still 4.3 points below the national average.
  • The graduation rate for students with disabilities remains at 67.1%.

High School Dropout Rates

High school dropout rates can be just as telling as graduation rates. Experts need to appreciate the students that are getting left behind. Dropout rates can have a huge impact on employment rates, individual earnings, and crime rates.

  • In 2016, the overall dropout rate was at 6%, a sharp decline from 15% in 1970.
  • The dropout rate for Black youths declined from 21% to 6%.
  • The dropout rate for Hispanic youth declined from 36% to 9%.
  • The dropout rate for white youth decreased from 12% to 5%.
  • 7% of all dropouts were male.
  • 8% of dropouts were born to native-born parents.
  • Just 16.8% of foreign-born students dropped out of high school.

It is clear that on a certain level, the American education system is improving. There are now more students graduating and fewer dropping out than ever before. Also, for the most part, US students seem to be as literate as students in many other countries.

At the same time, there is a great deal of room for improvement. The US education system needs to work on improving gender and race equality. This is especially true for AP and STEM courses that can be indicative of tertiary education success. The structure also must work to help individuals with disabilities and boost the graduation rates across the board. This will lead to a more equal and fair system.


[1] Education Data, How Many Public Schools Are There in the US?
[2] High-Schools.com, Research & Compare High Schools
[3] Statista, High School Enrollment for Public and Private Schools in the U.S. From 1965 to 2017, With Projections up to 2029
[4] World Bank Data, School Enrollment, Primary and Secondary (Gross), Gender Parity Index (GPI) – United States
[5] National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics: 2018
[6] America’s Promise Alliance, High School Graduation Facts: Ending the Dropout Crisis
[7] The United States Census Bureau, School Enrollment in the United States 2018
[8] National Science Board, Science & Engineering Indicators 2018, 2018 Report
[9] U.S. Department of Education, Characteristics of Public Elementary and Secondary Schools in the United States: Results From the 2015–16 National Teacher and Principal Survey
[10] The Condition of Education 2020, Characteristics of Public School Teachers
[11] U.S. News, U.S. News High School Rankings
[12] Child Trends, High School Dropout Rates

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