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From Class Size to Student Belonging: Tidbits From New Federal Schools Data

Between this week's blisteringly cold weather in much of the country and the release of new federal data, it's a great time to stay inside and dig into some interesting new findings about American schools.

The U.S. Department of Education released several new analyses and an updated Digest of Education Statistics this week, a compendium of information in a variety of areas for all grades from preschool through postsecondary. The data show public school enrollment continues to rise to "new record highs," according to the National Center of Education Statistics, which compiled the digest: 35.6 million students attended public preschool through grade 8 schools in 2017, up 1 million from 2010, and enrollment is predicted to rise 3 percent in the next decade. More than 15 million students were enrolled in public high schools in 2017, up from 14.8 million in 2010, with another 2 percent expected to enroll by 2027.

At the same time, however, fewer students have been enrolling in higher education in the last five years, after steady increases through much of the previous decade. Nearly 20 million students enrolled in postsecondary programs in 2016, down 6 percent from 2010.

Student Safety and Belonging

The data also show some mixed news about student safety at school:

Yet school leaders also report the availability of an array of school groups intended to promote more a greater sense of community among students. About half of high schools reported having clubs on campus to promote inclusiveness for students' cultural identities, gender identities, and sexual preferences. In elementary and middle school, clubs intended to make students with disabilities feel more welcome were more popular than those organized around culture, gender, or sexual preference.

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