U.S. High School Statistics in 2024: Key Trends and Predictions

Updated on January 7, 2024
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Andrea Mercado
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High school statistics

While college enrollment ticks up after plunging early in the pandemic, key metrics show high schoolers were still reeling in 2023.

Test scores suffered some of the most significant drops in decades over the past three years - clear signs the kids aren't alright after enduring immense disruption.

What else happened in secondary schools in 2023, and what may 2024 hold for teenagers? Stay tuned as we analyze 10 U.S. high school statistics to consider and the predictions of challenges and opportunities ahead soon.

Understanding U.S. high school education: essential stats and facts

There are 26,727 total U.S. high schools

Analysis of 2023 data showed 26,727 public and private high schools operating nationwide. The vast majority, 23,882, are classified as public institutions, while 2,845 falls into the private sector.

With nearly 3,900 secondary schools statewide, California leads all regions. Conversely, Delaware sees only 83 total institutions.

According to U.S. News rankings assessing academics, diversity, graduation rates, and more - North Carolina's Early College at Guilford ranks as the top U.S. high school.

The national public high school graduation rate is around 87%

Connecticut leads the states with the highest average graduation rate, boasting an impressive 92%, while New Mexico ranks last with a 66% average.

Compared globally, the U.S. maintains a relatively high high school graduation rate among OECD countries.

In the recent analysis of student subgroups, all categories, except for American Indian and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander students, witnessed increased graduation rates from 2022.

Notable improvements include Asian students soaring from 92.06% to 96.26% and English language learners progressing from 85.63% to 87.72%.

There was a 27.8% reduction in chronic absenteeism in 2023

According to the latest federal data, nearly 14.7 million students, or 29.7% of the total, were chronically absent during the 2021-22 school year, missing at least 10% of school days. 

Preliminary data for the following school year shows a modest improvement, with a combined chronic absenteeism rate of 27.8% in the 11 states that have reported attendance data for 2022-23, down from 30% the previous year. 

Massachusetts stands out with the most significant drop, reducing its rate from 27.7% to 22.2%, while Virginia, with a lower overall rate, experienced the most minor decrease, moving from 20.1% to 19.5%. 

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How well are U.S. high school students performing?

Only 21% of U.S. high schoolers are well-prepared for college

2023 ACT data revealed a concerning lack of college preparedness among recent high school graduates.

Out of the class of 2023, only 21% met ACT's college-readiness benchmarks across all core subjects. That signals that only 1 in 5 students are equipped to succeed in introductory college courses.

At the other end of the spectrum, over 40% of graduates failed to meet a single subject benchmark. And students nationwide scored an average of 19.5 out of 36 on the ACT this year - down 0.3 points from 2022 for a 32-year low.

The decline in math and reading scores among U.S. 13-year-olds: largest drop since 1973

Recent data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress reveals the largest yearly drop in math scores among 13-year-olds in the U.S. since federal tracking began in 1973.

Reading scores also declined by 4 points between 2020 and 2023, with math scores experiencing a more significant decrease of 9 points during the same period. Despite concerns about the impact of remote learning, the decline in scores has been ongoing since 2012. 

In line with these findings, a Gallup poll conducted in 2022 indicates that 55% of Americans expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of K-12 education, marking the highest dissatisfaction since 2000.

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Emerging trends in U.S. high school education: dual enrollment and financial literacy courses

Nearly 1 in 5 community college students in dual enrollment classes are high schoolers

Analysis of 2023 enrollment data shows high schoolers in dual credit college courses jumped sharply, comprising 19% of community college populations.

From Spring 2022 to Spring 2023, under-18 enrollments rose 8% nationally. However, this masked declining figures for older learners.

The trends spotlight dual enrollment's expansion as an equity strategy. Research proves students acquiring early college credits see higher graduation rates, enrollment, and completion after secondary school. 

The gains mainly help traditionally marginalized groups envision attaining degrees.

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Over half of U.S. high schoolers will take personal finance courses

High schools across the U.S. embrace the importance of financial education, with more than half of the nation's high school students—53%—expected to enroll in a dedicated personal finance course before graduation.

The push for financial literacy gained significant traction in 2023, with eight states adopting policies to ensure students receive practical financial lessons. 

Main challenges to overcome in U.S. high schools: online bullying and mental health

53% of U.S. high school students call online bullying a major problem

Over half of U.S. high school students, 53%, see online bullying as a big problem, according to recent surveys. 

The Pew Research Center's research reveals that 46% of teens have experienced cyberbullying, including name-calling, rumor spreading, and unwanted explicit images.

The study also highlights differences, as Black and Hispanic youth, girls, and low-income teens report higher rates of online harassment.

54% of teen girls aged 15-17 have experienced cyberbullying in high school

According to a spring 2022 survey, 54% of girls aged 15 to 17 in the U.S. have encountered at least one form of online bullying, including false rumors, constant monitoring, or appearance-related abuse.

Comparatively, just 44% of equivalent-aged boys dealt with these issues. And only 41% of younger female teens endured such mistreatment. Researchers tied a more significant impact among older girls to increased device access and digital visibility.

37% of high school students in the U.S. suffer mental health problems

Around 37% of high school students in the U.S. face consistent mental health problems, dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression. Notably, 31% report having poor mental health most of the time. 

The impact is even more pronounced in the LGBTQ+ community, where 64% experienced mental health issues during the pandemic, a rate more than double that of their heterosexual peers. 

Interestingly, 44.04% of teens find relief through apps and online resources, while only 2.54% utilize school resources for stress management.

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Summary: U.S. High School Statistics to Consider in 2024

There are 26,727 total U.S. high schools

The national public high school graduation rate is around 87%

There was a 27.8% reduction in chronic absenteeism in 2023

Only 21% of U.S. high schoolers are well-prepared for college

The decline in math and reading scores among U.S. 13-year-olds: largest drop since 1973

Nearly 1 in 5 community college students in dual enrollment classes are high schoolers

Over half of U.S. high schoolers will take personal finance courses

53% of U.S. high school students call online bullying a major problem

54% of teen girls aged 15-17 have experienced cyberbullying in high school

37% of high school students in the U.S. suffer mental health problems

FAQ

Which high schools secured the top positions in the national ranking?

According to recent reports, the top 10 high schools in the national ranking are as follows:

  1. The Early College at Guilford (NC)
  2. Signature School (IN)
  3. School for Advanced Studies (FL)
  4. The Davidson Academy of Nevada (NV)
  5. Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (VA)
  6. The School for the Talented and Gifted (TX)
  7. Tesla STEM High School (WA)
  8. Academic Magnet High School (SC)
  9. Oxford Academy (CA)
  10. Payton College Preparatory High School (IL)

What is the median salary for high school teachers in the U.S.?

According to U.S. News, the median salary for high school teachers in the United States is $62,870.

Is being a high school teacher a well-paying job?

While high school teachers might have an average salary, it remains the best-paying education job in the country. 

Additionally, certain cities, such as Napa, California, offer high school teachers a median wage as high as $99,170. 

New York and California state stand out as the top-paying locations for high school teachers nationwide.

Final Thoughts

The U.S. high school graduation rate is 87%, but only 21% of the class of 2023 are all set for college, scoring 19.5 out of 36 on average in core subjects like math and English. That is the lowest score in 32 years. 

Yet, there's a positive note—chronic absenteeism went down by almost 3%. 

Also, 19% of students in community colleges are high schoolers taking college classes, which seems promising. Research says this helps them graduate more, especially if they face challenges. 

Overall, things are improving after a tough time, and some fixes in attendance, test preparation, and advanced courses can help students catch up.

Sources

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Andrea Mercado is a tech-focused journalist and copywriter with over 5 years of experience covering innovation, edtech, AI, and internet trends across media outlets. She is passionate about how technology can democratize access to education and is an avid learner when it comes to emerging tech like AI. Her articles and webinars help readers stay informed on the latest tech developments.
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