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Student to teacher ratios

Rafael // July 6th 2010 // 

There’s often a “sky is falling” mentality with regards to K-12 education, on both the public school and private school side. But let me offer some figures and two graphs to show that some things are better than you would believe. As you’ll see, student to teacher ratios show progress in one small area of education.

First, let’s take a look at some historical and current student and teacher numbers. Here is a table that I put together and by itself it may not surprise you yet:

More importantly, let’s look at the student to teacher ratio in public schools for a telling story:

Finally, let’s have a look at the student to teacher ratio in private schools (which is also dropping significantly and is a nice sign of progress):

At least on student to teacher ratios in the United States, things have been getting much better over the last 30 years. As you can see from the data, the number of teachers has gone up significantly since 1980, more than making up for the steady growth of enrolled students in K-12 institutions. As such, the ratio of students to teachers has gone down significantly over the past 30 years and that is a small win to celebrate. Lower student to teacher ratios imply an improved environment for instruction in the classroom, more individualized attention, and more. Of course there’s much more to be done to improve education in the United States, but the ongoing lowering of student to teacher ratios is one of many small steps in the right direction.

[1] Figures are from the National Center for Education Statistics ( and (

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