Graph of the Week: K-8 Public Education Growth

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Editor's Note: Data, data, data! data in edtech can be ubiquitous, useful, and…overwhelming. But don’t worry! We're trying to make sense of data too, and we’ve made it our mission to help you understand it a bit better. One of our many resolutions: bringing you a “Graph of the Week,” examining how data can be used to help inform decisions.


The new calendar year brings with it important decisions on where to focus resources and manpower. For edtech companies, the question often becomes, “What areas of the country should I focus on this year?”

To help answer this question, at least for companies building K-8 products, we took a look at enrollment numbers for K-8 public school students in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia. The data comes from the National Center for Education Statistics; the latest data available is for fall 2011, which projects enrollment data out to fall 2020.

The graph below shows the percentage change in the number of K-8 students over time. The percentage change between 2006 and 2011 (the last year for which we have hard data) appears on the X-axis; the projected percentage change between 2015 and 2020 appears on the y-axis. But percentage of change isn’t everything; the 10 states with the largest number of elementary school students are highlighted in green.

Source: NCES data. See full size image.

Now we can see, from a pure numbers perspective, some of the best states for K-8 focused companies to invest in. Texas, California and Florida (unsurprisingly) all present a nice opportunity, with a large number of current K-8 public school students, and strong projected growth (4.9%, 5.5%, and 7.3%, respectively). North Carolina, Georgia and Pennsylvania are all also anticipated to grow by the end of the decade.

If you are an edtech company with strong roots in public schools in Michigan, you may have seen your market shrinking in recent years. The NCES data shows that elementary school population in that state decreased 4% between 2006 and 2011, and is expected to decrease slightly by 2020. Elementary populations in Ohio, Illinois and New York are also expected to continue shrinking through 2020.

Where in the US will elementary student growth be highest? K-8 focused companies in Nevada may have a bright future ahead; the public school elementary population in the Silver State is expected to grow by more than 11% by 2020. Alaska too is projected to grow by double digits, while Arizona’s population is expected to expand by 9%.

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