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Facts, figures as students return to the classroom

Monday - 9/2/2013, 4:15am  ET

FILE - In this Aug. 26, 2013 file photo safety guard Renee Green high-fives Demari Hill, 5, as she heads to Gresham Elementary School with her parents Destiny and Anthony Hill on her first day of kindergarten classes in Chicago. The National Center for Education Statistics estimated that in 2013, 50.1 million children will be enrolled in U.S. public schools and 5.2 million will be in private school. That doesn’t include home-schooled students, an estimated 1.5 million in 2007, which home-school advocates say are higher now. As for teachers there are about 3.3 million elementary and secondary public teachers in 2013, leading to a student teacher ratio of 15-to-1, NCES said. (AP Photos/M. Spencer Green, File)

CAROLE FELDMAN
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Schools and classrooms are spiffed up -- maybe.

New textbooks have been ordered -- perhaps.

Teachers are energized -- hopefully.

What's certain is that millions of children in the United States are heading to school after the summer. Many are there for the first time, while others are in the final year of their formal education.

There will be tears, from some prekindergarten and kindergarten youngsters starting school, and from parents as they leave their new college students at the dorm.

Statistics make clear that those with college degrees generally will do better than their peers who do not graduate and that those who drop out from high school face an even more dismal future.

As the school year begins, some facts and figures about education in America:

HOW MANY STUDENTS ARE THERE?

The National Center for Education Statistics estimated that in 2013, 50.1 million children will be enrolled in U.S. public schools and 5.2 million will be in private school. That doesn't include students who are home-schooled. The Education Department's statistics arm also estimated there were 1.5 million U.S. students home-schooled in 2007; advocates of home schooling advocates put the number higher.

Enrollment in colleges and universities was estimated to reach a record 21.8 million this fall, according to NCES, the Education Department's statistics arm.

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WHO'S TEACHING THEM?

There are about 3.3 million elementary and secondary public teachers in 2013, leading to a student teacher ratio of 15-to-1, NCES said.

The average teacher in a public school earned about $56,000 for the school year that ended in 2011, according to the agency. When adjusted for inflation, that salary is only 3 percent higher than it was for the year that ended in the spring of 1991.

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WHAT ABOUT SPENDING ON KIDS?

Teacher salaries are just part of the total spent on educating children. All told, NCES says $591 billion will be spent during the new school year. That breaks down to an average $11,810 for each student.

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WHAT ARE STUDENTS BEING TAUGHT?

The buzz word these days is Common Core. The Common Core State Standards establish benchmarks for student learning in math and reading. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have adopted the standards, which critics decry as tantamount to a national curriculum. Supporters counter that the standards are necessary to ensure that high school graduates are ready for college or career.

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DRESSED AND EQUIPPED FOR SUCCESS

In some households, it is a tradition that children get a new outfit for that first day of school. But the cost is just a fraction of what parents pay to get their children ready for school. The National Retail Federation estimated that a family's back-to-school spending for elementary and secondary school in 2013 would average about $634.78. In addition to clothing, supplies and electronics add to the total. That's down more than $50 from the previous year.

For college students, there's a higher cost. The federation said back-to-school spending for a college student would average $836.83 this year, also down from 2012.

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HOW SAFE IS MY STUDENT?

Last December's shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., brought questions about school security to the forefront.

More than 1.2 million students between ages 12 and 18 were victims of crimes at school in 2011, according to NCES and the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Of those, nearly half were violent crimes and 648,600 involved thefts, the agencies said.

Among students ages 5 to 18, there were 11 homicides and three suicides at school from July 1, 2010, to June 30, 2011.

The toll at Sandy Hook Elementary School was nearly double that number: 20 students were killed, along with six adults.

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JUMP START ON COLLEGE

More than 2 million students took 3.7 million Advanced Placement exams in 2012 in an attempt to earn college credit while still in high school, according the College Board, which administers the test.

The numbers have increased steadily since the 1955-56 school year, when 1,229 students took 2,199 exams.

But the increase in participation doesn't necessarily translate into an increase in college credit. In 1992, 65.5 percent tests scored at least a 3, usually the minimum grade to earn credit. That dropped to 59.2 in 2012.

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COLLEGE STICKER SHOCK

The tuition and room and board bills already have arrived, and in many cases the due dates have passed. So what does it cost to attend a college or university these days? It depends on the type of school you go to.

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