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Access to quality education is critical to a community’s future. Good schools can provide children with the skills and knowledge they need to get into college, succeed in their careers as adults, contribute to their communities and lead fulfilling lives. When a quality education is not available to everyone in a community, not all children have equal opportunities to succeed.
There are many ways to measure educational success, including pre-kindergarten enrollment, the adequacy of school funding, performance on early reading and math assessments, and on-time graduation rates. Overall, these indicators suggest that Erie County is preparing many children well for the future. Promising measures include a prekindergarten enrollment rate much higher than the state overall, improvements in math and reading scores, and a four-year graduation rate that compares well to Pennsylvania. Yet, like many other parts of the U.S., there are deep disparities in outcomes among school districts within the same county -- particularly between Erie City and the surrounding townships and boroughs. This suggests that not all students in Erie County have access to the same educational opportunities.
Pre-kindergarten places an early emphasis on reading, numeracy and social skills, laying a foundation for success throughout a child’s educational career. In 2017, 39% of 3- and 4-year-olds in Erie County were enrolled in a pre-kindergarten program. This was more than double the county’s 2007 rate, and 16 percentage points higher than the Pennsylvania rate of 23%.
While not always a decisive factor in educational success, higher spending per student can mean better facilities and programs for students. It also can signal community support for quality education and the capacity to fund it. Per-student spending in Erie County schools was $14,800 in 2015, less than the state level of $16,900. After adjusting for inflation, Erie County’s spending has increased 27% since 2000, similar to Pennsylvania during the same period. Within the county, per-student spending in 2015 was highest in the Northwestern School District, at $19,100, and lowest at North East, at $13,200. Erie City was one of the higher-spending districts at $16,000.
Erie County students are showing overall improvement on the state’s Grade 3 English Language Arts exam, an important milestone in reading proficiency. In 2018, 62% of students in Erie County scored as proficient or advanced on the exam, up from 57% in 2015. Erie’s rate in 2018 was slightly lower than the statewide rate of 64% and the City of Erie schools had the lowest passing rate at 39%, up from 34% in 2015.
Students in Erie County also made progress on the state Grade 3 Math exam, an important foundation for math and science-related subjects. In 2018, 57% of county students scored as proficient or advanced, up from 49% in 2015. Erie increased its proficiency rates by slightly more than the state, which was at 54% proficiency in 2018 (Pennsylvania was also at 49% in 2015). The Erie City School District had the lowest rate in 2018, at 29%, an improvement from its 24% rate in 2015. Overall, more Erie County third-graders scored proficient or advanced on both the reading and math exams than their counterparts Luzerne County, PA.
High school graduation, measured as the number of students completing four years of high school on time, is the culmination of a successful K-12 education and a gateway to college or employment. About 87% of the 2017 high school cohort in Erie County graduated on time, similar to Pennsylvania as a whole. Most districts in the county had 2017 cohort graduation rates close to or above 90%, except Erie City, which had a graduation rate of 74%. Erie City has seen its graduation rate decline by 8 percentage points since 2011.
Overall, the education levels of adults have been rising in Erie County, which can contribute to a more attractive workforce better prepared for long-term growth. In 2013-17, 91% of Erie County residents had a high school diploma or higher (up from 85% in 2000), while 27% had earned a college degree. This represented a decline in residents who lacked a high school diploma since 2000 (from 15% to 9% in 2013-17), as well as an increase in college graduates (up from 21% in 2000). Both the state and nation saw similar trends in educational attainment. Still, Erie’s share of residents with only a high school diploma in 2013-17 (40%) was higher than Pennsylvania (36%) and the U.S. (27%). The City of Erie had lower adult education levels than the county as a whole (86% with a high school diploma or higher), though it, like the county, has improved since 2000.
Education levels differed by race and ethnicity, with 39% of Asian Americans in Erie County holding a bachelor’s degree in 2013-17, compared to 28% of whites, 14% of African Americans, and 12% of Hispanic residents. Since 2000, the share of residents without a high school degree declined among most racial and ethnic groups in Erie County. The share of Asians without a high school degree, however, increased by almost 16 points in the same time frame.
|INDICATORS||TREND | ERIE COUNTY|
|Arts, Entertainment and Recreation Establishments||Maintaining|
|Arts, Entertainment and Recreation Employees||Increasing|
|Drug Abuse Arrests||Maintaining|
|Voter Participation Rate||Increasing|
|Population by Age||Not Applicable|
|Population by Race/Ethnicity||Not Applicable|
|Change in Total Population||Decreasing|
|Foreign Born Population||Increasing|
|Household Types||Not Applicable|
|Average Household Size||Maintaining|
|Median Household Income||Maintaining|
|Change in Average Salary||Decreasing|
|Unemployment Rate by Race/Ethnicity||Not Applicable|
|Change in Employment by Sector||Not Applicable|
|People Living in Poverty||Increasing|
|People Living in Poverty, by Race/Ethnicity||Not Applicable|
|Children Living in Poverty||Increasing|
|Children Living in Poverty, by Race/Ethnicity||Not Applicable|
|People Living in Poverty by Education Level||Not Applicable|
|Homeownership Rate by Race/Ethnicity||Not Applicable|
|Housing Affordability for Homeowners||Maintaining|
|Student Performance in Grade 3 Reading||Increasing|
|Student Performance in Grade 3 Math||Increasing|
|High School Cohort Graduation Rate||Maintaining|
|Per Student Spending||Maintaining|
|Education Level of Adults||Not Applicable|
|Education Levels of Adults, by Race/Ethnicity||Not Applicable|
|Recycling Tons Per Capita||Maintaining|
|Solid Waste Per Capita||Maintaining|
|Vehicles by Fuel Type||Not Applicable|
|Death from Heart Disease||Decreasing|
|Death from Cancer||Decreasing|
|Death from Stroke||Decreasing|
|Death from Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease||Increasing|
|People Without Healthcare Coverage||Decreasing|
|People Without a Primary Care Physician||Increasing|
|People Who Cannot Afford Healthcare||Decreasing|
|Adults Who are Overweight or Obese||Increasing|
|Children Who are Overweight or Obese||Increasing|
|Teens Who are Overweight or Obese||Increasing|
|Physically Inactive Adults||Decreasing|
|Low Birth Weight Babies||Not Applicable|
|Live Births to Teen Mothers||Decreasing|
|Non Smoking During Pregnancy||Increasing|
|Early Prenatal Care||Increasing|