Education






Educational success hinges upon myriad factors, but important ones include prekindergarten participation, the availability of high-quality early childhood education, the challenges and needs of the student population, and the adequacy of school funding. Prekindergarten helps prepare children both socially and academically for school, and can be especially important for low-income children who tend to be exposed to a less rich vocabulary and have access to fewer resources than their peers. In Berks County in 2017, 18% of 3- and 4-year-olds were enrolled in prekindergarten programs, up from 10% in 2007, though still below the state rate of 23%. 

School spending in Berks County across public school districts was $17,603 per student in 2019, about 4% less than the statewide level of $18,291. The county level has increased 47% since 2001, more than the 45% increase the state saw as a whole. Per-student spending was the lowest in the Reading district at $15,085 and the highest in the Kutztown district at $23,575.  

Pennsylvania defines students as historically underperforming if they are eligible for free or reduced priced lunch, English Language Learners, or receive special education services. The size and concentration of these groups of students can pose additional challenges to schools as they seek to education children who have fewer resources at home, require special or modified instruction as they gain English proficiency, or require intensive and often expensive special education services in order to support their educational outcomes. In Berks County, 50% of students were eligible for free or reduced price lunch, 9% of students were English language learners, and 21% received special education services. Reading School District had the highest proportion of students eligible for free or reduced priced lunch (93%) and the highest share of English language learners (27%). Berks County as a whole also had a higher proportion of these student groups than its neighboring counties.

High school graduation rates in Berks County have been rising, with 86% of the 2018 high school cohort graduating on time, up 2 percentage points from 2011 and similar to the state graduation rate and increase over this time period. Some of the lowest 2018 graduation rates were in districts with high rates of students who were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, a rough measure of low-income backgrounds. These included Reading, with a graduation rate of 67%. The highest graduation rates were in districts where between a quarter and one-third of students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (for example, Wyomissing which had a graduation rate of 99%).

High school graduates’ post-graduation plans have been rising, with 65% of the 2018 high school graduates in Berks County planning on attending college at a 2- or 4- year institution, similar to 2008, and slightly lower than the current state rate (which declined by 1 percentage points over this time period). Several school districts had 75% or more of their graduates plan to attend a 2- or 4-year institution, these were: Wyomissing, Wilson, Antietam and Daniel Boone. Tulpehocken had the lowest rate, with only 52% of its graduates planning to go on to a 2- or 4- year institution, followed by Hamburg (54%) and Reading (55%). Berks’ rate ranked it in the middle of neighboring counties, whose college-bound rates ranged from 60% to 83%.

Berks County’s adult education levels are highest for Asian Americans (43% with a bachelor’s degree or higher) followed by whites (26%). African Americans and Hispanics in Berks had lower rates of higher education (14% and 10% respectively held a bachelor’s degree or above). These rates of higher education by race/ethnicity are generally below the state and national rates for almost every group. Additionally, the share of Berks County residents without a high school degree has declined since 2000 for all racial and ethnic groups.

Enrollment in local colleges in Berks County has increased 9% since 2002, although this is a 22% decline from the peak of 32,450 enrollments in 2011.

Young adults provide a regional economy with a supply of young workers starting out in careers. Berks County had a little more than 13,000 young adults in 2014-18 with a bachelor's degree or higher, making up 4.2% of the total population, below the state and nation.





INDICATORS TREND | BERKS COUNTY
Early Prenatal Care Increasing
Early Prenatal Care by Mother's Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Children Living in Poverty Increasing
Children Living in Poverty, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Single-Parent Families Increasing
Single-Parent Families by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Disengaged Youth Decreasing
Live Births to Teen Mothers Decreasing
Population by Age Not Applicable
Children with Elevated Blood Lead Levels Maintaining
Change in Population by Age and Gender Not Applicable
Change in Total Population by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Households by type Not Applicable
Foreign-Born Population Increasing
Seniors Living Alone Decreasing
Language Diversity Increasing
Unemployment Rate Decreasing
Change in Labor Force Decreasing
Employment to Population ratio Decreasing
Change in Jobs by Sector Not Applicable
Sector Share of Total Jobs Not Applicable
Average Salary by Sector Not Applicable
Change in Average Salary by Sector Not Applicable
People Entering/Leaving County/Region for Work Not Applicable
Public Assistance Maintaining
Spending for Local Governments Maintaining
Spending for Counties Maintaining
Spending for School Districts Maintaining
Prekindergarten Participation Increasing
Students Eligible for Free/Reduced Price Lunch Increasing
English Language Learners Increasing
Students Receiving Special Education Services Increasing
Per Student Spending Maintaining
High School Cohort Graduation Rate Increasing
Education Levels of Adults Not Applicable
Education Levels of Adults, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Brain Drain/Gain Maintaining
Plans of High School Graduates Not Applicable
Enrollment in Local Colleges Decreasing
Median Household Income Maintaining
Median Household Income by Household Type Not Applicable
Living Wage Not Applicable
People Living in Poverty Increasing
Working Poor Maintaining
People Receiving Federal Food Assistance Increasing
People Receiving Supplemental Security Income Increasing
Health Status Not Applicable
People Enrolled in Medicaid Managed Care Increasing
People Without Health Insurance Decreasing
Physically Inactive Adults Not Applicable
Adults Who are Overweight or Obese Not Applicable
Students in 7-12 Overweight or Obese Not Applicable
Cancer Incidence Decreasing
Students in K-6 Overweight or Obese Not Applicable
Prevalence of Mental Illness Maintaining
Vacant Housing Units Increasing
Homeownership Rates Decreasing
Cost of Homeownership Maintaining
Cost of Homeownership, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Cost of Rent Increasing
Cost of Rent, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Single-Family Home Sales Increasing
Median Single-Family Home Sale Price Maintaining
Tourism Spending Maintaining
Voter Registration Rate Decreasing
Voter Participation Rate Decreasing
Average Charitable Giving Maintaining
Contributions as a Percentage of Income Maintaining
Households With Internet Access Not Applicable
Arts, Entertainment and Recreation Establishments Maintaining
Toxic Chemical Releases Decreasing
Violent Crimes Maintaining
Property Crimes Decreasing
Incarceration Rates Maintaining
Drug Abuse Offenses Increasing
Drug Abuse Arrests Increasing
Protection from Domestic Abuse Maintaining
Average Travel Time to Work Increasing
Crashes Involving Alcohol Decreasing
Households Without Vehicles Decreasing