Private Schools in the United States: A Statistical Profile, 1993-94 / Profiles of Private Schools in America: 1993-94

Profiles of Private Schools in America: 1993-94

Guide to Reading Graphic Profiles of Private Schools

Important features of private elementary and secondary schools in America, obtained from the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), are shown in a series of two-page graphic profiles for each of nine types of private schools and for all private schools in aggregate. The information in these graphic profiles is supplemented by additional information in the Tables Section of this report. Accompanying each graphic profile, characteristics of schools are described in text, based on information in the graphic profile and, when noted in the text, information in the Tables Section. Readers will note that the information presented in the graphic profiles and the Tables Section are complementary: different measures are shown (e.g., percentages instead of means), different breakdowns are included (e.g., by grade level served in the school or not), and in some cases the unit of analysis is different (e.g., schools instead of teachers).

In the graphic profiles, horizontal bar plots, in light gray, indicate the percentages (shown in parentheses) of schools, teachers, or principals in particular categories. For each percentage, a darker "shadow" bar provides context for interpretation by indicating the corresponding percentage for all private schools. (For the aggregate profile of all private schools, the "shadow" bars indicate corresponding percentages for all public schools.) In a few cases, a bar and percentage is omitted (and the percentage is replaced by "--"), because the SASS sample size for the particular category is not sufficiently large for a reliable estimate. A percentage equal to zero is represented by the absence of a light gray bar.

An explanation of each of the 16 components of the graphic profiles is presented below. The specific private school items on which the graphic profiles are based are displayed in Appendix B; and the graphic profile entries and their standard errors are displayed in tables C1 through C21 in Appendix C.

The following pages contain first a single profile for all private schools in aggregate, followed by nine profiles for the nine NCES-defined categories of private schools: Catholic schools, divided into three categories: parochial, diocesan, and private order; other religiously oriented schools, divided into three categories: conservative Christian, other affiliated, and other unaffiliated; and nonsectarian schools, also divided into three categories: regular, special emphasis, and special education. In a later section, individual profiles for each of 19 affiliations, or groups of affiliations, are included.

Private Schools in Aggregate


In 1993-94, the United States education system included 26,093 private elementary and secondary schools, which employed the equivalent of 330,839 full-time teachers to teach 4,970,548 students. Private schools accounted for 24.4 percent of all schools in the nation and 10.7 percent of all students. Private schools were located all over the country. There were slightly more in absolute numbers in the Midwest and South. However they constituted the largest percentage of schools in the Northeast. They were less likely to be located in rural areas and small towns than public schools and were more likely to be found in large cities (table 2.2). Because fewer than 5 percent offered boarding for students (table 1.11), private schools, like public schools, generally were serving families in the communities in which they were located.

The picture of private schools in America has changed dramatically during the 20th century. When the dates of founding of private schools are compared across decades, it can be seen that although 11 percent of currently operating schools are more than 90 years old, relatively few currently operating private schools were founded between 1904 and 1944 (table 1.3). About two-thirds of these schools were established after the mid-1950s.

To their principals, private schools have many important goals, which vary among types of private schools (tables 4.1 and 4.2). Based on responses in 1993- 94, 42 percent of principals rated religious development as most important, 17 percent rated academic excellence as most important, 18 percent rated literacy skills as most important, and 10 percent rated personal growth and self-esteem as most important.

Private schools are typically much smaller than public schools: only 20 percent of private schools had enrollments of more than 300 students, compared to 71 percent of public schools; and a quarter had enrollment of less than 50 students, compared to only 3 percent of public schools. Unlike schools in public school systems, few private schools limit their grade spans to the middle grades, and many enroll students in both elementary and secondary grades in the same school. About 30 percent of private schools combined elementary and secondary grades, compared to 4 percent of public schools; and while 56 percent of public schools with seventh graders were middle schools, very few separate private schools served only the middle grades (table 1.4).

Nearly all private schools (95 percent) were coeducational. Boys and girls were equally represented in most private schools, with a few exceptions (for example, military and special education private schools had male enrollments of 71 and 72 percent, respectively) (table 2.4). In public schools, about 33 percent of the student population were members of minority groups; in private schools, about 22 percent were (table 2.5). Although many private schools served a diverse student body of minorities, about one in five had no minority students. Nearly all private schools charged tuition: in 1993-94, it averaged $2,200 in elementary schools, $5,500 in secondary schools, and $4,200 in combined-level private schools (table 1.5).

School Resources and Programs

School resources and programs can be affected by school size, and two types of differences between public and private schools can be traced to differences in school size. First, in comparison to public schools, private schools had smaller class sizes, with one-quarter having fewer than 15 students per class. Similarly, the average student/teacher ratio for private schools was 15:1, compared to 17:1 for public schools (table 1.7). As McLaughlin, O'Donnell, and Ries (1995) showed, these differences disappear when one compares schools with the same sizesmaller schools have smaller student/teacher ratios, and more private schools are smaller.

Second, fewer private schools served sufficient numbers of students to need or be able to provide various resources or services.\1 At the elementary level, for example, fewer private school students received services for Title I (4 percent), bilingual (1 percent), and special education (3 percent), but more private school students received day care services (11 percent, compared to only 4 percent in public schools). At both the elementary and secondary levels, the average FTE librarians were fewer at private schools (0.5, compared to 1.2, in elementary schools; and 1.1, compared to 1.7, in secondary schools).

Qualifications and Experience of Teachers and Principals

The education levels of private school teachers on average were somewhat lower than those of public school teachers: 7 percent of teachers in private schools did not have a bachelors degree, compared to fewer than 1 percent of public school teachers. The related experience of the two teacher groups was similar, although many more of the most experienced teachers were in public schools: 21 percent of private school teachers had 20 or more years teaching experience, compared to 35 percent of public school teachers. Seventy-one percent of private school teachers, compared to virtually all public school teachers, held state certifications. Teachers at private schools were paid substantially less on average: about half earned less than $20,000, compared to 4 percent of public, while fewer of them (5 percent) earned $40,000 or more, compared to 25 percent of public. Although many minority members are hired as private school teachers, about 65 percent of private schools had no minority teachers, compared to 42 percent of public schools.

Principals qualifications, in terms of education level but not related experience, were somewhat lower in private schools than in public schools. In private schools, 66 percent of principals had advanced degrees, compared to more than 98 percent of public school principals. Most principals in private schools were also paid substantially less: about 31 percent earned less than $20,000, and fewer of them (24 percent) earned $40,000 or more. The proportion of female principals was greater in private schools than in public schools (54 percent and 34 percent, respectively).

Although teachers in private schools were less satisfied with their salaries, more of them were satisfied with their class sizes, staff cooperation, and career choice than teachers in public schools were. Generally, private school teachers felt they had more control over school discipline, school curriculum, the choice of textbooks, and class content than did public school teachers. Although private schools varied among themselves on many factors, these differences in perceptions of teacher influence were represented in nearly all types of private schools (table 3.11).

Expectations and School Climate

Unlike all but a few public schools, nearly half of all elementary private schools (47 percent) and most secondary or combined level private schools (72 percent) used at least one of the following requirements: an admission or achievement test, an interview, the students academic record, special needs, special aptitudes, or recommendations. For example, about 22 percent of elementary private schools and 32 percent of secondary private schools had an admissions test (table 2.3a )and 2.3b. When asked to identify problems as moderate or serious in their schools, fewer private school teachers than public school teachers reported school attendance, robbery, alcohol abuse, physical conflict, apathy, poverty and racial tension, and students dropping out.

More private schools required 3 years of science courses (48 percent) and 1 year of foreign language education (58 percent) than did public schools. Nearly one-third of private schools had some requirement for community service before graduation in 1993-94, compared to 3 percent of public schools. The rates of graduation were higher in private schools (98 percent) than in public schools (93 percent), and the rates for college application were higher in private schools: 88 percent, compared to 57 percent in public schools (table 4.5).

Overview of the 9-Category NCES Private School Typology

Statistical profiles in this section have been organized by a typology of private schools developed by NCES (McMillen & Benson 1992). That typology consists of three major categories of schools, and three subcategories of schools within each major category. The largest set of private schools in the United States are those affiliated with the Catholic Church. The first three profiles in the typology are, therefore, for three subcategories of Catholic schools: parochial, diocesan, and private order, grouped by governance. The governance of private schools is tied to differences in curriculum, program emphasis, and sources of revenue. (A profile of all Catholic schools, combined, is included in the later section of profiles by affiliation.).

The second group of three profiles is for religiously-orented schools other than Catholic schools. These have been categorized by NCES as conservative Christian schools, which are affiliated with conservative Christian associations, as schools with affiliations to other religious denominations, and as religiously oriented schools that are not affiliated with either a national denomination or a conservative Christian association. (Profiles of schools within twelve specific religious affiliations: Episcopal, Friends, Seventh-Day Adventists, two conservative asociations, three Jewish subcategories, and four Lutheran subcategories; are included in the later section of profiles by affiliation.)

The third group of three profiles is for nonsectarian schools. These have been categorized as either regular or serving a special purpose, either special education for children with disabilities or a special emphasis, such as arts, vocational, or alternative schools. (Profiles of schools with four nonsectarian affiliations: Montessori schools, schools for exceptional children, members of the National Association of Independent Schools, and military schools; are included in the later section of profiles by affiliation.)

Schools affiliated with the National Independent Private School Association (NIPSA), which became a new stratum in this survey in 1993-94, were grouped with other (uncategorized) private schools in this report. Based on the Schools and Staffing Survey, NIPSA affiliates numbered 380 schools, enrolling 104,660 students and employing 8,714 teachers in 1993-94. About half of the NIPSA schools were solely elementary, and about half served secondary students. The largest percentages of these schools were in the Midwest (43 percent) and were in large or midsize central cities (53 percent). Schools affiliated with NIPSA will be shown in a separate profile in future editions of the SASS Statistical Profiles of Private Schools.

1/School size is related to service provision. Public schools serving elementary grades that were small (150 students) were less likely than other public schools to offer each of these services. The same was true for private schools, with the exception of bilingual edu-cation.

IntroductionExecutive Summary  Catholic-Parochial Schools