National Center for Education Statistics

Measuring the Homeschool Population

By Sarah Grady

How many children are educated at home instead of school? Although many of our data collections focus on what happens in public or private schools, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) tries to capture as many facets of education as possible, including the number of homeschooled youth and the characteristics of this population of learners. NCES was one of the first organizations to attempt to estimate the number of homeschoolers in the United States using a rigorous sample survey of households. The Current Population Survey included homeschooling questions in 1994, which helped NCES refine its approach toward measuring homeschooling.[i] As part of the National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES), NCES published homeschooling estimates starting in 1999. The homeschooling rate has grown from 1.7 percent of the school-aged student population in 1999 to 3.4 percent in 2012.[ii]

NCES recently released a Statistical Analysis Report called Homeschooling in the United States: 2012. Findings from the report, detailed in a recent blog, show that there is a diverse group of students who are homeschooled. Although NCES makes every attempt to report data on homeschooled students, this diversity can make it difficult to accurately measure all facets of the homeschool population.

One of the primary challenges in collecting relevant data on homeschool students is that no complete list of homeschoolers exists, so it can be difficult to locate these individuals. When lists of homeschoolers can be located, problems exist with the level of coverage that they provide. For example, lists of members of local and national homeschooling organizations do not include homeschooling families unaffiliated with the organizations. Customer lists from homeschool curriculum vendors exclude families who access curricula from other sources such as the Internet, public libraries, and general purpose bookstores. For these reasons, collecting data about homeschooling requires a nationally representative household survey, which begins by finding households in which at least one student is homeschooled.

Once located, families can vary in their interpretation of what homeschooling is. NCES asks households if anyone in the household is “currently in homeschool instead of attending a public or private school for some or all classes.” About 18 percent of homeschoolers are in a brick-and-mortar school part-time, and families may vary in the extent to which they consider children in school part-time to be homeschoolers. Additionally, with the growth of virtual education and cyber schools, some parents are choosing to have the child schooled at home but not to personally provide instruction. Whether or not parents of students in cyber schools define their child as homeschooled likely varies from family to family.

NHES data collection begins with a random sample of addresses distributed across the entire U.S. However, most addresses will not contain any homeschooled students. Because of the low incidence of homeschooling relative to the U.S. population, a large number of households must be screened to find homeschooling students.  This leaves us with a small number of completed surveys from homeschooling families relative to studies of students in brick-and-mortar schools. For example, in 2012, the NHES program contacted 159,994 addresses and ended with 397 completed homeschooling surveys.

Smaller analytic samples can often result in less precise estimates. Therefore, NCES can estimate only the size of the total homeschool population and some key characteristics of homeschoolers with confidence, but we are not able to accurately report data for very small subgroups. For example, NCES can report the distribution of homeschoolers by race and ethnicity,[iii] but more specific breakouts of the characteristics of homeschooled students within these racial/ethnic groups often cannot be reported due to the small sample sizes and large standard errors. For a more comprehensive explanation of this issue, please see our blog post on standard errors.  The reason why this matters is that local-level research on homeschooling families suggests that homeschooling communities across the country may be very diverse.[iv] For example, Black, urban homeschooling families in these studies are often very different from White, rural homeschooling families. Low incidence and high heterogeneity lead to estimates with lower precision.

Despite these constraints, the data from NHES continue to be the most comprehensive that we have on homeschoolers. NCES continues to collect data on this important population. The 2016 NHES recently completed collection on homeschooling students, and those data will be released in fall 2017.

[i] Henke, R., Kaufman, P. (2000). Issues Related to Estimating the Home-school Population in the United States with National Household Survey Data (NCES 2000-311). National Center for Education Statistics. Institute of Education Sciences. U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC.

[ii] Redford, J., Battle, D., and Bielick, S. (2016). Homeschooling in the United States: 2012 (NCES 2016-096). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC.

[iv] Hanna, L.G. (2012). Homeschooling Education: Longitudinal Study of Methods, Materials, and Curricula. Education and Urban Society 44(5): 609–631.

Bullying Down From a Decade Ago, but Unchanged Since 2013

By Lauren Musu-Gillette, Rachel Hansen, and Maura Spiegelman

Bullying prevention is a topic of perennial interest to policy makers, administrators, and educators, as well as students and their families. Data is a key component of measuring progress in a given area and NCES is committed to providing reliable and timely data on important topics such as bullying. NCES recently released a new report with data on bullying; Student Reports of Bullying and Cyber-Bullying: Results From the 2015 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey.

The School Crime Supplement (SCS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey collects data on bullying by asking students ages 12–18 if they had been bullied at school during the school year. The percentage of students who reported being bullied at school during the school year decreased from 28 percent in 2005 to 21 percent in 2015. Similarly, the percentage of male students who reported being bullied at school decreased from 27 percent to 19 percent during the same time period. While the downward trend was not significant for female students, a smaller percentage reported being bullied in 2015 than in 2005 (29 vs. 23 percent). Additionally, the percentage of females who reported being bullied was higher than the percentage of males in most years that data were available (the exceptions were 2005 and 2009 when the percentages were not measurably different).  

However, as you can see in the graph below, most of the decline—overall and for males and females—occurred between 2007 and 2013. For the past two years, the percentages have been relatively unchanged.

Percentage of students, ages 12–18, who reported being bullied at school during the school year: Selected years, 2005 through 2015

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, School Crime Supplement (SCS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey, 2005 through 2015. See Digest of Education Statistics 2016, table 230.40.

In 2015, higher percentages of Black students (25 percent) and White students (22 percent) reported being bullied in comparison to Hispanic students (17 percent). A greater percentage of students in 6th grade (31 percent) reported being bullied than students in grades 8–12, where reports of bullying ranged between 15 percent and 22 percent. No measurable differences were observed in the percentage of private and public school students who reported being bullied at school.

The frequency of bullying is another factor that is measured in the SCS. In 2015, about 67 percent of students who reported being bullied at school indicated that they were bullied once or twice in the school year. About one-third (33 percent) indicated that they were bullied at least once or twice a month, with 10 percent of these students reporting being bullied once or twice a week and 4 percent reporting they were bullied every day.

Additional data from the 2015 report can be found in the tables in the report. These tables contain additional information on bullying-related topics such as types of bullying, and fear and avoidance behaviors at school.

A Look at Private Schools and Homeschooling

By Dana Tofig, Communications Director, Institute of Education Sciences

Much of the data you will find on the NCES website is related to public schools. It makes sense because a majority of students do attend public schools and those schools are required to gather and report a lot of information. Still, NCES does collect a significant amount of information about non-public elementary and secondary schools and a more limited amount of information about homeschooling.

Two recently released NCES reports provide information about other types of educational programs that serve millions of students—private schools and homeschooling. 

Private Schools

Characteristics of Private Schools in the United States provides a first look at data from the 2013-14 Private School Universe Survey, which is conducted every two years to gather information about the schools that approximately 10 percent of elementary and secondary students attend. This report, released on Nov 1, provides a tremendous amount of information, such as the number, type, and religious affiliation of private schools, as well as data about enrollment and programs offered.

The report shows that there were 33,619 private schools in 2013-14, serving 4.6 million students. The majority of these schools—about 69 percent—had a religious affiliation and 68 percent were located either in cities or suburbs, rather than towns or rural areas.

Source: Characteristics of Private Schools in the United States: Results From the 2013-14 Private School Universe Survey: National Center for Education Statistics, November 2016

The new report also provides a look at the percent of seniors who graduate and the subsequent postsecondary enrollment of students in private schools and breaks that information down by a number of categories. In 2012-13, slightly more than a quarter (26 percent) of private schools had students in 12th grade, and the graduation rate at those schools was 97 percent. The graduation rate was highest (99 percent) in schools with 750 or more students and lowest (83 percent) in schools with fewer than 50 students.  

Of 2012-13 private school graduates, 65 percent attended a four-year college by fall 2013, but there was wide variance in that rate by school type and location. For instance, 85 percent of graduates who attended Catholic schools enrolled in college by fall 2013, while the percentage was lower for students who attended other religious private schools (63 percent) and nonsectarian schools (56 percent). The four-year college enrollment rate was higher in schools that were located in the city (69 percent) and suburbs (66 percent) and lower in schools in towns (61 percent) and rural areas (58 percent).


Homeschooling in the United States: 2012 estimates the number and percentage of homeschooled students in the U.S. in 2012 and compares that with estimates from previous years (1999, 2003, and 2007). It also provides demographic characteristics of homeschoolers and information about the reasons parents chose to homeschool their children and where they get curricular materials. The data come from responses to the Parent and Family Involvement in Education Survey that is part of the National Household Education Survey Program.

The report shows that, in 2012, there were approximately 1.8 million students who were homeschooled, representing about 3.4 percent of all students, ages 5-17, enrolled in elementary or secondary grades. Since 1999, the percentage of students who are homeschooled has doubled, with significant increases seen between 1999 and 2003 and 2003 and 2007. 

* - Statistically adjusted

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Parent Survey of the National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES), 1999; Parent and Family Involvement in Education Survey of the NHES, 2003, 2007, and 2012

When asked why they chose to homeschool their children, 25 percent parents said the most important reason was concern about the environment at other schools, such as safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure. Other parents said the most important reasons were dissatisfaction with the academic instruction at other schools (19 percent) and a desire to provide religious instruction (17 percent). About 21 percent of parents said there were other reasons, such as family time, finances, travel, and distance.

The report also provides information about how parents accessed the curriculum and books they used for homeschooling. Non-retail website and homeschooling catalogs, providers, or specialists were the most reported sources at 77 percent each, followed by the public library (70 percent), and retail bookstores or other stores (69 percent). Other significant sources were education materials were publishers not affiliated with homeschooling (53 percent), homeschooling organization (45 percent), and church, synagogue, or other religious organization (38 percent). 

Changes in America’s Public School Facilities From 1998-99 to 2012-13

By Lauren Musu-Gillette

The physical condition of school facilities is an important element of the school experience in the United States. To ensure that school facilities provide optimal conditions for learning, districts may need to build new facilities or upgrade existing facilities. During the first decade of the 21st century, public school systems in the United States spent, on average, over $20 billion annually on school construction (Baker and Bernstein 2012).[i] A recently released NCES report examined changes in school facilities in the U.S. from 1998-99 to 2012-13.

How did the average age of schools’ main instructional buildings change from 1998-99 to 2012-13?

In school year 2012-13, schools’ main instructional buildings were 19 years old, which was older than the average age of 16 years in the 1998-99 school year.[ii] In addition, on average, large schools were newer than small schools (by 8 years) and medium-sized schools (by 5 years) in 2012-13.

How did dissatisfaction with schools’ environmental factors change from 1998-99 to 2012-13?

In the 1998-99 school year, ventilation was the factor rated as unsatisfactory for the highest percentage of public schools while lighting was the lowest. However, by the 2012-13 school year, the percentage of public schools for which ventilation was rated as unsatisfactory had dropped, and the percentage for lighting increased. In fact, lighting was the only environmental factor that was rated as unsatisfactory for a higher percentage of public schools in 2012-13 than in 1998-99.

SOURCE: National Center for Education Statistics, Changes in America’s Public School Facilities: From School Year 1998-99 to School Year 2012-13

Was there a difference in the percentage of schools that needed money for repairs, renovations, and modernizations from 1998-99 to 2012-13? What was the estimated cost of these projects?

The percentage of public schools that needed money for repairs, renovations, and modernizations to put onsite buildings in good overall condition was lower in 2012-13 than 1998-99 by 23 percentage points (53 vs. 76 percent). However, the average cost of these projects was estimated to be $1.4 million more per school in 2012–13 than in 1998–99, adjusting for inflation.

Was there a difference in the percentage of schools with plans for building improvements in the next 2 years from 1998-99 to 2012-13?

A lower percentage of public schools in the 2012–13 school year had plans for building improvements in the next 2 years, compared to 1998-99 (39 vs. 48 percent). However, approximately 39 percent of public schools in the 2012–13 school year had plans for major repairs, renovations, or replacements to at least one building feature in the next 2 years.

[i] Baker, L., and Bernstein, H. (2012). The Impact of School Buildings on Student Health and Performance: A Call for Research. New York: McGraw Hill Research Foundation. Retrieved March 10, 2015, from

[ii] The age of the school was defined based on the year of the most recent major renovation or the year of construction of the main instructional building if no renovation had occurred.

Data Visualization: Helping Education Agencies Communicate Data Meaning to Stakeholders

By the National Forum on Education Statistics’ Data Visualization Working Group

Every day, 2.5 quintillion—that’s 17 more zeroes—bytes of data are uploaded to the Internet (IBM 2016).[i] How can people be expected to discern meaning when the volume of available data continues to grow at such a pace?  The short answer is that they can’t—someone needs to highlight the most relevant “take-home” message in the data or no one will see it, understand it, or use it to make decisions. 

Anyone who works in the field of education knows this reality. Federal, state, and local agency staff often struggle to effectively present data to stakeholders in an accessible, accurate, and actionable manner. Although data visualization websites and textbooks are readily available, they are often written for specialists in information architecture or graphic designers. Fortunately, the National Forum on Education Statistics (Forum) has produced the new Forum Guide to Data Visualization: A Resource for Education Agencies, which is customized to meet the specific visualization needs of the education data and research communities. The intended audience is professionals who interpret and communicate data meaning for a wide range of education stakeholders, including practitioners, policymakers, researchers, parents, and the general public.

Building off of expertise in the field of data visualization, the guide presents a host of practices that support four overarching “take-home” principles for data visualization:

  1. Show the data;
  2. Reduce the clutter;
  3. Integrate text and images; and
  4. Portray data meaning accurately and ethically.

Other practical recommendations include:

  • Capitalize on consistency—establish and adhere to common conventions;
  • Avoid presenting figures side by side if the data are not intended to be compared;
  • Consider your design choices beyond default graphing programs;
  • Focus on the take-home message for the target audience;
  • Minimize the use of jargon, acronyms, and technical terms;
  • Choose a font that is easy to read and will reproduce well; and
  • Recognize the importance of color and the benefits of Section 508 Compliance.

Because communicating data effectively is a priority in education agencies, the document also explains how the data visualization process can be implemented throughout an organization. In this way, effective visual communication might become the norm rather than exception in our agencies.  Visit the Forum’s website for more information about this guide, the Forum, and other free resources for the education data community.

About the National Forum on Education Statistics

The work of the National Forum on Education Statistics is a key aspect of the National Cooperative Education Statistics System. The Cooperative System was established to produce and maintain, with the cooperation of the states, comparable and uniform education information and data that are useful for policymaking at the federal, state, and local levels. To assist in meeting this goal, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), within the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education, established the Forum to improve the collection, reporting, and use of elementary and secondary education statistics.

The information and opinions published in Forum products do not necessarily represent the policies or views of the U.S. Department of Education, IES, or NCES. For more information about the Forum, please contact Ghedam Bairu

[i] IBM (2016): What is Big Data? Bringing Big Data to the Enterprise. Retrieved November 2016 from