National Center for Education Statistics

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). 

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