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Public and private school comparison

Question:
In what ways do public and private schools differ?

Response:

Below are a few selected dimensions that highlight some of the ways public and private schools differ.

Enrollments

Public elementary and secondary school enrollment rose from 49.4 million in 2009 to 50.3 million in 2014, an increase of 2 percent. Public elementary enrollment (prekindergarten through grade 8) increased 3 percent between 2009 and 2014 (from 34.4 million to 35.4 million), while public secondary enrollment (grades 9 through 12) was less than 1 percent lower in 2014 (14.9 million) than in 2009. Enrollment in private elementary and secondary schools in 2015 (5.8 million) was 5 percent lower than in 2005 (6.1 million). In 2015, private school students made up 10.3 percent of all elementary and secondary school students.

Teachers and Other School Staff

For public schools, the number of pupils per teacher—that is, the pupil/teacher ratio—was 16.1 in 2014. By comparison, the pupil/teacher ratio for private schools was 12.2 in 2014.

In 2011–12, some 76 percent of public school teachers were female, 44 percent were under age 40, and 56 percent had a master's or higher degree. Compared with public school teachers, a lower percentage of private school teachers had a master's or higher degree (43 percent).

Public school principals tend to be older and have more advanced credentials than public school teachers. In 2011–12, some 20 percent of public school principals were under age 40, and 98 percent of public school principals had a master's or higher degree. Compared with public school principals, a lower percentage of private school principals had a master's or higher degree (69 percent). A lower percentage of principals than of teachers were female: about 52 percent of public school principals were female, compared with 76 percent of teachers. At private schools, 55 percent of principals were female in 2011–12, compared with 75 percent of teachers.

In 2014, there were 8 pupils per staff member (total staff) at public schools, compared with 10 pupils per staff member in 1980. At private schools in 2011–12, the number of pupils per staff member was 6.

High School Graduates

About 3,568,000 high school students were expected to graduate during the 2016–17 school year, including 3,254,000 public school graduates and 315,000 private school graduates.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2018). Digest of Education Statistics, 2016 (NCES 2017-094), Chapter 2.

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