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Annual Reports and Information Staff (Annual Reports)
Preprimary, Elementary, and Secondary Education

Characteristics of Elementary and Secondary Schools

(Last Updated: May 2020)

In school year 2017–18, some 57 percent of traditional public schools had more than 50 percent White enrollment, compared with 32 percent of public charter schools and 72 percent of private schools.

In school year 2017–18, there were approximately 98,500 public schools in the United States (in this indicator, the United States refers to the 50 states and the District of Columbia), consisting of about 91,300 traditional public schools and 7,200 public charter schools. The total number of public schools was higher in 2017–18 than in 1999–2000, when there was a total of approximately 92,000 public schools—90,500 traditional public schools and 1,500 public charter schools. Between school years 1999–2000 and 2017–18, the percentage of all public schools that were traditional public schools decreased from 98 to 93 percent, while the percentage that were charter schools increased from 2 to 7 percent. See indicator Public Charter School Enrollment for additional information about charter schools and charter school legislation. In school year 2017–18, there were also about 32,500 private schools in the United States, which was not measurably different from the number of private schools in 1999–2000.

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Figure 1. Percentage distribution of traditional public schools, public charter schools, and private schools, by school level: School year 2017–18
Figure 1. Percentage distribution of traditional public schools, public charter schools, and private schools, by school level: School year 2017–18

† Not applicable.

# Rounds to zero.

NOTE: “Elementary” comprises public and private schools beginning with grade 6 or below and with no grade higher than 8. “Secondary” comprises public and private schools with no grade lower than 7. “Combined elementary/secondary” comprises public and private schools beginning with grade 6 or below and ending with grade 9 or above, as well as private schools that do not classify students by grade level. “Ungraded” comprises public schools not classified by grade span. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), “Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey,” 2017–18; Private School Universe Survey (PSS), 2017–18. See Digest of Education Statistics 2019, tables 205.40 and 216.30.

Figure 2. Percentage of traditional public schools, public charter schools, and private schools, by selected racial/ethnic concentration: School years 1999–2000 and 2017–18
Figure 2. Percentage of traditional public schools, public charter schools, and private schools, by selected racial/ethnic concentration: School years 1999–2000 and 2017–18

NOTE: Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Schools with other racial/ethnic concentrations, such those with enrollment that is more than 50 percent of students who were Asian, Pacific Islander, American Indian/Alaska Native, or of Two or more races, are not included in this figure; thus, the sum of the racial/ethnic concentration categories does not equal 100 percent. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), “Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey,” 1999–2000 and 2017–18; Private School Universe Survey (PSS), 1999–2000 and 2017–18. See Digest of Education Statistics 2019, tables 205.40 and 216.30.

Figure 3. Percentage distribution of traditional public schools, public charter schools, and private schools, by school locale: School year 2017–18
Figure 3. Percentage distribution of traditional public schools, public charter schools, and private schools, by school locale: School year 2017–18

NOTE: Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), “Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey,” 2017–18; Education Demographic and Geographic Estimates (EDGE), “Public School File,” 2017–18; Private School Universe Survey (PSS), 2017–18. See Digest of Education Statistics 2019, tables 205.40 and 216.30.

Figure 4. Percentage of traditional public schools and public charter schools, by percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch: School year 2017–18
Figure 4. Percentage of traditional public schools and public charter schools, by percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch: School year 2017–18

NOTE: Students with household incomes under 185 percent of the poverty threshold are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). In addition, some groups of children—such as foster children, children participating in the Head Start and Migrant Education programs, and children receiving services under the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act—are assumed to be categorically eligible to participate in the NSLP. Data include students whose NSLP eligibility has been determined through direct certification, which is a “process conducted by the states and by local educational agencies (LEAs) to certify eligible children for free meals without the need for household applications” (https://www.fns.usda.gov/directcertification-national-school-lunch-program-report-congress-state-implementation-progress-1). Also, under the Community Eligibility option, some nonpoor children who attend school in a low-income area may participate if the district decides that it would be more efficient to provide free lunch to all children in the school. For more information, see http://www.fns.usda.gov/nslp/national-school-lunch-program-nslp. The category “Missing/school does not participate” is not included in this figure; thus, the sum of the free or reduced-price lunch (FRPL) eligibility categories does not equal 100 percent. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), “Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey,” 2017–18. See Digest of Education Statistics 2019, table 216.30.

Figure 5. Percentage distribution of private schools, by school orientation: School year 2017–18
Figure 5. Percentage distribution of private schools, by school orientation: School year 2017–18

NOTE: Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Private School Universe Survey (PSS), 2017–18. See Digest of Education Statistics 2019, table 205.40.


1 Combined elementary/secondary schools include public and private schools beginning with grade 6 or below and ending with grade 9 or above, as well as private schools that do not classify students by grade level.

2 Students with household incomes under 185 percent of the poverty threshold are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). In addition, some groups of children—such as foster children, children participating in the Head Start and Migrant Education programs, and children receiving services under the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act—are assumed to be categorically eligible to participate in the NSLP. Data include students whose NSLP eligibility has been determined through direct certification, which is a “process conducted by the states and by local educational agencies (LEAs) to certify eligible children for free meals without the need for household applications” (https://www.fns.usda.gov/direct-certification-national-school-lunch-program-report-congress-state-implementation-progress-1). Also, under the Community Eligibility option, some nonpoor children who attend school in a low-income area may participate if the district decides that it would be more efficient to provide free lunch to all children in the school. For more information, see http://www.fns.usda.gov/nslp/national-school-lunch-program-nslp.

3 In school year 2017–18, some 6 percent of public charter school students and less than 1 percent of traditional public school students attended schools that did not participate in FRPL or had missing data. No data on the percentage of students eligible for FRPL were collected for private schools in school year 2017–18.

Supplemental Information

Table 101.20 (Digest 2019): Estimates of resident population, by race/ethnicity and age group: Selected years, 1980 through 2019;
Table 205.40 (Digest 2019): Number and percentage distribution of private elementary and secondary students, teachers, and schools, by orientation of school and selected characteristics: Fall 1999, fall 2009, and fall 2017;
Table 216.30 (Digest 2019): Number and percentage distribution of public elementary and secondary students and schools, by traditional or charter school status and selected characteristics: Selected years, 1999-2000 through 2017-18
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