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Education Statistics Quarterly
Vol 6, Issue 4, Topic: Elementary and Secondary Education
Characteristics of Private Schools in the United States: Results From the 2001-2002 Private School Universe Survey
By: Stephen P. Broughman and Kathleen W. Pugh
 
This article was originally published as the Summary of the E.D. TAB of the same name. The universe data are from the Private School Universe Survey (PSS).  
 
 

Introduction

In 1988, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) introduced a proposal to develop a private school data collection that would improve on the irregular collection of private school data dating back to 1890. Since 1989, the U.S. Bureau of the Census has conducted the biennial Private School Universe Survey (PSS) for NCES. The PSS is designed to generate biennial data on the total number of private schools, students, and teachers and to build a universe of private schools in the 50 states and the District of Columbia to serve as a sampling frame of private schools for NCES sample surveys. The survey design is described in the Technical Notes section of the complete report.

This report on the 2001-2002 private school universe presents data on schools with grades kindergarten through 121 by school size, school level, religious orientation, geographical region, community type, and program emphasis. The numbers of students and teachers are reported by the same categories. The number of students is also reported by race/ethnicity, gender, and grade level.

Tables present data by two primary classification schemes: private school typology and religious orientation. They also present data by grade level, association membership, and state. The private school nine-category typology is based on methodological work completed at NCES (McMillen and Benson 1991). Each of the primary divisions (Catholic, other religious, and nonsectarian) is subdivided into three additional categories: Catholic into parochial, diocesan, and private; other religious into conservative Christian, affiliated, and unaffiliated; and nonsectarian into regular program, special emphasis, and special education.2


Highlights

All statements of comparison made below have been tested for statistical significance using t tests adjusted for multiple comparisons using the Bonferroni adjustment, and are significant at the 95 percent level.

Schools

  • In the fall of 2001, there were an estimated 29,273 private elementary and secondary schools in the United States, an increase of 2,050 over the 27,223 schools estimated in the fall of 1999 (table A and Broughman and Colaciello 2001).
  • Among the 29,273 private schools in existence in 2001-02, there was considerable diversity as to orientation and affiliation. Of the three primary types of private schools-Catholic, other religious, and nonsectarian-other religious schools were the most numerous, followed by Catholic schools and then nonsectarian schools, representing 49, 28, and 23 percent, respectively, of all private schools (table A).
  • The region with the most private schools was the South (9,171), while the regions with the fewest were the West (6,092) and the Northeast (6,556) (table A).
  • Ninety-one percent of private schools offered at least some elementary grades, with 60 percent offering elementary grades only and 31 percent offering a combination of elementary and secondary grades; the remaining 9 percent offered secondary grades only (table A).
  • Most private schools (82 percent) emphasized a regular elementary/secondary program. The other program emphasis categories-Montessori, special emphasis, special education, vocational/technical, alternative, and early childhood-each contained less than 10 percent of private schools (table A).

Enrollment

  • A total of 5,341,513 students were enrolled in the nation's private schools in the fall of 2001, an increase of 178,829 over the 5,162,684 students enrolled in the fall of 1999 (table A and Broughman and Colaciello 2001).
  • Private school students represented approximately 10 percent of the total elementary and secondary enrollment in the United States in 2001-02.3
  • The distribution of enrollment by type of private school differed from the distribution of individual schools. More students were enrolled in Catholic schools than in other religious schools: 47 and 36 percent, respectively, of total private enrollment. Enrollment in nonsectarian schools, representing 17 percent of all private school students, was less than that of Catholic or other religious schools (table A).
  • The region with the most private school students was the South (1,641,474), while the region with the fewest was the West (1,008,408) (table A).
  • Approximately 54 percent of private school students were enrolled only in elementary schools, 16 percent were enrolled only in secondary schools, and 30 percent were enrolled in combined schools (table A).
  • Ninety-two percent of private school students were enrolled in schools with a regular elementary/secondary program emphasis, while fewer than 5 percent of private school students were enrolled in schools featuring any one of the other categories of program emphasis (table A).
  • Forty-three percent of all private school students attended schools that were located in central cities, 43 percent attended schools that were located in urban fringe areas or large towns, and 15 percent attended schools in rural areas (table A).
  • Approximately three-quarters (76 percent) of private school students were White, non-Hispanic; 10 percent were Black, non-Hispanic; 9 percent were Hispanic; 1 percent were American Indian/Alaska Native; and 5 percent were Asian/Pacific Islander (table B).4

Teachers

  • The nation's private school students were taught by 425,406 full-time-equivalent (FTE) teachers in the fall of 2001, representing an increase of 30,089 FTE teachers over the 395,317 FTE teachers employed in private schools in the fall of 1999 (table A and Broughman and Colaciello 2001).
  • The order of the distribution of FTE teachers by type of private school was the same as that of schools. Other religious schools employed the most FTE teachers, followed by Catholic schools, then by nonsectarian schools, representing 39, 37, and 24 percent, respectively, of total private school FTE teachers (table A).
  • The region with the most private school FTE teachers was the South (142,650), while the region with the fewest was the West (76,128) (table A).
  • Nearly one-half of private school FTE teachers (48 percent) were teaching in elementary schools, 37 percent were teaching in combined schools, and 16 percent were teaching in secondary schools (table A).
  • Approximately 88 percent of private school FTE teachers were teaching in schools with a regular elementary/secondary program emphasis. As in the case of students, fewer than 5 percent of private school FTE teachers were teaching in schools featuring any one of the other categories of program emphasis (table A).

Kindergarten-Terminal Schools

  • Since 1995, schools for which kindergarten was the highest grade have been included in the PSS. In the fall of 2001, there were 6,622 of these schools enrolling 98,413 students and employing 15,398 FTE teachers nationwide (table C). Sixty-seven percent of the k-terminal schools were nonsectarian, 31 percent were other religious, and 2 percent were Catholic.
  • By definition, all of the k-terminal schools were classified as elementary, and most of them (98 percent) enrolled fewer than 50 students. Seventy-eight percent of these schools emphasized an early childhood program, 21 percent emphasized a Montessori program, and fewer than 5 percent each emphasized any one of the other programs (table C).
  • When the k-terminal schools are included with the other PSS schools, the total number of schools becomes 35,895, with 5,439,925 students and 440,804 FTE teachers (table D).

Table A. Number and percentage distribution of private schools, students, and full-time-equivalent (FTE) teachers, by selected characteristics: United States, 200102

Selected characteristics Schools Students FTE teachers
Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent
   Total 29,273 100.0 5,341,513 100.0 425,406 100.0
NCES typology
   Catholic 8,207 28.0 2,515,524 47.1 155,514 36.6
       Parochial 4,347 14.9 1,221,685 22.9 71,058 16.7
       Diocesan 2,933 10.0 925,288 17.3 56,343 13.3
       Private 927 3.2 368,552 6.9 28,113 6.6
   Other religious 14,388 49.2 1,924,874 36.0 166,005 39.0
       Conservative Christian 5,527 18.9 823,469 15.4 66,963 15.7
       Affiliated 3,406 11.6 562,686 10.5 51,184 12.0
       Unaffiliated 5,455 18.6 538,718 10.1 47,858 11.3
   Nonsectarian 6,678 22.8 901,114 16.9 103,887 24.4
       Regular 2,939 10.0 622,715 11.7 67,326 15.8
       Special emphasis 2,381 8.1 176,987 3.3 20,433 4.8
       Special education 1,358 4.6 101,412 1.9 16,128 3.8
School level
   Elementary 17,427 59.5 2,883,010 54.0 202,071 47.5
   Secondary 2,704 9.2 835,328 15.6 67,318 15.8
   Combined 9,142 31.2 1,623,175 30.4 156,017 36.7
Program emphasis
   Regular elementary/secondary 23,991 82.0 4,932,957 92.4 374,977 88.2
   Montessori 1,377 4.7 84,525 1.6 9,828 2.3
   Special program emphasis 1,076 3.7 127,179 2.4 13,228 3.1
   Special education 1,552 5.3 115,164 2.2 18,121 4.3
   Vocational/technical
   Alternative 1,148 3.9 74,695 1.4 8,531 2.0
   Early childhood 120 0.4 4,672 0.1 535 0.1
Size (number of students)
   Less than 50 8,955 30.6 232,342 4.4 32,476 7.6
   50149 8,336 28.5 765,056 14.3 80,269 18.9
   150299 6,554 22.4 1,408,132 26.4 104,858 24.7
   300499 3,199 10.9 1,223,135 22.9 87,317 20.5
   500749 1,392 4.8 829,642 15.5 57,324 13.5
   750 or more 836 2.9 883,205 16.5 63,161 14.9
Region
   Northeast 6,556 22.4 1,336,770 25.0 111,127 26.1
   Midwest 7,455 25.5 1,354,861 25.4 95,501 22.5
   South 9,171 31.3 1,641,474 30.7 142,650 33.5
   West 6,092 20.8 1,008,408 18.9 76,128 17.9
Community type
   Central city 10,117 34.6 2,276,808 42.6 176,559 41.5
   Urban fringe/large town 10,948 37.4 2,276,823 42.6 176,173 41.4
   Rural/small town 8,209 28.0 787,882 14.8 72,674 17.1

Reporting standards not met.

NOTE: Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding or missing values in cells with too few sample cases.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Private School Universe Survey (PSS), 20012002. (Originally published as table 1 on p. 9 of the complete report from which this article is excerpted.)

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Table B. Percentage distribution of students, by racial/ethnic background, and percentage minority students in private schools, by selected characteristics: United States, 200102

Selected characteristics White, non-Hispanic Black, non-Hispanic Hispanic American Indian/ Alsaka Native Asian/Pacific Islander Minority
   Total 75.9 9.7 8.6 0.7 5.1 24.1
NCES typology
   Catholic 74.5 8.4 11.9 0.7 4.6  25.5
      Parochial 74.2 8.6 12.1 0.6 4.5 25.8
      Diocesan 75.2 8.3 11.3 0.7 4.5 24.8
      Private 73.4 7.9 12.5 0.8 5.5 26.6
   Other religious 78.7 10.6 5.5 0.7 4.5 21.3
      Conservative Christian 76.4 11.7 7.1 0.8 4.0 23.6
      Affiliated 81.0 8.5 4.8 0.4 5.3 19.0
      Unaffiliated 80.0 11.2 3.7 0.8 4.4 20.0
   Nonsectarian 74.0 11.5 5.8 0.8 7.8 26.0
      Regular 76.9 9.1 4.8 0.7 8.5 23.1
      Special emphasis 71.6 12.0 6.8 1.0 8.7 28.4
      Special education 60.8 25.7 10.6 0.8 2.1 39.3
School level
   Elementary 74.2 10.3 9.9 0.8 4.9 25.9
   Secondary 76.4 8.3 9.8 0.5 5.0 23.6
   Combined 78.8 9.4 5.5 0.6 5.7 21.2
Program emphasis
   Regular elementary/secondary 76.5 9.2 8.6 0.7 5.0 23.5
   Montessori 70.9 10.7 7.1 1.3 10.1 29.1
   Special program emphasis 75.1 10.6 6.0 0.6 7.8 24.9
   Special education 60.3 26.4 10.5 0.9 1.9 39.7
   Vocational/technical ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ 
   Alternative 70.1 15.4 8.1 1.1 5.3!29.9
   Early childhood 72.6 11.8 8.4 1.3 5.9 27.4
Size (number of students)
   Less than 50 73.6 14.9 6.9 1.4!3.2 26.4
   50149 72.1  15.1  7.8 1.1  3.9 27.9
   150299 71.5 12.3 10.5 0.8 4.9 28.5
   300499 78.4 7.7 8.6 0.6 4.8 21.6
   500749 80.4 6.2 8.1 0.5 4.8 19.6
   750 or more 79.3 5.7 7.0 0.4 7.7 20.7
Region
   Northeast 76.0 11.6 7.8 0.6 4.0 24.0
   Midwest 84.1 8.5 4.7 0.5 2.3 15.9
   South 77.1 11.1 7.9 0.5 3.4 22.9
   West 62.9 6.8 15.8 1.3 13.1 37.1
Community type
   Central city 68.1 13.8 11.1 0.5 6.4 31.9
   Urban fringe/large town 79.2 7.7 7.7 0.6 4.8 20.8
   Rural/small town 89.1 3.8 3.4 1.4 2.3 10.9

! Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation for this estimate is larger than 25 percent. The standard error for this estimate is presented in the corresponding table in appendix C of the complete report.

Reporting standards not met.

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), 20012002. (Originally published as table 20 on p. 28 of the complete report from which this article is excerpted.)


Table C. Number and percentage distribution of kindergarten-terminal private schools, students, and full-time-equivalent (FTE) teachers, by selected characteristics: United States, 200102

Selected characteristics Schools Students FTE teachers
Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent
   Total 6,622 100.0 98,413 100.0 15,398 100.0 
NCES typology
   Catholic 133 2.0 3,210 3.3 484 3.2 
      Parochial 27 0.4 742 0.8 104 0.7 
      Diocesan 33 0.5 892 0.9 159 1.0 
      Private 74 1.1 1,576 1.6 221 1.4 
   Other religious 2,059 31.1 33,048 33.6 4,616 30.0 
      Conservative Christian 215 3.3 3,809 3.9 651 4.2 
      Affiliated 391 5.9 6,317 6.4 920 6.0 
      Unaffiliated 1,453 21.9 22,922 23.3 3,046 19.8 
   Nonsectarian 4,429 66.9  62,154 63.2 10,297 66.9 
      Regular 3,107 46.9 46,335 47.1 6,627 43.0 
      Special emphasis 1,295 19.6 15,418 15.7 3,594 23.3 
      Special education 27! 0.4! 401! 0.4! 77! 0.5!
School level
   Elementary 6,622 100.0 98,413 100.0 15,398 100.0 
   Secondary † † † † † † 
   Combined † † † † † † 
Program emphasis
   Regular elementary/secondary 0.0 0.0  0.0 
   Montessori 1,373 20.7 16,113  16.4  3,809  24.7 
   Special program emphasis 52!0.8!987!1.0!107!0.7!
   Special education 36!0.5!448!0.5!86!0.6!
   Vocational/technical 0.0 0.0  0.0 
   Alternative ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ 
   Early childhood 5,157 77.9 80,793  82.1  11,388  74.0 
Size (number of students)
   Less than 50 6,479 97.8 87,466 88.9 14,222 92.4 
   50149 132 2.0 8,807 9.0 954 6.2 
   150299 ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡  
   300499 0.0  0.0 0.0 
   500749 0.0 0.0 0.0 
   750 or more 0.0 0.0 0.0 
Region
   Northeast 1,950 29.4 28,811 29.3 4,336 28.2 
   Midwest 1,211 18.3 16,960 17.2 2,721 17.7 
   South 1,715 25.9 27,288 27.7 4,308 28.0 
   West 1,747 26.4 25,354 25.8 4,032 26.2 
Community type
   Central city 2,314 35.0 34,431 35.0 5,381 35.0 
   Urban fringe/large town 3,479 52.5 52,894 53.8 8,410 54.6 
   Rural/small town 829 12.5 11,087 11.3 1,607 10.4 

Not applicable.

! Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation for this estimate is larger than 25 percent. The standard error for this estimate is presented in the corresponding table in appendix C of the complete report.

Reporting standards not met.

NOTE: Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding or missing values in cells with too few sample cases. Kindergarten-terminal schools are schools in which the highest grade is kindergarten.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Private School Universe Survey (PSS), 20012002. (Originally published as table D-1 on p. 91 of the complete report from which this article is excerpted.)

Table D. Number and percentage distribution of traditional Private School Universe Survey (PSS) and kindergarten-terminal private schools, students, and full-time-equivalent (FTE) teachers, by selected characteristics: United States, 200102

Selected characteristics Schools Students FTE teachers
Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent
      Total 35,895 100.0 5,439,925 100.0 440,804 100.0
NCES typology
   Catholic 8,340 23.2 2,518,735 46.3 155,998 35.4
      Parochial 4,374 12.2 1,222,427 22.5 71,163 16.1
      Diocesan 2,965 8.3 926,180 17.0 56,502 12.8
      Private 1,001 2.8 370,128 6.8 28,334 6.4
   Other religious 16,447 45.8 1,957,922 36.0 170,621 38.7
      Conservative Christian 5,743 16.0 827,278 15.2 67,613 15.3
      Affiliated 3,796 10.6 569,003 10.5 52,103 11.8
      Unaffiliated 6,908 19.3 561,640 10.3 50,904 11.6
   Nonsectarian 11,107 30.9 963,269 17.7 114,184 25.9
      Regular 6,046 16.8 669,050 12.3 73,952 16.8
      Special emphasis 3,677 10.2 192,406 3.5 24,027 5.5
      Special education 1,385 3.9 101,813 1.9 16,205 3.7
School level
   Elementary 24,049 67.0 2,981,423 54.8 217,469 49.3
   Secondary 2,704 7.5 835,328 15.4 67,318 15.3
   Combined 9,142 25.5 1,623,175 29.8 156,017 35.4
Program emphasis
   Regular elementary/secondary 23,991 66.8 4,932,957 90.7 374,977 85.1
   Montessori 2,750 7.7 100,638 1.9 13,637 3.1
   Special program emphasis 1,128 3.1 128,167 2.4 13,335 3.0
   Special education 1,588 4.4 115,612 2.1 18,207 4.1
   Vocational/technical
   Alternative 1,153 3.2 74,767 1.4 8,539 1.9
   Early childhood 5,277 14.7 85,465 1.6 11,923 2.7
Size (number of students)
   Less than 50 15,434 43.0 319,808 5.9 46,699 10.6
   50149 8,468 23.6 773,863 14.2 81,223 18.4
   150299 6,566 18.3 1,410,272 25.9 105,079 23.8
   300499 3,199 8.9 1,223,135 22.5 87,317 19.8
   500749 1,392 3.9 829,642 15.3 57,324 13.0
   750 or more 836 2.3 883,205 16.2 63,161 14.3
Region
   Northeast 8,506 23.7 1,365,581 25.1 115,464 26.2
   Midwest 8,665 24.1 1,371,821 25.2 98,222 22.3
   South 10,885 30.3 1,668,762 30.7 146,958 33.3
   West 7,839 21.8 1,033,761 19.0 80,160 18.2
Community type
   Central city 12,431 34.6 2,311,239 42.5 181,940 41.3
   Urban fringe/large town 14,427 40.2 2,329,718 42.8 184,583 41.9
   Rural/small town 9,037 25.2 798,969 14.7 74,281 16.9

Reporting standards not met.

NOTE: Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding or missing values in cells with too few sample cases. Kindergarten-terminal schools are schools in which the highest grade is kindergarten.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Private School Universe Survey (PSS), 20012002. (Originally published as table D-3 on p. 93 of the complete report from which this article is excerpted.)


References

Broughman, S.P., and Colaciello, L.A. (2001). Private School Universe Survey: 1999-2000 (NCES 2001-330). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.

McLaughlin, D.H. (1997). Private Schools in the United States: A Statistical Profile, 1993-94 (NCES 97-459). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.

McLaughlin, D.H., O'Donnell, C., and Ries, L. (1995). Private Schools in the United States: A Statistical Profile, 1990-91 (NCES 95-330). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.

McMillen, M.M., and Benson, P. (1991). Diversity of Private Schools (NCES 92-082). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.

Young, B.A. (2003). Public School Student, Staff, and Graduate Counts by State: School Year 2001-02 (NCES 2003-358). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.

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Footnotes

1Beginning in 1995, the PSS definition of a school was expanded to include those schools for which kindergarten was the highest grade, referred to as kindergarten- terminal (k-terminal) schools. Estimates presented in this report, except those presented in appendix D of the complete report, are for schools (traditional schools) meeting the more restrictive pre-1995 PSS definition of having at least one of grades 1 through 12.

2For a description of typology, see the glossary in the complete report.

3Public school K-12 enrollment for 2001-02 was 46,820,902 (Young 2003).

4For comparisons of the racial/ethnic composition of private school enrollment with that of public schools from the 1987-88, 1990-91, and 1993-94 Schools and Staffing Surveys, see McLaughlin, O'Donnell, and Ries (1995) and McLaughlin (1997).


Data source: The NCES Private School Universe Survey (PSS), 2001-2002.

For technical information, see the complete report:

Broughman, S.P., and Pugh, K.W. (2004). Characteristics of Private Schools in the United States: Results From the 2001-2002 Private School Universe Survey (NCES 2005-305).

Author affiliations: S.P. Broughman, NCES; K.W. Pugh, U.S. Bureau of the Census.

For questions about content, contact Stephen P. Broughman (stephen.broughman@ed.gov).

To obtain the complete report (NCES 2005-305), call the toll-free ED Pubs number (877-433-7827) or visit the NCES Electronic Catalog (http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch).


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