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Private Schools in the United States: A Statistical Profile, 1993-94 / Executive Summary

Executive Summary

Private elementary and secondary schools in the United States have been an important component of the nations education system from the beginning and continue to play an important role, educating roughly one-tenth of the nations young people. Since the late 1970s, the (NCES) has developed survey systems for tapping the status of both private and public elementary and secondary education in the United States, including the Schools and Staffing Surveys (SASS) of 1987-88, 1990-91, and 1993-94. The present report, based on the Schools and Staffing Survey of 1993-94, is designed to update the picture of private schools in the United States, based on responses from a nationally representative sample of 2,585 private schools and 8,372 teachers in those schools.

Most private schools belong to some national group, and NCES consulted with those groups to develop a survey questionnaire that would address informational needs of the private school community. Seventeen leading private school organizations endorsed the survey, including the American Montessori Society, Christian Schools International, the Council for American Private Education, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Friends Council on Education, the General Council of Seventh-Day Adventist Church, the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, the National Association of Episcopal Schools, the National Association of Independent Schools, the National Independent Private School Association, the National Association of Schools for Exceptional Children, the National Catholic Education Association, Oral Roberts University Educational Fellowship, Solomon Schechter Day School Asso-ciation, Torah Umesorah - National Society for Hebrew Day Schools, the U.S. Catholic Conference, and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Staff of schools belonging to many other groups also contributed their time to the completion of this survey.

In this report, graphic statistical profiles are presented of Catholic schools, other religiously-oriented schools, and nonsectarian schools, using both NCES 9-category typology and an 18-category affiliation system. These profiles contain information on about Schools and Students, Teachers and Principals, and Climate, Goals, and Outcomes.

Schools and Students

In 1993-94, the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) found that there were approximately 26,093 private elementary and secondary schools in the United States, serving an estimated 4,970,548 students (tables 1.1, 1.2). Most private schools are small. A quarter have fewer than 50 students, and only one-fifth have more than 300 students. In contrast, only 3 percent of public schools have fewer than 50 students, and more than two-thirds have more than 300 students (table 1.6). A major difference in structure between public and private schools is that there are virtually no private middle schools, while over half of public schools offering seventh grade are middle schools (table 1.4).

Ages of private schools vary greatlymore than two-thirds of currently operating Jewish schools, ACSI schools, Evangelical Lutheran schools, Montessori schools, and special education schools were established after 1954, whereas more than one in five currently operating Catholic schools, Friends schools, Lutheran schools, and NAIS member schools were established before 1904 (table 1.3).

Seventy-one percent of private school students attend schools in cities or on the fringe of large cities. By comparison, only half of public school students attend schools in these places (table 2.2). Most private schools serve nearby residents: only one private school in 20 is a boarding school (table 1.11 ) Annual tuitions averaged about $2,200 for elementary schools, $5,500 for secondary schools, and $4,100 in schools that combined elementary and secondary levels in 1993-94 (table 1.5)

Admission requirements are used at many elementary schools and most schools serving secondary students; but schools of different types have noticeably different preferences for requirements. For example, Episcopal schools are more likely to use standardized achievement tests, schools that are members of the National Association of Independent Schools are more likely to look at recommendations and students academic records, and Jewish schools and schools that are affiliated with Christian Schools International are more likely to take religious affiliation into account (table 2.3). Roughly half of all private schools offer remedial reading and remedial mathematics instruction, but few, other than schools specifically oriented for the purpose, offer special education (table 1.9).

Almost equal numbers of boys and girls attend private schools. Only about 3 percent of private schools were for boys only, and about 2 percent were for girls only in 1993-94 (table 2.4). In 1993-94, about 46 percent of private schools had enrollments of at least 10 percent minorities, compared to 56 percent of public schools (table 2.6).

Teachers and Principles

In 1993-94, 378,365 teachers taught in private schools, nearly one-eighth of all elementary and secondary teachers in the country. Two in 10 private school teachers were part-time, and there were 2 other staff for every 3 teachers (table 3.1).

The objective qualifications of private school teachers and principals, on average, are less than those of public school teachers and principals. About 30 percent of private school teachers are not state certified in the field of their main assignment, compared to 3 percent of public school teachers (table 3.3). More than 6 percent of private school teachers do not have a bachelors degree, compared to fewer than 1 percent of public school teachers; and 34 percent have at least a masters degree, compared to 47 percent of public school teachers (table 3.4). About one in four private school principals has no degree beyond a bachelor's degree, compared to 1.4 percent of public school principals (table 3.9).

More principals and teachers in private schools are under 40 years of age than their public school counterparts (tables 3.5 and 3.8), and their pay is less than that in public schools. Private school teachers earn base salaries, on average, less than two-thirds of average public school teachers' salaries; and principals earn slightly more than half of their public school counterparts' salaries (tables 3.7 and 3.12). Private school teachers, on the other hand, are more likely to receive in-kind compensation: 15 percent receive tuition waivers for their children, 20.2 percent receive free meals, and 7 percent receive housing support (table 3.13). Such in-kind compensation is rarely available to public school teachers. On measures of job satisfaction, private school teachers are more satisfied than public school teachers (table 3.12). They feel that they generally have more influence on school discipline and curriculum policies and more control over their classroom textbooks, content, techniques, grading, and discipline (table 3.11).

Climate, Goals, and Outcomes

The principals most important educational goals differ between types of school: religious development in religiously oriented schools; literacy and excellence in regular nonsectarian private schools; growth of self-esteem in other nonsectarian schools; and literacy in public schools (table 4.1). Teachers and principals perceptions of school climate in private schools are that there are fewer problems than their counterparts in public schools see, especially with respect to basic standards (i.e., substance abuse, pregnancy, dropping out, having a sense of community) and respect for both teachers and students (table 4.3 and table 4.4).

Although course requirements for graduation are fairly similar across schools, on average, private secondary schools tend to require more years of foreign language for graduation (1.2 years vs. 0.3 years). This is espcially true for Episcopal schools, Hebrew Day and other Jewish schools, and NAIS member schools. Because many public high schools do not require study of a foreign language for graduation, the requirement for foreign language in public high schools averages less than one semester (table 4.6). Three-quarters of 12th-grade students in private schools apply to college, compared to half of the 12th graders at public schools. In Catholic schools the figure is 90 percent, and in NAIS schools it is 95 percent (table 4.5).