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Characteristics of Private Schools in the United States: Results From the 2005–2006 Private School Universe Survey
NCES 2008-315
April 2008


In 1988, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) introduced a proposal to develop a private school data collection that would improve on the sporadic collection of private school data dating back to 1890 and improve on commercially available private school sampling frames. 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. For more information about the methodology and design of the PSS, please see the Technical Notes in appendix B of this report.

The target population for the PSS is all schools in the 50 states and the District of Columbia that are not supported primarily by public funds, provide instruction for one or more of grades kindergarten through 12 (or comparable ungraded levels), and have one or more teachers. Organizations or institutions that provide support for home schooling, but do not provide classroom instruction, are not included.

The 2005–2006 PSS data were collected between November 2005 and May 2006. All data are for the 2005–06 school year except the high school graduate data, which are for the 2004–05 school year.

The estimates presented in this report do not include schools for which kindergarten was the highest grade, referred to as kindergarten-terminal (k-terminal) schools. While k-terminal schools have been in the PSS data sets since 1995, first release reports have not included them in the main tables. This report continues that pattern so that readers familiar with earlier reports can make direct comparisons.

Because the purpose of this report is to introduce new NCES survey data through the presentation of tables containing descriptive information, only selected findings are listed below. These findings are purely descriptive in nature and are not meant to imply causality. These findings have been chosen to demonstrate the range of information available from the 2005–2006 PSS rather than discuss all of the observed differences, emphasize any particular issue, or make comparisons over time. Comparisons with the previous PSS results may be made by using the 2003–2004 PSS estimates presented in Broughman and Swaim (2006).

The tables in this report contain totals and percentages generated from bivariate crosstabulation procedures. All of the results are weighted. Comparisons drawn in the bullets have been tested for statistical significance at the .05 level using Student's t statistics to insure that the differences are larger than those that might be expected due to sampling variation. Many of the variables examined are related to one another, and complex interactions and relationships have not been explored.