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Private School Universe Survey (PSS)

1. Overview

PSS collected:
  • Student enrollment
  • Student characteristics
  • Teaching staff
  • High school graduates
  • School religious orientation or affiliation
  • Existence and type of
    kindergarten program

In recognition of the importance of private education, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has made the collection of data on private elementary and secondary schools a priority. In 1988, NCES introduced a proposal to develop a private school data collection system that would improve on the irregular collection of private school information dating back to 1890. Since 1989, the U.S. Census Bureau has conducted the biennial Private School Universe Survey (PSS) for NCES. The PSS collects information comparable to that collected on public schools in the Common Core of Data (CCD) (see CCD chapter). PSS data are complemented by the more in-depth information collected in the private school sample surveys that were part of the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) (see SASS chapter). The last SASS data collection took place during the 201112 school year and was replaced with the National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS) in 201516. The NTPS did not include private schools as of the 201516 data collection, but private schools were included in the 201718 NTPS. The most recent PSS data collection took place during the 201718 school year, and the next PSS data collection will take place during the 201920 school year.


To (1) generate biennial data on the total number of private schools, teachers, and students; and (2) build an accurate and complete universe of private schools to serve as a sampling frame for NCES sample surveys.


The PSS consists of a single survey that is completed by administrative personnel in private schools. An early estimates survey designed to allow early reporting of key statistics was discontinued after the 199293 school year.

Private School Universe Survey. This survey collects data on private elementary, secondary, and combined schools, including enrollment by grade, race/ethnicity and sex, number of high school graduates from the previous year, number of teachers, program emphasis, school religious orientation or affiliation, association membership, existence and type of kindergarten program, number of days in the school year and length of the school day, and whether the school has a library media center.


Biennial. The next PSS will be administered in 201920 and every two years thereafter. Earlier surveys were conducted in 198990, 199192, 199394, 199596, 199798, 19992000, 200102, 200304, 200506, 200708, 200910, 201112, 201314, 201516, and 201718.

Data Availability

Public-use data for the PSS through the 201516 school year are available at Information on how to obtain restricted-use PSS data can be found at