A Quick Introduction to the World of Private Schools

photo: private schoolsThe world of private schools is diverse and sometimes surprising. Here are 10 facts you might not know that may be helpful as you consider your school options. Unless otherwise noted, all data is provided by the federal government for the 2015–16 school year.1

  1. There are nearly 35,000 private schools in the U.S., spanning elementary, middle, and high school, with nearly five million students.
  2. Private schools enroll about 10% of all U.S. students.
  3. 45% of private school students are in elementary or middle school. 16% are in high school. Nearly 40% are in schools that span the full kindergarten through 12th grade range.
  4. 67% percent of private schools, enrolling 78% of private school students, have a religious orientation or purpose.
  5. 10% of private schools emphasize a Montessori program and 5% emphasize a special education program, meaning they are serving children with learning and attention issues.
  6. The average size of a private school is 142 students. 46% of private schools enroll fewer than 50 students.
  7. 96% of private schools are coeducational, while 2% enroll only girls and 2% enroll only boys.
  8. Of all private school students, 41% attend Catholic schools; 21% attend nonsectarian schools; 13% attend conservative Christian schools; 5% attend Jewish schools; 4% attend Baptist schools; 4% attend Lutheran schools; and about 4% attend schools with another religious affiliation, such as Episcopalian or Quaker (as of 2013–14).2
  9. 1,220 private schools — about 4% of all private schools — belong to the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). Collectively, these schools enroll nearly 600,000 students, or 11% of private school students.3
  10. 97% of 12th graders enrolled in private schools in October 2014 graduated in 2015. About 65% of these graduates attended four-year colleges by the fall of 2015.

To learn about private schools near you, visit GreatSchools and enter your home address into the search box.

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A Quick Introduction to the World of Private Schools
  1. All data, unless otherwise noted, is from the National Center for Education Statistics report: Characteristics of Private Schools in the United States: Results from the 2015–16 Private School Universe Survey.
  2. Data from the Facts and Studies page of the website of CAPE, the Council for American Private Education. Numbers do not add up to 100% because information is not available for some schools.
  3. From the National Association of Independent Schools Facts at a Glance publication, data from the 2017–18 school year.