Sunday, July 16, 2006

Public vs. Private School

Yesterday the federal government released the results of a statistical study it commissioned of academic test results, comparing public and private schools. The results are interesting.

Here's a news article summarizing the results.

Here's a link to the executive summary of the report (which I have read).

Here's a link to the full text of the report (which I have not yet read).

The results are fascinating, though far from conclusive. To put it roughly, it appears that students at private schools test much better than students at public schools, but that statistically those differences are largely accounted for by other demographical differences.

The main differences come in 8th grade math, where Lutheran schools were significantly better than public schools, and "conservative Christian" schools were significantly worse (after the numbers were adjusted for other likely demographics).

I wonder how charter schools and home schools would fare in a similar analysis?

I also wonder how the results would match up at grade 12, in SAT results or some similar measurement. I was moved from public to private school at grade 7... I wonder how many others are in the same boat?

Does this in any affect your opinion of the value of private schools in our society? Does it affect your opinion about a system such as school vouchers?

If you sent your child to a private school, would you expect him or her to learn math and reading better than he or she would at a public school? Note that I am not asking if you think your child would learn math or reading better than other students at the public school... but do you think the public school would give your child as good of an environment for learning math and reading as a private school would?

My public school education through grade 3 was excellent... because of the teachers. My public school education in grades 4 through 6 was dismal... again, because of the teachers (and to some degree the system). My parents moved me to private school from grade 7 on. I don't think the academic education was particularly improved, but of course I have no public school experience at those grades to compare it to.

I'm also rather under the impression that most people that send their students to private school (or home school) do so for reasons other than basic academics... but I make that observation only from very limited anecdotal evidence.

Mark

3 comments:

grandmac said...

The link below will be a help in looking at homeschool statistics. They have free facts sheets to print out if you like. Teaching Christian values is important in homeschooling but the good education is right up there. Homeschooling is not just a Christian community choice but many many non-christians homeschool also for the academic and family advantage.

http://www.nheri.org/

The National Home Education Research Institute's mission is to:

Produce high-quality research (e.g., statistics, facts, findings) on home-based education (homeschooling).

Serve as a clearinghouse of research for the public, researchers, homeschoolers, the media, and policy makers.

Educate the public concerning the findings of all research on home education.

Douglas_Coombs said...

I must say that I'm a bit surprised by the lack of better results. I think that may partly be because of the income gap overall that has pushed private schools out of reach of those that could benefit most from them. My old parish in Cincinnati started a school for local kids who lived in the ghetto. They have taken kids from the ghetto (most of whom are fatherless) that normally be expected to score well below average and probably get stuck in special ed. Instead, the vast majority of them are scoring at or above their grade level in both reading and math.
http://www.stpeterclaverlatinschool.org/

One question I have about the study is whether or not it looks at dropout rates and whether that is accounted for at all. One of the biggest problems at public schools in my state is dropouts. This problem is also regularly underreported or not reported at all by school districts because it would make them look so bad. For instance, the local school district only says you dropped out if you do so in your senior year. Kids who dropout before then don't count. The actual dropout rate is over 30% and those kids never take any 12th grade tests to match up the public schools performance to a private school's performance.

Here are a couple articles relating to bad statistics the public schools regularly pump out.
http://www.reason.com/0506/fe.ls.how.shtml
http://www.stateline.org/live/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=136&languageId=1&contentId=39522

Doug

Douglas_Coombs said...

Here's another report on the fudging of test scores public schools regularly engage in.
http://www.englishcompanion.com/pdfDocs/inevitablecorruption--NicholsBerliner.pdf