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January 28, 2006

Study - Students In Private Schools Do WORSE

-- by Dave Johnson

The Washington Monthly, writing about a New York Times story about public vs private schools,

Do private schools do a better job of educating our kids than public schools? Lots of people think so. But a new, large-scale statistical analysis of the 2003 NAEP test results suggests that when you control for things like income, race, home environment, and so forth, the performance of private schools actually turns out to be worse or about the same as that of public schools, not better.

From the NY Times story, Public-School Students Score Well in Math in Large-Scale Government Study,

A large-scale government-financed study has concluded that when it comes to math, students in regular public schools do as well as or significantly better than comparable students in private schools.

The study, by Christopher Lubienski and Sarah Theule Lubienski, of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, compared fourth- and eighth-grade math scores of more than 340,000 students in 13,000 regular public, charter and private schools on the 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress. The 2003 test was given to 10 times more students than any previous test, giving researchers a trove of new data.

Though private school students have long scored higher on the national assessment, commonly referred to as "the nation's report card," the new study used advanced statistical techniques to adjust for the effects of income, school and home circumstances. The researchers said they compared math scores, not reading ones, because math was considered a clearer measure of a school's overall effectiveness.

The study found that while the raw scores of fourth graders in Roman Catholic schools, for example, were 14.3 points higher than those in public schools, when adjustments were made for student backgrounds, those in Catholic schools scored 3.4 points lower than those in public schools. A spokeswoman for the National Catholic Education Association did not respond to requests for comment.

... The study also found that charter schools, privately operated and publicly financed, did significantly worse than public schools in the fourth grade, once student populations were taken into account. In the eighth grade, it found, students in charters did slightly better than those in public schools, though the sample size was small and the difference was not statistically significant.

"Over all," it said, "demographic differences between students in public and private schools more than account for the relatively high raw scores of private schools. Indeed, after controlling for these differences, the presumably advantageous private school effect disappears, and even reverses in most cases."

Posted by Dave Johnson at January 28, 2006 9:57 PM

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Comments

Back in the 90's my daughter went to a private school and her education suffered terribly,not because of the academics program. Rather it was a social standing issue, we lived in a lower scale neighborhood and her classmates showed no mercy to her because of that. End result, she hated going there, we back in a public school and she did much better.

My son goes to a charter school and is doing quite well both academically and socially.
And I like it cause it is a uniformed school,no competetion as to who dresses "cooler".

Posted by: scrugun at January 29, 2006 2:13 AM

The underlying problem is that there are good, bad, and indifferent public and private schools, and from this blog I didn't see any sign that this was taken into account. They'd have to compare how kids do in schools at the same level of quality for their data to be really meaningful. I don't see any definition of what criteria should be used to characterize "bad" vs. "good" schools either, and it shouldn't be hard to characterize those.

Private schools have the advantage that they can be very selective -- and can throw out students they decide they don't want to keep. This kind of selectiveness is going to skew the data, of course. Their disadvantage is that their teachers don't have to be certified, salaries usually stink, and especially at the elementary school level how would they attract very good people. Of course Catholic schools can use priests and nuns at virtually no coat to them, and they can be well trained as teachers.

At the high school level, it would be very difficult to find any that aren't exclusively college prep, plus, for the boys, lots of athletics. The main purpose of these schools, especially the non-Catholic ones, is to train kids to be members of the socially elite with all the advantages and disadvantages this implies. If they manage to get a good education on the side, that's an added bonus. And of course they are very selective and throw out those they don't want. The exception is kids of donors and those from very rich families the school hopes will become donors. I could say a lot about the quality of the faculties, but will refrain.

Posted by: MJ at January 29, 2006 6:33 AM

Now. that. is. funny. Other than the massive data effort of NAEP, we have to rely on privately funded surveys. You'd imagine there'd be hundreds of them showing the virtues of private ed over public, right? Well, you might be right if it were true. In the only such study at the time, Money Magazine famously published "private schools are rarely worth the money." Doh! No more surveys.

Posted by: Pacific John at January 29, 2006 12:52 PM

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