Battlepanda: A surprising performance


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

A surprising performance

As Steve Benen of the Carpetbagger Report points out, private schools have some venues not open to public schools for boosting test performance -- they don't have to take in any pupil they don't want. They can even expell underperforming pupils. Despite this, the latest report from the Education Department (and carried out by Educational Testing Services) found that student from public schools do just as well as students from private schools, and even out-performs them in some catagories:
The report, which compared fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math scores in 2003 from nearly 7,000 public schools and more than 530 private schools, found that fourth graders attending public school did significantly better in math than comparable fourth graders in private schools. Additionally, it found that students in conservative Christian schools lagged significantly behind their counterparts in public schools on eighth-grade math. [snip]
Students in private schools typically score higher than those in public schools, a finding confirmed in the study. The report then dug deeper to compare students of like racial, economic and social backgrounds. When it did that, the private school advantage disappeared in all areas except eighth-grade reading.

And in math, 4th graders attending public school were nearly half a year ahead of comparable students in private school, according to the report.
I'll let the last sentence of that quote pass without comment.

I know I have readers who are big fans of vouchers, who have had very bad experience in American public high schools. I agree -- our school system is not perfect. I'm on the fence about vouchers. On the one hand, if encourage more innovation in education, and that can only be a good thing. On the other, there's not really much evidence that private schools are doing better by our kids than public schools on the whole. If the net effect of vouchers is to divert funds and parental resources away from public schools without giving our kids a superior education, then they're not such a good deal. I'm open to persuasion by empirical evidence on this matter.