Surprise, surprise, surprise—private schools aren’t better than public schools, and private schools run by conservative Christian organizations are the worst.
The federal Education Department reported Friday that, in reading and math, children attending public schools generally do as well as or better than comparable children in private schools. The exception was in eighth-grade reading, where the private-school children did better.
The report, which compared fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math scores from nearly 7,000 public schools and more than 530 private schools in 2003, also found that conservative Christian schools lagged significantly behind public schools when it came to eighth-grade math.
The report separated private schools by type, and found that among private-school students, those in Lutheran schools did best, while those in conservative Christian schools did worst. For example, in eighth-grade reading, children in conservative Christian schools did no better than comparable children in public schools.
In eighth-grade math, children in Lutheran schools did significantly better than children in public schools, but those in conservative Christian schools fared worse.
I wouldn’t take this as an uncritical endorsement of the public school system, though—this report could also be interpreted as saying both public and private schools are doing just as poorly at educating kids, and all could use substantial improvement.
I am surprised a bit by the fact that more private schools weren’t getting better test scores for one specific reason: selective admission. Private schools do have one sneaky edge over public schools in that they have more power to reject problematic children, while the public schools are obligated to make an effort to educate everyone. Maybe what this shows is that if you try to use economic advantage as a filter, rich kids aren’t necessarily smarter than poor kids, and if you use ideology as your filter, Jesus-freaks aren’t smarter (and maybe dumber) than kids with a ho-hum attitude towards religion. It may also mean that private schools have a whole different set of problems than do the public schools.
Anyway, the key thing is that these data show that there is no gain to be had from privatizing education, or worse, moving to ‘faith-based’ education. We can be aware of problems in the public schools, but we have to realize that switching to vouchers or otherwise ripping more money from the schools to support private efforts won’t fix them.
(via Atheist Revolution)