Everybody bookmark this. And be ready to retrieve it every time the righties wheeze about the “failing” public schools.
The Education Department reported on Friday that children in public schools generally performed as well or better in reading and mathematics than comparable children in private schools. The exception was in eighth-grade reading, where the private school counterparts fared better.
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, also found that conservative Christian schools lagged significantly behind public schools on eighth-grade math.
The study, carrying the imprimatur of the National Center for Education Statistics, part of the Education Department, was contracted to the Educational Testing Service and delivered to the department last year.
The Bushies put the study through extensive peer review. Apparently unable to dispute the presented facts, they’ve dismissed the report as being “of modest utility.” Of course, if the report had found that private schools were better … well, you know. The Republicans would be pushing for complete demolition of the public school system so that children can be herded into private schools and receive the proper religious indoctrination.
The report mirrors and expands on similar findings this year by Christopher and Sarah Theule Lubienski, a husband-and-wife team at the University of Illinois who examined just math scores. The new study looked at reading scores, too. …
… The two new studies put test scores in context by studying the children’s backgrounds and taking into account factors like race, ethnicity, income and parents’ educational backgrounds to make the comparisons more meaningful. The extended study of charter schools has not been released.
The report separated private schools by type and found that among private school students, those in Lutheran schools performed best, while those in conservative Christian schools did worst.
Reaction from anti-public school activist:
Joseph McTighe, executive director of the Council for American Private Education, an umbrella organization that represents 80 percent of private elementary and secondary schools, said the statistical analysis had little to do with parents’ choices on educating their children.
“In the real world, private school kids outperform public school kids,” Mr. McTighe said. “That’s the real world, and the way things actually are.”
In the real world, ideologues out-bloviate non-ideologues. They don’t need no steenking data to tell ’em what goes on in the real world, hombres.
Back in the 1950s, at least in the Bible Belt where I come from, conventional wisdom said that public schools were better than parochial schools. Somehow, the desegregation wars of the late 1950s and early 1960s caused a whole lot of white parents to change their minds. The school prayer flap of the 1960s added more alarm to the mix. Since then the movement to destroy the public school system (MtDtPSS) has moved on from its segregationist roots, and now it’s a movement to destroy the public school system because too many public school teachers are godless liberals. And in recent years, the MtDtPSS has come full circle; anti-public school activists have been working overtime to persuade African American parents to support voucher systems and send their kids to
the proper indoctrination facilities private schools.
I’m not saying that all private schools exist for the purpose of indoctrination, but that that indoctrination is the essential motivation of the MtDtPSS.
Anti-private school activists argue that vouchers would create market competition and cause all schools to improve because they are competing. But Milwaukee has had vouchers for 15 years now, and that’s not how it’s worked out:
An investigation this June by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found problems in some voucher schools that–even to those numb to educational horror stories–break one’s heart. No matter how severe one’s criticisms of the Milwaukee Public Schools, nothing is as abysmal as the conditions at some voucher schools.
Some of them had high school graduates teaching students. Some were nothing more than refurbished, cramped storefronts. Some did not have any discernible curriculum and only a few books. Some did not teach evolution or anything else that might conflict with a literal interpretation of the Bible.
At one school, teacher and students were on their way to McDonald’s. At another, lights were turned off to save money. A third used the back alley as a playground.
One school is located in an old leather factory, another in a former tire store, a third is above a vacuum cleaner shop and hair salon. …
… The summaries show that a disturbing number of schools are beset by two overriding problems: inadequate facilities and unqualified teachers. (I’ll leave concerns about fraud and scams to the district attorney’s office.)
At the Sa’Rai and Zigler Upper Excellerated Academy …, principal Sa’Rai Nance doesn’t even have a teaching license. She said she opened the school after she had a vision from God. Nance also said that “excellerated” is a fusion word combining accelerated and excellent and is “spelled wrong on purpose.” The word “upper” refers to “the upper room where Jesus prayed.”
Carter’s Christian Academy … is described as “essentially a small storefront building with a couple of tiny rooms redone as classrooms. …There were no visible books or toys or paper.” The school’s two teachers have high school diplomas, and the highest-paid teacher makes $8 an hour.
At Grace Christian Academy (K4â€“7), one staff member privately told reporters “that there was no curriculum. Several classrooms were using worksheets downloaded from the Internet. …There were few books or schools materials on [the] shelves or anywhere in sight.” In at least one case, the summary continued, “the teacher was giving inaccurate scientific information to kids. [Principal Reginald] Armstrong says teachers use Biblical principles. He taught his class the story of Adam and Eve recently, from a literalist position.” Armstrong has a teaching license, but none of the other teachers do.
Among the several reasons Why Market Forces Don’t Work in this situation is that the really excellent private schools generally are way disinterested in taking voucher students. Conversely, private schools eager to get voucher money are, um, often not so hot.
Update: Flaming idiot Pejman Yousefzadeh of RedState links to the same article and concludes it proves private schools are better than public schools. He manages to do this by extremely, um, selective editing — excerpting commentary by Kevin Drum, stripped of context, and leaving out the data that showed public schools outperform private schools.
Kevin notes that public school students do less well in secondary school than do private school students. There might be several reasons for this that have nothing to do with school performance however. Kevin Drum writes,
But what does seem to show up over and over again is the effect of concentrated poverty. Nearly everything I’ve read suggests that when the number of kids in poverty reaches about 50% in a school, teaching becomes nearly impossible — and that this matters much more in secondary school than in elementary school.
Private schools can dismiss disruptive students and expel non-performers. The poorest of the poor don’t go to private schools, vouchers or no vouchers. ESL students don’t go to private schools. Don’t bother trying to explain this to Yousefzadeh, who suffers a serious lack of critical thinking skills. Maybe he went to a private school.
Seriously, if you google for information about public versus private school you find all manner of “reports” claiming that private school students are “better prepared” or more likely to get advanced degrees than public school students. As for the first claim, there is always a curious lack of supporting data compiled from independent and disinterested sources.. As for the second — if you’re talking about elite “prep” schools like Phillips Academy, sure. If you’re talking about some of the places described above, like “Carter’s Christian Academy” — I doubt it.