Study: Private schools offer virtually no special advantages compared with public counterparts
According to a recent study published in the journal Educational Researcher, if you account for socioeconomic factors, there aren’t really advantages of going to private school, The 74 reports.
The study examined whether enrolling in private school between kindergarten and 9th grade affected students’ academic, social, psychological and attainment outcomes at age 15, finding that when accounting for the socioeconomic traits that often lead to kids going to private schools, there was almost no proof that these schools had special benefits.
The researchers utilized the "Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development," an expansive federal data set, to follow 1,000 K-12 students born in 1991 — from participating families in nine states — via interviews and observations at home and at school, with a third of all children completing at least one year of private school.
The 74 notes the prevailing idea of private schools and the private school life as glamorous, citing media and entertainment that reinforces that idea — from movies and books like "Harry Potter" and "The Catcher in the Rye," centered around fancy prep schools where kids wear expensive-looking uniforms and live on picture-perfect campuses. Without any adjustments, if you put a public school student next to a private school student, you’d probably find that the private school student had better grades, higher performance levels and lower aptitudes for risky behaviors, the authors found.
If this were the only comparison, there would be no case to justify public schools being superior to private schools. But this apparent superiority doesn’t actually come from students going to private school, the study says — it comes from the circumstances that got them there, like having affluent parents, and made them more likely to have brighter futures.
This anti-private schools idea goes against the views of the public — a majority of which seems to favor school choice — and the Trump administration, which has focused heavily on this concept. Back in February, the president’s proposed education budget, which was ignored, included an unprecedented level of school choice. Trump’s a big supporter of school vouchers, or state-backed coupons that let parents choose where to send their kids to school.
The effects of vouchers are largely inconclusive. Research has shown that they have a positive or neutral impact on future student outcomes, like graduating high school or going to college, Chalkbeat reported. But for every bright-looking finding is one of the opposite nature. Vouchers don’t always help: They actually lowered students’ standardized test scores, especially in math, and on top of that, they led to higher test scores in public schools, Chalkbeat also noted.
Overall, it comes down to more than just the schools themselves when determining whether private schools and public schools are on the same level. As a Washington Post analysis says, "data can be misleading, and there is a legitimate question of how much sense it makes to compare private and public school performance when the populations of students are different."
Follow Jessica Campisi on Twitter