Friday, April 21, 2006

Truth on Private Schools

A recent study sheds some light on the debate over private vs. public schools and, thus, vouchers.

The study found that, as is commonly stated, students at private schools outperform their public school counterparts on standardized tests. However, when controlled for socioeconomic background, not only did that advantage dissappear, but it reversed itself. Public school students did BETTER than private school students when the economic and racial categories are controlled.
Our findings suggest that it is time for a critical reexamination of common assumptions regarding the effectiveness of public and private schools. As market-style reforms change the public school landscape, prompting many to call for various forms of privatization of schooling options, it is important to examine the evidence regarding whether private schools are, indeed, more effective than public schools. In our study, once we accounted for the fact that private schools tend to have higher-SES (socioeconomic status) students than public schools, we actually found just the opposite of what was expected: public schools outperformed private schools within each SES quartile.

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