Monday, August 1, 2016

Private Schools vs. Public Schools – Experts Weigh In | WalletHub®

Private Schools vs. Public Schools – Experts Weigh In | WalletHub®:

Private Schools vs. Public Schools – Experts Weigh In

Private School Vs Public School

 Every parent wants the best for their children, including safety, success, love and happiness. And in this day in age, much of that is predicated on a good education. After all, the average person with a bachelor’s degree earns nearly twice as much as the average high school graduate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while other research has shown that murder and assault rates tend to fall as graduation rates rise.

But times are tough, and neither kids nor education is cheap. It costs more than $245,000 to raise the average child to the age of 18, the average four-year public-college education costs nearly$100,000, and those numbers figure to be significantly higher for children who exclusively attend private schools. But while this daunting financial burden prices many folks out of the private-school world, are they really missing anything?
Sure, the private-school crowd would like to think that all their money is having some positive effect, and many members no doubt enjoy a certain self-ascribed feeling of superiority as a result. But academic research indicates only modest differences in the achievement levels of private-school and public-school students. For instance, a 2006 study by the National Center for Education Statistics found that public-school fourth-graders scored much higher in math than their private-school counterparts, while private-school eighth-graders were far better readers than their public-school equivalents. Fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math were basically a wash. A subsequent study by the Center on Education Policy similarly found no statistically significant difference in the performance of students at private schools, parochial schools, public schools of choice and traditional public schools. It did, however, conclude that, “Family, in all of its dimensions, has a major influence on student achievement.”
With that being said, every school, child, situation and opinion is a bit different. So we asked a panel of leading education-policy experts to pick a side in the private-vs.-public debate in order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the issue. You can check out their responses – including 4 votes for public schools, 1 for private schools and 4 for neither – below.

Why Public Schools Are Better

  • “Most of the ‘effects’ of private education are attributable to families’ influences on children as they grow up, and the family resources and decisions that place these children in private schools - not the private school per se. If there is an effect of private schooling, it is due primarily to the influence of peers on learning and motivation, which tends to be somewhat greater in private school classrooms. In contrast, the evidence is reasonably strong that public schooling has a positive effect on student achievement independent of family factors and in fact compensates for some of the challenges of lower socioeconomic family circumstances.”
    Robert Pianta, Ph.D. // Dean, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
  • “Each type of school has its strengths and weaknesses. But this is a debate, and I have to pick a side, so I’m going with public schools. And I’m doing that for an important reason: quality control. People love to complain about teacher licensing and certification, but it does assure a minimum level of teaching quality. In private schools, where licensing and certification are usually not an issue, you lose that minimum quality guarantee. At the same time, that situation leads many private schools to have a wider range of teacher quality.”
    Jonathan Plucker, Ph.D. // Julian C. Stanley Professor of Talent Development, Johns Hopkins University School of Education
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Jonathan Plucker

Julian C. Stanley Professor of Talent Development at Johns Hopkins University School of Education
Jonathan Plucker
This is a perennial debate, and there are no easy answers. Research points to few differences between public and private schools if you control for socioeconomic status, family structure and prior achievement. Essentially, both public and private schools tend to have similar “value added” regarding student achievement (Some studies actually find a small advantage for public schools). There may be some long-term networking benefits to private schools, but that evidence is mostly anecdotal. 

My children have each attended both public and private schools, and our personal experiences have been mixed with both types of schools. I’ve also been on the board of directors for a private school. Each type of school has its strengths and weaknesses. 

But this is a debate, and I have to pick a side, so I’m going with public schools. And I’m doing that for an important reason: quality control. People love to complain about teacher licensing and certification, but it does assure a minimum level of teaching quality. In private schools, where licensing and certification are usually not an issue, you lose that minimum quality guarantee. At the same time, that situation leads many private schools to have a wider range of teacher quality. 

As a case in point, my children have had amazing teachers in private schools. But they’ve also encountered some of the worst instruction I’ve ever seen. In the public schools, they’ve had average to above average teaching across the board. This, in a nutshell, is the power and limitations of government regulation (of which teacher licensing is a part): You create a level of minimum competency, but you also make it harder for the exceptional performer to work their magic. 

One important caveat: This debate totally depends on which specific schools we’re comparing. In that way, this debate reminds me of a question that I’m often asked, “Which country has better schools, the U.S. or China/Finland/etc.?” My response is always, “Well, which schools are we talking about?” I can pick schools in China that are far superior to the average American school; but I can point you to specific American schools that are heads and shoulders better than what I see on average in China or Finland or India. 

For the same reasons, we need to be sensitive to the fact that comparing public vs. private schools in general is an imprecise exercise. I can recommend some awesome public schools in this country, in rural, suburban, and urban settings. But I can also recommend some rather weak public schools in those same settings, and the same is true for private schools. In the end, families really have to do their homework to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the options they have before them. Americans currently have a range of both public and private K-12 options that is historically unprecedented: But if you don’t exercise due diligence to figure out which one is most likely to meet your child’s needs, you’re essentially rolling the dice.
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Zoe Burkholder

Associate Professor of Educational Foundations at Montclair State University
Zoe Burkholder
Originally called “common schools,” American public schools are designed to educate all children “in common” to prepare them to live and work in a modern, democratic society. Public schools work best when parents opt in, because when parents opt out—by choosing private schools, home schooling, or charter schools—they remove themselves from the shared obligations of democratic citizenship. 

What is the relationship between public schools and democracy? More specifically, why did Americans decide more than a century and a half ago to tax ourselves to support public schools—regardless of whether or not we had children who used them? 

To the Americans who created public schools, the answer was simple: the common schools would train children for their duties as democratic citizens. 

It's no accident that public schools first appeared between 1820 and 1860, a period of industrial growth and mass immigration. “All these ignorant native and foreign adults are now voters, and have a share in the government of the nation,” fretted educational reformer Catharine Beecher in 1835. “And we must educate the nation, or be dashed in pieces, amid all the terrors of the wild fanaticism, infidel recklessness, and political strife, of an ungoverned, ignorant, and unprincipled populace.” 

While Beecher viewed public schools as a way to assimilate “ignorant” immigrants, others espoused slightly different opinions. Horace Mann famously called common schools “a great equalizer of conditions of men—the balance wheel of the social machinery,” suggesting that no matter what social class an American child was born into, he or she would have an equal chance at life thanks to a free, high quality public education. 

Abolitionist Frederick Douglass took the goal of public schools further, pointing out that by studying together, black and white children would break down racial stereotypes. In 1859 he made the radical claim that free blacks should prioritize educational equality over equal suffrage. Douglass believed that public schools could do what voting rights could not—abolish the stigma of “caste” that haunted black Americans. He elaborated, “The nature of the contact, as a caste abolisher, is altogether in favor of the school contact: compare the craft, the excitement, the repulsions on election day with the candor, the freedom and the attractions of the schoolhouse and play-grounds.” 

While our goals for public education have evolved, these early reformers articulated ideals that hold true today. American public schools prepare youth for citizenship, offer all children the chance to advance economically, and break down irrational prejudices. These accomplishments are more than just idealistic aspirations—they are habits of mind and elements of culture that fortify American democracy. Public schools are the only American institution designed to accomplish these crucial goals. 

More than one hundred years ago, the American philosopher John Dewey explained why all citizens should support public schools. He said simply, “What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children. Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely; acted upon, it destroys our democracy.”

Why Private Schools Are BetterPrivate Schools vs. Public Schools – Experts Weigh In | WalletHub®:

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Paul Thomas

Professor of Education at Furman University
Paul Thomas
Essentially, nearly everything we believe in the U.S. about formal schooling is wrong. 

Public schools are the Great Equalizer, but the U.S. public school system is subpar compared internationally; private schools (and choice schooling such as charter schools) outperform traditional public schools (TPS); and thus, market forces are essential for reforming those TPS — all of which are factually misleading at best, and demonstrably false at worst. 

Let’s consider carefully these enduring but flawed narratives about public and private schools in the U.S. 

While part of the America Dream certainly includes a belief that universal public education is essential to a democracy, very little evidence supports that public schools have or even can create equity under the weight of powerful social forces such as racism, classism, and sexism. In fact, public and private schooling often reflect and perpetuate social inequity

Neighborhood TPS often mirror the good and bad of the communities they serve, and private (and charter) schools tend to create racial and class segregation

While many in the U.S. certainly believe formal schooling should be the Great Equalizer, we must admit that neither historically nor during the high-stakes accountability era have TPS or private schools erased social inequity. 

Strongly related to this first reality check about education are the next two flawed beliefs: TPS rank poorly internationally and private (and charter) schools outperform our TPS. 

As Gerald Bracey and many others have shown, there simply is no clear positive correlation between the so-called quality of education and any state’s or country’s economic success. But just as TPS reflect the communities they serve, international comparisons of school quality based on test scores reflect mostly relative poverty and wealth of the students — not the quality of the education in those schools. 

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