All Other Things Being Equal…

July 17, 2006

The Education Department just released a report that compared reading and math scores of fourth and eighth grade students in public schools and private schools. And guess what? Except in the case of eighth grade reading, public schools students fared as well as or better than their private school peers.

Here’s the reason why the results fly in the face of conventional wisdom:

(The study) 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.

Joseph McTighe, executive director of the Council for American Private Education, is having trouble assimilating this information. “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.” Unspoken addendum: Cuz I said so!

Of course, there is just as much variation among private schools as there is among public schools. For example, students in private Lutheran schools outperformed public school students, while students in conservative Christian schools straggled in dead last. Too bad the study didn’t compare inspirational music programs! (Think Mandy Moore in Saved!)

The report is a bit of egg on Bush’s face, as the administration has strongly supported vouchers and charter schools, schemes that funnel public money to private schools. That may be why the news was released on a Friday afternoon–so it would disappear into the weekend just like a busload of schoolkids.