Student Achievement in Private Schools: Results from NAEP 2000-2005

Liam Julian

U.S. Department of Education
December 2005

This report compares NAEP performance by students from public schools and a variety of private schools, and it draws conclusions from the assessment's results. For the first time, it distinguishes between private religious and non-religious schools. The religious school categories are limited to Catholic, Lutheran, and Conservative Christian institutions. The first two are easily identifiable, but the "Conservative Christian" category seems arbitrary. The authors populated it with students enrolled in schools that belong to five self-identified conservative Christian education groups. What's not clear is how many "conservative Christian" schools may operate outside of those organizations. In any case, the results, overall, are no surprise. For instance, "Few differences in performance were found among the three types of private [religious] schools....With some exceptions, no significant differences were found between performance of students in Lutheran and Catholic schools." The report also shows that private religious schools enroll "a higher percentage of White students and a lower percentage of Black and Hispanic students than public schools," and that private school students post significantly higher test scores than their public school counterparts. The real question, and one upon which the study shines little light, is whether the private school's higher scores are the result of better teaching methods or selective admissions policies and socio-economic realities. In short, are private schools actually more effective than public schools or do they have smarter and/or better-off pupils? The study leaves no doubt that private schools are outperforming their public counterparts, but it gives scant information as to why. It's available here.

 

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