Free To Teach: What America's teachers say about teaching in public and private schools

Alex Klein

Greg Forster and Christian D'Andrea
The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice
May 2009

This report looks closely at how public and private school teachers rate their jobs, their schools' climate, and their level of influence on their own classrooms. "Most prominently," conclude the co-authors, "private schools provide teachers with more classroom autonomy, more supportive school climate, and better student discipline." They draw on data collected by the 2003-04 U.S. Department of Education's Schools and Staffing Survey, which included approximately 50,000 teachers. While these data are observational and cannot be used to statistically prove causation, "they do show us ways in which private schools differ from public schools." Specifically, private school teachers are much more likely to have influence on curriculum (47 percent vs. 22 percent), report very low levels of racial tension at school (72 percent vs. 43 percent), and claim they will teach as long as they are able (62 percent vs. 44 percent). Public school teachers, on the other hand, are more apt to say that violence is a problem at least once a month (48 percent vs. 12 percent) and that they would leave teaching if they could get a higher-paying job (20 percent vs. 12 percent). In what the authors feel "may be the most striking finding," public school teachers are also more likely to feel it is a waste of time to try to do their best (17 percent vs. 9 percent). From these data, Forster and D'Andrea explain, it appears that private schools excel by "freeing teachers to do their jobs rather than attempting to micromanage what goes on in the classroom," that they "support their teachers more strongly," and that "they consistently enforce student discipline." And now are you ready for a big shocker? The report concludes with a call for school vouchers. (No way you could have seen that coming, right?) Take a look here.

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