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PublicSchools versus Private Schools
Accordingto data from National Center for Educational Statistics, nearly 5million students attend private schools, and approximately 50 millionstudents enroll in academic programs in public secondary andelementary learning institutions in the United States of America(Alters 10). Parents, policymakers, and other citizens often assumethat private schools perform better academically than public schools,but are these assumptions supported by concrete evidence? This debateabout public and private schools continues to rage across livingrooms and playgrounds of America. According to an interactive pollcarried out by GreatSchools and Harris, a quarter of the parents werein the process of considering switching their kids from either publicto private institutions or from private to public schools (Verger etal. 3). What is better for your children?
Howcan one compare public and private schools when they look sodisparate? It is like comparing two different entities that cannot beheld to similar standards. Any parent who has visited all theselearning institutions knows how difficult it is to answer thisquestion. Different people hold differing opinions about these twoinstitutions. Some believe that private schools offer superioracademic services, hence their high tuition costs. On the other hand,some parents hold the opinion that public schools offer all-roundeducation coupled with real-life experiences, in addition to theadvanced specialty programs in sciences or sports (Alters 2-3).
Inprivate schools, the government may subsidize some costs, butgenerally, parents pay more to educate their children in privatelearning institutions. Previous studies did not provide comprehensiveinformation about schools. However, current studies contain adequateinformation about school practices and resources in addition toinformation about students’ peers (Meyer 44). The details providedallow for a more comprehensive assessment of the schoolcharacteristics and the roles of the students in the academicoutcomes of public and private schools (Alters 17). These studieshave indicated that students from private schools perform better thanthose from public schools in mathematics, science, and readingassessments between the ages of 15 and 23 (Verger et al. 38-39). Thetwo primary factors that accounted for these differences included thepeers and the socio-economic characteristics. Children who attendedprivate learning institutions were more likely to possesssocio-economic characteristics associated positively with academicsuccess and had school peers whose parents received the universityeducation (Meyer 56).
Comparisonsof students’ results for public and private schools are common ineducation literature. The two fundamental questions in this revieware: Is the performance of private schools better than that of publicschools, or are they equal? And if the performance of privatelearning institutions is better than that of public ones, is itbecause of better students or better schools? These two questions arechallenging. Unearthing the casual relationship between the studentoutcome and school type is made complicated by the possibility ofself-selection into private learning institutions (Alters 18). Giventhe high costs financing education in private schools, wealthierindividuals may afford to enroll their children in theseestablishments (Alters 25). Also, private schools have more rigorouscriteria for academic enrollment compared to public schools.
Earlystudies in the United States were mainly descriptive and the dataobtained lacked a comprehensive set of covariates, most importantly,the information about schools (Berube 7). The researchers were ableto account for the differences between students who attended publicschools and those who went to private schools, and by default, theresidual differences were as a result of the differences in schoolquality. A study carried out by High School and beyond in 1980 in theUnited States utilized ordinary least squares estimation to evaluatethe impact of Catholic schooling on cognitive outcomes (Berube10-15). The study found a positive association between the two. Themodel the study employed accounted for many socio-economiccharacteristics. These characteristics included the number ofsiblings, household composition, and maternal work patterns beforeand during the time when the child was attending elementary school,and frequency of speaking with the father or mother about personalexperiences (Alters 35). Others included family income, parents’thoughts on college education, paternal and maternal education, thenumber of rooms at home, the number of siblings, and the number ofbooks at home.
Currentstudies contribute to the literature by being the first to assess theroles of both the school characteristics and the students directly.The data obtained contains detailed parental, student, and homeenvironment information, on top of practice indicators and schoolresources (Berube 20-21). Furthermore, the students’ data iscollected within the learning institutions allowing for the creationof peer-level covariates. In these studies, the effects of peers areconsidered as school-level characteristics because they influence theschools’ abilities to attract specific types of learners.
Accordingto the results of these studies, the characteristics of the publicand private schools attended by the students sampled differed.According to the study, private schools were more likely to besectarian and were less likely to operate in semesters. The resultsrevealed that the average enrollment was lower in private schoolscompared to public schools leading to a slightly higher student toteacher ratio compared to state schools (Berube 14). Regarding theannual instructional hours, the hours spent in teaching students inprivate schools were slightly lower than those in public schools(Berube 14-15). The study also found out that the number of computersper student in private schools was moderately higher than that inpublic schools.
Theteacher quality is vital when talking about school quality. Themeasures of teacher qualities are based on certification, formaleducation, training, and the teachers’ expectations of the learners(Alters 44). Wages of the teachers also play a critical role.According to the salary efficiency models, to raise the levels ofproductivity, some employers may need to pay their employees morethan the average market wage. Paying better than the existing averagemarket wage rate may reduce the tendency to abscond duty, decreasethe chances of the workers quitting their jobs because they arebetter paying, the better wages attract more workers hence improvedproductivity, and lastly, better wages serve to boost the employee’smorale thus, improving productivity (Meyer 19-22). According to thestudies, students from private schools outperformed those from publicschools given the fact that students who attended private schoolswere likely to possess characteristics positively associated witheducational attainment and academic performance, and have colleagueswhose parents attended university (Verger et al. 28-31).
Inthe studies’ conclusions, they noted that the survey questionremained unanswered. However, they pointed out that the privateschool students had higher rates of postsecondary attendance comparedto their counterparts in public schools and this may translate intohigher lifetime earnings (Verger et al. 3-4). This effect may bemagnified by the effects of their peers. A social network ofgainfully employed colleagues may help improve a person’s chancesof landing a well-paying work opportunity.
Factorsthat Influence Parents to Prefer Private Schools over Public Schools
Manyfactors play a significant role in influencing the choice one makesbetween private schools and public schools. Public schools receivefinancial aid from federal and state governments. As per the currentstatistics, 90% of the children in the USA attend public learninginstitutions (Meyer 23). Private schools comprise of parochial andnon-parochial learning institutions. Private learning institutionsaccount for approximately 24% of all schools in America. Many factorsinfluence many to consider private learning institutions over publicinstitutions. These include:
Academicreputation plays a significant part when considering public versusprivate learning institutions. Schools across the United Statesdiffer considerably in their academic reputation. Although somepublic schools perform well, there are others that perform below thebar. Private institutions have a more enhanced academic reputationthan many public schools (Meyer 40). Academic reputation is vital asit helps prepare the students for college education. In publicschools, the number of students joining institutions of higherlearning differs depending where the school is located. A survey doneby Harvard University found out that student from private schoolsscored better compared to those from public schools and this wasvital in their preparation for college education (Verger et al.15-17). They ensure the reputation is enhanced by providingchallenging and exceptional educational experiences through differentactivities. State guidelines do not limit the curriculum of privateschools. Therefore, they can offer programs that differ from thoseoffered in public schools. An excellent academic reputation ensuresthat children have a solid educational foundation which, in turn,ensures personal and career success in future (Alters 39).
ClassSize and School Size
Thesize of the school and its classes can be strongly correlated to theability of the learning institution to execute its academic mandateand goals. When an education organization gets too big, it willpresent challenges especially administrative ones. Programs andstudents may fall through the cracks. Class size is also an importantfactor to consider when selecting between the two learninginstitutions. Classes that have many children make management hard,and the attention given by the teacher is little. On the other hand,private schools have a higher teacher to student ratio hence eachstudent receives more attention from the teachers (Alters 65). Thisincreased attention, in turn, improves the overall performance of thestudents.
Astudy carried out in 2008 by NCES revealed that the size of classesin private schools vary from about 15.4 to 20 students per classwhile that of public schools ranged from 20 to 23 students per class(Verger et al. 16-18). The study also revealed that the averagestudent to teacher ratio was 12.5 in private schools and 15.4 inpublic schools. These data is vital as it points out to the qualityof education and the attention offered to the students in bothlearning institutions.
Safetyis a critical factor when considering between private and publicschools. The safety of the school and the general learningenvironment may influence some parents to relocate their young onesfrom public educational institutions to private ones and vice versa(Meyer 42). Many public schools are safer, but in some areas, privateschools may be safer than public schools. Some of this safety isbecause private schools choose or pick whom to enroll and by doingso, they keep their classrooms milieu more guarded (Meyer 43).
Academicprograms offered in public schools are general programs meant forall. They include English, math, reading, history, science, writingand physical education. On top of these programs, most state-ownedlearning institutions offer programs in languages, arts, music,career education, and technology (Verger et al. 78). The statedecides the learning program. In almost all states, the measure oflearning is through standardized exams. The state sets the minimumachievement and content criteria in each course and the students mustattain this minimum criterion before they receive credit (Meyer 66).
Onthe other hand, private schools are flexible and can createspecialized programs for students. A good example is when a privateschool decides to utilize sciences or arts in all classes, or eventake the students on field learning trips (Alters 96). They oftendesign their assessment systems and curriculum, although many ofthese institutions opt to utilize standardized tests. Thesespecialized programs and alternative curriculums make many parentschoose private schools over public ones. Also, students who school inprivate learning institutions tend to perform better compared totheir counterparts in public schools on standardized tests. Resultsfrom NAEP indicate that the average scores of students from privateschools are better compared to those from public schools on thereading test, mathematics, and proficiency tests for fourth, eighth,and twelfth grades (Verger et al. 57-63). Public schools also havestrict graduation requirements compared to public schools. Thesestrict requirements help in preparing the student well for collegeand university education.
Thelaw obligates public schools to offer education to every eligiblechild. To enroll into these institutions, you simply need to registerthe child by filling the school enrollment forms. Therefore, publiclearning institutions must offer admission to any resident child whodesires to and applies for admission regardless of their race, sex,religious affiliation, physical or mental handicap, or socio-economicstatus (Alters 88). The state sets the graduation requirements. Onthe other hand, private learning institutions are not obligated toadmit all students who wish to join them. Admission into privatelearning institutions is purely competitive. If a student’s conductis out of control, the school takes action and deregisters them.Another scenario that can lead to deregistration is poor academicperformance (Berube 28). Students who perform poorly and do not meetgraduation requirements may be kicked out of these schools. Many oftheir graduation requirements are set by private schoolsassociations.
Allpublic learning institutions are governed by the state, local, andfederal legislations. These regulations involve those covering aboutprogram development, funding, and curriculum (Alters 49). Theseinstitutions are required to run for a minimum of 180 days by thecompulsory attendance law (Meyer 69). Many private learninginstitutions are not subject to these federal and state regulationsas public schools. They are also not subject to the limitations ofthe educational budgets of the states. They have freedom in designingtheir instructions and curriculums (Meyer 55). They are required tooperate a minimum of 170 days by the attendance law (Meyer 69). Theseconditions make private schools ideal learning institutions forchildren.
Teacher’sImpact and Perception
Tutorsin private learning institutions are more likely to have a greaterinfluence in the school’s policy-making process compared to theircounterparts in the public schools. Teaching practices such asselecting teaching approaches, disciplining students, grading andevaluating students, selecting textbooks and reference materials, andselecting the course contents and skills to teach are among thedecisions made by teachers in private institutions (Alters 33). Thereare four areas of policy associated closely with teaching. Theyinclude setting the performance standards of the students, curriculumestablishment, evaluation of the teachers, and setting the disciplinepolicy (Meyer 8). A study carried out revealed that 68% of theprivate school teachers heavily influence the process of establishingthe school curriculum, compared to 44% in public schools (Verger etal. 58). In addition to these findings, teachers in private schoolswere more likely to report that they had a greater say in the settingof the students’ performance standards and the students’discipline policy compared to their colleagues in public schools. Allthese data indicate that private schools are better learninginstitutions compared to public schools.
Privateschools tend to concentrate on the fundamentals – that whichprovides the meaning and purpose to life (Alters 45). The cruelreality is that our society and communities are marked by aconsiderable fear that the essential values are being eroded (Alters45). There are many parents who seriously desire the need to chooseschools whose primary purpose is to offer their children a soundreligious and moral education (Berube 56). Private learninginstitutions are the only ones that have the capacity to assistparents with the spiritual and religious development of their youngones (Meyer 78). This kind of development is very significant intheir proper and complete upbringing. A survey carried out by Schoolsand Staffing found out that 66% of the principals from privateschools rated academic excellence and spiritual or religious life asthe top set goals by their institutions ahead of basic literacy(Verger et al. 65).
Goodfor the Nation
Thereis nothing in a democratic country that is more significant than theeducation provided to the next generation of its citizens. In thestandardized tests used to determine the preparedness of the Americanyouth to meet their responsibilities as citizens, children studyingin private learning institutions usually perform better than theircounterparts in public schools (Meyer 88). In private learninginstitutions, the gap between the majority and minority students hasbeen narrowed. According to studies carried out by NCES, studentsfrom minority populations studying in private learning institutionsare more likely to join four-year colleges compared to theircolleagues in public institutions (Verger et al. 40-44). For thisreason, private institutions offer the country a hope of improvingthe minority populations’ involvement in the community fromclassroom to boardroom. The public always salutes the efforts andachievements of the private schools. A study carried out by PublicAgenda, found out that many adults believed that private schoolsoffer quality education compared to public schools.
Thechoice of deciding which school is better for your child is adifficult one. Some public schools perform better and are consideredto be on par with some private schools. There are numerous factors toscrutinize before making a decision on the institutions. Factors suchas academic reputation, school and class size, students’ safety,educational programs offered, obligations, governance, teachers’perceptions and impact, and focus on values. All these factors play avital role in molding a child to become a responsible citizen infuture. According to surveys done by various organizations, privateschools outperform public schools in almost all areas. Therefore,preferring private learning institutions to public schools will helpyour child excel spiritually, socially, and academically.
Alters,Sandra. Education:meeting America`s needs?Detroit: Gale Cengage Learning, 2012. Print.
Berube,Clair T. STEMand the city: a report on STEM education in the great American urbanpublic school system.Charlotte, NC: Information Age Pub. Inc., 2014. Print.
Meyer,Stephen. Educationin America.Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, Cengage Learning, 2016. Print.
Verger,Antoni, Clara Fontdevila, and Adrian Zancajo. Theprivatization of education: a political economy of global educationreform.New York, NY: Teachers College Press, 2016. Print.
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