.. little more discrete in their judgments, they again find the Coleman results flawed. They also address the fact that because most private schools are catholic, it would be wrong to generalize the private school data set by including all private schools. Instead they address the issue as a public-Catholic one. Attempting to correct the errors in the Coleman report, they do a study of their own.
Using the NLS and HSB studies, they find that there is not a substantial difference in the results and that private schools are not better. They do however, point out their shortcomings; that SAT scores are only available for those students who elected to sit for the test and that the data are only sampled of sophomores and seniors. Another study that furthered the argument that public schools are just as good as private ones were one put out by Sassenreth and her colleagues. In 1983 they used a study that was already in progress, SOMPA, to analyze the correlation between the two. Though the study was extremely brief, by comparing IQ’s of students already in the survey, they found that .
. . the public schools are able to hold their own, despite having to enroll an student (good or bad) in their residential area and having to offer a wider range of courses. With 49 public school students and 49 private school students matched by their IQ and with all outside variables taken into account, private and public schooling has (on the average) about the same influence on academic achievement. However they are also the only study reviewed which infer that the decision to select a private school might be for other reasons than achievement. Some of the more recent data no longer refers to the Coleman report, suggesting that it is either outdated or has been successfully discredited.
In 1991 Gibbons and Bickel use three SAT data sets to compare public to private. Though SAT tests were originally designed to measure aptitude rather than achievement the authors feel that they are just as good a measuring tool as any. They again find that, once accounting for certain variables, public high schools appear to perform better than private high schools, at least with respect to SAT math attainment. Also in 1991 Rock and associates address the issue of trying to ascertain what promotes achievement. Though it does not specifically address the conflict of private versus public schools, it does seem to provide useful information concerning some of the variables addressed by previous researchers and why they were factored out.
Before the following variables are accounted for, * Students from private independent schools perform considerably better on all test than students from Catholic or public schools. * Students in private independent schools are more likely than public or Catholic school students to be proficient at higher level math problem solving (private independent: 63 percent, public: 18 percent, Catholic: 19 percent). * Students from Catholic schools have higher mean scores I all tested areas (except higher-level math problem solving) then do public school students. Age, race and ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, also play a significant role in a students performance. Their data seems to suggest however, that the differences in achievement among public schools and private schools seem to stem from variables that are not school related.
But what about the things that researchers cannot prove. Many parents, especially those whose children are or have been in private schools, would argue that achievement is only part of the big picture. Lynn Stevens, a public school teacher, has three daughters. Though they all began in public schools, two of them attended private high school. Mrs.
Stevens feels that her children received a better academic background in a private school but, due to the variety and larger size of a public school, she feels that they might have suffered. She feels that they might have been more involved in a larger variety of things in a public school. Jennifer and Meredith Stevens, Mrs. Stevens’ older daughters, attended Marist, a high pressure, high achievement, private school. Therefore, because it is so competitive, Mrs.
Stevens feels it inappropriate to call Marist an average private school,. However, upon discussion of the advantage of social diversity of a public school, Jennifer added that she received a more positive influence at Marist than she would have at Roswell. Jennifer also senses from her youngest sister, now attending public high school, that there is almost pressure to not do well. Mrs. Stevens also feels that public schools, especially at the elementary level, cannot meet the demands of all the different ability levels present in the large classes.
Private schools on the other hand, though not able to help each child as much as possible, can perform a much better job of this with their smaller class sizes. One argument against private schools is that they do not provide a real world type of atmosphere, and that this is a serious disadvantage when the child grows up. Mrs. Stevens feels that this does not necessarily matter. However, because of Amanda’s greater opportunity to achieve amongst her peers at public school, Mrs. Stevens would not put her youngest daughter in Marist.
Another reason, though not addressed in the interview, for her sending her daughters to private school is due to the religious influence that it provides, which is unavailable in public schools. Basically, it depends on the student, and what will be best for him or her. It seems that for the average student, private schools do not provide better achievement than do public. But what does achievement have to do with the big picture? Will higher SAT and achievement scores produce a happier, more well rounded, positive, and more self confident youth? Probably not. Every child is unique and has their own strengths and weaknesses.
The same things hold true with schools. Some private schools are poor just as many public schools are good. The decision whether private schools are worth the money is another issue. Again, it depends on one’s own situation. Therefore, though achievement may be part of the decision making process, it should only be a small concern in a sea of other ones. It depends upon the child as to which concerns are large and which ones are small.