Contrary to popular belief, public schools outperform their private school counterparts. The general knowledge is that public schools are the second rate and that students in private schools, therefore, perform better and as such, many parents are bent towards taking their children to private schools. Despite the fact that there may be more resources allocated to private schools (U.S. Department of Education), public schools have been able to maintain a lead in performance.
Research by Christian and Sarah Lubienski suggests that students from public schools outdo their peers from public schools, making a common knowledge that the latter perform better merely the “private school effect (Lubienski, 72). The authors did an analysis with Mathematics as a basis since most mathematical skills are learned at school as opposed to others skills such as reading that may as well be acquired in the home. There were two data sets involved, a 2003 NAEP survey that saw over 300,000 4th and 8th-grade students and a study of over 20,000 students who were in kindergarten by 1998 fall. NAEP is reliable as it is well-known for research based on student research. After a thorough analysis using complex analysis tools, the research made a conclusion that the private school effect is indeed, a myth. Despite the geographical differences that may cause differences in performance, the students within the public school setting performed just as well as their counterparts in public schools, sometimes outdoing them (results from the fourth grade). The general observation was that students in private schools arrive in kindergarten earlier than their counterparts in the public schools but eventually, they catch up and can perform just as well.
The research also made observations concerning charter schools, which majorly enroll African American students and are demographically comparable to public schools. The public schools were also slightly ahead of charter schools according to the research study. This observation was attributed to the same factors that affect performance in private schools such as lack of guidance on how teachers are supposed to teach their classes. Charter schools, therefore, need to adopt the strategies used by public schools to be at par in performance.
Why Private Schools, then?
The fact that public schools, according to the survey, performed better than private schools thereby raises the question of why the parents prefer private schools for their children. The Lubienskis believe that there is an assumption that the education system is market driven while in reality, there is a chance that it is a belief system (Yanushevsky). The parents, therefore, may be taking their children to private schools may be an allure of the market. In the past decades, the private sector has posed as the place where most problems can be efficiently solved including security, transportation, firefighting, corrections and even matters of national security. Parents are, therefore, predisposed to thinking that the private schools will offer a better education to their children (Toppo 03a). This is the choice pillar of the market strategy being expanded. Parents chose a school of a higher caliber for their children. However, it is not only caliber that affects this choice, other factors also affect this choice as can be seen in subsequent paragraphs.
As discussed above, parents do not choose schools based on the caliber alone, bringing in the autonomy pillar of the marketing strategy. An example of this would be some schools continue to thrive despite poor performance because parents have to consider factors such as proximity, religious orientation, uniform policies and the racial composition (Katz 381). A school may thus be able to maintain autonomy in an area despite performing poorly. The caliber of a school may not be much of a choice for a parent who thinks their child has to be near them or for a parent with a child who has a medical condition. This parent is likely to choose a school that is tailored to meet the needs of the child, thereby showing the way autonomy can affect the choice of school.
The last pillar of the marketing strategy is competition. Schools in a competitive environment are expected to make efforts to improve core educational outcomes (Klein 15). In this case, schools will, according to available data, make efforts to screen students and lock out the low performing ones. The resources are therefore not dedicated to making sustainable efforts but eliminating students whose scores are sub-par. Sometimes, these institutions make efforts to market their school and its competencies to keep enrollment numbers up. The two above scenarios are highly unlikely in the K-12 setting whose objectives include objective education and universality in the provision of its services. The private setup, therefore, is likely to have a homogenous classroom and school in which students have nothing to compare to. They are most likely to perform at par. This is different from the public school setting where students have different abilities which may act as an incentive for performance and eventually, the cumulative effect is that the competitive public classroom will outdo its uncompetitive private school counterpart.
Why Public Schools perform better
Public schools have been seen to perform better, and there are reasons to back this claim up. The public school teachers are often the result of stringent certification and therefore, may be better placed to teach the children the basic and complex skills that the students need. They are also subject to professional development as they may be required to go for workshops and have the oversight that emphasizes their role in the classroom as opposed to those in the private sector (Ravitch 28). These teachers are, therefore, up-to-date with the recent educational developments and instructional materials such as the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) pedagogical approaches. The teachers on the other side of the spectrum, however, have the freedom to choose their methods of teaching and what they will teach. The methods employed by the private schools may, therefore, be a source of stagnation within the curriculum as opposed to the methods used by the public schools which have been tried and tested. The differences in the professional development of the teachers therefore, may account for the better performance by public schools.
Background factors account for the differences in academic achievement among students. Students with a better socio-economic background can enjoy better facilities both in school and at home as pertains to education and thus higher rates of academic achievement. Other factors that may affect the ability to learn are English proficiency and disabilities. A child with disabilities may not be able to learn at the same pace with one who is able and therefore, despite being on the same level, the two may perform poorly. Unless the necessary classes are administered to a learner of English as a second language, he/she may not perform as well as their counterpart who learnt English as a first language. It is, therefore important for education givers to understand the dynamics of socio-economic status on the education of students and the rates of achievement and how English proficiency and disability affects their performance so as to deliver better content in the classroom.
Popular belief states that public schools are outdone by private schools. However, a recent cross-sectional study that was done by the Lebienskis. The study revealed that students in public schools might start slow, but eventually, they catch up and perform at par and sometimes outperform their counterparts in private schools. Parents are however seen to have a preference for private schools despite these findings, and this may be explained by the private schools’ marketing strategy that has three tenets, competition, autonomy and caliber. Parents want to have the best for their children (caliber), may consider other factors such as racial composition, religious affiliation and proximity (autonomy) and competition, believing that public schools apply the best practices when it comes to competition. The reason why public schools may be outshining their counterparts is that the teachers have undergone stringent processes for certification and teach through a tested method that can be trusted to deliver as opposed to their counterparts in private schools who choose how they deliver content. The paper, therefore, is in light of the findings stating that the belief that public schools are poor performers is just but a part of the “private school” effect.
US Department of Education. When and Why Did America First Require K-12 Education?
“Federal Role in Education.” Home, US Department of Education (ED), 27 July 2016, www2.ed.gov/about/overview/fed/ role.html. Accessed 7 Mar. 2017.
Katz, Michael B. “The Origins of Public Education: A Reassessment.” History of Education Quarterly, vol. 16, no. 4, 1976, p. 381., doi:10.2307/367722.
Klein, Alyson. “K-12 Law’s Legacy Blend of Idealism, Policy Tensions.” Education Week, vol. 34, no. 26, 1 Apr. 2015, pp. 1–21.
Lubienski, Christopher A, and Sarah Thuele Lubienski. “The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools.” Education Digest, vol. 79, no. 8, Apr. 2014, p. 72.
Ravitch, Diane. “Stop the Madness.” Education Review, vol. 23, no. 1, 2010, pp. 27–34.
Toppo, Greg. “Education Secretary Makes Push for Public Schools.” USA Today, 12 Jan. 2017, p. 03a.
Yanushevsky, Rafael. Improving Education in the US: A Political Paradox. Algora Publishing, 2011.