By Marian Siljeholm
Each year thousands of Americans spend hours commuting and shell out thousands of dollars to ensure their children receive the best possible education at private institutions. And yet, in terms of test scores and college admissions, the discrepancy between public and private school students is marginal, if evident at all.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 11% of all K-12 students attend private schools, which make up about 25% of all American schools. According to the National Association of Independent Schools, the median tuition for private high schools in 2008-2009 was $17,441.
Clearly the sums being paid to private schools annually are staggering, but to what end?
One of the major arguments cited by private school advocates lies in college admission. Yet a 2007 study by the Center on Education Policy found that in comparing students of similar socioeconomic status, not only were achievement scores in reading, math, science and history the same, so was the likelihood and caliber of university attendance regardless of public or private school background.
While private school advocates often point to the administrative flexibility of being able to set individual hiring and firing practices as an advantage, Sarah Lubienski, a professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of Illinois College of Education, found evidence suggesting otherwise in 2009 studies which showed that public school students outperformed their private school peers, due to a “lack of private schools’ investment in the professional development of their teachers and attention to keeping their curriculum current.”
The last popular argument cited by private school advocates is the perks in the form of expansive sports complexes and enriching after-school activities. Yet, public schools also offer extensive extracurricular programs such as band, chorus and theater as well as many sports, which are arguably more competitive as private schools typically pull from a smaller pool of athletes.
Manchester-Essex consistently outperforms most other public school and boasts class sizes and athletic facilities on par with many private schools, clearly making it unrepresentative of the nation’s public schools. That said, barring a learning disability for which specialized schools are additionally equipped to handle, the bottom line driving the quality of any education is the student involved.
So why not save your money for college, where even public schools come with a price tag.