Thursday, March 19, 2009

Educational Outcomes: Private vs. Gov't. Schools

Cato Institute's Andrew Coulson "recently reviewed the literature comparing public, private, and truly free market school systems, and an expanded version of that study is forthcoming in the Journal of School Choice. The JSC version tabulates the findings of 65 scientific studies (including every U.S. and foreign voucher study I am aware of), collectively reporting 156 comparisons of educational outcomes. What does the research show?"

The above table summarizes the results of the scientific literature, showing the number of findings favoring the private sector by a statistically significant margin, the number that are insignificant, and the number favoring the public sector by a statistically significant margin. It does this for all eight available outcome measures: academic achievement, efficiency (achievement per dollar spent per pupil), parental satisfaction, the orderliness of classrooms, the condition in which facilities are maintained, the later earnings of graduates, the highest school grade or degree completed, and effect on measured intelligence. And it incontrovertably shows that private sector outperforms the public sector in education across all of those measures.

But there’s more. As I note in the conclusion: “It is in fact the least regulated market school systems that show the greatest margin of superiority over state schooling.” When the above results are winnowed down so that we compare only free markets of private schools that are funded at least in part directly by parents to public school monopolies like those of the United States, the findings are even more starkly divided:

Note the staggering overall results. Findings favoring free market school systems outnumber contrary findings by a margin of 15 to 1. They also outnumber the combined insignificant findings and the findings favoring monopolies by more than 3 to 1. Most tellingly, when we look at efficiency we find that there are NO results in the literature that favor government schooling and NO results that are statistically insignificant. EVERY study that compares academic achievement per dollar spent per pupil between market school systems and public school systems finds a significant market advantage.


At 3/19/2009 9:58 AM, Blogger ExtremeHobo said...

I bet the food is much better too. I want to see that study.

At 3/19/2009 10:05 AM, Blogger Ironman said...

Speaking of free-market schools, were you aware of this development? An online high school via the same folks behind the University of Phoenix. Quoting from an e-mail:

Now, even high school students can enjoy the flexibility and convenience of online learning that you've come to expect from University of Phoenix and other Apollo Group institutions.

Introducing Olympus High School, a private online high school designed to serve students who have a variety of needs and learning styles. We call it "a school that lets you be you."

Prospective students include:

* Non-traditional and home-schooled students.
* Students who desire an alternative to their current high school.
* Elite athletes and performers who need to study when it's convenient for them.
* Students who are returning to complete their high school diploma, rather than sitting for their GED.

Olympus High School is provisionally accredited by the Northwest Association of Accredited Schools (NAAS).

Self-paced high school courses
Unlike University of Phoenix or Axia College, where students learn online with 10-20 other classmates, the courses at Olympus High School are self-paced. Students can work through their classes more quickly—or slowly—depending on their educational needs and schedule.

Students also have an opportunity to get a head start on college by earning high school and college credits simultaneously through Olympus High School and Axia College.*

Interesting list of the kinds of students they're targeting.

At 3/19/2009 10:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When doing these comparisons, there is an assumption that the students are equal at both private and public schools. It is logical to conclude that on average the student at a private school has more emphasis put on education. A parent that does not care where their child attends will automatically send them to a public school. A parent concerned with their childs education will weigh all of their options and is sometimes willing to spend money for a "better" eductaion. Since private schools cost money, parents of private school students have placed a higher value on their child's education.

Charter schools and school of choice do not hold to the monetary arguement, but a parent who enrolls their child at any school other then the local public school has clearly spent time weighing the decision and again places a high value on education.

That being said, it is still clear that a better product would be created through competition. The more accessable other options become, the more that local public school will be forced to compete. Thus raising the level of education for everyone, even the student whose parents put no thought into it and just send their child to the local public school.

At 3/19/2009 1:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have always felt this to be the case. It's helpful to have some data confirming this assumption. Bottom line - competition is good; it makes all of us better.

Given the stranglehold the teacher unions have on fed/state/local government, I don't see anything changing anytime soon.

At 3/19/2009 3:13 PM, Blogger misterjosh said...

I agree with Anon 10:43. This data says nothing about causality.

What it says to me is that children of parents who select a private school receive a better education than children of parents who do NOT select a private school.

I believe that parental involvement is more important than school administration type, though I do believe that school choice would help those parents who are involved. For the parents who don't care, their kids are mostly SOL.


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