Antonucci Commentary on Public vs. Private School NAEP Scores

Mike Antonucci on the recent Education Department report comparing private and public school math and reading scores:

If I read the wonderfully titled report Comparing Private Schools and Public Schools Using Hierarchical Linear Modeling correctly, there is virtually no difference between the math and reading test scores of public and private school students when corrected for various characteristics of students, teachers and schools.
This is bad news for private schools (and when the same results exist for charters, for them as well). If you are going to sell yourself as the superior alternative to traditional public schools, you have to produce results. Reading and math scores on the NAEP tests are excellent measures of academic results, though — as my friends at NEA and AFT always tell me — not the only measures.
National Education Association President Reg Weaver was correct when he told the New York Times that had the results been different, “there would have been press conferences and glowing statements about private schools.”
Where Reg went wrong, however, was when he said that the results showed public schools were “doing an outstanding job.” Standardized test scores are the measures used by the bad guys — you know, people like me — to evaluate schools. What about all the measures the unions claim are important?
Private schools spend about two-thirds what public schools spend.

4 thoughts on “Antonucci Commentary on Public vs. Private School NAEP Scores”

  1. They spend about 2/3 what public schools spend because they do not provide special education unless that is their specific area targeted. You do not spend as much if you do not provide as much. Several of the private schools in Madison also rely on their building space as a part of a church building which must reduce some cost. It is not very hard to educate upper middle to high income students with no behavioral or educational needs, with parents that provide the child with all needs required, and facilities that are in some part less expensive due to custodial/maint./upkeep being provided by someone else.
    I think the fact that Public schools can educate all and the test scores are similar is worth celebration from our public schools.

  2. My children attend a Catholic Private Elementary School. When the morning bell goes off two things happen:
    1. All children stand and a student lead prayer is prayed by ALL children.
    2. After the prayer, the Pledge Of Allegiance is recited (including the phrase “…One Nation under God,…”)
    This is what I pay for…all the academic differences can be bridged by strong parental involement. Imagine what our society would be like IF every school did this? Anyone who is intellectually honest will admit that it is virtually IMPOSSIBLE to compare private vs. public schools strictly by academic standards….
    OH…I hear a bell ringing…time to go pray!

  3. I agree that this finding is cause for celebration – and points out the need for less rhetoric and more facts in discussions about what are the advantages/disadvantages of public education.
    It is difficult to get accurate comparisons of public vs. private school expenditures. Mary notes one major difference, which students a school serves. Another is that tuition for a private school pays only a part of the full cost of educating that student. There are endowments, extensive fundraising, extra costs born by parents (required “volunteer” work) – and sectarian schools also get other supports from the sponsoring religious organization. Add to that the fact that, at least in Wisconsin, public tax funds pay for transportation – and for special education, ESL and Title 1 services; all those costs are carried in the local public school budget – though provided to private school students.

  4. This research is very biased. First, a school like Eagle, Madison Country Day School, or Walbridge would not have even been looked at. The number of schools compared were less than the number of schools that are in Wisconsin alone. Then, they took a school like Leopold and compared it with an private school in Milwaukee. The reason I said this is that it is comparing schools based on ethnicity, size, disability status, etc. I know that most if not all private schools in Wisconsin are not taking the same tests as the public schools. As the author notes, “At grade 8, the average for private schools was significantly higher than the average for public schools in reading but not significantly different for mathematics.” And he also stated that school means where adjusted. When any stats are “adjusted” I don’t give much weight on the info.
    Let’s compare some of the Madison schools. Memorial, West, and Edgewood had about the same percentage of National Merit Semi Finalists. Individually they all have a much higher percentage than East and West together. Let’s compare the number of NMSF who are from Eagle and attended West, vs. the number who attended Cherokee. Let’s compare the reading/math levels of Leopold with the Shorewood the tax income from the two schools are pretty similar. Why is it so many more of the students in Leopold neighborhood go to private school than those in the Shorewood neighborhood?
    People head to private schools for many different reasons, as people who stay with the public school settings. Edgewood High School supports 40% of there students financially. They have a number of LD students. I will agree, it isn’t the number or degree of low income and special education, but don’t assume that someone goes to private school is always the upper middle class to upper middle class.
    I had a child in 8th grade where 20% of her class where taking geometry at a local high school. Can any of the public schools claim this?
    Can any of the local high schools compare with the number of police calls with those at Edgewood? Can any of the public schools compare the number (not even talking about percentage) of students receiving NSMF at those who went to Eagle? Can any of the public schools help students who want to discuss their religious beliefs with an adult as the religious schools?
    Sometimes kids don’t do well in large school settings – can Leopold help students with this?
    Yes, some private schools do require extra money or volunteer time – but not all.
    Carol, how much money does go out to the “private” schools for those extras – ESL and Title I services – most of the private schools that I am aware of don’t except those who would need these services. I am also confused my transportation costs – you would be taking these same kids to MMSD schools if they were there.
    Private School staff receives a much lower income/benefits than MMSD staff do. Usually they choose to take this pay cut because they share the values of the school.
    Be thankful some families choose private schools and homeschooling. Where would the district be if everyone of these 1000s of children were in public schools with the same money you already have received. You would need more teachers, more schools, more staff. Most K-3 private schools have 25 students in a class, where MMSD has 15.
    If MMSD really did met the needs of all students, then more schools would be crowded. Be happy that families do choose other options.

Comments are closed.