Login
Copyright

Public Vs. Private School: Study Says There Is No Difference

Jun 13, 2011

With all of the highly publicized failures of America's public schools, it's easy to assume that students in private schools are receiving a better education. But a study released in 2007 by the Center on Education Policy (CEP) found that students in public urban high schools perform, on average, just as well as those in private high schools.

View popular schools

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Agriculture
  • Architecture
  • Biological and Biomedical Sciences
  • Business
  • Communications and Journalism
  • Computer Sciences
  • Culinary Arts and Personal Services
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Legal
  • Liberal Arts and Humanities
  • Mechanic and Repair Technologies
  • Medical and Health Professions
  • Physical Sciences
  • Psychology
  • Transportation and Distribution
  • Visual and Performing Arts

Public vs. Private Education

It's easy to assume that private schools deliver a better education because so many of their graduates go on to elite colleges and successful careers. But according to the CEP, this may be due more to demographics than academic quality. When students' family backgrounds and income levels are taken into account, there is no effective difference in the quality of a public or private education.

When the report's authors compared students of similar socioeconomic status at private, public and parochial high schools, they found that:

  • Achievement scores on reading, math, science and history were the same;
  • Students were equally likely to attend college whether they had graduated from a public or private school;
  • Young adults at age 26 were equally likely to report being satisfied with their jobs whether they had graduated from a public or private school;
  • Young adults at age 26 were equally likely to engage in civic activity whether they had graduated from a public or private school.

Exceptions

There was, however, one important area in which private school students did excel: SAT scores. Students in private schools performed consistently better on the test than public school students. The study's authors point out that this doesn't imply that private schools are any better at teaching subject matter. They offer two possible explanations for this finding:

  • Private schools are better at teaching test preparation.
  • The admissions process at private schools tends to select students with higher IQ scores, and aptitude tests like the SAT are a better measure of IQ than subject achievement tests.

Regardless of the reason for the difference, the result is that graduates from private schools are somewhat more likely to get accepted into very elite colleges.

The second exception that the study found was limited to a very specific type of private school. Catholic schools that are run by holy orders, such as the Jesuits, did show consistently positive academic effects. However, this is a relatively small percentage of parochial schools, since the majority of Catholic institutions are run by a local diocese rather than a holy order.

Read the full study, 'Are Private High Schools Better Academically Than Public High Schools?' on the CEP website at www.cep-dc.org.

Next: View Schools

What is your highest level of education?

Some College
Complete your degree or find the graduate program that's right for you.
High School Diploma
Explore schools that offer bachelor and associate degrees.
Still in High School
Earn your diploma of GED. Plan your undergraduate education.

Schools you may like:

Popular Schools

The listings below may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users.

    • MBA Finance Concentration
    • MBA General Management Concentration
    • MBA Health Care Management Concentration
    • MBA Human Resources Management Concentration
    • MBA Leadership and Organizational Health Concentration
    • MBA Marketing and Advertising Concentration
    • Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management
    • RN-BSN Degree

    What is your highest level of education completed?

    • Doctor of Nursing Practice: Clinical Nurse Specialist Specialization - Online
    • MA in Communication
    • Master of Liberal Arts
    • MA in Science Writing
    • MS in Applied Economics
    • MS in Geographic Information Systems
    • MS in Bioinformatics
    • Post-Bachelor's Certificate in Government Analytics
    • Post-Bachelor's Certificate in Applied Research for Communication
    • MS in Food Safety Regulation
    • Certificate in Science Writing
    • Certificate in Science, Technology, and International Security Studies
    • Post-Master Acute Care Pediatric Certificate - Online

    What is your highest level of education?

    • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication
    • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication - Advocacy and Social Impact Concentration
    • Master of Arts in Economics
    • Master of Public Administration and Policy
    • Master of Science in Agile Project Management
    • Master of Science in Healthcare Management
    • Graduate Certificate in Agile Project Management
    • Graduate Certificate in Human Resource Analytics and Management
    • Graduate Certificate in Project Monitoring and Evaluation

    What is your highest level of education?

  • What is your highest level of education completed?

    • Master of Arts in Health and Human Services Administration
    • Master of Arts in Human Resource Management
    • Master of Arts in International Development
    • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership
    • Master of Arts in Special Education
    • Master of Science in Accountancy
    • RN to Bachelors of Science in Nursing

    What is your highest level of education completed?

    • Master of Education in Special Education, specializing in Applied Behavior Analysis
    • Master of Health Administration in Health Systems Management
    • Master of Science in Health Informatics
    • Master of Education in Special Education, specializing in Autism Spectrum Disorder
    • Applied Behavior Analysis Certificate
    • Autism Spectrum Disorder Certificate

    What is your highest level of education?

  • What is your highest level of education?

    • MSHS in Health Care Quality
    • MA in Education and Human Development in Secondary Special Education and Transition Services
    • MA in Education and Human Development in Special Education for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners
    • MA in Education and Human Development in Educational Leadership and Administration
    • MA in Education and Human Development in Educational Technology Leadership
    • MA in Education and Human Development in Organizational Leadership and Learning
    • Graduate Certificate in Health Care Quality
    • Graduate Certificate in Multimedia Development
    • Graduate Certificate in Special Education for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners
    • Graduate Certificate in Transition Special Education
    • Education Specialist in Educational Leadership and Administration
    • Graduate Certificate in E-Learning

    What is your highest level of education?

    • Master of Science in Finance
    • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
    • Master of Professional Studies in Real Estate

    What is your highest level of education completed?

    • Transitional Doctorate of Physical Therapy
    • MBA in Finance/Accounting
    • MBA in General
    • MBA in Health Care Management
    • MS in Healthcare Administration
    • MA in Financial Crime and Compliance Management
    • MS in Data Science: Social Science Analytics
    • BS in Cybersecurity - Network Forensics and Intrusion Investigation
    • RN to Bachelor of Science
    • BS in Cybersecurity - Cybercrime and Fraud Investigation
    • BS in Cybersecurity - Information Assurance
    • Bachelor of Science in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation
    • Online Bachelor of Science in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation - Financial Investigation
    • Regulatory and Compliance Assurance Cert
    • Cyber Crime and Fraud Investigation Certificate
    • Cyber Network Defense Certificate
    • Financial Crimes Investigator Certificate
    • Computer Forensics Cert
    • Cyber Operations Cert

    What is your highest level of education completed?

Find your perfect school

What is your highest level of education?