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Dispelling the Achievement Gap Myth Between Public and Private Schools

Private schools have an elite reputation, but research shows that private school students may be not be performing as well as those students enrolled in public schools.

The Research
In 2007, the Center on Education Policy (CEP) published a 38-page research paper that compared several different types of public and private schools.

The research also took into account “…other aspects of family life that are also critically important in shaping students’ academic, civic, and economic life.”

The CEP study accounted for, “key background characteristics, including students’ achievement before high school, their family’s socioeconomic status (SES), and various indicators of parental involvement”.

The CEP’s paper was the first of its kind to include such family educational activities and attitudes toward education in its research, and the findings tell a story that Missouri public school parents will be glad to hear.

The Findings
The CEP’s study found that students in “urban public high schools generally did as well academically and on long-term indicators as their peers from private high schools, once key family background characteristics were considered.”

The CEP’s Four Core Findings:

1. Students attending independent private high schools, most types of parochial high schools, and public high schools of choice performed no better on achievement tests in math, reading, science, and history than their counterparts in traditional public high schools. 

2. Students who had attended any type of private high school ended up no more likely to attend college than their counterparts at traditional public high schools. 

3. Young adults who had attended any type of private high school ended up with no more job satisfaction at age 26 than young adults who had attended traditional public high schools. 

4. Young adults who had attended any type of private high school ended up no more engaged in civic activities at age 26 than young adults who had attended traditional public high school.

According to the CEP, “Taken as a whole, these findings suggest that students who attend private high schools receive neither immediate academic advantages nor longer-term advantages in attending college, finding satisfaction in the job market, or participating in civic life”.

What Does This Mean for Your Child?
As a Missouri parent, you want your child to succeed in school — and in his or her life after high school graduation. While private schools may seem distinguished, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of public and private education.

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