Every time you turn around a new study is being touted to support someone’s agenda. This is especially true when it comes to debates over education. A case in point: Star Parker notes that the National Education Association is touting a study they claim shows public-schools do better than private-school kids. This goes against conventional wisdom and supports the NEA’s criticism of school choice. But, as usual, you have to dig deeper.
Generally, studies show students in private schools outperforming students in public schools. However, in this research, statistical adjustment was made to account for differences in socioeconomic background.
The result: Whereas the raw data shows superior performance in private schools, much of that differential is eradicated after the statistical massaging. Public-school fourth-graders did better; however, the reading advantage at the eighth-grade level remained with the private-school kids.
Catch that? They adjusted for “socioeconomic background.” Parker explains why that skews the study to uselessness. First, “on average, private-school tuition is about half of what the average public school spends per student,” so even after accounting for differences in family backgrounds, public schools are spending more for not much better results.
Wasting time and money on studies