Thursday, September 3, 2009

Study: All private schools (and all vouchers) aren't equal

If you are a fan of charts, graphs and statistics, you'll like this new study released by the Education Policy Research Unit and the Education and the Public Interest Center. If you've ever questioned the basic premise behind the voucher movement - that private schools can provide better educations than public schools just because they're private - then you'll really like it.

Bruce D. Baker, the Rutgers University author of the study, made the point in a recent Education Week article (not available without a paid subscription). Barton wrote about the voucher crowd's argument that poor children deserve the same quality of education that President Obama's children get from the famous Sidwell Friends School, where tuition runs upward of $30,000 per year.

Barton said his study demolishes that argument by fairly comparing private and religious schools to public schools. Which is to say that the resources of a school matter very much.

The schools in Washington, D.C.'s waning voucher experiment did not allow poor children anything near to the Sidwell Friends experience, he wrote, because there will never be enough money in voucher schemes to buy the kind of education that top business leaders and politicians can afford.

Two important points emerge from the study of about 1,500 private and religious schools across the nation:

1. Money is important to education. In private schools as well as in public ones, "Low per-pupil expenditures typically translate into poorer teacher undergraduate preparation, lower teacher salaries, higher pupil-to-teacher ratios, and, ultimately, to weaker student proficiency."

2. The voucher schools that cater to poor children aren't necessarily any better than their local public school: "With per-pupil spending varying so widely by private school type, and with so many voucher students being funneled to those schools at the low end of the spending pool, we continue to deny students the “better” choice promised to them."

No comments: