Saturday, July 15, 2006

Report finds little difference between public and private schools

I wonder if this story from the NY Times will receive nearly as much coverage as this bit of fun-with-numbers nonsense (which I will discuss later) from a few weeks ago...

The federal Education Department reported Friday that, in reading and math, children attending public schools generally do as well as or better than comparable children in private schools. The exception was in eighth-grade reading, where the private-school children did better.

The report, which compared fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math scores from nearly 7,000 public schools and more than 530 private schools in 2003, also found that conservative Christian schools lagged significantly behind public schools when it came to eighth-grade math.

The study, carrying the imprimatur of the National Center for Education Statistics, part of the Education Department, was contracted to the Educational Testing Service and delivered to the department last year.

It went through a lengthy peer review and includes an extended section of caveats about its limitations, calling such a comparison of public and private schools "of modest utility."

Its release, on a summer Friday, was made without a news conference or comment from Education Secretary Margaret Spellings.

Oh, I guess not. They weren't even allowed to hold a press conference on it. Typical.

Reg Weaver, president of the National Education Association, the union for millions of teachers, said the findings showed that public schools were “doing an outstanding job” and that if the results had been favorable to private schools, “there would have been press conferences and glowing statements about private schools.”

“The administration has been giving public schools a beating since the beginning” to advance its political agenda, Mr. Weaver said, of promoting charter schools and taxpayer-financed vouchers for private schools as alternatives to failing traditional public schools.

A spokesman for the Education Department, Chad Colby, offered no praise for public schools and said he did not expect the findings to influence policy. Mr. Colby emphasized the caveat, “An overall comparison of the two types of schools is of modest utility.”

Oh, so they do read the caveats in these kinds of studies, do they? Interesting. This, I'm certain, will be referenced later.

All emphases, of course, are mine.