...Children in public schools generally performed as well or better in reading and mathematics than comparable children in private schools. The exception was in eighth-grade reading, where the private school counterparts fared better.The best take on this comes from Black America Web, so I'll just let them speak for me [Emphasis added]:
The report, which compared fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math scores in 2003 from nearly 7,000 public schools and more than 530 private schools, found that fourth graders attending public school did significantly better in math than comparable fourth graders in private schools. Additionally, it found that students in conservative Christian schools lagged significantly behind their counterparts in public schools on eighth-grade math." [Emphasis added.]
[...] The report separated private schools by type and found that among private school students, those in Lutheran schools performed best, while those in conservative Christian schools did worst.
Any other administration would have made a big deal of it: A fresh, "meticulous" study by the U.S. Education Department has found that, in reading and math, public school students are performing as well or better than private school students.I know one Republican who won't be happy about this news: Michigan gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos.
Normally, that kind of news would leave the president's people drooling and breathing heavily. They'd lunge for the phones and faxes. They'd order one of those tiresome banners with a boastful theme to hang behind the inevitable presidential speech before a carefully selected audience of well-wishers. A good report card on public education that is, for a president, like fixed potholes for a mayor; it's bringing home the bacon -- a "your tax dollars at work" achievement.
But, in this case, all is quiet at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The White House all but deep-sixed the findings by the National Center for Education Statistics, which compared reading and math progress among fourth and eighth graders from about 7,000 public schools and more than 500 private ones. Nothing, either, from Education Secretary Margaret Spellings -- who, Lord knows, is in dire need of something to brag about.
Rather than get a hullabaloo, the release of the report was banished to Friday afternoon, which, as every administration knows, is the graveyard hour because folks are focusing on summer and weekend activities. That's why firings, resignations "to spend more time with the family," indictments and economic downturns are usually announced then.
The Bushies are hoping you and I have been too busy at the barbeque grill to learn of this. For them, the findings amount to another rip in the coattails that presidents like to keep sturdy so that members of Congress from their party can ride them smoothly to reelection. Nothing hurts a presidential legacy like tattered coattails.
The GOP's base -- the rich, the redneck and the religious right -- will not be happy with the report. They prefer vouchers (public dollars for personal privilege) or at least charter schools (public sector dollars in private sector hands), and both need public schools to fail in order to justify their existence. It would raise enough dander for them to hear that public schools are doing well. But, beating private schools? Shut your mouth.
Meanwhile, U.S. public schools deserve a strong round of applause over this news. For five years now, they've struggled to stay afloat in a sea of hostility, encouraged by an administration that only talks about caring for average folks while consistently enacting policy and supporting laws that punish the poor and middle class. Its so-called No Child Left Behind law was a set-up, imposing strict new standards while low-balling funding for public schools, again to make the case for vouchers.
The survival and even success of public schools in the face of those obstacles is remarkable, but don't expect them to get any props from the Bush administration. As we know all too well from the Iraq War experience, this administration is practiced at ignoring reality and truth when it suits them, which is tragically often.
They and their friends would rather invoke their own version of reality -- a scam that has already begun. Although the officials who managed the report say it's clean as a whistle, the head of the Council for American Private Education has asserted that private schools are superior to public schools -- precisely the opposite conclusion of the study.
According to the Grand Rapids Press, "Since 1999, DeVos, his wife, Betsy, and their immediate family have poured at least $7 million into expanding school choice -- vouchers, tuition tax credits and charter schools -- and promoting candidates who back those causes."