Friday, June 20, 2003

Private Schools and NAEP Reading Scores

Yesterday the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released the results of the 2002 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)(also known as The Nation's Report Card) in reading for 4th, 8th, and 12th grade students. Critics of vouchers and private schools often complain that private schools are not subjected to standardized tests and that private school performance cannot be verified. However, the historical data from the NAEP, including the 2002 NAEP 4th, 8th, and 12th grade reading scores give some indication that private schools outperform public schools. This is especially relevant when we consider the cost of school performance. For example, performance of Catholic schools(which have far lower tuition and subsidies than the average per-pupil spending at public schools and often have high low-income and minority populations) on the NAEP reading assessment exceeds public school performance by 18 points.

Obviously, the demographics at private schools may account for much of their superior performance. Yet, the NAEP score differential seems like yet another reason to let parents have more choices and let competition drive up NAEP scores at both public and private schools.

An interesting study might look at NAEP scores in states with the most concentrated competition and see if there has been any change in NAEP scores over time between different types of schools.

The 2002 NAEP average reading scale scores for public versus nonpublic schools show a 17-20 point higher average scale score for private schools.

2002 NAEP Reading Average Scale Scores

Grade 12 8 4
Public 285 263 217
All non-public 304 281 234
Non-Public Catholic 304 281 234
Non-Public Other 305 281 235

In addition, here's a link to a 2002 report on private schools and outcomes from the NCES that shows, based on NAEP data, that private schools also outperform public schools in math, history, and science.

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