By Cooper Aspegren:
Public schools, traditionally dismissed in favor of private schools, nevertheless hold superiority over their more acclaimed counterpart. A public school, by definition, accepts financial support from public funds, charges no fee for tuition and does not usually select students for enrollment. A private school, in contrast, does not accept any governmental support, charges a tuition fee and frequently selects students for enrollment. Critics of the public school system praise private schools for a variety of reasons, including the presence of smaller class sizes and better test scores. However, they fail to acknowledge the actual trends in these areas and disregard the fact that public schools feature greater diversity, and as a result, better prepare students for adult life.
It is no secret that public schools boast student bodies more diverse than private schools. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) revealed that public schools on average encompass student bodies that are 58 percent Caucasian, 20 percent Hispanic, 16 percent African-American, 4 percent Asian-American, and 1 percent Native American. Ethnic diversity is significantly greater than that of private schools and is composed on average with 74 percent Caucasian, 9 percent Hispanic, 10 percent African-American, 6 percent Asian-American and 1 percent Native American.
[pullquote]The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) revealed that public schools on average encompass student bodies that are 58 percent Caucasian, 20 percent Hispanic, 16 percent African-American, 4 percent Asian-American, and 1 percent Native American.[/pullquote]
A diverse environment is more beneficial to students than an environment that is not. Limited exposure to a variety of backgrounds yields a more difficult experience when adjusting to adult life. In theory, the private school student upon graduation feels less advantaged in a society with people of different religious and ethnic backgrounds. Skeptics of the public school’s superiority state that private schools generally incorporate smaller class sizes, indicating more time for the individual student to be helped. But on average, the classroom size difference between public schools and private schools is negligible. As demonstrated by NCES, the average number of students in a public school classroom is approximately 20 students, only about 2 students greater than the average number of students in a private school classroom. A difference this minor cannot factor into the debate.
Critics also argue that private schools produce better test scores than their public school counterparts. However, in 2006 the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) demonstrated that test scores from public and private schools were not significantly different when adjusting for selected student characteristics, like gender, ethnicity, disability and English language learner status. In fact, research conducted at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana concluded that public school students outperformed their private school counterparts when factors such as outside learning, family background and socioeconomic status were ignored. These findings eliminate any such claim that private schools outperform public schools academically.
Public schools, as a fundamental educational system, are clearly superior to private schools. This system offers better preparation for adult life, which arguably serves as the basic goal of education as a whole. Both sides of the debate agree on heeding to take greater efforts to ensure that the next generation of Americans is well prepared for the challenges presented by adult life. This commitment starts with public education, rather than private school education.