Are Private Schools Better Than Public?

If you ask 10 different politicians, economists and educators – you’ll get 30 different answers. But, the actual data points are rather interesting.

The Center on Education Policy released a study in 2007, stating that there is no evidence that private schools actually increase student performance, according to Time Magazine Online. The study did find that students in private schools out-perform students in public schools. But, its authors said that once you control for socioeconomic factors, students are performing equally at private and public schools. They claimed that private schools are not the reason for students’ success. The data, however, tell a slightly different story.

The study considered high school students’ scores in nationally-standardized achievement tests for math, reading, science and history. However, when you look at SAT scores and “developed abilities” the advantages of private schooling are obvious.

Developed abilities can lead to higher grades – and GPA combined with SAT scores are the biggest factors that can determine students’ success at college. Private-school students outperform public-school students on both SAT scores and developed abilities measurements, even when socioeconomic factors are accounted for.

Developed abilities are not natural traits, but rather skills nurtured through schoolwork, reading, engaging a piece of art, and other activities that can spark critical thinking. Achievement tests, however, simply measure the amount of material students have memorized in any particular field. So, it’s not quite safe to say achievement tests are the best predictor of a student’s true abilities.

Private schools are known to develop students’ critical thinking skills more so than public schools. Critical thinking skills are crucial to high standardized test scores and college success. Many argue that achievement tests are not a good benchmark because they don’t accurately measure creativity or critical thinking skills.

The study does suggest that it all comes back to parental involvement. High school students who are encouraged and motivated by their parents have higher grades and score higher on achievement tests, when compared to those who are not.

Naturally, those are the students in private schools. After all, what parent is going to spend thousands of dollars a year to send his/her child to a private school and simply not pay attention to how well they’re doing? Probably not too many.

So is there a tangible difference? If you’re looking for a short answer, then yes. According to these findings, private school students develop independent, critical thinking skills, which are the roots of educational success. With those skills, students can score higher on the SSAT, SATs/ACTs, get into a better college and ultimately perform better at college.

But, if you’re looking for a long answer, then it depends on the quality of the public school, tutoring, the parents’ ability to motivate their child, the culture of the school, the students’ peers and ultimately how much that student wants to succeed, etc, etc, etc.

This guest post article was written and provided by Marissa Krause who is a stay at home mother and homeschools her children with the help of


  • You wrote that according to studies, students who go to prep or private schools generally tend to score higher on their SATs/ACTs. I’d heard in the past that private schools were a great option, as they could really help your child to succeed. With higher test scores, they would be able to have a better chance of getting into their dream college or university.

  • I think private school can have a higher educational value because they can pay their teachers more. Private schools have private investors and more money comes into the schools budget. It is better because the teachers feel better about their jobs when they don’t have to worry about money. Thank you!

  • I am impressed that private elementary schools increase student performance. Data supporting the success of private schools is something to consider. Understanding the advantages of private elementary schools really makes them seem so much more desirable.

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