How Does a Private School Education Help Children Learn?


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Are there certain benefits of private school education over a public school one? The answer is not so clear as one would like, for the simple reason that there are over 30,000 private schools, serving about 5.3 million students from preschool to high school. There are even more public schools, and so the quality of each type varies greatly.

As private schools only account for about 24% of all schools, and only 10% of that number serves from pre-kindergarten to grade 12, the sample size is smaller than that of students attending the public schools. For example, private high schools are much smaller than their public counterparts by half. This information is important when looking at academic data.

So what does the data reveal? There is a prevailing belief that students at private schools receive a better education, and may even be more likely to go on to college and succeed. The numbers seem to agree with that sentiment. When comparing SAT scores, students from private high schools outscore their public school counterparts in reading comprehension, writing, and math. When applying to college, about 88% of private school students submit applications. Only 57% of public high school students do, at least according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, or NCES.

This data does appear to favor private school education. The higher test scores, and the student’s confidence in their ability to succeed in college, are both admirable. The question becomes, what are private schools doing different to achieve these results?

A big part of the success of these private schools is their smaller size. When a class is smaller, the teacher can give specialized attention to students that may get lost in a larger class. They may also have more flexibility to move the curriculum at a pace that better suits their particular students, without a State obligation to meet.

There is another factor that plays into students who attend a private school. Their parent(s) have taken an interest in their child’s education. This is no small variable: a parent who is attentive and supportive of a child’s education is going to be more helpful than a parent who is more hands-off.

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