Public School vs. Private School

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Private School Vs. Public School Statistics-Part 1

Private schools provide more personal attention to students due to smaller class size compared to public schools were teachers teach twenty-five or more students in a class. In addition, private high schools offer more extracurricular activities compared to public high schools in which 40% of private schools require some form of community service for high school graduation, four times the rate for public schools which is only 10%.

Private School Vs. Public School: Insights or Statistics

Extracurricular Activities

  • At the high school level, private schools are more focused towards preparing their students for college "offering a wider array of extracurricular activities, advanced placement courses, International Baccalaureate programs, and gifted study classes" compared to public schools were activities are more focused on the core classes, often at the expense of more peripheral subjects.
  • Private high schools have more extracurricular activities compared to public high schools because they require more coursework for social studies, mathematics, science, foreign language, and computer science subjects.
  • For mathematics, private schools require on average 3.1 years while public schools require 2.7 years. For foreign language, 1.5 years at private schools but 0.5 years at public schools while an estimated 40% of private schools require some form of community service for high school graduation, four times the rate for public schools which is only 10%.

Learning Opportunities and Curriculum

  • According to the NCES, "private high school students scored 3.1 points higher on the ACT test compared to public high school students" and the same discrepancy is noted between primary and middle schools."
  • Additionally, eighth-graders in private schools scored 18 points higher compared to public schools for both mathematics and reading test.
  • At 8th and 12th grades, private school students generally perform higher than public school students on standardized achievement tests. This is evidenced in the results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) science and mathematics proficiency tests.
  • An estimated 95% of non-parochial private high school graduates go on to 4-year post-secondary institutions, compared to 49% of public high school grads.

Class Size

  • It is common in private schools for 6th to 12th grade level, that teachers teach twenty-five or more students in a class where the teacher's time is divided and does not offer much attention to individual students compared to private schools that accommodates fewer students providing more personal attention from teachers.

Teacher Quality

  • Statistics show that 70%-80% of private school teachers have a master's degree and/or a terminal degree. Additionally, teachers in private high schools usually have a first degree in their subject compared to public school teachers. This is because private school dean of faculty and head of school hires teachers who are competent in, and passionate about the subjects they will teach.
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Private School Vs. Public School Statistics-Part 2

Private schools are not bound by state mandates, and are capable of constructing their own curriculum individualized for the students, and teachers are able to make use of the newest and best teaching techniques such as conversational learning. Discipline and safety is a major characteristic that makes private schools considerably safer and more conducive to learning than public schools, and also teaches students necessary self-control that they will need to be successful in college. Private schools, specifically at the high school level, are more college focused and in addition to the more stringent course requirements they offer programs and assistance for college preparation that leads to 95% of private school students to graduate high school and continue to college. Statistics for the 5th grade and private middle schools are not readily available, however, general insights regarding private schools and some statistics are provided below.

Individualized Curriculum

  • Private schools are not bound to the same limitations of curriculum as public schools and therefore are able to offer content that is suited to their goals such as peripheral subjects such as arts, theater, music and other subjects. Schools at the high school level focus on college preparation in the curriculum.
  • Due to the lack of state regulations, private schools are able to work around government regulations and modify their curriculum to introduce a wider range of topics than public schools are able to do including content focused on religion. Many offer advanced sports programs as well.
  • Private schools are able to avoid a heavy emphasis on testing, which can allow a focus on other competencies. The curriculum is focused on the individual students and not on averages and test scores. Private high school students have more criteria to maintain G.P.A.s and require more academically rigorous curriculum than public high school students according to National Center for Education Statistics.
  • Private schools can be highly specialized, offer differentiated learning, advanced curriculum, and programs geared towards specific religious beliefs as well as develop its own standards and assessment procedures. Curriculum can easily be tailored for individual students' needs such as those in performing arts.

Religious And Moral Instruction And Activities

  • About 79% of private school students attended a religiously-affiliated school, the largest sector in the private school sector. Catholic schools make up the largest majority of private schools with over 1.9 million students enrolled, however, 18.4% of those are not Catholic lending to the preference of the structure of private schools even if it is of a different religion.

Discipline and Safety

  • The majority of private schools place an emphasis on discipline, and 63% of private school teachers reported having a lot of influence on setting student performance standards and 48% reported influence on student discipline policy compared to 38% and 30% respectively for public school teachers.
  • Stricter disciplinary policies also equate to safer educational environments, and private schools are not as plagued with typical crimes like public schools. The School Crime and Safety Report reports that 37.3% of public school students were more likely to see hate-related graffiti compared to 16.8% of private school students.
  • Nationwide surveys of principals find that private schools have a statistically significant advantage for each of the 13 discipline problems identified at public schools. The safety benefits of private schooling are described to be large by the Washington Examiner who shows that private schools are about 8 percentage points less likely to have physical conflicts between students, about 18 percentage points less likely to have gang activity at school, and 28 percentage points less likely to experience students in possession of weapons.
  • In comparison to public school characteristics involving events such as random dog sniffs for drugs and passing through metal detectors, private schools offer a safer, more healthy environment that is more conducive to student learning. Surveys show that private school students are generally less fearful about daily safety, which makes focusing on learning easier.

College Preparation

  • Private high schools are said to instill college expectations. Research has found that students that attended private school in the 8th grade were twice as likely as their public school counterparts to complete a bachelor's degree or higher by their mid-20s.
  • The installation of discipline in private school settings teaches students self-control which will be a requirement in college when they have to be responsible for their attendance and achievement.
  • Private school counselors spend an average of 55% of their time on college-related counseling compared to 22% of public school counselors. 95% of private school students go to college compared to 49% of public school graduates.
  • Private schools at the high school level focus on college preparation and offer more extracurricular programs, AP courses, and other offerings geared towards the college admissions process.

Teaching Techniques

  • Teachers are afforded more flexibility to be creative in the classroom and with the curriculum which leads to better outcomes for the students. Private high schools are half the size of the average public school, which provides students and teachers greater opportunities to form relationships that lead to greater academic success.
  • Private schools are able to utilize the most recent teaching techniques as they are not bound by the same guidelines as public schools. The conversational technique is used by a lot of private schools due to its effectiveness at keeping students' attention and interest, and improves their ability to communicate, make decisions, and retain coursework.


We first searched for preexisting statistics comparing the quality of private and public schools, and this search yielded some useful insights regarding public schools and private schools in general and for high schools.
As another strategy to identify statistics, we examined sources such as the National Center for Education Statistics and Private School Review for statistics regarding the benefits of private school by grade level, this strategy revealed some statistics mostly focused towards high school or about private schools in general.
As another attempt to find statistics specific to grades below the high school level, we searched for articles, surveys, and blogs for information regarding insights or statistics regarding the class sizes, curriculum, and other characteristics of academic quality. This strategy did not reveal statistics specific to private middle schools or 5th grade private schools.
Although there was not a lot of statistics available regarding private middle schools, we were able to identify useful insights regarding private schools in general and statistics regarding private high schools and included those in our findings. The lack of statistics is likely due to the fact that grades 1 through 4 are considered prime elementary years, and the National Assessment of Educational Progress does not begin to measure student success until the 4th grade and then in the middle school and high school years.
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Effects of Christian Curriculum

It is important to understand the many ways in which a Christian curriculum in a private Christian school can enhance the student experience for grades 5+. Five of those ways that Christian curricula can enhance students' experiences include: (1) Teachers are required to be Christians themselves and maintain discipline over students, (2) Christian schools strive to provide low student:teacher ratios, (3) All knowledge is delivered from a Biblical perspective, (4) Only traditional family structure is taught, and (5) Children are taught how to create and maintain Bible-based relationships.

Teachers and Discipline

  • According to one school administration, Christian schools intentionally provide constant discipline in all aspects of children's education. Although there is no data provided, the intent of the school is to give the students strict, clear boundaries.
  • Christian schools teach respect for authority, and the teacher's authority is supported. Although there are no examples available from the sources consulted, it is interpreted to mean that the teachers' decisions and methods will be backed up by the school administration in cases where someone challenges a teacher.
  • Teachers at Christian schools "are qualified and dedicated Christians who are committed to developing students to think critically, be creative, reason, defend their Christian faith, communicate effectively, and nurture a personal relationship with Jesus Christ." This means that teachers will be role models behaving in ways that the particular denomination recognizes as Christian behavior.

Low Student: Teacher Ratios

  • Christian schools believe that low student:teacher ratios lead to higher scores on standardized tests than high student: teacher ratios. Numerous studies over the last 50 years have delivered conflicting results about the effects of small classes (fewer than 15 students) vs. large classes (25 or more students).
  • A 2016 study reexamining the mass of studies concluded that overall, smaller classes are better, especially for students from minority groups and economically disadvantaged groups.

Knowledge from a Biblical Perspective

  • Many Christian schools assert that their teaching methodology requires they interpret and transmit all knowledge from a Biblical perspective. This approach provides consistency across all grade levels.
  • Christian schools require that all academic subjects be taught "with an understanding of the absolute standards of truth that God has established". Many denominations believe that this is the best approach to middle-school and high school education.

Traditional Family Structure

  • In a Christian school, students will be taught to respect "the traditional family structure as described in Genesis 2: 24. God's plan for the family is still one man and one woman for one lifetime." This approach may be difficult for students from homes with only one parent, and school counselors and clergy can help in these situations.
  • In a Christian school, school personnel encourage "partnering with families in prayer, serving others, and ...the building of Christian relationships." Strengthening families is an important goal of Christian schools.

Bible-based Relationships

  • One school website stated, "We are dedicated to establishing an environment that provides mutual respect, nurture, discipline, and above all things love". Students are encouraged to treat others with that respect and love.
  • Another Christian school found ways for older and younger students to learn together, to encourage understanding. The school incorporated activities called "reading buddies" and "pen pals" into the curriculum. This school's website stated, "We like to group all the students together across-ages during worship services and on the playground. Our little kids look up to our big kids. Our big kids remember what this was like for them and take care to treat our little ones with TLC. In this way, there is rarely any kind of bullying. In addition, there is genuine fondness for each other between all the students on our campus."
  • Another school strove to teach about personal and social relationships using Bible passages. This school taught students that all people are individuals created in God's image, and should be treated with love and respect.
  • One school explicitly teaches a Biblical view of dating, marriage, and family, while also promoting "physical fitness, good health habits, and wise use of the body as the temple of God." These goals for student behavior provide consistent principles for young people's decision-making.

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Investment of Private Education

Parents select private schools for several reasons such as wanting their children to get personal attention and availability of extracurricular activities. The potential return on investment (ROI) in private education is realized in different ways like feeling well-prepared for academics in college, better state of health, and higher income.

Why and How Private Schools are Selected By Parents

  • Parents can select private schools by going to schools and observing their classes.
  • There are many resources like videos produced by the schools, YouTube clips, and other online access portals into the classroom that parents can also use to select private schools.
  • Most parents desire personal attention for their children. After spending a lot of time nurturing them as infants, they want their children to get as much personal attention as possible while in school.
  • Parents with children in private schools are expected to become actively involved in the education of their children. Most private schools operate with the "concept of a three-way partnership".
  • Being actively involved also enables parents to always check what really happens in school.
  • Parents also choose private schools because of their reputation. Knowing that a school runs programs which have been successfully operated over many years is reassuring to parents.
  • Parents want their children to receive a balanced school program that involves equal participation in academics, extracurricular activities, and sports.
  • Many private schools include art, extensive music, and drama programs as part of their extracurricular activities.

How Parents and Students Realize the Potential Return on Investment (ROI)

  • Using Catholic schools as an example, private schools produce a better ROI in terms of graduation rate from high school, attendance rate in college, rate of employment, and median earnings.
  • Private school students tend to produce better test results than public school students, and it is more likely for private schools to have staff who are dedicated to college admissions.
  • The networking opportunities from private schools can give students an advantage when they apply for admission into top colleges, making it more likely that they would get a high-paying job after graduation.
  • It is important for parents to understand the goals of their children and know whether they are willing to learn in order to ensure that the investment in a private school is worthwhile.
  • Private schools lead to high-paying jobs for qualified individuals. Including extracurricular activities enable parents to be more consistent and efficient at their workplace.
  • According to a study conducted by James Heckman, a Nobel laureate and Professor of Economics, attending private school from a young age results in several benefits.
  • The benefits include reduced obesity, better state of health and wellness, better emotional and social skills, like self-control and monitoring ability. They became more engaged individuals, they can access more information, they show greater willingness to take part in activities in the society, and they take greater control over their own lives.
  • Heckman found that private education obtained by students can be "broken down as an ROI of 13% per student per annum", which amounts to a profitable investment.


From Part 01
  • "At the high school level, many private schools focus on preparing kids for college. They tend to offer a wider array of extracurricular offerings, advanced placement courses, International Baccalaureate programs, and gifted studies classes."
  • "A recent recap of high school graduates showed private school students scoring 3.1 points higher on the ACT test. The same disparity is found between primary and middle schools, according to the NCES. A comparison of mathematics tests showed private schools scored 18 points higher for eighth-graders and 8 points higher for fourth graders. Reading had the same results, with the private schools outscoring their public counterparts by 18 points in eighth grade and 15 points in fourth grade."
  • "Private school students generally perform higher than their public school counterparts on standardized achievement tests. As with earlier results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), private school students performed higher than public school students on the NAEP: 2000 tests. Their average scores were above those of public school students on the 4th-grade reading test and on the 4th-, 8th-, and 12th-grade science and mathematics proficiency tests."
From Part 03
  • "• Christian schools maintain discipline during all aspects of the students’ education. • Teachers seek to know the hearts of the students. • The advantage of low student: teacher ratios have far-reaching advantages both in the class and in standardized testing scores."
  • "The view that all knowledge is to be interpreted from a Biblical perspective. All academic subjects are to be taught with an understanding of the absolute standards of truth that God has established. (2 Timothy 2:15) Respect for authority (Romans 13:1; Hebrews 13:17). One's view of authority directly influences his/her concept of God."
  • "Heritage Christian School is committed to providing a school where God’s Word is purposely integrated in every area of our school. We are dedicated to establishing an environment that provides mutual respect, nurture, discipline, and above all things love. Matthew 6:33, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13"
  • "Whenever possible we try to find ways for our older and younger students to learn and spend time together. Among other ways, we do this by incorporating reading buddies and pen pals between classes. We like to group all the students together across-ages during worship services and on the playground. Our little kids look up to our big kids. Our big kids remember what this was like for them and take care to treat our little ones with TLC. In this way, there is rarely any kind of bullying. In addition, there is genuine fondness for each other between all the students on our campus."
  • "The school aims to: "teach Biblical views for personal and social relationships. (Ps. 119:9; Luke 10:27; 1 Thess. 4:6 teach the students to treat their neighbour with love and respect as unique individuals created in God’s image (Matt. 5:44; John 14:21; 1 Cor. 13:4,5; 1 John 3:18; Eph. 5:21) teach a Biblical view of dating, marriage, and family. (1 Thess. 4:7; 1 Tim. 4:12; Gen. 2:18-25; Eph. 5:22- 33; Heb. 13:4) promote physical fitness, good health habits, and wise use of the body as the temple of God. (1 Cor. 6:19)""
  • "Over the years, Erik Hanushek of the Hoover Institute .... performed a “meta-analysis” of 277 studies in 1997, claiming that class size reduction was not an effective school reform strategy. He argued that class sizes have dropped over the last half of the twentieth century with no corresponding increase in achievement scores. "In summary, Surely class size reductions are beneficial in specific circumstances —for specific groups of students, subject matters, and teachers. Second, class size reductions necessarily involve hiring more teachers, and teacher quality is much more im-portant than class size in affecting student outcomes. Third, class size reduction is very expensive, and little or no consideration is given to alternative and more productive uses of those resources." (p. 5"