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Private Schools vs. Public Schools

It has been shown that school choice may play a crucial role in determining the success of a student in their education, with regards to both graduating and the final achievement levels obtained by the student (Cullen et al. , 2005).

While it has always been believed that private schools generally outperform public schools, recent surveys have indicated that public schools may actually be outperforming private schools in certain aspects of the curriculum (Watkins, 2006), indicating that perhaps there are some elements of the public school system which may actually be working better than their counterpart components in the private school system. This essay examines the differences between private and public schools and how different elements of each system may be combined to further improve the education offered to students in America.

Differences between Private and Public Schools Access and Choice The main benefit to public schools is of course that education there is free. This means that every student in the U. S. has ready access to public schooling, whereas private schools are generally only accessible to those families who can afford the tuition fees. Both systems also offer the same level of choice, as students are generally able to apply to any public school in their area, and do not have to attend the one to which they may be assigned.

This is important, since selecting a school based on performance, availability of resources, and emphasis on certain subject areas may lead to better overall student achievement even in public schools (Cullen et al. , 2005). Integration and Social Aspects of Education Ensuring that schools are accessible to all, regardless of social background, should also create a better level of inclusion within schools, giving students the benefit of cultural and social aspects of education as well as academic aspects.

For example, in private schools, the low level of students from diverse backgrounds may limit the exposure of students to different cultures and social backgrounds (Saporito & Sohoni, 2006), which may actually be limiting to these aspects of development. This is likely to be better achieved in public schools where there is less discrimination surrounding which students are accepted and which are rejected; choice of students is usually not based on social factors in public schools. Quality of Teaching

One of the main problems which have been highlighted in the literature in relation to the public school system is that of the quality and availability of teachers, a factor which is likely to have a major impact on the overall quality of public school education. In particular, salaries are likely to be significantly lower for public school teachers, which it is suggested has led to many teachers leaving public schools to teach in private institutions, or leaving the teaching profession altogether (Hanushek et al. , 2004).

This then may indicate that the quality of teachers in private schools would be much higher, with a greater pool from which to select suitably qualified teachers. In addition to issues with salary, Hanushek and colleagues (2004) also suggest that problems with student achievement and student characteristics may also play a significant part in teachers leaving the public sector, indicating that these factors need to be addressed to prevent a downward spiral from occurring, involving quality of teaching and achievement.

Combining the Benefits of Both Systems One way which has been discussed to even up the opportunities for all students to receive an education like that available through private schools is through issuing vouchers to those from low income families to pay for private school tuition (Jin & Rubin, 2009). While this may help to improve the education which is available to already high-achievers, this is not the best solution to overall improve the level of education available to the wider population.

Instead, a better solution may be found through combining the different positive aspects of public and private schools which were discussed in the previous section. In particular, the best solution would appear to be one in which education was provided for free and was inclusive, so bore no discrimination between social groups. At the same time however, incorporating measures to allow the school to adapt their curriculum to specialize in certain areas may allow for higher levels of achievement and a focus of resources in some areas. This would need to be done carefully however so as not to disadvantage other curriculum areas.

Finally, public schools should also incorporate measures to maintain the quality of teachers available, which may be the trickiest part, as public funding may severely limit the salaries which may be paid. Improving the overall working conditions may however compensate for this somewhat, and may limit the flow of teachers out of the public sector. Charter Schools Charter schools are a relatively new concept in the U. S. , in which a school still receives public funding, but is freed of many of the constraints of traditional public schools.

These have many of the benefits of traditional public schools in terms of the access to education, but offer benefits usually found only in private schools, such as subject specialisms and increased funding from private bodies such as corporations. The relatively new nature of charter schools means that evidence is still quite scant on the benefits of the concept, but early studies indicate that they may have a positive effect on achievement when compared to conventional public schools in the same area (Sass, 2006). Conclusions

Clearly there are beneficial aspects to both private and public school systems, and future developments of the schooling system may be optimal if they seek to combine both in the free public school system. Charter schools appear to have taken many of the most beneficial aspects, although the relatively recent introduction of charter schools into the system means that it is difficult to assess the extent to which they may improve education at the current time. References Cullen, J. B. , Jacob, B. A. & Levitt, S. D. (2005). The impact of school choice on student outcomes: An analysis of the Chicago Public Schools.

Journal of Public Economies, 89(5-6): 729-760. Jin, H. & Rubin, D. B. (2009). Public schools versus private schools: Casual inference with partial compliance. Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics, 34(1): 24-45. Saporito, S. & Sohoni, D. (2006). Coloring outside the lines: Racial segregation in public schools and their attendance boundaries. Sociology of Education, 79(2): 81-105. Sass, T. R. (2006) Charter schools and student achievement in Florida. Education Finance and Policy, 1(1): 91-122. Watkins, S. (2006). Are public or private schools doing better? How the NCES study is being misinterpreted. Backgrounder, 1968: 1-4.

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