I recently conducted a meta-analysis of more than ninety studies on education, and the results suggest that perhaps it is time for America’s leadership and the general public to take a second look at religious private schools. At the risk of immodesty, let me be frank. The study is hugely important because it is the first published meta-analysis to compare the three primary types of American schools: religious private schools, traditional public schools, and charter schools.
A meta-analysis statistically combines all the relevant existing studies on a given subject in order to determine the aggregated results of the research. This meta-analysis yielded results that surprised many by indicating that students from public charter schools did no better than their peers in traditional public schools. In contrast, youth from religious private schools performed better academically than their counterparts in both public charter schools and traditional public schools, even when the results were adjusted to account for socioeconomic status, selectivity, race, and various other factors.
[…]Examining results from all ninety studies, I found that the average academic outcome for religious school students was .28 of a standard deviation unit higher than for traditional public school (TPS) students, while the average for charter school students was only .01 of a standard deviation unit higher. If one converts these numbers to percentiles, the average academic outcome was 11 percentage points higher than that of TPS pupils, while charter school attendees scored about the same as their TPS counterparts.
Translated into more tangible numbers, students who attend private religious schools attain educational levels that average about twelve months ahead of those attending regular public schools. Even when the meta-analysis employed sophisticated controls, which included measures for socioeconomic status, selectivity, gender, and race, youth who attended faith-based schools achieved at levels seven months ahead of both TPS and public charter school students.
One of the most intriguing results of the study is that the racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps are roughly 25 percent narrower in religious private schools than in public schools. This finding is particularly interesting when one considers that over the years the government has spent hundreds of billions of dollars to bridge the gaps, with only limited success. Higher expectations for students, and school leaders’ insistence that pupils take demanding courses, could help to explain these circumstances in faith-based schools.
The meta-analysis focused primarily on scholastic performance, but it also examined student behavior. The results indicated that youth from faith-based schools maintained even a larger edge in behavior than they did in school academics. That is, pupils from religious private schools exhibited fewer behavioral problems, even when socioeconomic status, selectivity, race, and gender were also controlled for. This translates into fewer gangs, lower levels of drug abuse, and greater racial harmony than one typically finds in public schools.
Many people, even this researcher, expected public charter school students to perform somewhere in between the levels achieved by students attending faith-based schools and those attending traditional public schools, given that they were trying to mimic certain aspects of private religious schools.
To the extent that neither traditional public schools nor charter schools are succeeding on a broad scale, it appears that the best hope for American education is religious private schools. Not only are they considerably more economically efficient, but their students also achieve better academic and behavioral results.
I think that it is noteworthy that Democrats opposes allowing parents – especially poor parents – to have a choice of what school their children will attend. The Obama administration even de-funded a voucher program that served poor-minority students. Teacher unions are one of the strongest pro-Democrat special interests. If the Democrat Party has to choose between poor, minority students and their powerful allies in the teach unions, the choice is not a hard one. They choose the teacher unions.
This is a must-listen, especially for any single Christian woman who would like to get married and have children. If you want to marry a Christian man, you should listen to this lecture and also the Dr. Morse lecture on marriageEvery Day. Christian men expect Christian women to know a lot about marriage. About why children need mothers, and why they need fathers, and how the state is always taxing families and then using that money to poke their noses in and teach the children all kinds of bad things.
Does God care whether we people marry and have children?
Does God care whether Christian parents raise their children to know him?
Should government promote bearing children?
What are some effects of declining birth rates in other countries?
What are the economic effects of declining birth rates?
Who has the right to decide how children are trained: government or parents?
What does the Bible say about parents having to raise children to know him?
Does the government have the responsibility for training children?
What do educational bureaucrats think of parents training children?
What do school boards think of parents training children?
Should school boards be elected by local, state or federal government?
Should Christians be opposed to government-run education? (public schools)
How should schools be viewed by parents? As a replacement or as a helper?
How are schools viewed by those on the left and in communist countries?
How can you measure how supporting a government is of parental rights?
How is parental authority viewed in left-wing EU countries like Germany?
How is parental authority respected in the United States?
Should parents have a choice of where their children go to school?
What is a voucher program? How is it related to parental autonomy?
How does competition (school choice) in education serve parental needs?
Why do public school teachers, unions and educrats oppose competitition?
How well do public schools do in educating children to achieve?
Does the government-run monopoly of public schools produce results?
Does paying more and more money to public schools make them perform?
How do teacher unions feel about having to compete in a voucher system?
Does the public school monopoly penalize the poorest students?
Does the public school monopoly penalize children of certain races?
Does the public school monopoly cause racial predujice?
What else should parents demand on education policy?
Is it good for parents when schools refuse to fire underperforming teachers?
This podcast is just amazing! This is what we need to be teaching in church. Church should be the place where you go to learn and reflect about how to tailor your life plan based on what the Bible says. And I think that this whole notion of free market – of choice and competition benefiting the consumer (parents) – applies to everything that government does, especially education and health care.
Governors of both parties have promoted education reform, but so far no one has delivered more than Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal. This week he’ll sign two bills that offer a national model for competition and parental choice.
Louisiana’s new laws will essentially give all parents an average of $8,500 to use for their child’s education as they see fit. They can keep their child in their local public school, but they can also try to get Johnny into a more demanding charter school, or a virtual school, or into special language or career-training courses, among other options.
Nearly 400,000 low-income children—a bit more than half of all students—will also be eligible for vouchers to attend private schools. State officials estimate that about 2,000 students will use vouchers this September given private-school capacity limits, but that tens of thousands will do so over time.
Louisiana is also making life easier for charter schools, with new authorizing boards, a fast-track for high-performing networks, and access to facilities equal to that of traditional public schools. The new laws seek to strengthen superintendents and principals over local school boards, which are bastions of bureaucratic and union intransigence.
Nearly as dramatic are reforms in teacher tenure. To earn tenure, teachers will now have to rate in the top 10% (measured in part by student performance) for five of six consecutive years, and any teacher who falls into the bottom 10% loses tenure. No teacher in the bottom 10% can get a raise, while layoffs will no longer hit the junior-most teachers first while ignoring performance.
Mr. Jindal made school reform a second-term priority after winning a landslide re-election last November. By then he had appointed or helped elect reformers to the state superintendent’s office and board of education.
Louisiana voters also had a preview of reform’s potential. Since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, New Orleans schools have become almost exclusively charters—with dramatic academic improvements—and the city has run a small and oversubscribed voucher program since 2008. As for tenure, the reforms attach consequences to a teacher-evaluation system enacted in 2010.
The result: the reforms attracted bipartisan legislative majorities of roughly 60%. Over four votes (two different bills, each having to pass the House and Senate), one-quarter to one-half of Democrats voted for reform, including many black representatives, especially those from New Orleans.
Teachers unions were predictably opposed and even heavier-handed than usual. Michael Walker Jones of the Louisiana Association of Educators dismissed choice on grounds that “If I’m a parent in poverty I have no clue because I’m trying to struggle and live day to day.” Unions pushed principals to cancel school—sometimes giving parents less than 24 hours notice—so teachers could protest at the state Capitol. It was a tired act.
Mr. Jindal joins Indiana’s Mitch Daniels in passing the most far-reaching school reforms, and now they’ll have to follow through to produce better student outcomes. Unions will seize on any troubles as a sign of failure, but success might catalyze similar reforms across the country that could finally improve the life prospects for all American children.
Now is a good time to compare and contrast those reforms with the record of the Obama administration:
“House and Senate Appropriators this week ignored the wishes of D.C.’s mayor, D.C.’s public schools chancellor, a majority of D.C.’s city council, and more than 70 percent of D.C. residents and have mandated the slow death of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. This successful school voucher program–for D.C.’s poorest families–has allowed more than 3,300 children to attend the best schools they have ever known.
The decision to end the program, a decision buried in a thousand-page spending bill and announced right before the holidays, destroys the hopes and dreams of thousands of D.C. families. Parents and children have rallied countless times over the past year in support of reauthorization and in favor of strengthening the OSP.
Yet, despite the clearly positive results and the proven success of this program, Sen. Dick Durbin, Rep. Jose Serrano, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Secretary Arne Duncan worked together to kill the OSP. Funding the program only for existing children shrinks the program each year, compromises the federal evaluation of the program, denies entry to the siblings of existing participants, and punishes those children waiting in line by sentencing them to failing and often unsafe schools.
What is incredibly disappointing to low-income families in Washington, D.C. has been the silence of President Barack Obama. The President, who benefited from K-12 scholarships himself, worked on behalf of low-income families in Chicago, and exercises school choice as a parent, has stood silently on the sidelines while his Secretary of Education belittled the importance of helping such a small number of children in the nation’s capital.”
In a study published last year, Patrick Wolf of the University of Arkansas found that voucher recipients had graduation rates of 91%. That’s significantly higher than the D.C. public school average (56%) and the graduation rate for students who applied for a D.C. voucher but didn’t win the lottery (70%). In testimony before a Senate subcommittee in February, Mr. Wolf said that “we can be more than 99% confident that access to school choice through the Opportunity Scholarship Program, and not mere statistical noise, was the reason why OSP students graduated at these higher rates.”
The administration downplays these findings. But the students who attend D.C. public schools are overwhelmingly black and poor, and the achievement gap has a particularly devastating impact on their communities. High school dropouts are eight times more likely than someone with a diploma to wind up behind bars. Some 60% of black male high school dropouts in their 30s have prison records. And nearly one in four young black male dropouts is in jail or juvenile detention.
Mr. Obama says he wants to help all students—not just the lucky few who receive vouchers. But that’s an argument for offering more vouchers to those in need, not for reducing school choice. Policies ought to be weighed against available alternatives, not some unattainable ideal. The alternative to a voucher for families in D.C. ghettos and elsewhere is too often a substandard public school.
The positive effects of the D.C. voucher program are not unique. A recent study of Milwaukee’s older and larger voucher program found that 94% of students who stayed in the program throughout high school graduated, versus just 75% of students in Milwaukee’s traditional public schools. And contrary to the claim that vouchers hurt public schools, the report found that students at Milwaukee public schools “are performing at somewhat higher levels as a result of competitive pressure from the school voucher program.” Thus can vouchers benefit even the children that don’t receive them.
Research gathered by Greg Forster of the Foundation for Educational Choice also calls into question the White House assertion that vouchers are ineffective. In a paper released in March, he says that “every empirical study ever conducted in Milwaukee, Florida, Ohio, Texas, Maine and Vermont finds that voucher programs in those places improved public schools.” Mr. Forster surveyed 10 empirical studies that use “random assignment, the gold standard of social science,” to assure that the groups being compared are as similar as possible. “Nine [of the 10] studies find that vouchers improve student outcomes, six that all students benefit and three that some benefit and some are not affected,” he writes. “One study finds no visible impact. None of these studies finds a negative impact.”
Such results might influence the thinking of an objective observer primarily interested in doing right by the nation’s poor children. But they are unlikely to sway a politician focused on getting re-elected with the help of teachers unions.
There is a difference between Demcorats and Republicans, and the difference is that Republicans think that children do better when their parents can choose a school that works for their child. Republicans are the evidence-based party – they do what’s right. But Democrats do whatever it takes to please their special interest groups.
A 15-year-old Wisconsin boy who wrote an op-ed opposing gay adoptions was censored, threatened with suspension and called ignorant by the superintendent of the Shawano School District, according to an attorney representing the child.
[…]Wegner, a student at Shawano High School, was asked to write an op-ed for the school newspaper about whether gays should be allowed to adopt. Wegner, who is a Christian, wrote in opposition. Another student wrote in favor of allowing gays to adopt.
[…]After the op-ed was published, a gay couple whose child attends the high school, complained.
The school immediately issued an apology – stating Wegner’s opinion was a “form of bullying and disrespect.”
“Offensive articles cultivating a negative environment of disrespect are not appropriate or condoned by the Shawano School District,” the statement read. “We sincerely apologize to anyone we may have offended and are taking steps to prevent items of this nature from happening in the future.”
But Staver said what the school system did next was absolutely outrageous. He said the 15-year-old was ordered to the superintendent’s office where he was subjected to hours of meetings and was accused of violating the school’s bullying policy.
“The superintendent called him ignorant and said he had the power to suspend him,” Staver said. “He’s using his position to bully this student. This is absolutely the epitome of intolerance.”
Staver said the boy’s parents were never notified.
At one point, Staver said the superintendent gave him a chance to say he regretted writing the column.
“When Mr. Wegner stated that he did not regret writing it, and that he stood behind his beliefs, Superintendent Carlson told him that he ‘had got to be one of the most ignorant kids to try to argue with him about this topic,’” Staver said.
At that point, Staver said the superintendent told the boy that “we have the power to suspend you if we want to.”
The superintendent allegedly told Wegner that he was personally offended by Wegner’s column.
Thoughtful Christians need to understand that their values are never going to be reflected in a secular public school system. Many public schools are run by unionized teachers and administrators who must support big government, because the bigger the government, the bigger their salaries. Quite often, public schools don’t focus on making children educated so they can get jobs and be independent – they focus on making them favor bigger government.
Christians should not support parents being forced to pay into a failing public school system. Many Christian parents favor homeschooling and private schools. Why should they be forced to pay for failing public schools like the one in the story above? It’s important for Christians to think clearly about education. Christians should favor school choice, a system in which parents get a voucher from the government and then can freely choose any school they want. If parents have the right to choose their school from many options, then schools will have to compete to provide what parents want.
Gov. Bobby Jindal on Tuesday outlined a far-reaching set of proposals aimed at improving education in Louisiana, including a state-wide voucher program for low-income students, an expansion of autonomous charter schools and steps to link a teachers’ classroom performance to their job protections and their compensation. The governor has been promising for months now to make education reform the centerpiece of his second-term agenda.
[…]The voucher program may prove the most controversial aspect of the plan. Jindal is proposing to help pay tuition at private and parochial schools for any child of a low-income family who attends a school that receives a letter grade of C, D or F.
More than 70 percent of Louisiana’s public schools would fall into that category, opening up districts across the state to competition for public funding from private institutions. Parents who opt out of those public schools would be able to take the public funding set aside for their child with them to pay for tuition.
Voucher opponents argue that offering private school tuition siphons money away from public education, but the governor is framing the idea as a way to put decision-making in the hands of parents.
Also toward that end, Jindal is proposing to fast-track the approval of new charter schools for proven charter operators. Charters are publicly funded but privately managed and typically overseen by nonprofit boards. They compete with traditional public schools in their area for students.
Jindal is also proposing to end regular annual pay increases for teachers based on years in the classroom, ban the use of seniority in all personnel decisions and weaken the power that local school boards have in hiring and firing decisions in favor of superintendents.
Teachers coming into the classroom for the first time would also see major changes under Jindal’s plan: districts would have greater flexibility to establish their own pay scales for new teachers and tenure would be set aside only for those who earn high ratings on evaluations five years in a row.
I thought it might be helpful to also post this quick introduction to the issue of school choice, from the Cato Institute.
There’s an even longer video narrated by John Stossel that you can watch, that really explains the why school reform matters – and why it’s a conservative issue. Like the sex-selection abortion issue that I blogged about here before, this is an issue that conservatives need to seize on. Here, we can really let our compassionate side show by helping the poorest students, especially those in visible minorities, who simply cannot get a quality education in a public school monopoly that is not responsive to the needs of parents, or their children. This is an issue where we can win – the only losers are the educational bureaucrats and the teacher unions. But the kids are more important.