Public versus private school — a study found just one factor can make all the difference.

Many parents who want the best education for their children turn to private schools, assuming they will lead their kids to greater success.

At first glance, some data appears to back up that notion. The National Association of Independent Schools and Gallup found that private schools tend to have a greater percentage of graduates going on to higher education, and also tend to attend selective colleges and universities. And a new study shows that overall, children who have attended private schools had better outcomes in nearly all assessed areas of adolescence.

For many parents, this prospect justifies spending thousands of dollars per year in private school tuition. They also bolster support for voucher systems, which distribute public education funds to parents to spend on private schools if they so choose.


Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images.

However, a recent study that showed better private school outcomes has a huge caveat.

When family wealth is factored out, the difference in private and public school outcomes disappears entirely.

Researchers at the University of Virginia found that when socioeconomic factors were controlled for in the study, all of the advantages of private school were negated. The study also found "no evidence to suggest that low-income children or children enrolled in urban schools benefited more from private school enrollment."

Kids from the same socioeconomic class have similar outcomes, whether they attend public school or private school. In other words, it's the ability to afford private school that makes the difference, not private school itself. Since private school attendees tend to come from wealthier families, they generally have better outcomes.

But money, not the educational approach or quality of instruction offered in private schools, appears to be the driving factor.

Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images.

Parents choose private schools for diverse reasons, and choice is important. But not at the expense of public education.

Not all parents who choose to send their kids to private school do so for academic reasons. Some want their kids to have a religious element to their education. Some favor a specific educational philosophy that can only be found in a private school setting. Having a variety of educational options is a good thing.

However, if a parent feels compelled to send their kids to a private school over a public school for academic reasons, the data doesn't appear to be in their favor. And using such arguments to support voucher programs is disingenuous.

Secretary of Education Betsy Devos proposed an education budget in February that allocated $1 billion to private school vouchers and other school choice initiatives, and slashed $3.6 billion from the Department of Education. "So many of America's poorest children — especially African American and Hispanic children — attend failing public schools that afford them little hope of fulfilling their great potential," President Trump said in his budget summary.

But if our government's job is to make sure that children have equal access to quality education, we need more support for publicly funded neighborhood schools, not less. If private schools aren't proven to offer a better quality education, then taking money from public schools to provide private school vouchers doesn't make sense.

This data reinforces the fact that issues in our educational system largely stem from economic inequality.

Educational opportunity starts at home, and homes and communities that are struggling are automatically at a disadvantage. Though improving public schools is important, perhaps addressing economic inequality in general would do more for U.S. education than school choice programs or public education overhauls — and would ensure that more children reach their full potential.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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