SAT: Public Schools Down, Private Schools Up

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Where are your kids?

Every year it is the same sad story: SAT tests scores are down, stagnant, or inch forward for some tiny subset of public school students.

Then the PR machine at the State Department of Education works to massage the data into a glimmer of hope, and sends Inez Tenenbaum Jim Rex out to share the “good news” about the “great leap forward.”

Sadly, this year is no different.

Like last week’s ACT scores, the SAT scores show that South Carolina public schools are stagnant.

They also show that low-income and minority children are falling further behind, widening one of the nation’s largest achievement gaps.

But there is good news too: students attending private schools continue to excel.

In fact, while public scores dip from 983 in 2007 to 980 in 2008, scores at private schools in South Carolina actually shot up from 1023 to 1042. The average was 1037 at independent private schools and 1048 at religious private schools. Not only are private school students of all types scoring better then public school students, they are consistently improving each year. Both the total number of students enrolled in private schools, as well as the number of those students taking the ACT and SAT tests, are rising.

One of the most basic explanations for this huge public-private performance gap is money. This is not because private schools spend more (on average tuition is only $6,600 nationwide) but because private schools spend better.

Consider that South Carolina spends $11,480 for each and every child in the public school system. But figures from the Budget and Control Board show that a mere 44 cents per dollar of that money reaches the children in the form of instructional spending (teacher salaries, classroom materials etc…) Private schools don’t have the luxury of such inefficiency. Their students are free to enroll or dis-enroll at will, and private school administrators know that student achievement will guide those decisions.

Only when all parents enjoy this basic opportunity – the ability to send their children to the classroom of their choice – can we hope to see the rise in SAT test-taking and scores at private schools extend into public schools as well.

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3 responses to “SAT: Public Schools Down, Private Schools Up

  1. SC Independent Home Schools

    I thought you might be interested in knowing that our students’ (South Carolina Association of Independent Home Schools—SCAIHS) average SAT score was 1066. If broken down to just seniors, their average was 1088.

  2. Private schools are not guaranteeing wealth to local law firms. Public schools that are found in violation of IDEA and 504 on a regular basis have an unlimited amount of legal funds to hire an attorney.

    These attorneys help the schools navigate corrective action and “protect” schools and school districts from having to be accountable.

    How much does Duff & White get paid in “EDUCATIONAL” dollars each year?

  3. research_student

    Hi,
    I am a high school student currently in the midst of doing a research project on the reasons for racial gaps in SAT scores. I am intrigued by the comment about the law firms getting paid in educational dollars. Do you happen to have a source for that information?

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