Parents have a responsibility to shape their children’s future by choosing to take their children to private or public schools. Public schools are funded by the state and federal budgets, while private schools are funded by the tuition paid by the students making them more expensive relative to public schools. More than ninety percent of students in the United States end up in public schools, while the rest are admitted to private schools (Chen, n.p). The choice of a public or private school is informed by several factors, including the school’s location, costs involved, academic performance, safety reputation, and special programs, among others. While statistics by NCES show that students in private schools perform better on standardized tests than students in private schools, there is not enough evidence that private school students are better educated than public school students (Chen). However, the graduation rate in private schools is higher in private schools than in public schools for various reasons.
Students from private schools outperform public school students in standardized tests such as SATs and others and thus making them more attractive to many universities and colleges across the US. According to a 2018 ACT study, students from private schools outperformed their public schools’ counterparts in English, reading, math, and science by a factor of 20 percent (Harris, n.p). While universities look for all-rounded students during admission rather than one parameter of how well they perform in a standardized test, studies show that students with better SAT scores are likely to complete their degrees. Ultimately, the choice of whether a student attends a public or private school is made by their parents after considering necessary factors, including the graduation rate among the two types of schools.
Since the early 2000s, the high school graduation rate in the United States has risen significantly. Several decades earlier, the graduation rates hovered around 85 percent, but they rose to 93 percent between 2001 and 2016 (Harris, n.p). The increase in graduation rates has, for the most part, been a result of an increase in the number of students graduating from private and public schools. Generally, the number of students graduating from private schools was more than five percent higher than the rate of graduation in private schools (National Center for Education Statistics). However, some students have attributed the improved performance to lax grading and credit recovery programs that make it easier for students to pass without much learning. The suspicion that lax grading and other methods have increased graduation rates is primarily due to the passage of the No Child Left Behind laws in the early 2000s (Chen). Thus, the graduation rate in the US has been rising at different rates for private and public schools during that period.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the graduation rate in public high schools between 2018 and 2019 was 86 percent (National Center for Education Statistics). This rate was against a graduation rate of 93 percent for private school high school students during the same year (National Center for Education Statistics). This disparity is generally attributable to the social-economic status of parents for students in public and private schools. Private school children come from well-off families relative to their counterparts in public schools. Consequently, private school students carry less burden to schools and are not exposed to negative environmental stimuli that could impact their education.
Thus, the social-economic differences explain to a large part why the graduation rate is higher in private schools than in public schools. Hence, despite a rising graduation rate since the early 2000s, the rate of graduation among public school students remains lower than that of private school students. This disparity is a result of an emphasis on studying for standardized tests in private schools and a reflection of the social-economic differences between private school and public school students.
Chen, Grace. “Public School vs. Private School.” Public School Review, 2022, Web.
Harris, Douglas N. “Are America’s Rising High School Graduation Rates Real-or Just an Accountability-Fueled Mirage?” Brookings, 2020, Web.
National Center for Education Statistics. “Public High School Graduation Rates.” National Center for Education Statistics, 2022, Web.