New Publication Documents Benefits of Private Education

Published February 1, 2005

Private education is good for students, good for families, and good for America, according to a new publication by the Council for American Private Education (CAPE). The brochure is part of an informational campaign that began in September 2004 and includes a new Web site and brochure CAPE has developed to tell the public about private schools.

The brochure and Web site remind readers of the roots of private education in the United States. America’s first schools were private, and its first leaders were taught in such schools. Today, private schools join public schools to create what the brochure describes as “an educational system that is the envy of the world and the hope for our continued freedom.”

Drawing on John Milton’s claim more than 350 years ago that truth emerges “from the marketplace of ideas,” the document declares that the “rich diversity of private schools is a staple in the marketplace of American education, and the nation is stronger for it.”

In telling the private-school story, the brochure, written by CAPE board member Dr. Philip Patterson, president of the National Christian School Association, cites numerous findings from national surveys and data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The Web version ( is fully footnoted and provides links to each data source.

Good for Students

In a June 2002 report titled Private Schools: A Brief Portrait, NCES noted private school students scored higher than the national average on standardized tests, had more stringent requirements than the typical American school for the high school diploma, and sent an above-average percentage of graduates to college.

The brochure highlights this information and adds the NCES finding that students who had completed at least the eighth grade in a private school were twice as likely as other students to graduate from college as a young adult.

Brochure readers also learn that “students in private schools are much more likely than others to take advanced-level high school courses.” On the issue of school safety, the brochure notes, “private school students are significantly more likely than others to feel safe and be safe in their schools.”

Good for Families

“Choosing a school for their children is one of the most important decisions parents must make,” the brochure states. “Whether they move into a school district, apply to a private school, or adjust family duties to make home schooling possible, most families want school choice.”

The document notes that parents of more than six million U.S. children choose private schools and do so for a variety of reasons, “with quality academics, a safe and orderly environment, and moral and ethical values the common reasons cited.” What’s more, private school parents tend to be satisfied customers, with more than three-quarters saying they are very satisfied with their child’s school.

When it comes to supporting the values taught at home, the brochure cites an NCES survey that found promoting religious/spiritual life was second only to academic excellence in the goals of private school principals.

Good for America

Declaring that nothing in a democracy “is more important than the education of the next generation of its citizens,” the CAPE pamphlet reports private school students score above the national average on standardized measures of “how well American youth are prepared to meet their citizenship responsibilities.”

As further evidence of the value of private schools to the country, the document notes not only that achievement gaps between minority and majority students are lower in private schools, but also that minority students in private schools are more than twice as likely as their counterparts in public schools to enter four-year colleges. The higher achievement levels for minority students make “private schools the nation’s greatest hope for boosting minority participation in society from boardroom to classroom.”

The brochure concludes that “the public applauds the accomplishments of private education,” citing research to support the claim. Indeed, the reality of, and public perception of, the quality of private schools lead to the document’s closing line: “Private education promotes the public good.”

Joe McTighe ([email protected]) is executive director of the Council for American Private Education (CAPE), a coalition of national associations serving private K-12 schools. This article was first published in the October 2004 issue of CAPE’s monthly newsletter, Outlook.

For more information …

visit CAPE’s Web site at

CAPE’s new brochure is available on the Web for free in HTML and PDF formats at Printed copies are available in bulk quantities at nominal cost through an online order form on the Web site.