Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Do private school students score higher on the ACT?

Below is a chart reflecting the average ACT for local public and private schools.  For the purpose of this article I used mainly local schools.  To reflect a broader area, I included a couple schools from larger cities in the state of Missouri and one that is nearly-local in Arkansas.  For fun, I included a couple schools with a reputation for sending their students to Harvard and Yale.

School(s) ACT composite % Reporting # Grads
National average 20.9 54%
Missouri state average 21.6 74%
Greenwood Laboratory School 26.0 100% 36
New Covenant Academy 23.6 100% 29
Springfield Catholic High School 24.5 100% 81
Shiloh Christian School 25 100% 56
MICDS - St. Louis, MO 28.6 100%
Phillips Academy Andover - Andover, MA 30.2 100% 190
Phillips Exeter - Exeter, NH 29 100% 299
Pembroke Hill - Kansas City, MO 28-33 84%
Blue Eye public school 20.5 77.55% 49
Bradleyville public school 20.1 57.14% 28
Branson public school 22.4 64.60% 339
Clever public school
Forsyth public school 21.2 56.63% 83
Gainesville public school
59.09% 44
Galena public school 18.6 54.84% 31
Hollister public school 19.9
Hurley public school
Joplin public school 21.1 56.34% 481
Reeds Spring (public)
Spokane (public)
62.50% 32
Springfield (public) 22.2 65.14% 1655

I had the pleasure of talking with several admissions directors in the private schools reflected above.  Dr. Janice Duncan with Greenwood Laboratory is very proud of her Bright Flight rate -- a whopping 6%.  Delana Reynolds at New Covenant Academy is also proud of her students, with a Bright Flight rate of 3-6%.  Alicia Brown, the admissions director at Shiloh Christian School in Springdale, Arkansas, reported a Bright Flight rate of 20% for their Class of 2013!

What material does the ACT assess?

The ACT measures progress in at least four areas, and offers an optional writing test. 
  • English - standard written English and rhetorical skills
  • Math - math skills up through the beginning of grade 12
  • Reading comprehension
  • Science - interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem-solving
  • Optional writing test

Why are high ACT scores important?

  • The ACT is an important tool used by parents and teacher to evaluate the progress of individual student learning 
  • Tuition discounts at colleges are given to students on a graduated scale, based on ACT score
  • Scholarships
  • Students can gain admission to a competitive college 
  • Students scoring a 31+ are considered "Bright Flight" students and usually receive a full-ride scholarship to a university

Are ACT score averages a perfect way to compare schools?

No.  Most private schools require the ACT to be taken by all graduating seniors.  Their averages therefore include the full range of students.  Currently, only 21 states require public school seniors to take the exam, and Missouri is not one of them.  Therefore, the state average ACT score for Missouri is slightly higher than states which do make the test mandatory.  Public school students taking the ACT are typically college-bound students, and the average score does not reflect the full range of students in Missouri public schools.  Therefore, we can expect that if all students were tested on a mandatory basis that the state average would drop.  You can view every state's average ACT score, along with the percentage of students reporting, on
Furthermore, ACT scores do not reflect mastery of material not assessed by the test.  In other words, subjects such as foreign language, overseas cultural experience, religion, music, and fine arts may be courses provided by a school that are not assessed by the test.  Not all benefits of private school education are appreciated by the ACT.

That's all fine for the ACT, but does the same hold true for the SAT?

Yes.  According to the Total Group Profile Report by the College Board, the organization responsible for developing and issuing the SAT, private school students significantly outscored public school students.  Here is the score averages for year 2011.

Type of High School Critical Reading Math Writing
Public school students 494 506 483
Religiously affiliated private school 531 533 528
Non-religously affiliated private school 541 579 550
National average 497 514 489

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Public School vs. Private School Safety

     There have recently been some incidents of violence in our area with children being the victim of a public school employee.  As an unabashed advocate for private school education, I posted on my own Facebook profile "So sad to hear about what happened at Forsyth school. I am a big advocate of homeschooling and private schools. There are so many benefits, not limited to much higher ACT/SAT score averages from private school students vs. public school."  People were quick to defend the public school system as being no more likely than a private school to experience violent crime.  
    I disagree.  Let's just use private colleges vs. state schools as a comparison.  Would anyone be offended if I suggested that a smaller, private college was safer for students and faculty than a larger, state university?  Probably not.  They'd say I was arguing the status quo.  But when I suggest that private elementary and high schools are safer than public schools the hair on the back of their neck raises.  
    Statistics show that not only do private school students routinely score higher on achievement tests, earn more scholarships, and gain entrance to exclusive colleges and universities, but students at private schools feel safer and the campuses actually have less crime than do public schools.  The three big reasons parents enroll their children in private school are usually come down to academics, safety, or religion.  This article will focus on the second reason, "safety."
    The National Center for Education Statistics is the resource for all statistics related to education, regardless of whether that education is public, private, or independent.  Their publication "Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2012" provides to the public statistics relating to crime in schools.  The document has 211 pages, but here is a quick summary of some of the statistics comparing private vs. public schools.  

National Center for Education Statistics Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2012 Public Private
Students reported being victimized 4% 2%
Students reported gangs present in their school 19% 2%
Students reported theft 3% 1%
Teachers reported being threatened with injury 8% 3%
Teachers reported being physically attacked 4% 2%
Students reported being called a hate-related word 9% 7%
Students reported seeing hate-related graffiti 30% 13%
Students reported bullying 28% 21%
Students reported being afraid of attack or harm 4% 2%

    Our reasons for choosing private school did not fall under the category of safety, but I cannot dispute clear statistics.  Why do private schools have less crime?  Perhaps it is because private schools usually have fewer students than public schools, which makes it easier to supervise the school population.  Lower student-teacher ratios create greater accountability on campus.  In addition, if the mission statement of the school includes ministry - as would be the case with a Catholic or Christian private school - the staff is far more likely to exhibit a strong faith in their private life as well as professionally.
    As always, I urge parents to very carefully examine the goals of their children and give great consideration as to where their children are educated.
    Furthermore, do not allow tuition to be a barrier to your child receiving a private-school education.  There is tuition-free private school education available at School of the Ozarks in Hollister, Missouri.  Tuition assistance is available at several private schools in Springfield.  If you are interested in private school, talk with the admissions officer about what you can afford.  Most genuinely care about students and their families and want to help as much as possible.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Caught in the Middle - Regina Jennings

I have loved every book from Regina Jennings, but Caught in the Middle is so far the very best!  I couldn't get enough of the story and was sad to see myself reaching the end.  Regina Jennings is not one to write the expected, so the ending caught me by surprise.
The story is about main character Anne Tillerton, the crazy lady from the previous two books in the series, Ladies of Caldwell County.  Ms. Jennings couldn't have chosen better.  This main character is a star, and her story just begs telling.
The only critique I have is that the cover art didn't grab me.  The colors seemed a little off for her skin tone and the image was overall a little unclear.  
Bottom line - the book was fascinating.  In fact, it was the best book I have read in several months.  I couldn't put it down.  Every time I picked it up I had to make sure everything was right (my favorite hot tea, the kids asleep, etc!) because I didn't want to waste a second reading this distracted.