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Is There a Net Advantage of Private Schools?
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  1. Is There a Net Advantage of Private Schools? Timothy Lum Department of Sociology University of Washington UWBHS Conference October 19th, 2007

  2. Research Question • Are private schools really better at sending students to college because of school quality or because of the students they admit?

  3. Background • Education is the major avenue of opportunity in the United States • Then, improvement of schools is major policy goal • But what are good schools? • Most research has shown that home environment is more influential

  4. Research on School Effects • Students in private schools • Better test scores and are more likely to go to college, net of family SES • But questions remain: • Selectivity of students • Private school mechanisms • Teaching • Peers • Discipline

  5. Self Selection

  6. Data • UWBHS 2003 - 2005 student responses including follow-up survey • Only public and private schools that were included in the 2003 survey • Alternative schools not included • Final sample - 7,163 • Follow-up sample - 6,668 • 13 percent in private schools

  7. Educational Outcomes • Ambitional • “How far would you like to go…” • “Realistically…how far do you think…” • “Do you plan to go on to college…this fall” • Behavioral • Actual enrollment at any college or a four-year college

  8. Educational Outcomes

  9. Educational Outcomes

  10. Variables Used in Analysis • Self-Selection • Family background variables • Family motivation • Demographics • School Quality • Teaching quality • School environment • Peer effects and motivation

  11. Findings • Private school attendance makes a difference • Despite controlling for self selection • Inspite of differences in student’s perceptions of school quality • Let’s examine the relative odds ratio of the private school indicator…

  12. Odds Ratio of Private School Attendance

  13. Findings • As the reality of the ambition increases, the influence of family socioeconomic background and selection variables increases with it

  14. Odds Ratio of Private School Attendance

  15. Findings • As the reality of the ambition increases, the influence of family socioeconomic background and selection variables increases with it • Transitioning between ambitions and behavior, family socioeconomic status becomes the major explanation

  16. Findings • Only one consistently significant “quality” variable - Peer motivation • Peer motivation and influences have the single largest effect on college ambitions and attendance • Could be classified as both a selection and quality variable - unsure of the true source of influence

  17. Conclusion • Selection is a very important factor in determining the differences between public and private schools - much more so than school quality variables • Peer influence and motivation for college is the single most important factor • These findings reinforce the previous research done since the 1960s

  18. Conclusion • Some other aspects of private schools unexplained in this study… both unmeasured self-selection and unmeasured school quality • Future research • Origin of peer selection - parental or individual • Need to control for some aspect of previous ability and whether it was used in the selection process for schools

  19. Questions?