Discussion & Conclusions

Originally, I sought to answer the basic question, which type of secondary education is better than the other? Quickly I found that published test results, facts, and figures all seem to point in favor of private education over public. The question immediately became more complex. This simple answer was not the one I was looking for neither was I convinced of its truth. There are a myriad of factors that contribute to the nuances of this question. While many sources boast higher test scores for students enrolled in private school, there are plenty of variables that contribute to this figure, other than the conclusion that these schools must be better. Are there real advantages to attending either type of school? Are there perceived advantages that are made real by an increase in confidence, mindset, or worldview that are associated with one type or the other? The answer is yes on both accounts; there are real and perceived advantages of attending either type of school.

The small sample size of the survey I conducted at Notre Dame only lends itself to tentative conclusions. Regardless, the data allows one to make interesting inferences on the question on Public and Private schooling. Even though a larger sample size would most probably produce more average data, it was interesting that the majority of the survey respondents hailed from private schools. To look into this result further, I spoke with a director of admissions on campus. Our meeting did not result in my securing of any additional data; consequently I prefer to keep his identity anonymous. Our conversation did however point me in a new and fruitful direction in regard to my research question.

My initial goal in meeting with admissions was to gain access to a list of schools that see the greatest number of admitted students to Notre Dame. Considering that Notre Dame is a prestigious University in the United States, I thought that if an above average (11%) percentage of private schools was featured on this list, it would suggest an advantage of attending a private school in terms of college admissions to top 25 universities. I was advised that the only relation between the numbers of admitted students from a particular school is the number of applications that Notre Dame receives. Notre Dame, being a Catholic institution, would have data that would most probably lead to false positives in favor of private schools, a category that includes catholic secondary schools. This aspect of the data I was searching for made me more aware of possible complications that exist on this subject. As a result I became more careful, purposeful and attentive in drawing conclusions, being careful to qualify my suggestions. More importantly I was informed of data supplied by the College Board that correlates family income to test scores. This path lent itself to further research and produced meaningful results.

Research gave rise to further complications and intricacies regarding the question. However, there are general trends that can be extrapolated from the copious amounts of data available on the subject. In reality, the higher test scores observed by students in private schools is a product, in part, by the segment of the population that attends private school. These individuals are geared towards college. My survey of ND students showed that private schooled students are more influenced towards academic success by their parents and they are also highly motivated themselves (although not appreciably more motivated than public school students). Other data suggest that on average, private schooled students come from wealthier families. This means, on average, their parents have received higher education. This means their families will be more academically oriented and the cycle propagates. This trend is not entirely exclusive to students in private schools. A family with highly educated parents who place an emphasis on education will usually produce children who are more focused on school in any situation. The socioeconomic factor underlying the issue of academic success begins to surface.

Concurrently, the results of the ND survey showed that every student attending was a particularly strong student and most thought that the school they attended offered plenty of opportunity and the facilities were adequate, despite which type of school they attended. The question becomes more about "which" public school one attends than "whether" one attended private or public. Some of the articles featured in this website demonstrate that public schools are just as capable if not more successful in educating students. There are plenty of articles that exist speaking to the strengths of public schools over private schools. Also, the question becomes more about the individual student than the school as a whole. Public schools will inherently send less of a percentage of their students to college than private schools, but will end up sending a far greater number in total

The crux of the issue exists here, better socioeconomic standings, increase the opportunity for success. Whether this pans out in your attendance of a private school, or the fact that your school system is supported by a wealthy tax base and could rival any private school, socioeconomic origins make contributions. These contributions are not the sole factor regarding this question. Again, while the respondent base was limited in the ND survey, every student who responded showed high levels of motivation. These students were also towards the top of their class and took advantage of their opportunities in secondary school, whether private or public. This aspect of the survey also takes the focus away from the school a student attended and places it on the individual.

Every respondent to the ND survey responded with legitimate advantages as well as disadvantages of attending the schools they did, whether private or public. These advantages and disadvantages concerned facilities, faculties, diversity, experiences, athletics, independence, academics, curriculum, etc.The responses elicited by the survey regarding these advantages and disadvantages can be substantiated by articles in favor of both types of school. This observation again removes the focus from the school and trains it on the student. I arrive at the conclusion that the most important factor is the natural academic faculty of the individual student, combined with a solid work-ethic, self-motivation as well as encouragement from parental units and exposure to a general atmosphere of scholarly cultivation that when applied to either a Private or Public education is only helped along by a higher socioeconomic standing.