Saturday, July 15, 2006

This Week's Friday News Dump

From the government. It's a study which compares the performance of public and private schools in the United States. The reason why the results of this study would be dumped on Friday, so as to escape notice, is this bit:

The Education Department reported on Friday that children in public schools generally performed as well or better in reading and mathematics than comparable children in private schools. The exception was in eighth-grade reading, where the private school counterparts fared better.

The report, which compared fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math scores in 2003 from nearly 7,000 public schools and more than 530 private schools, also found that conservative Christian schools lagged significantly behind public schools on eighth-grade math.

These results apply once the study standardized for the students' economic and demographic characteristics.

The article also points out the trouble the authorities took to downplay the findings:

The study, carrying the imprimatur of the National Center for Education Statistics, part of the Education Department, was contracted to the Educational Testing Service and delivered to the department last year.

It went through a lengthy peer review and includes an extended section of caveats about its limitations and calling such a comparison of public and private schools "of modest utility."

Its release, on a summer Friday, was made with without a news conference or comment from Education Secretary Margaret Spellings.

Reg Weaver, president of the National Education Association, the union for millions of teachers, said the findings showed that public schools were "doing an outstanding job" and that if the results had been favorable to private schools, "there would have been press conferences and glowing statements about private schools."

"The administration has been giving public schools a beating since the beginning" to advance his political agenda, Mr. Weaver said, of promoting charter schools and taxpayer-financed vouchers for private schools as alternatives to failing traditional public schools.

A spokesman for the Education Department, Chad Colby, offered no praise for public schools and said he did not expect the findings to influence policy. Mr. Colby emphasized the caveat, "An overall comparison of the two types of schools is of modest utility."

"We're not just for public schools or private schools,'' he said. "We're for good schools."

Of course it is true that a comparison of public and private schools in general is of limited usefulness. But just think of how the findings would have been touted had they turned out to go the other way: Private schools beat rotten public schools! Conservative Christian schools the best of all!

Make sure to mention this study to at least one other person this weekend. That way the Friday dump will not work to stuff it down the Memory Hole.