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Student Achievement in Private Schools: Results From NAEP 2000–2005

December 2005

Authors: Marianne Perie, Alan Vanneman, and Arnold Goldstein

PDF Download the complete report in a PDF file for viewing and printing. (528K PDF)


Executive Summary

Image from the executive summary of the NAEP Private School report which shows two boys in school looking through a microscope.

This report is the first to focus on private school students’ performance on NAEP assessments. It provides results in reading, mathematics, science, and writing in 2000, 2002, 2003, and 2005. Specifically, it focuses on the three private school types that combined enroll the greatest proportion of private school students (Catholic, Lutheran, and Conservative Christian) as well as private schools overall. It also compares the performance of students in these schools to that of public school students to provide additional perspective.

Comparing student performance among the three types of private schools highlights several differences at grades 4 and 8 and a few at grade 12. Among the three types of private schools, few significant differences in performance were found at grade 12. The exceptions were that in 2000, the average score in science for grade 12 students in Catholic schools was 6 points higher than for students in Lutheran schools, and that in the 2000 mathematics assessment, a higher percentage of twelfth-graders in Catholic schools performed at or above Proficient than twelfth-graders in Conservative Christian schools. Where differences existed at grades 4 and 8, students in Lutheran schools generally outperformed those in Conservative Christian schools. In some grade/subject combinations, Lutheran school students outperformed Catholic school students, and Catholic school students outperformed Conservative Christian school students.

Students in Lutheran schools outperformed students in Conservative Christian schools in some instances in grades 4 and 8.

Students at grades 4, 8, and 12 in all categories of private schools had higher average scores in reading, mathematics, science, and writing than their counterparts in public schools. In addition, higher percentages of students in private schools performed at or above Proficient compared to those in public schools.

Average scores in mathematics at grades 4 and 8 increased between 2000 and 2003 for both public and private schools overall. Students in Catholic schools also had higher average mathematics scores in 2003 than in 2000 in both grades.

The three types of private schools have few differences in their student demographics, except that Catholic schools generally enroll a greater proportion of Hispanic students than Lutheran schools. In general, private schools enroll a higher proportion of White students than public schools, while public schools have a higher proportion of Black and Hispanic students. Private schools also enroll a smaller proportion of students with disabilities, English language learners, and students eligible for free or reduced-price school lunch.

Private schools generally enroll a smaller proportion of Black and Hispanic students than public schools.

Black and Hispanic fourth-graders in all private schools combined had higher average mathematics scores in 2003 than in 2000. However, no significant differences in scores were found across the same time period for Black and Hispanic private school students in grade 4 reading or grade 8 mathematics.

A word of caution is needed: The data in this report provide a summary of the performance of students in public and private schools. The number of assessed students in some types of private schools is small, so it is not always feasible to make statistically meaningful comparisons between the performance of public school students and students in particular types of private schools. Factors not reported here, such as admission policies and parental involvement, can also influence student achievement.


PDF Download the complete report in a PDF file for viewing and printing. (528K PDF)

NCES 2006-459 Ordering information

Suggested Citation
Perie, M., Vanneman, A., and Goldstein, A. (2005). Student Achievement in Private Schools: Results From NAEP 2000–2005 (2006-459). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.


Last updated 06 December 2005 (RH)

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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education