Comparative Statistics Needed to Assess Private Schools

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By Jay Mathews
Thursday, February 21, 2008

Dear Extra Credit:

Regarding your Jan. 31 column ["Kindergarten This Year, or Next?"], the greater Washington area is fortunate to have some of the strongest schools in the country -- public, independent and private. I disagree with your assertion that there is no "useful data" to help with decisions about the various non-public-school options.

There are plenty of data for parents looking to make a best match placement for a child, whether the primary goal is strictly academic rigor or a more multifaceted perspective.

What is not available is a quick yardstick, such as aggregate test scores, to indicate what will lead to a child's optimum academic achievement and well-being. To identify the best school, parents should consider all sorts of data, including high-quality teachers, low student-to-teacher ratios, an ethos of academic challenge for all students, a partnership with parents and a climate that nurtures and supports achievement.

Quick-and-easy presumptions and off-the-cuff judgments without familiarity with a particular school is no way to seriously assess what is best for a child.

Elizabeth Downes

Executive director,

Association of Independent

Schools of Greater Washington

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