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MSU Study: A Catholic school education may not be superior to a public school education

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio
(file photo)

A new Michigan State University study suggests a Catholic school education might not be better than a public schools education.

Todd Elder is an MSU economist. He says it's true that test scores for Catholic school students are better than for public school students. But Elder says that gap is wider in Kindergarten than it is in the eighth grade.

He says if a Catholic school education is better than a public school education that gap should grow, not narrow.

“The most important result of this paper is that the gap closes, which suggests that public schools are doing a good job of educating children … relative to Catholic schools,” says Elder.

Elder suggests two reasons why there is an achievement gap, and both can be found in the home, not the classroom.

“Kids who go to Catholic schools have parents that really care about education,” says Elder, “And having parents who really care about education is a very good predictor of future outcomes.”

Elder says Catholic school parents tend to have two more years of education than their public school counterparts.  According to Elder, Catholic school parents also tend to have higher incomes than public school parents. 

David Maluchnik with the Michigan Catholic Conference says it’s good to hear that public school students are improving, but "they’re still testing at least a grade behind Catholic schools in both math and reading performance by eighth grade.” 

Maluchnik agrees Catholic school children do have a better start in school.   

2011 NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress test)

  • Reading: Public 264, Catholic 283
  • Math: Public 283, Catholic 295
Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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