Are Private Schools Worse Than Public Schools in DC?

With the school year rapidly drawing to a close, I thought I would focus this week’s letter on educational issues. Interestingly, The Economist magazine recently published an article that reviews the controversial federal DC Opportunity Scholarship Program last week. This program offers vouchers worth up to $12,000 towards tuition at a private school. In part, the article reads,

“In the past two years studies of Louisiana and Ohio have found that pupils using a voucher did worse on state tests than peers at public schools. A recent literature review concluded that “the effects of vouchers have been disappointing relative to early views on their promise”.

“On April 27th another study put the boot in. The Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the Department of Education, analyzed the results of children in Washington, DC’s scheme between 2012 and 2014. It found that, on average, pupils who attended private school had lower math scores at the end of their first year than those who did not.”

The article goes on to highlight a few of the other educational reforms that have touched the city, including the massive rise in Public Charter School enrollment. It even notes that (traditional) DC Public schools had largest gains on a national test than any other large city since 2011. The sharp-eyed among you will notice that not many students can attend schools of the caliber of Sidwell Friends with a $12,000 voucher.

Taken together, these reforms have done a lot to improve the educational prospects of students from many corners of the city. The availability of Public Charter Schools and the MySchoolDC lottery has given families options that they didn’t have only a few short years ago. In response to a Washington Post article, James Albright, the principal of the well-regarded Alice Deal Middle School in DC wrote in his weekly newsletter:

These are not the same schools as five or ten or twenty years ago – they are better. DCPS works harder on what it is trying to do – academically, culturally, structurally, with its leadership – than any other district I know about. The work is difficult – but it is slowly, slowly making a difference. Remember, there were lots of families (there still are) that wouldn’t have touched Deal with a 10-foot pole. Perspectives can change – if we are open.

Families who have confidence in their school options for their children feel that they can stay in the city longer. That, in turn, impacts the city’s housing inventory and economy and affects us all.

As a Realtor, I am not allowed to give clients my opinion on any particular school or school district. However, I can share resources such as or The National Center for Education Statistics to help prospective homebuyers make the best decision for their families.

Jennell Alexander
Jennell Alexander

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