I am on a (painfully slow moving) think tank for the future of Catholic schools. Doing some research online for the effectiveness of Catholic schools I came across a bushel basket of articles commenting on a study about the effectiveness of private schools vs Catholic schools. It is interesting to note that, depending on what you want the research to say, you can make the study sound as though it backs you up.
For example, many articles sited that, correcting for other variables such as socioeconomical backgrounds, there is no difference between private and public schools. Time magazine would argue differently; that the study shows that it does make a difference.
But let us set that argument aside for a moment - even say that public and private schools would give the same student the same education for their background. Is reading, typing and arithmetic all that there is to education? What about forming the human person? Is this exactly the same in both instances?
One of the reasons parents choose private education is to avoid what they see as indoctrination of their children into a cultural outlook with which they do not agree - stewing them in the latest political correctness rather than a longer standing understanding of what it is to be a good citizen of the world. What some parents are looking for is more local control and flavor in a school rather than a system subject to policies that must be followed in all schools from rural to urban, from New York City to Wellington.
At a Catholic school it is possible to do things that are illegal in public schools. Pray. Go to Mass and confession. Learn about religious history. Celebrate religious art and music. Discuss topics such as virtue and sin. Hold students to a higher standard according to the path followed by saints who were scientists, artist, leaders, servants, rich and poor. A place where we don’t have to pretend that it is not Christmas or Easter.
I would like to say that any one of these things were the primary reason people choose our school, but it is not. In our school surveys, what turns out to be one of the greatest reasons people choose Catholic schools is safety. They feel more secure with their child in a private school.
Maybe it is because there is more freedom to curb behaviors in a private school and an ideal toward which we are always pointing our students. Maybe it is because the constant reinforcement (I hope) of duty, responsibility and charity rather than just rights and freedoms. Maybe, just maybe this is why since the 1920s there has only been one shooting in a Catholic school, in the 1970s at Gonzaga University where 4 people were injured. Maybe.
Is it just about grades? If it is, go to public school and save yourself a bundle. The cost of Catholic education is becoming untenable in many places because of everything they are expected to do (and it is NOT because the teachers are paid enough.) But if you value something else and that aligns with what is being exemplified in your local Catholic school, that education is priceless.