Out of Control Policy Blog

Free to Teach: What America's Teachers Say About Teaching in Public and Private Schools

Using data from the U.S. Department of Education's large-scale School and Staffing Survey, a new study by, The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, offers rare insight into the working conditions and attitudes of teachers in public and private schools. Bottom line: teachers in private schools fare better on a number of indicators. Here is a sample of a few of the differences from the study's executive summary:

  • Private school teachers are much more likely to say they will
    continue teaching as long as they are able (62 percent v. 44
    percent), while public school teachers are much more likely
    to say they’ll leave teaching as soon as they are eligible for
    retirement (33 percent v. 12 percent) and that they would immediately
    leave teaching if a higher paying job were available
    (20 percent v. 12 percent).
  • Private school teachers are much more likely to have a great
    deal of control over selection of textbooks and instructional
    materials (53 percent v. 32 percent) and content, topics, and
    skills to be taught (60 percent v. 36 percent).
  • Private school teachers are much more likely to have a great
    deal of influence on performance standards for students (40
    percent v. 18 percent), curriculum (47 percent v. 22 percent),
    and discipline policy (25 percent v. 13 percent).
  • Public school teachers are much more likely to report
    that student misbehavior (37 percent v. 21 percent) or
    tardiness and class cutting (33 percent v. 17 percent) disrupt
    their classes, and are four times more likely to say
    student violence is a problem on at least a monthly basis
    (48 percent v. 12 percent).
  • Private school teachers are much more likely to strongly
    agree that they have all the textbooks and supplies they need
    (67 percent v. 41 percent).
  • Private school teachers are more likely to agree that they get
    all the support they need to teach special needs students (72
    percent v. 64 percent).
  • Seven out of ten private school teachers report that student racial
    tension never happens at their schools, compared to fewer
    than half of public school teachers (72 percent v. 43 percent).
  • Although salaries are higher in public schools, private school
    teachers are more likely to be satisfied with their salaries (51
    percent v. 46 percent).
  • Measurements of teacher workload (class sizes, hours
    worked, and hours teaching) are similar in public and private
    schools.

Lisa Snell is Director of Education


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