CAPE | Council for American Private Education

Council for American Private Education


National Summit Shines Spotlight on School Reform

Young Lady

December 2, 2014 -- It’s tough to bring an audience of no-nonsense businesspeople, policy advocates, and legislators to tears, but that’s exactly what Denisha Merriweather managed to do last month with an inspiring story of triumph over adversity.

Denisha beat the odds. During moving remarks at the 2014 National Summit on Education Reform, she recounted a life of challenge: born into poverty, disruptive in class, held back twice, and hating school. Her likely path was that of so many similar students: dropping out, having a baby, and spending the rest of her life “trying to make ends meet.”

But a caring godmother, Florida’s tax credit scholarship program, and Esprit de Corps Center for Learning in Jacksonville “changed everything,” said Denisha. “The teachers there challenged me to make the honor roll, and I embraced that challenge. The school’s small size and faith-based environment made me feel welcome. For the first time in my life, I woke up in the morning looking forward to school.”

Find out more about Denisha's inspiring story in the December issue of CAPE Outlook.

Also in Outlook:

  • Parents Make Strides in Midterm Elections
  • 400 Issues and 40 Years of Outlook
  • Child Care and Development Block Grant Reauthorization Signed into Law
  • National Distinguished Principals Named
  • And Much More...

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Private School Students Boost National SAT Scores

November 3, 2014 -- The headlines in early October captured some of the story:  “2014 SAT Scores Remain Stagnant,” “Student Performance Stalls on SAT.”  They reflected what the College Board itself reported:  SAT scores for the 2014 crop of high school graduates were stubbornly stuck at levels “similar to other recent senior classes.”

But the fixation on stagnation largely ignored another important element of the story:  scores varied significantly by the type of school students attended.  It turns out that students who graduated from religious and independent schools had scores that substantially outdistanced those of students in public schools and actually helped lift the national average.  Mean SAT scores for public school seniors were 492 in reading, 478 in writing, and 501 in math.  Comparable scores for students in independent schools were 535, 542, and 580.  Meanwhile, students in religious schools scored 533, 527, and 537 (see table).

Find out more about how private school students did on the SATs in the November issue of CAPE Outlook.

Also in Outlook:

  • New Webinar Helps Schools Develop Their Value Narratives
  • Satellite Broadcast Delivers Professional Development
  • Private Schools Heal Divisions
  • School Starter Checklist
  • Court Upholds Textbook Aid

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Private Education: The Next 10 Years

CAPE Panel

October 1, 2014 -- Given the rapid and radical changes that have affected private education in the past decade, predicting the future of religious and independent schools would seem to be risky business.  Nevertheless, several leaders of private education recently took that risk during a panel discussion at the National Private School Leadership Conference, sponsored by the Office of Non-Public Education (ONPE) at the U.S. Department of Education on September 22.

Peppered with questions by ONPE Director Maureen Dowling, four panelists, including three members of CAPE’s board of directors, offered observations about the daunting challenges private schools face and the opportunities they have to continue to influence students, their communities, and the country. 

The three panelists from CAPE member organizations are pictured above from left to right:  Sr. John Mary Fleming, executive director of the Secretariat of Catholic Education at the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Rabbi David Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, and Drew Smith, executive director of the Friends Council on Education.

Find out what that panelists had to say in the October issue of CAPE Outlook.

Also in Outlook:

  • Child Care Agreement Reached in Congress
  • Common Ideas and Sharp Differences on Teaching Children
  • Teens Talk Choice
  • 2014 Blue Ribbon Schools Named

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Surveys Look at Working Conditions of Principals


September 2, 2014 -- Two related federal surveys of school administrators offer fresh insight into the working conditions that principals face on a day-to-day basis.

One survey shows that principals in private schools report far fewer instances than public school principals of physical conflict among students, bullying, and acts of disrespect against teachers.

Discover a host of other interesting findings from the surveys in the September issue of CAPE Outlook.

Also in Outlook:

  • A Sobering Take on Charters and Choice
  • Surprises in Data on Housing and Schooling
  • Americans Grade Private Schools
  • Living Free in New Hampshire
  • Where Do International Students Go to School?
  • And Much More

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Summit Centers on Breaking Down Barriers to Choice

Valencia Lynch

June 2, 2014 -- Students, celebrities, and school choice leaders from across the country came to Kissimmee, Florida, last month for the fifth annual policy summit of the American Federation for Children. The event, whose theme was “Breaking Down Barriers to Choice,” featured an impressive roster of inspiring speakers—some well-known and some little-known.

Put Valencia Lynch (pictured right) in the latter category. She delivered emotional and powerful first-hand testimony about the transformative power of school choice. Through the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, Valencia attended a religious school in the city, which she described as “an avenue for the expansion” of opportunities in her life. Her mother saw the school as a place where Valencia could enrich her faith, be “academically challenged,” and receive “the very best tools and guidance to reach the stars.”

Find out more about Valencia's story and what Arthur Brooks (AEI President), Bobby Jindal (Louisiana governor), and Campbell Brown(award-winning journalist) have to say about school choice in the June issue of CAPE Outlook.

Also in Outlook:

  • Public Rules on Private Schools: Measuring the Regulatory Impact of State
    Statutes and School Choice Programs
  • What "The Condition of Education" Says About Private Schools
  • Hall of Famer Deion Sanders Promotes Choice on Morning Joe
  • Lots of Private School Students in the 2014 Crop of Presidential Scholars
  • NYC Mayor Speaks at Agudath Israel's Anniversary Gala
  • And Much More

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Jill Biden Helps Celebrate 325 Years of Friends Education


May 1, 2014 -- In 1689, William Penn established a school in Philadelphia “at the request, cost, and charges of the people called Quakers.” Three hundred twenty-five years later, on April 24, 2014, the “people called Quakers” celebrated the birth and growth of Friends education in the United States at the historic Arch Street Meeting House in Philadelphia.

Dr. Darryl J. Ford (left in photo), clerk of the Friends Council on Education, which sponsored the event, and current head of William Penn Charter School, the same school that Penn established and the oldest Quaker school in the world, chaired the festivities and served as a symbolic and unmistakable link between past and present.

Second Lady Jill Biden (center) offered moving testimony on the influence of Friends education on her own family. She said teachers at Wilmington Friends School in Delaware, which her two sons and daughter attended, saw “that of God in every child,” and “worked hard and consciously” to make students feel valued. “The school’s kindness and support was the glue that really helped cement us together,” she said. “The environment was safe and nurturing. The dedicated staff interacted wonderfully with students and parents.” The school “made a big difference for our family.”

Irene McHenry (right), executive director of the Friends Council since 2001 and immediate past president of CAPE, spoke about how Quaker education weaves key values into daily life and engenders in students a sense of awe and wonder about the world.

Read more of Dr. Biden's comments in the May issue of CAPE Outlook.

Also in Outlook:

  • Taking the Life of the Soul Seriously: What Schools Teach Us About Religious Life
  • What Happens When Charter Schools Fill the Space of Religious Schools?
  • Choice-apalooza
  • Jewish Schools Ascend in NYC
  • Green Ribbon Schools
  • And Much More

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Senate Affirms Parental Choice in Child Care Bill

Child Care Affirmed

April 2, 2014 -- The U. S. Senate last month reaffirmed the right of parents to choose the child care program that best meets their child’s needs when it approved S. 1086, a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program, which, since the 1990s, has helped low-income families pay for child care, whether in public, private, or religious settings. The vote, which took place March 13, was 96 to 2.

The bill included language proposed by the CAPE community that affirms the use of child care certificates, which are provided directly to parents for use in whatever program best suits their child:  faith-based, Montessori, Waldorf, or any other public or private program.
CAPE’s new issue paper on childhood development states that legislation promoting early education “should support the right of parents to choose from a range of programs, including explicitly religious programs.”

Find out more in the April issue of CAPE Outlook.

Also in Outlook:

  • Congressional School Choice Caucus Conducts Inaugural Meeting
  • RealClear Education Launch Covers Pressing Ed Issues
  • CAPE Community Weighs in on Preschool Grants
  • AZ Savings Account Program Upheld
  • AFC Summit Set for May
  • And Much More

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Early Education Policy Poses Key Question for Legislators

Early Ed

March 3, 2014 --Pre-K by conscription or choice?  That’s how John Coons, professor of law, emeritus, at the University of California at Berkeley, frames a central question in the current debate about early education policy.  Will parents be told by the government where to enroll their four-year-olds, or will they have a genuine choice of providers? 

The question, writes Coons in a recent essay, dates back at least to Plato, who thought newborns in his ideal city should be stripped from their parents and subjected to the full-time care of specialists.

Coons reminds us that when it comes to post-K education in the United States, wealthy families get to select their child’s school, but “for the less fortunate family, it is difficult or impossible to avoid their child’s conscription for seven hours, five days a week” in a school designated by the government.

Policymakers now have to decide the extent to which the Platonic vision will influence pre-K policy, he writes.  Will “lower-income families be subsidized in order to make their own choices among public, private, and religious providers”? Or will “pre-K school be designed as the government strong-arm long familiar to post-K families, especially those forced into public schools in the cities”?

The issue is currently playing out in the U.S. Congress. 

Find out more in the March issue of CAPE Outlook.

Also in Outlook:

  • One State Considers Early Ed Scholarships
  • Another State Moves Towards Education Savings Accounts
  • Private School Students at White House Film Festival
  • Icy Weather Video Goes Viral
  • Student Writes Amicus Brief
  • And Much More

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Private School Students More Likely to Attain College Degrees



February 3, 2014 --With a college degree widely regarded as a ticket to success in life, it turns out that students attending private high schools are significantly more likely than other students to attain one.

According to a report released in January by the National Center for Education Statistics, tenth-graders in private high schools in 2002 were nearly twice as likely as their public school counterparts to receive a bachelor’s degree or higher by 2012. In turn, degree recipients were ultimately more successful in securing a job and realizing higher earnings—considerable consolation in an economy scarred by persistently high levels of unemployment.

Find out more in the February issue of CAPE Outlook.

Also in Outlook:

  • Senators Unveil School Choice Legislation
  • 5,500 Events Mark National School Choice Week
  • Video Guide Covers the Essence of Montessori Education
  • The ABCs of School Choice
  • And much more

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The Private School Advantage for Teachers

January 6, 2014 --Contentment with one’s career is a blessing to be cherished.  Not everyone enjoys their job, but those who do seem to sense that they’re “at home,” fulfilling what they are called to do in a setting that feels right.  Working conditions contribute a lot to such contentment.  If one feels supported, affirmed, and appreciated, and perceives the workplace as pleasant, the contentment factor grows.

New data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) show some significant differences in job satisfaction and perceived working conditions between teachers in private schools and their counterparts in public schools.  Despite earning lower salaries, teachers in private schools are more satisfied with their careers, feel more recognized and supported, and are less stressed about their job setting than teachers in public schools. They also report lower rates of problematic student behavior.

Find out more in the January issue of CAPE Outlook.

Also in Outlook:

  • DC CAPE Overcomes Odds to Secure Equity for Students
  • Episcopal Urban Schools Offer Excellence and Love
  • Future Sotomayors
  • NBA Superstar Talks about His Montessori Education
  • Stats on Pre-K Enrollment in the U.S.A.
  • And much more

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Survey Identifies Reasons Parents Choose Private Schools

Friedman Image

December 2, 2013 -- Consider it a reason to press the pause button in the push to judge schools solely by test scores. A new survey of parents shows that assessment results are not even among the top ten reasons why families choose private schools.

Released last month by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, the survey of parents participating in the Georgia GOAL Scholarship Program found, “Student performance on standardized test scores is one of the least important pieces of information upon which parents base their decision regarding the private school to which they send their children.”

According to the report, more than 85 percent of parents said they chose a private school for a “better learning environment” for their child, whereas 81.3 percent said the choice was made for a “better education.” The next two most common responses were “smaller class sizes” (80.5 percent) and “more individual attention for my child” (76.4 percent). Other reasons cited by a majority of parents were “religious education” (64.1 percent), “better preparation for college” (62.9 percent), “better student discipline” (61.7 percent), “more responsive teachers and administrators” (60.3 percent), and “improved student safety” (52.9 percent).”

“Higher standardized test scores” was the 15th highest-rated reason, with only 34.6 percent of respondents listing it at all, and only 10.2 percent listing it among their top five reasons.

Find out more in the December issue of CAPE Outlook.

Also in Outlook:

  • NAEP Report Cards in Math and Reading
  • Private School Ad Campaign Captures Public Attention
  • Religious Schools: Proud History, Perilous Future
  • Secretary Duncan's Advice for Private Schools
  • Stop Requiring Choice Programs to Take State Tests
  • And much more

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NAEP Report Cards in Math and Reading Released

NAEP Reading


November 7, 2013 -- Students in religious and independent schools showed a substantial performance advantage over students in government schools, according to the latest report cards in math and reading from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

The average reading scale score for eighth-graders attending private schools (285) was 19 points higher than the overall score for students attending public schools (266). Ten points on the 500-point scale is roughly equal to one grade level. In fourth grade, the public/private difference in reading was 14 points (235 vs. 221).

In math, the private school advantage was 12 points in grade 8 (296/284) and 5 points in grade 4 (246/241).

The report also presents results as percentages of students meeting various achievement levels. As the accompanying graphs and tables demonstrate, a significantly higher percentage of private school students scored at or above the basic, proficient, and advanced levels than public school students. According to the report, "Students performing at or above the Proficient level on NAEP assessments demonstrate solid academic performance and competency over challenging subject matter."

NAEP 2013 Reading Report Card

Percentage of Students in Public and Private Schools at or Above Various Achievement Levels
Grade 4
  Private Public
Basic 82 67
Proficient 49 34
Advanced 14 8
Grade 8
  Private Public
Basic 91 77
Proficient 57 34
Advanced 10 4

NAEP 2013 Math Report Card

Percentage of Students in Public and Private Schools at or Above Various Achievement Levels
Grade 4
  Private Public
Basic 87 82
Proficient 48 41
Advanced 9 8
Grade 8
  Private Public
Basic 83 73
Proficient 47 34
Advanced 14 8
Related Links:


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Parents Satisfied with Schools, Teachers, and Standards

Parent Satisfaction

November 1, 2013 -- A central premise of the school choice movement is that parents know what’s best for their children. When they have a choice, parents tend to select schools that match their expectations of what a school should be. Making that match is a source of satisfaction.

A new report from the National Center for Education Statistics confirms the fact that parents who choose their child’s school are indeed more satisfied with the school and its various characteristics than parents who are assigned a school by the government. Looking at data from the National Household Education Surveys Program of 2012 (NHES:2012), the report centers on parent and family involvement in education.

Parents of 80 percent of students enrolled in a religious private school in 2011-12 and 82 percent of students in other private schools reported being “very satisfied” with their child’s school, compared to the parents of 56 percent of students in public schools to which their children were assigned and 62 percent of students in public schools that parents chose (e.g., charter schools and magnet schools). Higher percentages of private school parents than public school parents were also very satisfied with the teachers their children had and with the academic standards of the school (see table).

Find out more about the study in the November Outlook.

Also in Outlook:

  • Collaborating with Charter Schools
  • New Report: Aspirations, Courses, and Performance Differ by School
  • CAPE Adds New Member and Two State Affiliates
  • 100% of Participants Satisfied with Government Program
  • Blue Ribbon Application to Be Released Soon
  • And much more


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Students Exceed SAT Benchmark and Lift National Average

SAT Benchmarks

SAT Scores

October 2, 2013 -- Average SAT scores for 2013 graduates from religious and independent schools significantly exceeded the SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark, a combined score of 1550 on three SAT tests (critical reading, writing, and mathematics) that is associated with success in college.

For college-bound seniors in independent schools across the nation, the combined average SAT score was 1662 (112 points above the benchmark) while the average for religious school students was 1595 (45 points above the benchmark).  Public school students scored 1474, 76 points shy of the standard.

In each of the subjects tested, SAT scores for college-bound seniors in religious and independent schools were significantly higher than the national average, actually helping to boost the average.  Mean SAT scores for students in public schools were 491 in reading, 480 in writing, and 503 in math, while comparable scores for students in religious schools were 531, 528, and 536.  Students in independent schools scored 536, 545, and 581.

Among SAT class of 2013 students for whom a high school is known, 9.4 percent attended a religiously affiliated school, 6.4 percent attended an independent school, and 84 percent attended a public school.

Find out more in the October Outlook.

Also in Outlook:

  • Blue Ribbon Schools Named for 2013
  • U.S. Dept. of Education Holds Conference for Private School Leaders
  • Firestorm Over Louisiana Lawsuit
  • And much more

For more SAT information:

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National Blue Ribbon Schools Named

BRS Logo

September 24, 2013 -- U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced today the names of 286 schools identified by the U.S. Department of Education as the National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2013.

Schools were selected either because their standardized test scores in reading and math placed them among the top-performing schools in the nation or state, or because they served disadvantaged students and made extraordinary progress in improving performance.

Fifty private schools were among the awardees this year. Each state’s commissioner of education nominates public schools for the award, and CAPE nominates private schools. All winning schools will be honored at an awards ceremony November 18-19 in Washington, D.C.

“Excellence in education matters, and we should honor the schools that are leading the way to prepare students for success in college and careers," said Secretary Duncan. "National Blue Ribbon Schools represent examples of educational excellence, and their work reflects the belief that every child in America deserves a world-class education."

For more information:

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Federal Surveys Provide Picture of Private Schools

Graduation Rates

September 3, 2013 -- Reports released this summer on two federal surveys provide, from an array of angles, a penetrating look at the state of private education in the United States.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in August released selected findings from the 2011-12 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), a nationally representative survey of public and private school principals and teachers.

The survey offers a rich assortment of information about schools, the people who run them, and the students who attend them. It turns out, for example, that 64 percent of graduates from all private high schools and 81 percent of graduates from Catholic high schools go on to a four-year college. The same is true for 40 percent of graduates from traditional public schools and 37 percent of graduates from public charter schools.

Read more about SASS as well as the Private School Universe Survey (PSS), a comprehensive count of the number of private schools, students, and teachers in the United States, in the September issue of CAPE Outlook.

Also in the September Outlook:

  • Two New Polls on What Parents Think of Schools
  • Justice Department Sues Louisiana Over Voucher Program
  • New Jersey Set to Elect School Choice Senator
  • And much more

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A Dream Denied

I Have a Dream

August 29, 2013 -- What would Dr. King say today--fifty years after his “I Have a Dream” speech--about the education of black children in America? Dr. Vernard T. Gant, director of Urban School Services with the Association of Christian Schools International, a member of CAPE, offers a brilliant speculation. His essay is well worth the read.

“A quality education is a purchased commodity,” writes Gant.  “It can be purchased either by paying tuition to private schools, or by paying higher mortgages and property taxes in neighborhoods with high-performing public schools.”  But low-income families, who don’t have the purchasing power to secure a quality school, are forced to accept whatever is offered in their neighborhood public school, no matter what the quality.  “To compound matters, they are often told, from the public’s standpoint, that they should never have a choice because if they did, it would financially cripple the public school system.”  In other words, “the important thing is not the best interest or well-being of the child, but the best interest and well-being of the system.”

Gant suggests a remedy for the “educational injustice” facing families who are “systematically denied” a quality educatio. “Children who are now bound to schools that are not working for them need to be set free to find and attend schools that do.”

"It’s now time for this great nation, which values and identifies itself as the land of the free and the home of the brave, to do the brave thing--and the right thing," writes Gant. "It’s time to set these children free. Let them pursue an education that will truly afford them the opportunity to dream and to realize the American dream."

Read Gant’s entire essay here.

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National Summit Spotlights School Choice


June 3, 2013 -- On a spring day in mid-May, enthusiastic advocates from across the country gathered at National Harbor, MD, to launch a two-day policy summit reviewing the past year’s remarkable accomplishments in the school choice movement and setting the groundwork for future progress.

Sponsored by the American Federation for Children, the event, which took place May 20 and 21 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, featured prominent speakers, such as former White House press secretary Mike McCurry (pictured right in a photo provided by the AFC).

Get CAPE's take on the summit and read about McCurry's six suggestions for school choice advocates in the June issue of Outlook.

Also in the June Outlook:

  • Private schools urged to partner with police departments.
  • Federal funds available for professional development.
  • New data on course-taking in private schools.
  • And much more.

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Study Finds Advantages for Students in Faith-Based Schools


May 1, 2013 -- Students in religious schools enjoy a significant academic advantage over their counterparts in traditional public schools and charter schools, according to findings from a meta-analysis of 90 studies on the effects of schools conducted by William Jeynes, senior fellow at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey, and a professor at California State University, Long Beach.

The study also found that faith-based schools have narrower achievement gaps and better student behavioral outcomes.

Jeynes calls religious schools “the best hope for American education” and says the nation should “rethink its strategy of espousing charter schools and overlooking the benefits of faith-based education.”

Read more about the study in the May issue of Outlook.

Also in the May Outlook:

  • Obama budget threatens charitable giving.
  • Private school students have above-average grasp of economics.
  • It's win-win for school choice.
  • Green Ribbon Schools named.
  • And much more.

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Students Graduate from High School & College at High Rates

College Rate

April 3, 2013 -- Students in private high schools are more likely than those in public schools to receive a diploma, attend a four-year college, and ultimately earn a bachelor’s degree, according to data complied by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) at the request of CAPE.

The findings hold true regardless of the race or ethnicity of students and should be of interest to policymakers determined to improve rates of high school graduation, college attendance, and college completion.

Find out more in the April issue of Outlook.

Also in the April Outlook:

  • John Chubb explains how to get the best teachers in the world.
  • The Brookings Institution’s Russ Whitehurst talks choice and pre-K to CAPE leaders.
  • The Indy 5-0: How the unanimous Indiana Supreme Court decision might offer a Blaine Amendment roadmap for other states.
  • Alabama becomes the latest school choice state.
  • The Education Department’s Office of Non-Public Education experiences its own version of March Madness.

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Duncan Discusses School Safety with Private School Officials


March 1, 2013 -- U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan sent a strong message to the private school community that the Obama administration is committed to keeping all students safe, no matter what type of school they attend.

In a historic 30-minute conference call February 12 with private school leaders from across the country, Duncan and Education Department staff described a far-reaching federal plan to bolster student safety—a plan prompted by the slaughter of students at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, this past December.

“We want to do everything we can to make our schools absolutely as safe as possible,” Duncan said, noting that “having fewer children being shot and fewer children living in fear… are goals we can all agree on.”

Find out details about the conference call in the March issue of Outlook.

Also in the March Outlook:

  • Senator Rubio puts forth a bold school choice plan.
  • President Obama seeks to expand public pre-K programs.
  • DC students attend State of the Union address.
  • Colorado Court of Appeals upholds school choice program.
  • ACSI joins amicus brief on HHS Mandate.
  • And much more.

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USDE Offers Resources Following Newtown Shootings


December 17, 2012 -- The horrifying ending to the lives of innocent children in Connecticut last week has us all searching for ways to make sense of the senseless and bear the unbearable.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families, students, and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School as well as to the wider community of Newtown in this time of unspeakable grief.

The U.S. Department of Education today compiled a collection of resources to help school communities across the nation respond to the crisis and to help school children cope with the trauma.  We provide the links to those documents below and urge school leaders and parents to draw also from resources within their own faith tradition.

Tips for Adults on How to Talk With Children About the Connecticut School Shooting

Helping Youth and Children Recover from Traumatic Events

School and Campus Emergency Management Resources

Creating and Updating School Emergency Management Plans

Message to School Officials from U.S. Education Secretary Duncan

Resources for Parents Following Traumatic Events

Resources from the National Association of School Psychologists:

Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers

Additional NASP Resources

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Private School Students Surpass National Average in Writing

NAEP Writing

September 14, 2012 -- In the age of image sharing, text messaging, and Facebook, are students able to write a readable paragraph?  The federal government just released results from an assessment of the writing skills of the nation’s students, and the findings are mixed.

According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Writing 2011 report, 80 percent of eighth-grade students across the nation scored at or above the Basic level of achievement, but only 27 percent scored at or above the Proficient level, demonstrating “solid academic performance.”

Results vary by type of school.  Ninety-two percent of private school students and 79 percent of public school students scored at the Basic level or higher.  Forty-one percent of private school students and 26 percent of public school students scored at or above the Proficient level (see table).

On the test’s 300-point measurement scale, with the mean set at 150 and a standard deviation of 35, the average score for eighth-grade students in private schools was 164, while that for students in public schools was 149.  By way of reference, the 50th percentile score for the nation was 151; the 75th percentile score was 175, and the score at the 25th percentile was 127.

NAEP 2011 Writing Report Card

Percentage of Students in Public and Private Schools At or Above Various Achievement Levels
Grade 8
  Private Public
Basic 92 79
Proficient 41 26
Advanced 6 3
Related Links:

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Vouchers Improve College-Going Rate for African American Students

Voucher Study

August 23, 2012 -- In the first randomized experiment of its kind, a study out of Harvard University and the Brookings Institution has found that African American students who used vouchers to enroll in private elementary schools were 24 percent more likely to attend college than their non-voucher winning peers.

The study tracked low-income students who in the 1990s were offered scholarships of up to $1,400 through a privately funded program in New York City called the New York School Choice Scholarships Foundation Program (SCSF).

In an article about the report in The Wall Street Journal today, authors Matthew M. Chingos, research director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution, and Paul E. Peterson, director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University, quoted the mother of one of the voucher students back in 1999:  "I have an 8-year-old in third grade, and she's doing great. It's miraculous the way she has changed." According to Chingos and Peterson, “The cause of the change was clear. It came from the power of parental choice in education. It wasn't ‘miraculous’—unless you happen to be one of the parents directly involved.”

The report, titled "The Effects of School Vouchers on College Enrollment: Experimental Evidence from New York City," is available in a PDF version here.

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Private School Students More Likely to Succeed in College

ACT Chart

August 22, 2012 --If you graduated from a private high school this past June, you were significantly more likely than graduates of other schools to be ready for college coursework, according to data compiled by ACT, the college admission testing company.

Eighty-three percent of 2012 graduates of religious and independent schools who took the ACT met or surpassed the test’s college readiness benchmark score in English, compared to 64 percent of graduates from public schools. The share of students who met the benchmark scores in other subjects was also higher in private schools (reading – 68 percent vs. 50 percent; math – 60 vs. 44; science – 42 vs. 29).

According to the ACT, college readiness benchmarks “are the minimum scores needed on the ACT subject area tests to indicate a 50 percent chance of obtaining a B or higher or about a 75 percent chance of obtaining a C or higher in corresponding credit-bearing first-year college courses.”

The ACT today released a report titled The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2012, which summarizes the national performance of ACT-tested students. At CAPE’s request, the company compiled comparable data for private school graduates.

ACT Composite

ACT Scores Higher

Average actual ACT scores for 2012 graduates of private schools were significantly above the national average. The ACT mean composite score for 2012 private school graduates was 23.2, compared to 20.8 for public school graduates, and the private school advantage remained steady across all subject areas: English – 23.5 vs. 20.1, reading – 23.5 vs. 21.0, math – 22.8 vs. 20.9, and science – 22.5 vs. 20.7.

The ACT scoring scale ranges from 1 to 36, and seemingly small differences in the scale score can represent significant percentile shifts. For example, an ACT English score of 20 has a national percentile rank of 50 among all ACT-tested students in the class of 2012, meaning that 50 percent of graduates who took the ACT English test scored a 20 or below. But an English scale score of 24 places a student at the 74th percentile. In other words, a four-point scale difference on the English test represents, at least in this example, a 24-point percentile difference.

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Private School Students Give High Marks to Schools

Horatio Alger Chart

August 8, 2012 --Private school students are nearly twice as likely as students in general to give their schools a grade of "A," according to a national survey released today.

Asked, “If you could give your current school a grade from A to F, what grade would you give it?” six out of every ten students in private high schools awarded their schools the highest grade possible, while one in three students overall did so.

The 2012-2013 State of Our Nation’s Youth report, produced by the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, covers the perspectives of young people on a host of issues. Some 1,500 individuals participated in the survey.

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President Signs 2012 Omnibus Spending Bill

January 4, 2012 -- The House and Senate last month passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of Fiscal Year 2012, a nearly $1 trillion spending package to pay for key operations of the government, including defense, health, and education. President Obama signed the bill December 23.

The following table provides funding levels for key programs affecting private schools.

Federal Education Spending Levels (in millions of dollars)
Various Programs Affecting Private Schools
  FY 2010 Final FY 2011 Final FY 2012 Final
Career Education (Perkins Act) $1,161 $1,122 $1,123
Community Learning Centers (IV-B) $1,166 $1,154 $1,152
English Language Acquisition (III-A) $750 $734 $732
Math & Science Partnerships (II-B) $180 $175 $150
Special Education (IDEA Part B-611) $11,505 $11,466 $11,578
Migrant Education (I-C) $395 $394 $393
Teacher Quality (II-A) $2,948 $2,465 $2,467
Title I (grants to LEAs) $14,492 $14,443 $14,516
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Education Secretary Meets with CAPE’s Board

Education Secty. Arne Duncan

October 6, 2010 -- Acknowledging a strong personal connection with private education, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan met twice with religious and independent school leaders last month—first with CAPE’s board of directors September 21 and then, the following day, with attendees at a private school leadership conference sponsored by the Education Department’s Office of Non-Public Education (ONPE).

“I am a product of a phenomenal private school,” Duncan said at the ONPE event. “And a big reason why I went into education is that I knew every day growing up how lucky my sister and brother and I were to go to an extraordinary school.”

Striking a similar theme at the CAPE meeting, the secretary said he had “tremendous respect” for the schools that CAPE represents--schools that collectively do “an extraordinary job of educating children around the country.”

For more on this story, download the October issue of CAPE Outlook (PDF). Receive Outlook free of charge each month by subscribing here.


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