I've heard several times that the existence of private or "charter" schools near public schools in the US harms public schools specifically because it draws "stronger"(grade-wise or socioeconomically) students away.

Allegedly having "stronger" peers somehow helps the educational process of the "weaker" students. And building private schools which "cream" (see explanation below) the better students will negatively affect the performance of the students who are left in the public schools.


For example, research by Coleman et al. (1966) shows that “the socioeconomic level of a student’s school had more effect on his achievement than any other measurable factor except the socioeconomic level of his home” (Jencks 1973,100).

From QUALITY, RACE, AND THE URBAN EDUCATION MARKETPLACE RECONSIDERED (page 273 (114 in pdf)) are based on this:

Coleman,J. S.,E. Q. Campbell,C. J. Hobson,J. McPartland,A. M. Mood,F. D.Weinfeld,and R. L. York. 1966. Equality of educational opportunity.Washington,DC: Government Printing Office.

Article which has some data but it's almost 50 years old and might be not that relevant.

I was wondering whether there's some (newer?) evidence (statistical or otherwise) to that claim being true (if true, how much effect does it have).


An example:

Given public school A that has some "strong" students, if some organization would open a private school B and those "strong" students would be accepted to school B and would be transferred there.

Would the remaining students in school A be affected by the absence of their "stronger" peers or not?

This could maybe checked by comparing public schools with similar population prior to school B's appearance.

When I'm talking about "creaming" I'm talking about the intentional and systematic use of selection criteria to choose which students attend a school (which is usually choosing the "better" students e.g better grades or better test results in some SAT-like test).

  • Welcome to Skeptics!. The title uses a term (and mentions a region) which isn't in the body at all.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Aug 23, 2014 at 18:27
  • @Oddthinking Thanks for the input. I've tried to clarify.
    – Scis
    Commented Aug 23, 2014 at 19:08
  • @Clockwork-Muse OK , but there are claims that the mere existence of stronger peers improves students' performance and that's part if the reason "creaming" is allegedly bad.
    – Scis
    Commented Aug 24, 2014 at 11:13
  • 1
    @Scis - perhaps that should be added or stated as another question? That students will be improved with stronger peers? And what about the reverse - would students also be brought down by weaker ones? I have a feeling that such effects would be partially determined by self-selected peer groups, which might mean you end up with similar results anyways... Commented Aug 24, 2014 at 11:27
  • 1
    @Scis: I looked at your edit. It still is not an example of the claim you seem to be interested in. We are looking for someone else (or many other people) saying "Taking the best students from a school makes the remaining students suffer academically."
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 15:28


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