Public schools not making the grade

Achievement gap continues to widen between private and public schools

A new report by Ugebrevet A4 revealed that the nation's public schools are losing ground to private schools in terms of student achievement.

The grade point average in private schools was higher than that in public schools in 68 of the 85 councils examined by A4, and the gap is growing. In 2008, the difference between public and private schools was more than one grade point in 24 councils. Last year, 36 councils reported a gap of greater than one grade point.

Experts say the achievement gap could cost public schools their best and brightest students.

"Public schools are in danger of losing good students,” Hans Hummelgaard of Anvendt Kommunalforskning, a government research group, told Ugebrevet A4. “This creates a problem because strong students help to lift up the weaker ones.”

Niels Egelund, a professor at Aarhus University, agreed with Hummelgaard.

"It is very troubling that public schools are so far behind,” he told A4. “An achievement gap of that size will certainly affect where parents send their children to school.”

Egelund believes that the way that government subsidies private schools should be changed and more money should be available to public schools.

The education minister, Christine Antorini (Socialdemokraterne), said that she does not believe the solution to the achievement gap is to reduce government subsidies to private schools, but did suggest examining how private schools are living up to their social responsibilities.

Ugebrevet A4's analysis is based on the grade point average of the final ninth-grade exams in Danish and mathematics among private and public school students for school year 2010/2011. The differences between public and private school performance was most pronounced in Copenhagen's Vestegn area, which includes the councils of Glostrup, Brøndy, Albertslund, Ishøj and Høje Taastrup, among others.