SAIS Collaboration Series
FastStats: Collaboration and a Public Purpose
Published October 2014
By Jeffrey Mitchell, Head of Currey Ingram Academy
Although the public purpose of independent schools has been apparent to educators for many years, there has been a surge of interest in initiatives stressing that purpose. From the 2013 NAIS Study on Public Purpose at Independent Schools report, I gathered and re-worked some data to compare SAIS schools with all NAIS schools. Note that NAIS uses “southeast” as a variable and although there is not a perfect correspondence between NAIS schools in the southeast and NAIS schools that are also SAIS, I assume for the purpose of this report they are the same.
Figure 1 highlights four variables that indicate strategic and financial commitments to public purpose by independent schools. Working from left to right on Figure 1, the reader will see that about 73% of SAIS schools versus 57.5% of NAIS schools reflect public purpose in their missions. Similarly, about 73% of SAIS schools versus 67.5% of NAIS schools note public purpose in their strategic plans. Thus, when it comes to a strategic commitment to public purpose, SAIS schools seem to fare quite well. When it comes to dedicating a budget, however, both SAIS and NAIS schools tend not to do as well. (Although funds for “public purpose” also likely come from other budgets.) Finally, a similar percentage of both SAIS and NAIS schools explicitly require some form of public purpose activity for graduation.
Figure 2 compares SAIS schools and NAIS schools on a number of programs that can be generally described as serving the public purpose. In all but one of these programs, SAIS has a higher percentage of schools providing these opportunities. With social service and green projects, the difference is very small. In fact, in both NAIS and SAIS schools, the participation rate is very high at 95% and higher. The difference is also small for the category non-profit partnerships. For the variable work on sustainable projects, NAIS has a slightly higher percentage of schools participating. For the seven remaining variables, SAIS has anywhere from 10% to 18% more schools participating in various public purpose programs. It is highly unlikely that this kind of systematic difference is due to chance. Something systematic is impacting SAIS data relative to NAIS data, as a whole.
The most likely factor is enrollment differences between SAIS and NAIS schools. The NAIS report used the comparison variable “school enrollment” and concluded that larger schools were more likely to offer a larger array of public purpose programs. The median enrollment in SAIS schools (620 in 2013-2014) is significantly greater than the median enrollment in NAIS schools (380 in 2013-2014). Thus, a viable conclusion is that SAIS, compared with NAIS overall, has a higher percentage of schools participating in strategic and programmatic public purpose initiatives but much of the variation is likely due to the fact that SAIS schools tend to be larger and thus have the resources more typically available at larger schools.