I don’t doubt that. The local parochial schools cost about half/pupil to educate than do the public schools, but have better results. The public schools are very well financed and have all the geegaws and gimcracks. They do “teach to the tests” for NCLB, so the schools do pretty well with that. But the actual achievement level is abysmal, though grades do not reflect it because of grade inflation.
The local high school no longer has Valedictorian, Salutatorian because, the year they quit doing it, fully 1/5 of the graduating class had “perfect” transcripts, so there was no way to distinguish among them; a growing trend that had finally reached the point of absurdity.
I have two grandchildren in the local public high school because the nearest Catholic school is beyond daily driving distance. The only real educations they are getting are in interscholastic Speech and Debate (where you basically teach yourself through research and thought organization, if you want to excel at it) and, for the boy, JROTC, in which the military instructors require a lot and accept no slacking and no excuses. JROTC, in that particular school, teaches some academics as well as rigorous physical training, military science, field drill, etc. It, like Speech and Debate is essentially a school within a school.
JROTC, of course, like Speech and Debate, is a voluntary activity, and not too many participate in either because they’re demanding. In both, competition is strong and achievement is difficult, but recognized very straightforwardly. There is no “everybody wins” in either of them.
In Speech and Debate, at least, my grandchildren are put up against the best private school students in three states, and still win. It isn’t as if there is no talent out there in the public schools. Except in narrow areas, it just isn’t challenged to achieve real excellence.