Friday, September 19, 2014

How Public Schools Have the Edge Over Private Schools

December 10, 2013 by twalker  
Filed under Featured News, Top Stories

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By Tim Walker

The fuel that drives much of the pro-market education reform agenda is the belief that public institutions are inherently inferior. Therefore, all that ails the nation’s schools, according to so-called “reformers,” can only be addressed by injecting market-based remedies into the system, or basically taking the “public” out of public education. But evidence is beginning to mount that the core assumptions behind these policies are, to say the least, unsound.

A few years ago, Christopher Lubienski and Sarah Theule Lubienski, both professors at the College of Education at the University of Illinois, analyzed two national data tests – the National Assessment of Educational Progress and the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study – and reached a conclusion that took them by surprise.

In their new book, “The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools,” the Lubienskis explain how, after you account for the socioeconomic factors that benefit private schools, public elementary schools are, on average, more effective at teaching mathematics. Chris and Sarah Lubienski recently spoke with NEA Today about their findings, the impact of “autonomy” in private schools, and educational equity.

Your conclusions challenge the basic underpinnings of the reform movement. What’s been the reaction so far to your book?

CL: As you might expect, it’s been kind of politicized. Unfortunately, Not only is the policy debate over education very politicized, but increasingly the research is as well. So you have many  foundations, think tanks and individual researchers lining up on one side or the other of this issue, and putting their agenda ahead of actually evidence. That’s a bit of a concern for us.

We don’t have any sort of anti-private school agenda and we actually went into this research under the assumption that private schools had the advantage. This was a surprise to us because a generation of research had suggested that private schools were more effective.

STL: We’re also seeing a lot of folks saying, “Well, you’re not talking about my private school,” which kind of misses our point that, overall, we’re not seeing the advantage for private schools. This is important because of the policy implications. The policies are based on the assumption that private schools are inherently better than public schools. Our research inherently challenges that.

Why is mathematics achievement a better gauge to measure school effectiveness, as opposed to reading, for example?

CL: It’s generally recognized that mathematics is a better measure of the effect of schools, because students tend to learn that subject more in schools than at home. Other subjects, such as reading are learned at home. Parents read to their children so it is often a refection of the home background of the child.

The belief that private sector is superior to the public sector is so dominant in our public discourse. Do you see any consensus emerging around education policy that this is misguided?

CL: It’s a real problem because it goes beyond education to other sectors as well. Whether it comes to transportation or education or health care or mail delivery, there is this overriding assumption that “public” is inferior. There is evidence to suggest that it’s not so clean cut. Community or state-run endeavors can be more effective or efficient. Look at our health care system. The private side is larger and less efficient than our public programs. We are seeing more and more academics who are pointing this out. In education, we are seeing somewhat of an emergence of a consensus around this issue. There will be push back – as I mentioned earlier there are entrenched interests. But other researchers, using different data sets, have been finding similar results to ours, so we are beginning to see people question this assumption that private schools are better.

People like choice. It’s a basic American value. The question is, if we embrace choice as the panacea of a reform movement, is that going to pay off? If people look out only for their own self-interest or their children’s, is that going to help provide a public good to the community? As we show in our book, there is some serious flaws with that logic when applied to a public good such as education.

What should parents who may be debating what kind of school to send their child take away from the book?

CL: I’ve had parents ask me what this all mean for the options that they’re considering. Again, we’re looking at nationally representative data, so this book doesn’t necessarily speak to individual parents looking at local choices, so much as the policymakers making assumptions that one type of school is necessarily better.

That said, we were able to identify some factors parents might want to consider when they’re looking at schools, Instead of just looking at whether a school is private or public, they may want to look at the type of preparation and pedagogy the teachers have had or the type of curriculum a school offers. Are the teachers certified or not? These things should matter quite a bit.

You discuss the impact of “autonomy,” usually cited as a private school advantage. How is it not so?

STL: There is greater autonomy in private schools. It’s just that that might not be such a good thing. It looks like the autonomy is being used to hold onto outdated instructional practices and to hire uncertified teachers. Public schools, on the other hand, are moving beyond traditional math exercises and are applying more complex, real-world problems in the classroom.

CL: Autonomy is one of the main catchwords of the reformers. When you look at the evidence, schools tend to use that autonomy in more competitive climates in ways that aren’t necessarily to the benefit of students. They tend to invest more money into marketing instead of the classroom.

Sarah Theule Lubienski and Christopher Lubienski

Generally, how would categorize the state of public education today?

CL: Well, we’re not suggesting that there is nothing wrong with public schools – even though some have suggested that it is what we are saying. There are some serious problems in our system but we also have amazingly good schools. So there’s a lot of variety in American public education. One of our biggest concerns is not only the gap in quality outcomes but also the gap in opportunities. Those are serious problems we’re facing in education and have to be addressed.

STL: I would add that if you look math math instruction, the public schools have implemented reforms and it has shown in our scores in NAEP. Public schools generally have embraced more of a professional model for education than a market model.

What should people understand about the PISA results, which rank U.S. students as barely average, before they use them to make judgments about public schools?

STL: We didn’t study PISA or any other international benchmark, but I do think people need to be careful with international results because cultures in countries are so different.  International comparisons do provide one benchmark of where our country is doing over time, but let’s go back to the issue of inequity in our schools. There have been studies that entered privileged school districts in the U.S. as a country and they come out near the top of the world. Looking at the percentage of US students in poverty is an important factor when we compare them to, say, students in Scandinavian countries, where poverty is a fairly minor element of the population.

And yet, so many policymakers are determined not to acknowledge poverty.

CL. Right, and  some reform organizations avoid that discussion by holding up certain types of low-income schools that have “beaten the odds.” By doing so, they are arguing that educators have relied too much on demographic factors as an excuse for not educating those students. There are certainly examples of schools that have beaten the odds, but upon closer inspection, there may be other explanations for their success. There seems to be some selection bias or some sorting going on, for example, or a large amount of resources from private donors. On the other hand, it’s not an excuse – studying demographics is a very useful way to understand the patterns. It helps us see what is going on in our schools.

Top Photo: Norman Lono
Bottom Photo: Anna Katherine Lubienski

Comments

40 Responses to “How Public Schools Have the Edge Over Private Schools”
  1. Cap Lee says:

    We keep saying the test is a horrible judge of achievement and then we use it when it is to our advantage. NO WONDER NO ONE BELIEVES US http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czlySqs4tVI&feature=youtu.be

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  2. Lisa2 says:

    You can make your numbers say anything you like (just like anyone else), but of the private schools I am familiar with – public schools can’t even come close to. The work a second grader is doing in private school is the work a fourth grader is doing in public schools. Seriously? You can’t expect anyone to believe that bull. Stop trying to bash private schools and work on making progress for public schools. BTW I teach in public schools, but my children attend private schools. I believe in public schools, I give 110% to my students, but our pubic schools system is not good enough for my kids. It’s worth every sacrifice I make to send them there.

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  3. Gene in L.A. says:

    Lisa2, the article makes clear what they mean. They’re not comparing any particular public schools to any particular private schools, but all of them to all of them. They’re also not telling anyone therefore to pick public over private. They’re saying the public’s perception that as a class private schools educate better than public schools is mistaken, and that we as a society should start from that reality in trying to make ALL schools as good as they can be.

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  4. shopper says:

    Did they include charter schools with the other public schools? Did they include both religious and secular private schools? This could make a big difference in their results.
    Most states that I am familiar with that have charter schools do not hold them to the same standards as regular public schools and religious schools do not usually rank as high as secular private schools. Charter schools tend to attract students who do not do as well in regular public schools but do have concerned parents. Religious schools teach according to their beliefs. These differences do have an impact. The home background of students will also have an impact.
    I don’t know how many schools were included in their study or the location of the schools but these factors also carry weight. The point was made that parents need to study the local schools available for their use and judge accordingly. It’s not the same everywhere.

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  5. JimT says:

    shopper, I imagine a lot of those questions are answered in the book. Of course its not the same everywhere. The authors say that in the interview. The point is right-wing politicians are saying that privatizing education is the way to go because we all know private schools are on average much better than public schools. The book is saying that that it’s more complicated than that-in fact public schools do have advantages over private schools. They;’re not telling any parent that the private schools in their community suck-just that they may want to dig a little deeper.

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  6. Gretchen says:

    The public school system as a whole is obsolete. Throwing a bunch of same age kids in a classroom and forcing State Standards Based curriculum on them that the majority have no interest in a useless waste of precious time. And they all “perform” under fear. Fear of being a failure, fear of their teachers, fear of what their parents will think if they get a “bad grade”. And we call this LEARNING?? Learning cannot happen when fear is involved.

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  7. Lisa2 says:

    Private schools DO educate better than public schools. Really how could you think otherwise? No special ed, no ESL, no behavior problems.

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  8. George Sheridan says:

    Highly skilled teachers and less skilled teachers can all be successful working with students from affluent families. Only highly skilled teachers have a chance of succeeding in schools where most students come from families in poverty.

    Students in the most selective private schools often achieve at levels above the average of students in public schools. That says nothing about the relative merits of public and private institutions, merely about the fact that talented students are likely to achieve well when given plenty of resources.

    Imagine what U.S. public school teachers could accomplish if our students had their basic health, nutrition, and housing needs met – like students in every other modern democracy.

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  9. ExTeacher says:

    This article is a JOKE because today’s public schools are a JOKE. I went to public school my whole life, from 1976-1988. Public schools were still completely “normal” during that time, as was life itself in this once-normal country prior to the political correctness takeover. As of the last 15-20 years, the public school system has become abnormal. Private School or Home Schooling is the only intelligent option I see for today’s parents.

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  10. PublicSchoolProduct says:

    Lisa2, while you’re probably right about the lack of those issues in private school, where do you suggest we send those children who need special ed, ESL, and have behavior problems? Don’t you think they deserve just as good of an education? It sounds like you are trying to create this utopia of an environment for children, excluding any child who may not have had the home life and upbringing to be able to fit that mold.

    ExTeacher, I would not say public schools are a joke. There are more challenges today than there seems to have been in the past(I’m too young to know, but my mother has been a classroom teacher for her entire career), but I graduated from public high school in 2009 and am attending my third public university in pursuit of my masters. While I have always made stellar grades, I would say that there are still many things a child can learn in public school today, and I wouldn’t be so quick to discredit the hard work thousands of public school teachers across our country do everyday to educate children in spite of the increasing behavior problems and poor home lives. Calling public schooling a joke undermines their and your work. You know better than anyone the difficulties and restrictions placed on classroom teachers.

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  11. Ed says:

    PublicSchoolProduct, I didn’t read in Lisa2′s remarks that she was discrediting the hard work of school teachers. I read that in the past 15-20 years things have changed. I live in Ohio and have many high school teachers as friends, and nearly everyone one of them are frustrated with the changes that the state and federal governments have made in education. All of the testing that is being imposed on the students is detracting from the learning environments. I don’t believe that this is an easy conversation, but the idea that anyone needs to be offended by pointing out that the environment of public education has changed is not going to help. I love and respect teachers in both the private and public schools, I do not believe that they have to be enemies in the education process.

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  12. John says:

    I…I….I…I. Comments based on SINGULAR datapoints (most of the comments here) have no validity with regards to discussing the article. Plus the dogmatic “private schools have perfect kids” is an outdated and flawed notion (at least in the ones I have gone too….plenty of drugs and behavioral issues to go around….again, a small sample size in a Catholic, all white, upper-middle class area of Wisconsin). I know of great private schools, and great public schools. I know of horrible private schools where friends of mine have sent their children to public schools and have been tested 2 grade levels behind. I can certainly offer one personal insight—-in every summer enrichment course in science that I have taken over a 20 year biological sciences career….there have been ZERO private school teachers enrolled along with me. It speaks to professionalism…….and oversight. Public school teachers seem to have the edge statistically in this regard.

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  13. Mark says:

    Not even close. Of course there are some good public schools and some poor private schools, but the bureaucracy kills public schools. Private schools earn the check here!

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  14. Jerry Doctor says:

    If public schools are superior to private, why do public school teachers send their own kids to private schools in numbers that exceed the general population? And yes, I was one of those teachers. It cost me more to get my daughter through the 6th grade than it did to get me a master’s degree but it was worth every penny.

    This appears to have all the characteristics of many of the “studies” we see being done now. Mine the data from someone else’s work until you “prove” your hypothesis.

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  15. Bruce Martin says:

    Private tutoring is said to be better than any public or private school, so the super-rich might want to consider that. But I want to live in a neighborhood where all of the kids have gone to a decent school and learned how to be good and productive citizens. So a solution for rich people is not an answer to what society as a whole should do for everyone.

    The other unspoken factor (especially in the southern states where I have lived) is that private schools are better for allowing racists the freedom to be racist. But this is not a goal that society as a whole should fund. So taxes should go only for public schools.

    Also, when a family sends a student to a private school, this does not reduce their obligation to the public, and it does not reduce the cost of running the public school proportionally. As business people know, most costs are fixed (e.g., the building costs the same even if one less person is in it.) The variable costs that might be thought to be per-pupil are rarely available, as it is rare to be able to eliminate an entire teacher due to having one less student to teach. So it is not equitable to divert a proportional fraction of costs to private education.

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  16. Angela says:

    If the authors really just want to point out that it’s not black and white and that the public’s perception that private schools educate better than public schools is mistaken, then why would they choose the title they did?

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  17. Christian says:

    I must get this book. I really would like to investigate their sample pool. Here in Iowa there is no comparison in the overall education. However, there is also a HUGE disclaimer in that the title of the book is very misleading. It should be “Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools In Math” (and likely only math). Even with the title correction I have my serious doubts.

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  18. Christian says:

    Also their opinions on autonomy are, just that, opinions. I fail to see how guiding children through their education on mathematics has anything to do with autonomy. “When you look at the evidence, schools tend to use that autonomy in more competitive climates in ways that aren’t necessarily to the benefit of students.” I have to see this “evidence” because this reeks of what we here call “hogwash”. “Everyday problem solving” is applied everyday to mathematics in our private school so I’m not sure what they are talking about with their comments there either. These two seem to be very political while claiming they dislike the politics surrounding education.

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  19. becker says:

    I have to agree with Public School Product! I am a teacher in a public school and it really makes me sad to hear Lisa2 to make comments about public schools especially since she is a public school teacher. I strongly feel as though you should not be teaching in a school that you would not send your own children! It sounds to me that you should be teaching in a private school since you think public schools are so terrible. Growing up I attended and graduated from a private school. Since my experience teaching in a public school I feel as though students are exposed to different “life-learning” situations that help them to be more accepting of others. My students have an understanding towards MH and ESL students that private schools do not always provide. I do not work my tail off for people like Lisa2 to put down my students in the public school setting. I know I am giving them the foundation they will need to be successful.

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  20. Kevin says:

    What is the motivation of NEA to slam private schools? Why would this be on your agenda. Can’t you make your case without slamming the private school? The “fuel” as you say behind freedom to choose schools is NOT – as YOU admit you are – inferiority of public schools. The fuel is our right as Americans to chose what school we want to send our kids to. I attended both public and private schools and have taught in both public and private schools. I don’t care what study you quote – your dead wrong on this one.

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  21. SimonTheExasperated says:

    Hi. I teach high school mathematics, and I’m looking at a lot of posts here from people who basically came in and said “this research must be wrong because private schools are so much better than public that there’s no comparison.”

    That sounds… wrong to me, somehow. The entire point of the research here is to do the study to FIND OUT whether (on average, overall, across America) private schools are better than public. We cannot simply assume in advance that we know the answer, then reject the study because it gave us the ‘wrong’ answer that we didn’t want to hear.

    Personally, I’m not entirely surprised. Private schools have some advantages, but they also have some disadvantages. In many cases we cherry-pick the best performing private schools, or mediocre private schools that do conspicuously well in a bad public school district. We ignore the fly-by-night schools that close quickly, or have massive teacher turnover because they’re managed badly.

    Or we cherry-pick the private schools that kids go to because their parents care and are involved, and are savvy/sensitive enough to spot whatever problems exist with their local public school. Which correlates with high achievement. We then ignore the ones that kids go to because their parents have odd social views, or are the equivalent of ‘packing the kids off to military school, things that *don’t* correlate with high achievement.

    So there are real biases in how the overall American system, and especially the media, look at the public/private divide. An unbiased study could very easily tell us something we didn’t expect to hear, like “yeah, there’s little or no practical difference.”

    Sample bias may be affecting things, I couldn’t say without a detailed explanation. But there is very little about the nature of private schools *as such* that explains why they would *always* be better than public schools. A terrible private school can be mismanaged in ways that make it just as bad as a terrible public school. And a truly good public school can do almost everything right that a truly good private school does.

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  22. Deborah Weilbacher says:

    The article was informative and interesting, but there were many typos in it. As a teacher, I find that embarrassing. The NEA Today organization should take great care in publishing a magazine with no typos. We expect our students to carefully edit their work. NEA Today should do the same. Luckily few people outside of NEA members will see this poorly edited article.

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  23. Paula says:

    I went to public school, but have taught in both. My step-daughters attend a private school–not my husband’s choice. I am a math/science teacher. Based on my experience, there is no comparison. Public schools, in math and science are far superior. At the first private school I taught in, they bragged that their standards were so high because “Geometry was a graduation requirement “(this was in the 1980s). Sounded good, but as I began to teach the classes, I discovered that the kids weren’t capable of doing geometry because their math skills were so poor. But it was a graduation requirement, so they had to pass. So, I had to water the course they called “Geometry” had to be watered down. I explicitly told them, “I will teach this class, and the kids will pass, but I am not teaching geometry. I went to public school and I know what geometry is; THIS is not geometry.” After 2 frustrating years, I went back to public school, where in math and science, the kids were placed in the appropriate class and they could do the work. Some kids need remedial classes to get to the same level–classes that are available in a public school–but in a private school, all the kids are on a track that is a marketing tool, which may or may not meet their needs and/or abilities. When those same kids transfer to a public school, they are behind–years behind–and have a very difficult time passing the classes, let alone catching up. Most never catch up; I do the very best I can to teach them how to think, but they have lost years, doing LOTS and LOTS of busywork, with very little thinking. I don’t assign a ton of homework; I assign enough to give the kids independent practice and I teach them to THINK–all of them, bright and not as bright. All of them can learn to think. We just have to teach them to think.

    Most private schools are not about education; they are about marketing. Society assumes they can expel kids who don’t work, but they won’t expel kids because that would cost them money. It’s amazing how ineffective private schools are at holding kids accountable, especially if their parents are wealthy donors. This whole situation is so much more complicated than is presented. I remember my private school students telling me outright, “We’re getting a better education, because we’re in private school.” It’s just not true. Private schools are mostly about keeping one’s kids in an insulated socio-economic cocoon, away from “those” kids. Public schools demand that kids learn to deal with all sorts of people and navigate many different social situations. I would never again teach in a private school, nor would I send my kids to one. Many of the public school problems today are a result of the private sector trying to destroy public schools and make money off school kids. It is a poorly thought through plan that is not only selfish/self-centered, but unbelievably stupid. Do you really want an uneducated population? Only rich kids get an education and everyone else is ignorant, because some wealthy person doesn’t want to pay taxes to educate all children? America is in big trouble today because there is a segment of our society that cares only for itself, a position that is pennywise and pound foolish. I pray that we wake up before it is too late.

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  24. Charli says:

    I am glad someone is looking at this. I do not believe that private schools provide a better education than public schools. I teach science at a public HS. I know teachers at private schools teaching science who are not even certified and the questions that I have heard asked at workshops lead me to question their qualifications.I have had students transfer from private schools who were behind.Private schools also pay so little. In America whether we are talking about teachers or doctors, the highest paid positions attract the best professionals.Public schools also have more accountability than the autonomous private schools. I have to answer to a lot of people, many qualified former science teachers now administrators look over my lesson plans. In a private school, they don’t have the personnel for that kind of monitoring.

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  25. PK says:

    Why does the NEA care how private/public compare? Because private schools are a threat. It all comes down to money! I’m suspicious of any “claim” coming from a highly bias organization such as the NEA. I’m sure the author had to work hard to cherry pick the private/public schools (without be to blatantly obvious) to get the desired numbers needed fit his hypothesis. Next they’ll claim public schools out perform home schoolers.

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  26. Dave Robinson says:

    Boy, there are some really dumb comments made above. Most of the questions raised can be answered by just reading the book, and not basing praise of criticism just on the interview published here. Some folks are so parochial.

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  27. EG says:

    I teach 8th grade math in a public school. Our middle level classes are doing the same exact material at the exact same pace as a very well known and well respected private school. Our 8th grade advanced class is doing that same material as the 10th graders in Algebra 2 in this private school. It simply depends on the schools involved in the decision making. Taking kids out of my district and putting them in private school is a lot of money for less education. But I am sure that is very different other places.

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  28. Supporter of education says:

    Obviously the title of this book has created quite a bit of controversy! I have come to the understanding that a good researcher can find evidence to support just about anything. Unfortunately, there are many gullible Americans that will believe any headline they see. The data that suggests that public schools outperform private schools in math does not mean that public schools are better than private schools. I find it interesting that so many people want to read this book because they are appalled by the message. I will not be purchasing this book because I don’t want to support their bias opinion. They titled the book as they did to create this conflict so that others would buy the book- hence giving them a nice paycheck. Dividing public and private schools and their teachers is not going to help. And if you are wondering- I support both the public and private school in our community. I teach at one and send my children to the other for a reason that is NOT because one school does a better job of educating than the other.

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  29. MPatton says:

    I understand people are stressing performance between the two type of educational services. As a public school teacher, I send my children to a private school so they learn more about God in our everyday lives. A spiritual life is very important to us and public schools do not offer that. It is not about performance competition. Some countries include religion in their public schools like Finland. Even nonbelievers in Finland have an option for philosophy studies.

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  30. Va educator says:

    I agree with Paula!! So much is made about the private schools with so little knowledge. They specifically said it was a generalization of the nation as a whole. I teach 5th grade and I can tell you that we get many transfers from private schools to our school. Almost all of them are behind. That just happens to be what has gone on in my experience. Each private school follows their own curriculum which could be demanding or could not be demanding. Every one is different. I know of good private schools and poor private schools as well as mediocre ones. This is the same thing going on in the public school system. You have poor ones, mediocre ones, and really good ones. That’s just how it is. Personally my kids will go to a public school. I believe in being in a diverse setting where you have to interact with people from different class backgrounds. The essence of education is learning. What better way than to learn from diverse socioeconomic statuses, race, or ethnicity, etc.? Also, it is ignorant to think of a private school as an outlet for not having to deal with special ed, ESL, or behavior problems. A good teacher can teach any population. My little sister can teach a bunch of high achievers with no behavior problems. The interview was blown out of context. There is a place for everyone. You choose your way but don’t demean the decisions of others. That’s just rude.

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  31. Leslie says:

    This study was limited to two tests. What about the myriad opportunities offered by most private schools in other areas? Art, music, foreign languages, other academic subjects? I too am a public school teacher who made sacrifices to send her child to private school. Worth every penny.

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  32. DCarlson says:

    Public schools like private schools are not created equal. Though public schools should be because by the simple virtue of “public” in a democracy with a constitution governing equality for all. Sadly, that not the reality. To judge public schools vs private schools is like comparing apples to oranges in general. The closest comparison one could make would be if there are public schools that are socioeconomically wealthy or racially (mostly white), small class room sizes,very active parent involvement, strict guidelines for admission, nurses, librarians, psychologists, etc. There are.

    I haven’t read the book. Maybe my assertions are addressed. At any rate, there is a fact that there is an overwhelming disparity of educational equity in American public schools as a whole. I would call it, “the most momentous human rights issue of the 21st century.” When we address this issue, then let’s have a discussion about comparing public vs private education.

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  33. K says:

    I teach ESL in public elementary schools (a caseload that eccompasses multiple schools), and would rather my children attend public schools. I am in many classrooms of many buildings across out district helping ELLs access the instruction of their mainstream classrooms, and I see a lot of things that make me proud of our public schools–especially our math curriculum. It’s based on rich mathematical discussions, advanced problems, multiple ways of solving the problems, talking through various strategies that are all different but good ways to get to the answer, and teaching kids the “language of math” to be able to do this. My oldest child was very fortunate to attend a public school for 2 years (Kinder and 1st) with an amazing math teacher. This year our nearest public school is closed for remodeling, so he is temporarily attending a religious private school, to solve the ensuing transportation problems. However, next year he will be back in a newly-remodeled public school, back with the stellar math education that allows him to be creative, accurate while still knowing WHY he is accurate, and best of all, expressive in his math knowledge. While I love that his private school allows Christmas-based themes and has a before-and-after school daycare right on site, I don’t love their lack of resources! He is missing a great year of dinosaurs, math strings, and anti-bullying curriculum that all my second-grade students have access to. He doesn’t. I am bringing home my district’s tests for him to make sure he isn’t falling behind in the subject he loves most–math. His teacher is great with traditional book-and-worksheet based learning, but she doesn’t make subjects hands-on. He doesn’t get a quality P.E. curriculum that emphasizes cooperative play, and worst of all, there’s no school counselor. He doesn’t have any resource to go to for social support or anger management issues, like he did in the public school. There, our counselors teach a strong anti-bullying and social tolerance curriculum in all the classrooms. His school believes that it’s only bullying if it’s physical; therefore, kids telling lies about each other to get someone in trouble isn’t really bullying. I do love that he gets more recesses, but they aren’t well monitored, so that’s where most of the subtle bullying takes place. I do love that the reading expectations are higher, but the math, science, and even social studies curriculums are too “traditional” (read: old-fashioned) to be engaging or as rigorous as what my students in public schools are doing. I’m paying for this school because it solves a transportation and daycare problem, not because it’s a high-performing school. There are some high-performing secular private schools in our community, though. One of them has a strong anti-bullying curriculum and policy. It costs a fortune in tuition, though! I believe that in this debate, researchers should separate religious-based private schools from secular private schools.

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  34. DoubleDee says:

    My friends believe they should pay less in taxes because they want to send their kids to private school. I agree with some commentators that this is an endemic issue confronting us now. Should the rich and the affluent (and my friends are those things) pay less in taxes for not using social services (police, fire, public education, etc.)??? I am not rich, but I honestly can’t answer that question fully. WE NEED TO FIGURE THIS OUT.

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  35. Pat says:

    I’m seeing mounting evidence that religious-based private schools should be taken out of the equation. They don’t have as much as an edge as either secular private schools or most public schools! What religious schools do offer is a chance for children to celebrate Christmas and Easter in school, and to freely ask questions about God. That is their main advantage; their disadvantages are many. Most of the religious schools in my city, including my child’s Catholic school, don’t offer extra teachers for music, art, fitness, and foreign languages! The classroom teachers do their own music and their own P.E. They don’t have a roomful of rhythm instruments or fitness equipment geared to each grade level like public schools do. A parent volunteer comes in to teach art and religion. Orchestra for the middle schoolers is also dependent on parent volunteers. (Some years they have it; some years they don’t.) 5th and 6th graders don’t get orchestra or band, like they do in public schools. In fact, no one gets band. They don’t have school counselors, and have only limited technology for the older students only. They don’t have intervention teachers who pull groups of K-6th graders for remedial math or reading; they don’t have the plethora of parent volunteers that my city’s public schools have to read with kids in the hallways or do math catch-up skills. There’s no extra funding allocated to before-and-after school tutoring. The classrooms are poorly stocked with math manipulatives and science kits. (Plenty of textbooks, though.) Their library is tiny and serves K-8th graders, but with no librarian. Many religious schools in my town can’t even afford a school bus. They don’t expel kids with behavior problems, because they can’t afford to lose the tuition. 5th/6th grade and 7th/8th grades are combined into multi-age classes, creating large class sizes with only 1 teacher for both grades. Overall, religious-based private schools do the best they can with the funding they get, but since I can’t afford (and can’t drive to) a pricey secular private school, I’m putting my kid back into public school next year, where there are highly-trained National-Board-Certified teachers, more diversity, and more academic, physical and social development advantages!

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  36. Dr. Philip J. Shapiro says:

    Remove the unions and political correctness from public school education and you might see less of an issue with competition from private schools. Discipline in the public schools is lacking and achievement is not honored as a worthy goal as it once was. Short wonder that so many parents want choices in where and how their children are educated.

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  37. Christian says:

    As I suspected the data is manipulated to get to their conclusion. Below is a very respectfully series critique to this book. I will say I’m encouraged to see that many teachers are proud of the public schools and feel as though their children are getting great educations at their public schools. That is not the case where we live but it’s nice to hear these places still exist. I will always maintain the brick and mortar matters little towards the child’s education. It’s all about the teachers. My grandmother taught in a one room schoolhouse (Montessori-before it was cool)for more years than anyone can count and she supplied the world with some extremely bright children.

    http://chalcedon.edu/research/articles/the-empire-strikes-back-part-ii-how-reliable-is-the-research/

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  38. Maureen Williams says:

    I have A word for left-wing, right-wing or no-wing. BALANCE. The real problem with education at least in the state of California, is this pendulum swing from extreme left to extreme right. K reading may be TRADITIONAL, but it is necessary no need to discard it! Every single lesson doesn’t need to be project-based and sociable. This out-of-balanced desparation to a quick fix IS THE PROBLEM. I really would like to vote against unions and the NEA going to any political lucheons, banquets, campaigns, lobbyist events or anything related to sending emails to support any political parties’ reform. I only need you to inform the local schools of resources available and protect the working environment for teachers, which considering the fact that I’m in my 5th year and considering being done with the nonsense tells me you’re not doing the best you can since teacher’s are said statistically to leave the profession after 3 to 5 years. My research is the increase in student populations being born addicted and yet the teacher is motivate the genius within. The teacher is the parent, social worker, pyschologist, resource teacher (for lack of a trained or licensed one), the sibling and whatever hat is needed for that child all for the low, low price of $45,000 a year and for as much time as 20 hours a day, 6 days a week.

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  39. Rhonda says:

    My oldest 2 daughters graduated from a public school in Independence Missouri. The participated in the school’s college preparatory program. Both girls qualified for Missouri’s Bright Flight program. My oldest daughter attended a public university in Missouri where she received a full tuition scholarship. My second daughter attended a small private school in Vermont. She went to college with other students whose parents paid $30,000. a year to send them to college preparatory high schools. My daughter was very bit as well prepared for college as they were, and in many cases more so.

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  1. [...] how do we judge which school is better? Christopher Lubienski looked at the math scores from both public and private schools because that tends to be the only subject that most students [...]

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