News Brief #3089 Category: Education Study Report
TITLE: "Public schools: Do they outperform private ones?"

A new study by two University of Illinois researchers casts doubt on the widely held assumption that private schools are better than public schools.

Researchers analyzed data from the 2000 National Assessment of Educational Progress for 28,000 4th- and 8th-graders representing more than 1300 public and private schools. After accounting for students' socioeconomic backgrounds, they found that public school math scores were 6 to 7 points higher for 4th-graders, and 1 to 9 points for 8th-graders.

Overall, private school students generally score higher on standardized tests. But the researchers suggest that has more to do with their relatively higher socioeconomic backgrounds than the quality of private school education.

The findings "really call into question the assumption of some of the more prominent reform efforts" based on privatization, said Christopher Lubienski, the education professor who conducted the study with his wife, Sarah Theule Lubienski, also an education professor. "It really undercuts a lot of those choice-based reforms."

Henry Levin, a professor of education at Columbia University's Teachers College and director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education, agrees "there's nothing magic about privatization."

Titled "A New Look at Public and Private Schools: Student Background and Mathematics Achievement," the study appears in the May issue of Phi Delta Kappan.

SOURCE: Christian Science Monitor, 10 May 2005

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