Many times around here I’ve asked for evidence of the inherent superiority of private schools over public, which appears to be one of the foundations of the arguments put forth by voucher supporters.
But according to one study, when it comes to math, the situation is just the opposite.
A large-scale government-financed study has concluded that when it comes to math, students in regular public schools do as well as or significantly better than comparable students in private schools.
The study, by Christopher Lubianski and Sarah Theule Lubianski, of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, compared fourth- and eighth-grade math scores of more than 340,000 students in 13,000 regular public, charter and private schools on the 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress. The 2003 test was given to 10 times more students than any previous test, giving researchers a trove of new data.
Well, that’s nice. But it’s certainly not enough to force the death of NCLB and declare victory over the charter/voucher concept.
For one thing, although it’s a better assessment than most state tests, the NAEP is still a standardized test, with all the flaws and limitations of such tools. And I agree with several people quoted on both sides of the issue that there are too many variables in the mix to accept these findings at face value.
But the biggest problem with this and most other research on school achievement is that we are just comparing three categories based on the same foundation. Most charter and private schools are organized around the same structure – agrarian calendar, artificially organized knowledge as curriculum, teacher as information dispenser – as are public schools.
Until we are prepared to consider changing the basic structure of American education, no amount of research on the current system is going to substantially improve teaching and learning.