Friday, May 13, 2005

Public schools: Do they outperform private ones? -

This by Teresa Méndez from the May 10 Christian Science Monitor. Thanks to Bill at Endless Faculty Meeting.

"...a new study shows public school children outperforming their private school peers on a federal math exam.

Overall, private school students tend to do markedly better on standardized tests. But the reason, this study suggests, may be that they draw students from wealthier and more educated families, rather than because they're better at bolstering student achievement.

One study is unlikely to settle a long-simmering debate over the merits of public versus private education. But its authors say they hope it will give pause to a current trend in education reform: privatization.

From tax-dollar financed vouchers for private schools to a drive to put public schools in private hands, market-style reforms are all the buzz in education.

Competition, the reasoning goes, is healthy for schools. Those that must produce results to survive have to be better than those that don't face such pressure.

But these findings "really call into question the assumption of some of the more prominent reform efforts," says Christopher Lubienski, an education professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who wrote the study with his wife Sarah Theule Lubienski, also an education professor at the university.

In particular, says Mr. Lubienski, it challenges the assumption that "the private-school model is better and more effective, and can achieve superior results. It really undercuts a lot of those choice-based reforms."

There are some of us that could have told you from the get go that wealth and social class is a predictor of success in school. So it does follow that private schools would do better, so this is encouraging news. And while we are talking about private schools..

It appears that Edison Schools are in trouble in Philadelphia. (Thanks to Education on the Brink for this one.)

Edison Schools Inc., and the Chester Community Charter School, which educate most of the district's students, have both been cited for testing irregularities that raise questions about claims of improved achievement.

Edison yesterday fired Jayne Gibbs, the principal of Parry Middle School in Chester Upland who was accused by students of giving them answers during state testing last month. The company also said it would ask the state and district to investigate exemplary test results at Showalter Middle School when Gibbs was principal there in 2003 and 2004.

This is a now familiar way of raising test scores. I believe that what it shows is that raising scores and teaching kids is difficult. There are no short cuts. It is exactly for this reason that we cannot leave the education of our children to for profit operations. The main difference between for profit and public education is that the goal of dedicated public schools and school boards is educating kids. The goal of for profit education companies is making a profit. How long are we going to go down this wrong rode of privatizing education before we really focus on changing our public schools?

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