Results of the study by Lubienski and Lubienski, published by the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education, are simply too stunning to ignore. And I haven’t ignored it. I read about it first over at Joe Thomas’ at Shut up and Teach, also noted at Bill’s place (Endless Faculty Meeting), and more recently over at Education at the Brink (good discussion over at his place).
Short of repeating everyone else, I’d like to point this bit out: Lubienski and Lubienski set out to test ‘market theory’, the theory underlying the school choice trend sold to us as the superior way, the basic assumption being private schools are more effective than public schools at educating kids.
Their question: does the evidence support market-style ‘reform’?
The results surprised Lubienski and Lubienski. When they controlled for social class (or SES, socioeconomic status, as measured by 6 items, with the best writeup of this by the Dallas education guy), public school students consistently scored better than private school students.
So they built a way to try to remove social class as a factor. They gathered up data on the students taking the test. Were they poor enough to qualify for free school lunch? Did they have a computer at home? Did their parents graduate from college, or did they drop out of high school? They then compared how public and private schools fared when these socioeconomic factors were stripped away.
They found that, at all class levels, public schools had a small but consistent edge over privates. Their suspicions were supported by the numbers: The reason private schools look better on paper is because they serve more middle- and upper-class kids.
Or, to be even plainer: Poor kids in public schools did better than poor kids in private schools. Middle-class kids in public schools did better than middle-class kids in private schools. And rich kids in public schools did better than rich kids in private schools.
And note this irony. Using standardized test scores, which is, as you all know, the currency du jour used to define ‘achievement’, this study’s results debunk market theory. This is so funny I forgot to laugh.
If this study gets more traction, I’ll predict we’ll see the usual suspects ensconced in their cushy conservative thinktanks ferociously debunking the results. This happens quite regularly, most spectacularly last summer when NYT wrote about one certain charter school study.
The implications merit ferocity, I suppose. What else do you do when empirical data doesn’t support the theory underlying everything you’re pushing?
If we really (and I mean really) want to make a difference in America, we will agree that the “problems” in public schools are in truth problems of society and merely easier to see in the context of public schools.
At that point we can implement the family services and adult education and training needed to break the cycle of poverty, increase the reach of social mobility, and provide all Americans the “opportunity” we know a democratic society can provide– if its citizens demand it.
At present, we demand ‘accountability’ but refuse to provide the appropriate resources to achieve our lofty goals.
Xposted at my blog