Friday, February 27, 2009

Public school math students outperform those in private school

Here's a counter intuitive fact: new studies show that public schools may do a better job of teaching math than private schools. According to a ScienceDaily article,

a team of University of Illinois education professors has found that
public-school students outperform their private-school classmates on
standardized math tests, thanks to two key factors: certified math teachers, and
a modern, reform-oriented math curriculum.

The study demonstrates that while private schools have an edge in pupil/teacher ratios (normally an indicator of higher performance), other factors tilt the statistics in favor of public schools.

Two factors cited by researchers: public schools tend to hire more certified teachers, and do not rely on rote learning as much as private schools:

“Private schools are increasingly ignoring curricular trends in education, and
it shows,” Lubienski said. “They’re not using up-to-date methods, and they’re
not hiring teachers who employ up-to-date lesson plans in the classroom. When
you do that, you aren’t really taking advantage of the expertise in math
education that’s out there.”

Adding to the public school edge is accountability. Because public schools must reveal their student achievement, there is pressure to improve.

“There’s been this assumption that private schools are more effective because
they’re autonomous and don’t have all the bureaucracy that public schools have,”
Lubienski said. “But one thing this study suggests is that autonomy isn’t
necessarily a good thing for schools.”

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