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The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools Paperback – November 7, 2013


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The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools + Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools + 50 Myths and Lies That Threaten America's Public Schools: The Real Crisis in Education
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“A powerful blow against the central premise that students at charter and voucher schools get a better education than their public school counterparts.”
(David Kirp Slate)

Public School Advantage is a book to be reckoned with.The calling card of today’s leading voices in educational reform is the charge that our public schools are failing. But failing in comparison to what, the Lubienskis ask? Traditional public schools are not failing to keep pace with charters and private schools, at least in teaching students math, one of the two subjects at the heart of No Child Left Behind and the Common Core. On the contrary, traditional public schools in some cases appear to have advantages over other kinds of schools that are usually perceived as more innovative and rigorous. While more empirical work on the public school advantage needs to be completed—in subjects beyond math and grades beyond elementary school—the Lubienskis have launched a strong salvo in the contentious debate about school effectiveness.”
(Jeffrey Aaron Snyder Boston Review)

The Public School Advantage is a complete and thorough analysis of America’s many different kinds of schools—secular, charter, and public—and should end the arguments about which kind is better. Chris and Sarah Lubienski provide both the data and the clear explanations needed to understand the many false claims made about the superiority of schools that are not public. The result is a ringing endorsement of public school achievement.”
(David Berliner, author of Collateral Damage: How High-Stakes Testing Corrupts America’s Schools)

“In The Public School Advantage, Christopher and Sarah Lubienski present studies that challenge assumptions of the market-based argument for education and provide a cogent analytical comparison that evaluates public versus private elementary school performance.  While questions remain, they provide an important contribution to a timely topic.  This book provides empirically based insight about the school choice debate and is worthy of our attention.” 
(William F. Tate, past president of the American Educational Research Association)

“Their data-driven argument is a valuable contribution to a vitally important topic.” 
(Glenn Altschuler Oregonian)

“This important book provides clear evidence that the ‘free-market model’ of schooling does not match the hype of the privatization movement. It demonstrates that public education is a valuable and successful institution. It must be protected and strengthened, not privatized.”
(Diane Ravitch, author of Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools)

“The author’s conclusions make a strong case for the continued investment in public schools and for resisting market-driven approaches.”
(School Administrator)

About the Author

Christopher A. Lubienski is professor in the Department of Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is coeditor of The Charter School Experiment: Expectations, Evidence, and Implications and School Choice Policies and Outcomes: Empirical and Philosophical PerspectivesSarah Theule Lubienski is professor of education and associate dean of the Graduate College at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (November 7, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 022608891X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226088914
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #163,213 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 27 people found the following review helpful By SamIAm on December 17, 2013
Format: Paperback
This book lays out two different studies with two different national datasets. In one study the authors look at students' math achievement in public, Catholic, Lutheran, Conservative Christian, "Other Private" (including non-religious privates) and Charter schools. In the second study they zero in on comparisons between Catholic and public schools. If you think it's bizarre that public schools outperform private schools when rich, smart people will PAY to put their kids in private, then read the book to find out why. The book makes interesting points -- e.g., that private and charter schools put money into advertising and do "innovative" things like require school uniforms instead of focusing on making instruction better. And it is important to keep in mind that the studies aren't just a simple comparison of raw scores, because obviously rich kids usually do better in school -- the kids walk in the door with every advantage so of course private school achievement looks good. But the authors make an apples-to-apples comparison of demographically similar students in different types of schools.

The book explains some of why public schools are doing better than you'd think -- E.g., in Private schools, kids are more likely to learn math in old fashioned ways, and private schools are free to hire anyone they want. Although school autonomy might sound like a good thing, the book raises interesting questions about this -- if schools are free to hired unqualified teachers and to stick with teaching methods from 30 years ago, is that a good thing? This is obviously politically loaded terrain (as you can see from the polarized reviews). And we can all point to really good private schools and really bad public schools.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reader on January 3, 2014
Format: Paperback
This is a very tight research study of our nation's public, private, and church affiliated schools. For years it's been borne out that charter schools perform well the first year, then about the same as public schools. The public and private billions poured into charter schools as the "answer" to students poorly performing on achievement tests just doesn't pan out. However, many politicians are reaping the benefits as charter school founders pour money into their election coffers--something this book doesn't address but just pick up a newspaper.
This book is a must read for anyone who truly wants what's best for our nation's kids.
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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Martha Makowski on November 5, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found The Public School Advantage to be an accessible and informative treatment of recent data on the effects of public school education on mathematics performance, relative to other types of schools. It provides a detailed introduction to the topic, balancing an overview of the issues and debate with data about student performance on mathematics assessments at public and private schools. This balance meant I never felt bogged down in the details, but also got enough information to feel satisfied with the authors' conclusions and believe that as a result of reading this book that I can talk with some authority on the issues surround math education at public and private schools. I found the section in which the authors identified the instuctional factors that differ between public and private schools the most compelling part of their argument and would recommend that chapter, in particular, to anyone interested in public versus private education.

I think the structure of the book is worth noting: it starts with a discussion of the issues, followed by a detailed overview of the evidence, and then draws conclusions. The details of the methodology are left to the (almost 100 page) appendix. While this format might leave a critical reader hanging with questions for a while, the text is also more accessible as a result, and the questions do get answered.

I would recommend this book!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Joe Adams on August 25, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The methodology is exactly as it should be, controlling for a wide variety of factors associated with school performance, particularly race and poverty. The fact that public schools outperform others is no surprise. What was surprising is how poorly specific denominational schools performed. The data used are among the most reliable and widely accepted.

Some reviewers assert that the data or methods are flawed, but provide no specifics and do not appear to understand statistics. They're basically trolls.

This is an outstanding treatment of a very important question and needs to be taken seriously by policymakers and parents. We need more comparative analyses like this, particularly those that take into effect state influences. In some states, these findings may vary, being exaggerated or diminished by state policy (particularly those in the South). That is an issue that needs to be explored in more detail. This book fits well with School Choice and the Question of Accountability: The Milwaukee Experience, Finnish Lessons (few, if any, private schools there), Endangering Prosperity, and Surpassing Shanghai.

We dilly-dally at our own risk.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Pedro Demo on December 20, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very good research on students' performance data, with technical mastery in statistical methods of measurement. Surprising results: public schools perform better. Neoliberal proposal doesn't hold, particularly the drive to privatization of schools. Privatization of public goods is an American obsession, but there are public goods that we have to handle as "public". Public schools can be good, or even better than private ones.
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