The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools

University of Chicago Press
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Nearly the whole of America’s partisan politics centers on a single question: Can markets solve our social problems? And for years this question has played out ferociously in the debates about how we should educate our children. From the growth of vouchers and charter schools to the implementation of No Child Left Behind, policy makers have increasingly turned to market-based models to help improve our schools, believing that private institutions—because they are competitively driven—are better than public ones. With The Public School Advantage, Christopher A. and Sarah Theule Lubienski offer powerful evidence to undercut this belief, showing that public schools in fact outperform private ones.
For decades research showing that students at private schools perform better than students at public ones has been used to promote the benefits of the private sector in education, including vouchers and charter schools—but much of these data are now nearly half a century old. Drawing on two recent, large-scale, and nationally representative databases, the Lubienskis show that any benefit seen in private school performance now is more than explained by demographics. Private schools have higher scores not because they are better institutions but because their students largely come from more privileged backgrounds that offer greater educational support. After correcting for demographics, the Lubienskis go on to show that gains in student achievement at public schools are at least as great and often greater than those at private ones. Even more surprising, they show that the very mechanism that market-based reformers champion—autonomy—may be the crucial factor that prevents private schools from performing better. Alternatively, those practices that these reformers castigate, such as teacher certification and professional reforms of curriculum and instruction, turn out to have a significant effect on school improvement.
Despite our politics, we all agree on the fundamental fact: education deserves our utmost care. The Public School Advantage offers exactly that. By examining schools within the diversity of populations in which they actually operate, it provides not ideologies but facts. And the facts say it clearly: education is better off when provided for the public by the public.
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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 Perspectives. Sarah 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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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Nov 7, 2013
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9780226089072
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Language
English
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Genres
Education / Educational Policy & Reform / General
Education / Elementary
Education / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Two of the most respected voices in education and a team of young education scholars identify 50 myths and lies that threaten America's public schools. With hard-hitting information and a touch of comic relief, Berliner, Glass, and their Associates separate fact from fiction in this comprehensive look at modern education reform. They explain how the mythical failure of public education has been created and perpetuated in large part by political and economic interests that stand to gain from its destruction. They also expose a rapidly expanding variety of organizations and media that intentionally misrepresent facts. Many of these organizations also suggest that their goal is unbiased service in the public interest when, in fact, they represent narrow political and financial interests. Where appropriate, the authors name the promoters of these deceptions and point out how they are served by encouraging false beliefs.

This provocative book features short essays on important topics to provide every elected representative, school administrator, school board member, teacher, parent, and concerned citizen with much food for thought, as well as reliable knowledge from authoritative sources.

“Berliner and Glass are long-time critics of wrong-headed education reforms. 50 Myths and Lies continues their record of evidence-based truth-telling. Joined by 19 young scholars in identifying 50 of the worst ideas for changing our nation's schools, they are able to sort through the cacophony of today’s all too often ill-informed debate. Anyone involved in making decisions about today’s schools should read this book.”

—Linda Darling-Hammond, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education, Stanford University


“This book is true grit. It’s the gritty reality of hard data. It’s the irritating grit that makes you shift in your seat. And it’s the grit that sometimes makes you want to weep. Well argued, well written—whether you agree or disagree with this book, if you care about the future of public education, you mustn’t ignore it.”

—Andy Hargreaves, professor, Thomas More Brennan Chair in Education, Lynch School of Education, Boston College


“50 Myths and Lies is a powerful defense of public education and a discerning refutation of the reckless misimpressions propagated by a juggernaut of private-sector forces and right-wing intellectuals who would gladly rip apart the legacy of democratic schooling in America. It is a timely and hard-hitting book of scholarly but passionate polemic. The teachers of our children will be grateful.”

—Jonathan Kozol, educator, author of Fire in the Ashes


“What do you get when two world-class scholars and a team of talented analysts take a hard look at 50 widely held yet unsound beliefs about U.S. public schools? Well, in this instance you get a flat-out masterpiece that, by persuasively blending argument and evidence, blasts those beliefs into oblivion. Required reading? You bet!”

—W. James Popham, professor emeritus, UCLA


David C. Berliner is an educational psychologist and bestselling author. He was professor and dean of the Mary Lou Fulton Institute and Graduate School of Education at Arizona State University. Gene V Glass is a senior researcher at the National Education Policy Center and a research professor in the School of Education at the University of Colorado Boulder. TheirAssociates are the hand-picked leading PhDs and PhDs in training from their respective institutions.

Over the past twenty years, educational policy has been characterized by top?down, market?focused policies combined with a push toward privatization and school choice. The new Every Student Succeeds Act continues along this path, though with decision?making authority now shifted toward the states. These market?based reforms have often been touted as the most promising response to the challenges of poverty and educational disenfranchisement. But has this approach been successful? Has learning improved? Have historically low?scoring schools “turned around” or have the reforms had little effect? Have these narrow conceptions of schooling harmed the civic and social purposes of education in a democracy? This book presents the evidence. Drawing on the work of the nation’s most prominent researchers, the book explores the major elements of these reforms, as well as the social, political, and educational contexts in which they take place. It examines the evidence supporting the most common school improvement strategies: school choice; reconstitutions, or massive personnel changes; and school closures. From there, it presents the research findings cutting across these strategies by addressing the evidence on test score trends, teacher evaluation, “miracle” schools, the Common Core State Standards, school choice, the newly emerging school improvement industry, and re?segregation, among others. The weight of the evidence indisputably shows little success and no promise for these reforms. Thus, the authors counsel strongly against continuing these failed policies. The book concludes with a review of more promising avenues for educational reform, including the necessity of broader societal investments for combatting poverty and adverse social conditions. While schools cannot single?handedly overcome societal inequalities, important work can take place within the public school system, with evidence?based interventions such as early childhood education, detracking, adequate funding and full?service community schools—all intended to renew our nation’s commitment to democracy and equal educational opportunity.
How do other countries create “smarter” kids? What is it like to be a child in the world’s new education superpowers? The Smartest Kids in the World “gets well beneath the glossy surfaces of these foreign cultures and manages to make our own culture look newly strange....The question is whether the startling perspective provided by this masterly book can also generate the will to make changes” (The New York Times Book Review).

In a handful of nations, virtually all children are learning to make complex arguments and solve problems they’ve never seen before. They are learning to think, in other words, and to thrive in the modern economy. Inspired to find answers for our own children, author and Time magazine journalist Amanda Ripley follows three Americans embed­ded in these countries for one year. Kim, fifteen, raises $10,000 so she can move from Oklahoma to Finland; Eric, eighteen, trades his high-achieving Minnesota suburb for a booming city in South Korea; and Tom, seventeen, leaves a historic Pennsylvania village for Poland.

Through these young informants, Ripley meets battle-scarred reformers, sleep-deprived zombie students, and a teacher who earns $4 million a year. Their stories, along with groundbreaking research into learning in other cultures, reveal a pattern of startling transformation: none of these countries had many “smart” kids a few decades ago. Things had changed. Teaching had become more rigorous; parents had focused on things that mattered; and children had bought into the promise of education.
From one of the foremost authorities on education in the United States, former U.S. assistant secretary of education, “whistle-blower extraordinaire” (The Wall Street Journal), author of the best-selling The Death and Life of the Great American School System (“Important and riveting”—Library Journal), The Language Police (“Impassioned . . . Fiercely argued . . . Every bit as alarming as it is illuminating”—The New York Times), and other notable books on education history and policy—an incisive, comprehensive look at today’s American school system that argues against those who claim it is broken and beyond repair; an impassioned but reasoned call to stop the privatization movement that is draining students and funding from our public schools.
​In Reign of Error, Diane Ravitch argues that the crisis in American education is not a crisis of academic achievement but a concerted effort to destroy public schools in this country. She makes clear that, contrary to the claims being made, public school test scores and graduation rates are the highest they’ve ever been, and dropout rates are at their lowest point.

​She argues that federal programs such as George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Barack Obama’s Race to the Top set unreasonable targets for American students, punish schools, and result in teachers being fired if their students underperform, unfairly branding those educators as failures. She warns that major foundations, individual billionaires, and Wall Street hedge fund managers are encouraging the privatization of public education, some for idealistic reasons, others for profit. Many who work with equity funds are eyeing public education as an emerging market for investors.
​Reign of Error begins where The Death and Life of the Great American School System left off, providing a deeper argument against privatization and for public education, and in a chapter-by-chapter breakdown, putting forth a plan for what can be done to preserve and improve it. She makes clear what is right about U.S. education, how policy makers are failing to address the root causes of educational failure, and how we can fix it.

​For Ravitch, public school education is about knowledge, about learning, about developing character, and about creating citizens for our society. It’s about helping to inspire independent thinkers, not just honing job skills or preparing people for college. Public school education is essential to our democracy, and its aim, since the founding of this country, has been to educate citizens who will help carry democracy into the future.
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