Washington, May 25 : Debunking a common perception, a new study suggests that students in public schools are equally good in math as their private school counterparts.
Researchers from University of Illinois have revealed that public school students learn math as much or more between kindergarten and fifth grade as similar students in private schools.
They suggest that public schools are at least as effective as private schools at promoting student learning over time. The study involved nearly 10,000 students.
"These data provide strong, longitudinal evidence that public schools are at least as effective as private schools in boosting student achievement," said authors, education professor Christopher Lubienski, doctoral student Corinna Crane and education professor Sarah Theule Lubienski.
"We think this effectively ends the debate about whether private schools are more effective than publics," said Christopher Lubienski.
The debate essentially began with the publication in Phi Delta Kappan of a previous study by the Lubienskis, which challenged the then-common wisdom, supported by well-regarded but dated research, that private schools were superior.
In that 2005 study, they found that public school students tested higher in math than their private school peers from similar social and economic backgrounds. In another 2006 study they built on those findings, and also raised similar questions about charter schools.
Both studies were based on fourth- and eighth-grade test data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
The data for the new study came from the database of 21,000 students in kindergarten produced by the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-99 (or ECLS-K), administered by the National Centre for Education Statistics (NCES), part of the U.S. Department of Education. he recent data was gathered in 2004, in the spring of the students' fifth-grade year. The sample used for the study included 9,791 students in 1,531 schools with 1,273 public, 140 Catholic and 118 other private schools. he sample included only students who had stayed in the same type of school, though not necessarily the same school, throughout the years covered.
For the study the researchers used statistical technique known as hierarchical linear modeling
Among the demographic variables included in looking at students were measures of socio-economic status; race and ethnicity; gender; disability; and whether the child spoke a language other than English at home.
The findings revealed that public school students began kindergarten with math scores roughly equal to those of their Catholic school peers. By fifth grade, however, they had made significantly greater gains, equal to almost an extra half year of schooling. Public school students also "rivaled the performance of students in other (non-Catholic) private schools," the researchers wrote.
The researchers also said, "personally see private schools as an integral part of the American system of education" and "there are many valid reasons why parents choose private schools and why policymakers may push for school choice."
The results of the study appear in the May issue of the influential education journal Phi Delta Kappan.