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New Voucher Studies

Comparing Achievement of Public and Private Schools

After controlling for family background and other differences between students in public and private schools, University of Illinois researchers Christopher Lubienski and Sarah Lubienski Theule have found that that public schools, contrary to conventional wisdom, actually outperform private schools.

The study, published by the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Columbia University, analyzed National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores—the "gold standard" of education data—of a nationally representative sample of fourth and eighth graders. They found that after accounting for socioeconomic, race and disability status differences in the populations of these schools, "public school students outperform Catholic and other private school students on NAEP. This finding is statistically significant."

Their study confirms about 40 years of research into this subject showing that once background differences between public and private school students are accounted for, private schools do not outperform public schools. The study, "Re-Examining a Primary Premise of Market Theory: An Analysis of NAEP Data on Achievement in Public and Private Schools," is posted online at The authors also report their findings in the May 2005 issue of Phi Delta Kappan.