Charter, Private, Public Schools and Academic Achievement: New Evidence from NAEP Mathematics Data

Chris Lubienski and Sarah Theule Lubienski
National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education
Teachers College, Columbia University
January 2006

You may be asking yourself: Isn't this the 147th study to examine the performance of public, private, and charter school students on the 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)? Yup. (To catch up on previous episodes of "Charter School Research Death Match," click here, here, and here.) And didn't new test results that showed gains for charter schools come out just a few months ago? Yup. And didn't this Lubienski duo come out with a virtually identical study last year? Well, yes, but the New York Times inexplicably found their most recent paper newsworthy nonetheless. Here's what the study claims: "This analysis of US mathematics achievement finds that, after accounting for the fact that private schools serve more advantaged populations, public [district] schools perform remarkably well, often outscoring private and charter schools." After controlling for student and school-level variables, public schools "significantly outperform" Catholic schools, and trounce conservative Christian schools. Charter schools trail public schools in the fourth grade but outperform them by eighth grade. So is this study the death knell for the school choice movement? Hardly. As the Friedman Foundation's Greg Forster explained last year in a National Review Online critique of the original Lubienski & Lubienski study, because the NAEP data do not track individual students over time, it is impossible to establish a causal link between what's going on in the schools and the students' achievement results. As Forster points out, the authors admit as much in the study itself (check out page 37). Alas, the death match goes on - don't bet on the Big Lubienski. You can find the study here.
 

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