Peterson and Llaudet on Lubenski’s Conclusions

Slate recently interviewed Sarah Lubenski and her husband on their new book The Public School Advantage, which argues that public schools are better than private schools. What struck me as noteworthy is that this woman was doing pedagogical research when she supposedly found this new revelation. However, a study by Peterson and Llaudet makes an interesting note about their use of data. I’m only posting the summary of Lubenski and Lubenski’s views and the authors’ conclusion:

Both LL and NCES found public schools to be outperforming private schools in math at the 4th-grade level. But for 8th graders, the two studies generated different results. LL found a public school advantage, but NCES found parity between the school sectors. NCES reported a private school advantage in reading for eight graders and parity for 4th graders. LL did not report results for reading. However, in this appendix we report the results for reading that they would have obtained had they employed the model they used to generate results for math. Given the similarity in the methodologies of the two studies, it is not surprising that our LL replication generates results that resemble the NCES ones.

[ . . . ]

As we said in our conclusions to the main paper, we do not conclude from this exercise that the NAEP data reveal that private schools are superior to public schools. NAEP data are too fragile to permit any inference about school sector effects, one way or another. But one can safely affirm that there is no evidence at all for the following conclusions drawn by LL [Lubenski and Lubenski]:

“These notable findings regarding the remarkable performance of public schools are significant not just statistically, but also in terms of their policy implications. The presumed panacea of private-style organizational models—the private school advantage—is not supported by this comprehensive dataset. . . These data suggest significant reasons to be suspicious of claims of general failure in the public schools, and raise substantial questions regarding a basic premise of the current generation of school reforms based on mechanisms such as choice and competition drawn from the private sector.” (LL 2006, pp. 4-5)

As an undergraduate, my only question is, how do Lubenski and Lubenski draw a conclusion about school sectors from NAEP data that Peterson and Llaudet state are too fragile to let such inference? I’ll listen to what Lubenski and Lubenski have to say, but with some salt.


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