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Public Schools Outperform Private Schools Nationally, But Is There More To The Equation?

02/19/2015 03:13 pm ET | Updated Feb 19, 2015

Local-level policy debates continue to push a more privatized model of education through vouchers and the creation of charter schools, but are these less-regulated programs more effective in helping students achieve academically?

University of Illinois professor Christopher Lubienski challenged the prevailing notions about the successes of private education in a conversation with HuffPost Live on Wednesday. As he describes in his book The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools, an analysis of two large-scale databases reveals that private schools don't stand up to their public counterparts when controlling for additional background factors, like socioeconomic status and parental education levels, that could skew the data.

"Public schools were actually outperforming demographically similar private schools," Lubienski said. "When we look at similar students in the different types of schools, in mathematics anyways, kids in public schools are, on average, performing at a level higher than students at charter or private schools."

Lubienski told host Marc Lamont Hill that the study pushes back against the conventional wisdom about private education.

"Most people would expect that private schools would do better, and that's why parents pay for them, but our results really question that," he added.

So, if not a better education, what exactly does a child get from an expensive private education? University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Gloria Ladson-Billings suggested that it's more about the lasting connections one can forge at a private institution.

"One of the things that you are buying when you send your kids to private school is you are buying like-mindedness," she said. "You're buying the opportunity to put your kids around kids who have parents who have some similar values and conceptions."

Watch the full HuffPost Live conversation about the benefits of both public and private education here.

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