Skip to Content

Public Schools: As Good or Better Than Charter, Private Schools

A study from the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education published in January 2006 found that students in regular public schools do as well or significantly better than comparable students in private and charter schools.

This large-scale study, financed by the U.S. Department of Education, compared 4th and 8th grade math scores of more than 340,000 students in 13,000 regular public, charter and private schools on the 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), commonly called "the nation’s report card."

Researchers Christopher Lubianski and Sarah Theule Lubianski examined math, not reading scores, because math is considered to better measure school effectiveness, while reading is more influenced by family and other outside factors.

While not a study of voucher students, this study goes to the heart of the pro-voucher assumption that private schools are better than public schools.

The study found that when test scores are not controlled for student background, private schools score higher than public schools. However these higher private school test scores are due to the fact that higher proportions of disadvantaged students are enrolled in public schools.

"Overall, the study demonstrates that demographic differences between students in public and rivate schools more than account for the relatively high raw scores of private schools," the report concludes. "Indeed, after controlling for these differences, the presumably advantageous ‘private  school effect’ disappears, and even reverses in most cases." 

In short, public schools are as good as or better than private schools.


Charter, Private, Public Schools and Academic Achievement: New Evidence from NAEP Mathematics Data  (PDF, 48pp) - Study by Christopher Lubienski and Sarah Theule Lubienski, of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education.