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Chris and Sarah Lubienski's math studies cited in public versus private school debate

by David Potts / Nov 1, 2011

Christopher and Sarah LubienskiWhile the costs of private schools continue to rise, the jury is still out on whether the money is a worthwhile investment, writes David Potts.

When you're up for $150,000 in fees and extras for a child's private-school education, it'd be nice to know it's a good investment.

After all, a year 7 student starting next year will cost $215,000 by year 12 if school fees keep rising at an annual rate of 6 per cent.

Could that be better spent on tutors and extensive travel to other cultures to broaden a young mind? Certainly it would be cheaper.

But what about academic results?

Again, the only decent studies come from overseas and for every one that says private schools do better, another contradicts it.

But there's one landmark study - or two to be exact, one in 2005 and the other 2008 - by education professors Christopher and Sarah Lubienski of the University of Illinois that's telling.

It found public, yes public, schools produced better math students than private ones. In fact, the gain after five years amounted to an extra half year of schooling. What gives the study cachet is that by only looking at the results for math, it got around the problems of literacy being influenced by the home environment, other students, culture and even whether the school is in the city or the country.

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