by Patrick J. Wolf
April 10, 2014
When The Public School Advantage hit the shelves, critics of private school choice were elated. The Lubienskis had employed social science to make a bold claim: if one controls for the characteristics of students who attend them, public schools “outperform” private schools. Yet, researchers have routinely found that similar students do at least as well and, at times, better academically in private schools than in public schools. Four methodological choices likely account for the Lubienskis divergent discovery: a narrow definition of school performance; use of tests that align more closely with public school than with private school curricula; the use of control variables for student characteristics that are measured differently across school sectors; and the improper handling of students who switch sectors. Furthermore, the authors claim to invalidate private school vouchers, but the data predate most school choice programs, which remain small in number and scattered across the country.