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Study: Public Schools Vs. Private – Do the Math and Public is Better

May 27, 2008

Urbana, IL – The best mathematics programs for elementary kids in Illinois probably don't cost their parents anything extra. A new report from the University of Illinois finds that public school students do just as well in math, and sometimes even better, than their peers in private schools.

Researcher Sarah Lubienski says well-regarded studies 30 years ago found that private schools were better on the math front, but times have changed - and so has the way math is taught in public schools.

"Things are a little more problem-centered in mathematics than they used to be, and a little bit less about drill and practice."

In Lubienski's opinion, widespread statements about how other countries' students are "more advanced in math" than students in the United States also deserve a closer look. She says, for example, Japan's stellar student math scores come with costs.

"Their suicide rate among teenagers is very high because of all the pressure of these high-stakes tests, and pressure to study - and do we want that for our kids? Is this a trade-off that we're willing to make?"

The study reviewed federal and local test scores and other statistics. She says parents choose private schools for many different reasons, and she supports that choice. However, she adds, more research must be done on the methods and motivators, both in public and private classrooms, that lead to student success.

Deborah Smith/Steve Powers, Public News Service - IL