Sunday, January 29, 2006

Statistically, American public schools do not perform worse than private schools, once adjustments for student demographics have been made. Read about it in today's Times.

7 Comments:

At 10:25 AM, Blogger angela said...

i went to a private school. i barely passed math, but i dont blame my school or my teachers because the reason i f'ed it up is not listening in math class, ever.

 
At 10:25 AM, Blogger angela said...

p.s. wtf happened to your crooked timber permalink

 
At 11:15 AM, Blogger alex said...

i deleted it because they wrote some things that pissed me off

 
At 11:16 AM, Blogger alex said...

but don't worry, you'll still be on my blogroll, no matter how much of a hippie you are

 
At 10:33 PM, Blogger Kate Marie said...

Very interesting, Alex. It's painful to contemplate having to give up one of my cherished assumptions about public schooling versus private schooling. What about the statistical methods used to control for income, "home situation," etc? Do you think they're reliable, or am I grasping at straws?

I suppose it doesn't necessarily negate the case for school choice, but it certainly calls into question one of the school choice movement's prime assumptions.

I am skeptical about that headline claiming public schools are doing "well" -- I'd like to see the reading scores, for instance.

 
At 11:10 PM, Blogger alex said...

The statistical methods look reliable; however, this kind of econometric analysis is very easily susceptible to manipulation.

Have you read much about the John Lott controversy? Basically, JL published a book entitled More Guns, Less Crime which argued that crime rates are inversely correlated with gun ownership rates. But when you make such a study, you have to make a million decisions...how do you measure gun ownership? Which index do you use for crime? How do you adjust for differing statistics between different geographical areas? And so on. Later, researchers came along and figured out that if you make different choices on these questions, you get completely opposite results.

The same applies here. One cannot tell without going into the details whether these people did not make choices artificially to force their preferred conclusion.

However, I believe the ultimate conclusion stands. This is because there is already a large amount of literature for the same proposition - here for example is NYT from last year reporting on a lesser study with the same conclusion. I also quoted some literature to you in our last exchange on this topic some months ago. However, there are also papers which find positive results for charter/private school students, even after adjusting for demographics.

So, the point is, even if it is possible that these people chose their statistical parameters repeatedly until they got the results they wanted, the very fact that many people can do this shows that it is not unambiguously true that private/charter schools are superior.

So basically, I'm suggesting that while these results need to be taken with a grain of salt, even after taking them with a grain of salt they are meaningful. In particular, what I get out of this is that if charter/private schools are superior, their superiority is not so significant that it appears unambiguosly in the data. This is why I believe that if we privatized our entire education system, we'd get at most modest gains, nothing spectacular.

 
At 12:28 AM, Blogger angela said...

" but don't worry, you'll still be on my blogroll, no matter how much of a hippie you are"

does this privilege extend to other sectors of life? i think im going to continue to be a huge hippie.

i think youre the hippie. just because you boycotted them doesnt mean they wont get hits - why dont you go boycott nike and starbucks, too? youve got principles, maaan.

 

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