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Public School: As Good as Private School?

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Guest blogger Dani Klein Modisett: Students in public schools have math scores that are just as good if not better than those of students in private schools, according to a new national study, and it's music to my ears.

"These data provide strong, longitudinal evidence that public schools are at least as effective as private schools in boosting student achievement," said researcher Christopher Lubienski of the University of Illinois. Combined with other, yet-unpublished studies of the same data, which produced similar findings, "We think this effectively ends the debate about whether private schools are more effective than publics," said Lubienski, whose research has dealt with all aspects of alternative education.

Can you say, "music to my ears?" Because this study certainly sounds melodious to this mother of two. I recently, like last week, made the decision to transfer my child from a fab Los Angeles private school to a public school here, and after sweating it, and by sweating it I don't mean peri-menopausal night sweats although that is entirely possible as a 40something mommy. I mean tossing and turning night after night wondering if I was doing right by son, if I was squashing his intellectual potential and all things Harvard by making this move to public school.

Turns out my instincts were on track. It is possible to get the same, if not better, education at a public school and you minimize the potentially bigger risk of your child becoming a materially focused spoiled brat. That's harsh, not all private school kids are spoiled, but let's just say it was starting to make me nervous that before leaving any kid party, my otherwise adorable 5-year-old would run up to me, or worse the hostess of the party and ask, "Where's the goody bag?"

It's hard for me to even type that comfortably. It's not his fault, private school means tuition, often $12,000-$20,000 a year even for pre-school. It's a pretty small percentage of Americans who can afford that, and I have to just call it, it's rich people. And rich people throw very nice parties and do usually have lovely parting gifts for the kids. So it's not my son's fault that he has certain expectations now. But it still sickened me. Not for today, this birthday celebration or that pre-k graduation party. It sickened me for the future. When it's no longer parting gifts, it's the $20,000 parties themselves and then the $50,000 bar or bat mitzvahs, the $75,000 Sweet Sixteens and requisite luxury cars as presents. Not that I want my son shielded from the rich and famous, I just don't want him steeped in it exclusively.

So when the letter came granting him admission to Community Magnet School, a small public school, we were very interested. My husband and I quickly went to visit this multi-cultural campus with Indian folk art and classrooms filled with as many different looking children as can be found in the U.S.. On our way out we saw the big yellow LAUSD buses sitting outside waiting to take these children home instead of a line of Range Rovers and Lexus SUV's and my heart danced. We made the decision to move our son the next morning. And now, according to this study, he'll be as smart as he is expansive. Many thanks to Lubienski and the University of Illinois!

Dani Klein Modisett is the mom of two boys, and the creator/producer of "Afterbirth...Stories You Won't Read in Parents Magazine."

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4 comments so far | Post a comment now
calimom+ 3 May 31, 2008, 12:58 PM

Entitlement issues are a character concern I struggle with because what you described at your child’s private school are the same at the public schools where I live. But then again I think its a US cultural flaw. So I try to focus my family’s attention on our core spiritual values of kindness, service, and our place in a global community instead of materialism. The best we can do for our children is live the life values we expect of them.

renny May 31, 2008, 2:37 PM

I have four kids - my ten-year-old and thirteen-year-old daughters are at private school, my seven-year-old son is at public, and my 2 1/2 year old is at private preschool. I think that some private schools are good and some aren’t, and some public schools are good and some aren’t. Best to just pick the schools that you and your kids like.

lanisboys May 31, 2008, 10:11 PM

my kids have been in public school magnets since kindergarten, and I know it’s superior education to most private schools. It’s sickening how private school moms snub their noses at it…I’m over it!

foxymama June 17, 2008, 1:24 PM

my kids attend a public school…but we bought the house in our community b/c the public schools are stellar. not all public schools are great - many are under funded, have large class sizes, no art programs, etc. i live in california where our govenror is making billions of dollars worth of cuts to public school budgets. doesn’t he understand that kids who are given an education become adults who are engaged in thier coiommunities, working and ultimately better off?

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