Despite what DeVos wants you to believe, research shows public schools outperform private schools

As the nation’s new education secretary, Betsy DeVos, promotes the flawed idea that taxpayer dollars should be spent to pay for private school tuition, research proves she, along with many others, is dead wrong to assume that public school students would be better off in private schools.

On Monday, DeVos visited North Carolina’s Fort Bragg Army Base, where our troops’ families are losing education programs because of President Trump’s federal hiring freeze. DeVos thinks private school vouchers should be made available to military families. She’s spreading a similar privatization message today in Florida.

But before heading back to Washington, D.C., DeVos needs to pick up a book by a husband and wife research team that warns policymakers and parents not to assume that a private education is better just because you have to pay for it.

They make the assumption that moving kids from public to private is going to help them, but actually our data and some of the more recent voucher studies suggest the opposite—that it actually has a harmful effect,” said Christopher Lubienski, a researcher with Indiana University.

Lubienski and his wife Sarah, a researcher with the University of Illinois, authored a book entitled, The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools. The two looked at several early childhood longitudinal studies and data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and found, just like the title says, public schools outperform private schools.

Christopher Lubienski and Sarah Theule Lubienski

“When we did the analysis, and we controlled for the fact that there tends to be more affluent parents sending their children to private schools, when you account for those demographics, that more than explains any gaps in achievement. In fact, public schools are actually more effective in teaching mathematics” said Lubienski, who believes math is a better reflection of what’s being taught in schools compared to reading, which is often learned at home.

“This definitely turns the common wisdom on its head, and it undercuts the basic narrative we have around school reform now exemplified in Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump.”

The Lubienskis recently attended a town hall in Nevada, where educators, parents, and lawmakers turned out to hear what they had to say. Education Votes asked Lubienski about educators’ reactions when they hear the findings.

“For some people, they are nodding in agreement because it’s something they already sensed,” said Lubienski. “We’re just looking at nationally recognized data that confirms what they already knew—public schools are doing a better job in a lot of cases.”

So what are the ingredients that go into creating a quality learning environment for students. According to Lubienski, smaller classes sizes matter (no surprise here for educators) but so do demographics. He says students do better when they have a “wealthier peer group”.

Unfortunately, these attributes tend to be found more in private schools. However, Lubienski’s research shows public schools make up for these deficits with teachers who are properly trained and certified.

“That makes a big difference. We’re talking about teachers who have been trained in some of the standards that have been pushed by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics,” said Lubienski. “Kids in private schools will tend to talk about math being about memorization and just reciting facts, but less so in public schools. Public school kids tend to think of it more as solving problems and real world applications and that’s a big difference.”

And while educators at private schools report they have greater autonomy, Lubienski believes this could pose a danger to students, leading to segregation and the exclusion of those who are costlier to educate.

“The assumption is that they (private schools) would put more money into the instruction,” said Lubienski. “In fact, we’re seeing they are putting more money into things like marketing.”

Lubienski adds he and his wife’s findings have been replicated by a number of other prominent researchers. So with that being the case, what’s the advice for parents considering private school vouchers?

“Parents chose private schools for a variety of different reasons,” said Lubienski. “But if it’s a matter of choosing them because you assume they are better than public schools, the data simply doesn’t bear that out.”

Credit: Education Votes


PSEA: Legislation allowing more guns in schools threatens student safety

HARRISBURG (April 19, 2017) — Legislation the Senate Education Committee approved today to arm teachers and school support staff in public schools is misguided and would make students less safe, Pennsylvania State Education Association President Jerry Oleksiak said today.

“Teachers are not trained law enforcement officers – their job is to educate children and act as role models.

“PSEA is not opposed to the use of appropriately trained and armed school safety personnel in schools, like the school safety officers that some districts employ. What our Association does oppose is arming teachers, education support professionals, and other school staff.

“This legislation would create more problems for first responders arriving at the scene of an armed confrontation, making it more difficult to immediately distinguish a perpetrator from a school employee.

“PSEA is for strategies that keep students safe. This bill doesn’t keep students safe. That’s why we oppose it.”

Oleksiak is a special education teacher in the Upper Merion Area School District. An affiliate of the National Education Association, PSEA represents approximately 180,000 future, active and retired teachers and school employees, and health care workers in Pennsylvania.


Credit: Pennsylvania State Education Association


Abington High School Student Receives the ACF Student Leadership Award

Eastern Center for Arts and Technology (EASTERN) Culinary Arts student/Abington High School junior, Ashley Lademann, received the American Culinary Federation (ACF) Student Leadership Award at the ACF President’s Charity Scholarship Ball on Sunday, April 9, 2017 at the Philadelphia Country Club.

Both of Ashley’s parents are in the culinary field, so she has grown up immersed in the industry. “Both the Culinary Arts program at EASTERN and my ACF membership broadened my knowledge of the culinary field and my technical expertise,” said Ashley. “I am now more aware of the different career opportunities within the culinary field. I chose this path because I enjoy making food. Food makes people happy.”

After completing her Culinary Arts program at EASTERN in 2018, Ashley is considering continuing her education at Johnson and Wales University. Culinary Arts at EASTERN enables students to acquire a variety of skills including cooking, baking, kitchen sanitation, purchasing, and inventory controls.

Teacher Tuesday

Teacher Tuesday: April 18, 2017

You might say that Jim Molenari, a fifth-grade teacher at Mill Creek Elementary, knows a thing or two about teaching. This week’s #TeacherTuesday was both a student and parent of two students in Central Bucks School District, and is now in his 29th year of teaching in the district.

Having been involved in National Board Certification has allowed him to appreciate the quality of teaching taking place in the district. “When you step back and watch yourself and others on tape you realize the number of decisions that you are making during every lesson,” he says. This experience has helped him to appreciate the impact that teachers have on students.

Jim’s classroom, affectionately called Molenariville, is a true learning community. As this veteran teacher notes, “In our world of standardized testing, it is easy to forget that we are teaching individual children, not subjects, and not test-taking. Each year I plan several trips for the students to build that sense of community.” Team building activities, an annual Turkey Bowl football game, community service, and a poetry recital at a children’s bookstore, all help to “make memories for the students in my class.”

CAPS OriginalWhat You May Have Missed

Demand Charter School’s Accountability!

Watch the conversation that took place about #CharterSchoolaccountability recently when Montgomery County Rep. Steve McCarter; Assistant Superintendent of North Penn, Dr. Diane Holben; and teachers Kitty Semisch and Bill Senavaitis, sat down to discuss the topic.

Said Kitty, “How is it that public schools are under greater and greater and greater scrutiny and charter schools are under increasingly loose regulation? Even financially, we don’t know where their money goes.” Bill echoed her sentiments, wondering, “How much is going toward making a profit vs. educating students?”

“Pennsylvania is actually known to have one of the looser charter school laws in the country,” added Dr. Holben. View the video now and you’ll also learn how a student can actually put as much as $16,000 into the pockets of a cyber school, according to Rep. McCarter. Share this video and join the conversation. Let us know what you think as the Pennsylvania House prepares to take up the issue of charter school oversight.

CAPS OriginalWhat You May Have Missed

What impact can Betsy DeVos have on our schools?

What impact could the new Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, have on a variety of initiatives and programs? While she may not have quite as much control of public school systems as expected, she still can affect many of the programs that make our public schools so valuable for everyone, such as the protection and support of students with disabilities.

Share this score card to help others form their own educated opinion and further the conversation about what lies ahead for our public schools under Betsy DeVos and – #gopublic


Teacher Tuesday

Teacher Tuesday: April 11, 2017

For this #TeacherTuesday post, we’re shining the spotlight on Wendy Leyden, an inspiring cosmetology studies educator at the Eastern Center for Arts and Technology, a school serving eight Montgomery County school districts.

As an advocate for career and tech education for over 25 years, cosmetology education has provided Wendy with the opportunity to share inspiration with her students every day.

She runs the cosmetology clinic on most Thursdays and Fridays during the school year and part of the summer. “The cosmetology clinic is a great way for students to learn how to best communicate with their clients, and the importance of building relationships, as well as building their technical skills,” says Wendy. “We run the clinic just like a salon, so these students feel comfortable entering the field after attaining their State Board of Cosmetology license.” 

Bucks and Montgomery County public schools work to provide a wide variety of high quality educational opportunities and access to a broad spectrum of career paths that inspire students to find their niche. Who’s inspiring your students?

Teacher Tuesday

Teacher Tuesday: April 4, 2017

Helene Moriarty, a Central Bucks High School East art teacher, and faculty sponsor of the school’s National Art Honor Society, brings form, light, and color to whatever she touches, and is our focus for #TeacherTuesday today. “My job brings me so many joys,” she says, “but the one thing that is a constant inspiration as an art teacher, is seeing a student’s talent flourish throughout their time at East.” That’s evident from the photo below that showcases Helene and Sarah Swartz, a senior at East, who won the 2D Art Award at the 22nd Annual Bucks County High School Art Exhibition recently and received her award from Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick.

Helene adds, “So many students come into my classroom not knowing their fullest artistic and creative potentials. When they start to see their artistic capabilities and the meaningful purposes that art provides them, as well as the community, they seem to blossom with pride.”

We couldn’t be more proud of Helene and the mentorship she brings to her students, enabling them to participate in the Memory Project for the last two years in which they created portraits of refugees and orphaned children from Syria and Jordan that were recently shared on our Facebook page.

Teacher Tuesday

Teacher Tuesday: March 28, 2017

It’s lucky for the kids at the Blue Bell Elementary School in the Wissahickon School District that Todd Omohundro’s record deal with RCA Records as a jazz-rock-pop singer/songwriter didn’t pan out! That’s because, this week’s #TeacherTuesday then turned his attention to becoming a teacher, although he still doesn’t feel like one after 25 years of being in the classroom.

He says, “I am a musician and I LOVE kids. Somehow that thrown into a blender works.” This enthusiastic musician adds, “I love that I teach a cornucopia of kids who basically look like the United Nations. I love that I am permitted to do a lot of different music activities with the kids at my elementary school — rock band, drum line, chorus, music theater, and strings — and notes that “you don’t find that as much in private schools.”

Todd’s students inspire him and he adds, “I constantly ask their thoughts on things and oftentimes they lead me.” But he’s definitely the driving force behind his unique elementary school 40-member drum line and rock band.

Teacher Tuesday

Teacher Tuesday: March 21, 2017

oday’s #TeacherTuesday post features Janey Kozlowski, an eighth-grade learning support teacher at Arcola Intermediate School in the Methacton School District. Says Janey, who grew up and went to school in the district where she now teaches, “My motivations for pursuing a career in a public school were greatly influenced by the fact that I was brought up going to public schools — I had an extremely positive experience that I wanted to recreate for my students.”

Janey continues, “I also like the sense of community found in public schools. I strongly believe that it’s difficult to reach students unless you can extend into their community and begin to understand their day-to-day culture. A public school setting makes that connection more transparent for me.”

A multi-talented teacher, she is also a coach for the Methacton High School softball team and co-authors a column, “Science for All,” with a fellow Arcola colleague for Science Scope magazine. She says she is always amazed by the transformation her students show throughout the year.