Public-school graduates beat private pupils in undergrad, research finds

SWeAT hOg

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Interesting argument in favor of public education


April 22, 2012
Public-school graduates beat private pupils in undergrad, research finds
By KATE HAMMER
From Monday's Globe and Mail
Belying conventional wisdom, study of first-year physics class at UBC finds Metro Vancouver schools outperforming

Think the school you chose for your child is good? Better than that academic straggler just down the road?

Think again.

A new study is raising questions about the information parents commonly use to chose a school for their children, especially in provinces like Alberta and British Columbia, where families commonly shop around for an education.

The authors looked at the academic performance of more than 4,500 students in a first-year physics class at the University of British Columbia between 2002 and 2006. They found that those who had graduated from public schools in the Metro Vancouver area outperformed their peers arriving from private schools and school districts in more remote parts of the province.

The findings, which were published last week in the International Journal of Science Education, contradict some commonly held beliefs, including that independent schools give students an academic head start while those in low-income urban schools fall behind.

Within the Vancouver School Board, for example, schools on the east side of the city outperformed those in the west. Average household income is higher on the west side ($65,700 a year, compared with the east side's $43,800), and schools there are widely regarded as academically superior by Vancouver parents, so much so that thousands of students commute across the district to attend schools in the west.

"There's a popular opinion [in Vancouver] that the west side is better than the east side and the independent schools are better than both," said George Bluman, a professor of mathematics at UBC, and one of the authors. "Popular opinion is probably wrong."

Prof. Bluman suggests a larger proportion of immigrant families gave the east end a boost. His theory is supported by standardized testing which has found that immigrant students, especially those of Southeast Asian descent, outperform their native-born peers.

The results also put urban schools in Vancouver very slightly ahead of those in the suburbs, and even further ahead of schools in outlying areas. Prof. Bluman believes this could be attributable to a shortage of teachers with math and science expertise in more sparsely populated regions.

Elizabeth deVries, an elementary-school teacher and mother of three who lives in Kamloops, finds that assertion problematic. She feels it's more likely students from Metro Vancouver have an advantage over their peers who are away from home for the first time, and who often work a part-time job to cover the cost of housing.

"That experience is totally different from a kid who is living at home and going to school," she said.

The study contradicted some of the findings of the Fraser Institute's annual school rankings in concluding that students who graduated from public schools outperform those from independent schools.

That surprised Brendan Lim, an 18-year-old first-year sciences student at UBC who will write his Physics 101 final exam Monday. He feels the education he got at Vancouver College, an all-boys independent school, gave him a strong foundation in math and sciences.

He acknowledged, however, that independent school students coming from single-sex and low student-to-teacher ratio classrooms may be in for a bigger culture shock than their publicly educated peers.

"At university it's a lot more independent, a lot more about self-motivation," he said.

Although the study's rankings and those of the Fraser Institute don't match up, both Prof. Bluman and Peter Cowley, an education policy expert at the Fraser Institute, said this points to a need for more rankings and evaluation in Canadian education.

"Let's have school compete with each for effectiveness," Mr. Cowley said. "It's too important to say we don't want to evaluate schools."

While competitive rankings of schools are relatively common in the United States, the Fraser Institute is the only group in Canada to do school-by-school comparisons on a large scale.

Last year's school report cards were downloaded by 1.25 million people - an impressive number given that there are only about four million families with school-aged children in Canada.

But many inside the education system say these rankings are problematic, and misleading to parents.

"To know what a school is like you have to go into the school ... You really need to get the full feeling of the culture of the school," Ms. deVries said. "Who's to say that one school is better than another?"
 

SWeAT hOg

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I agree that immigrant students often academically kick the ass of native-born students. I teach in a mostly white community, meaning that the student population is in my estimation 80% Caucasian at the town high school. However, when I visit the advanced university-prep Math classes (Trig, Calculus, Stats, etc.) the classes are disproportionately 'brown', with most of the students being the children of landed immigrants.
 

Blues4U

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I think the biggest advantage a private school has over a public school is simple---

Public Schools have to take everybody-Private schools can and do keep known bad actors/trouble makers out!

Public Schools are at a disadvantage when it comes to realizing that they have a poor performing/ incompetent teacher on staff, as once they have tenure, its very hard to get rid of them-

Private schools--many of them make teachers sign performance agreements/morals clauses, etc, that makes it easier to do so.

The biggest advantage a private school has over public schools is the ability NOT to incorporate any of the B.S. into their curriculum if they don't want to-I attended both private and public schools, and encountered great teachers in both settings-all the not so great ones were in public schools, but have no doubt there are some in private schools as well-

I think the biggest problems with any schools is the inability to teach "meaningfull, usefull information" all day long- Many of the so called "modern teaching methods" suck! This is from a parent of 3 kids ranging from 19 to 7--I have seen it all and most of it ain't pretty--

I really get tired of the "need more money" argument, as some of our nations most failing schools, spend more per student by many thousands, than do other much more successful schools-

As a participant in, and more than causual abserver of, our public schools here in Indiana, the problem is is multi dimensional-

First off---Parents refusal to hold their children accountable for their actions---We have two complete generations, and a partial 3rd generation of little prince and princes' whos parents think they do no wrong and everything they do is cute!

Society has moved away from the "mutal respect" way of conducting ourselves and when I visit our schools, the teachers and administrators really don't show respect for their peers, the students, the students don't respect the teachers, or the staff or each other etc---THIS IS A SOCIETAL thing, not an educational thing--

I explain to my kids and their friends that "every single adult in your school should be treated as if they are the Principal" you do not make fun of the custodian, the lunchroom lady you always address then with yes sir, no mam etc- Then I hear "that's stupid, who does that anymore" which is true--these teachers try to be friends, rather than authority figures--some of the disrespect is generated by the teachers and staff's own actions-They tolerate crap I would pop a gasket over-

There is completely too much social engineering and re-engineering going on and not nearly enough of the 3R's being taught-

The biggest problem I see and have when it comes to modern day teachers is lazyness and apathy--not exactly something they have the market cornered on--plenty of that in all professions these days-

Most teachers all think they are armchair psycologist and can diagnose behavioral problems and prescribe RX on the fly--Teachers all want mind numbed little robots and that isn't the way to do things--

I am looking to relocated very soon. One of the top 2 or 3 concerns and considerations will be the quality of the schools and the methods of which they teach-


The school debate continues to baffle me--it is easy to see when we, as a nation, started going downhill regarding education, it should also be rather easy to figure out what changes were taking place at the same time-

At one time, we had one of the finest public education systems in the world---I believe we have the brains to make it happen again, not so sure we have the will to step back and do what worked in the past---:hmm:
 

Blues4U

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I agree that immigrant students often academically kick the ass of native-born students. I teach in a mostly white community, meaning that the student population is in my estimation 80% Caucasian at the town high school. However, when I visit the advanced university-prep Math classes (Trig, Calculus, Stats, etc.) the classes are disproportionately 'brown', with most of the students being the children of landed immigrants.



^^^I believe this is an easy one-

Immigrants believe that a good education is a priviledge, native born, North Americans consider it an onstacle to doing what they want during the course of the day-

I am being serious--People from other places realize the value of knowledge, we seem to have forgotten about it-
 

LPSGME

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Unpossible!

If kids from lower income families do better that those from higher income families - doesn't it stand to reason that all kids would do better if they were taught by teachers who are paid less than teachers who are paid more? :hmm:
 

cmh6122

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"A new study is raising questions about the information parents commonly use to CHOSE a school for their children, especially in provinces like Alberta and British Columbia, where families commonly shop around for an education."
Choose maybe?
 

bertzie

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If kids from lower income families do better that those from higher income families - doesn't it stand to reason that all kids would do better if they were taught by teachers who are paid less than teachers who are paid more? :hmm:

How the hell should I know? I escaped school in 06 and have been free ever since.
 

SWeAT hOg

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Thoughtful post, Blues. We are far from perfect and I have worked with some of those apathetic teachers you speak of. However, I think the survival skills necessary in the public school do have advantages. I have had a number of students jump into the public waters after being educated at Montessori schools. These students, by and large have difficulties working independently and often need guidance on a project from start to finish. This IMO is the by-product of small class sizes where teachers 'hover' over the little darlings to 'ensure' a good outcome.
 

SWeAT hOg

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If kids from lower income families do better that those from higher income families - doesn't it stand to reason that all kids would do better if they were taught by teachers who are paid less than teachers who are paid more? :hmm:

Public school teachers-at least in Ontario- are generally better paid than their private school colleagues
 

SWeAT hOg

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Same thing in the states. The NEA is good at raping the taxpayers.

I don't feel as though I'm raping anybody, unless you are talking about my modest home and autos. I work hard and get paid well
 

Alex W

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Considering that is was specifically physics class, I don't see much validity in drawing conclusions about public school vs private school on the whole. I attended public high school and took physics my senior year. The physics class was not exactly a cross section of the whole student body. There isn't much reason to think that a private school would produce students better prepared for college physics. It's not as if private high schools are giving out lots of academic scholarships, attracting the cream of the crop intellectually.
 

SWeAT hOg

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Considering that is was specifically physics class, I don't see much validity in drawing conclusions about public school vs private school on the whole. I attended public high school and took physics my senior year. The physics class was not exactly a cross section of the whole student body. There isn't much reason to think that a private school would produce students better prepared for college physics. It's not as if private high schools are giving out lots of academic scholarships, attracting the cream of the crop intellectually.

Good point. Senior physics doesn't really attract the hardcore stoners. Chemistry? Perhaps.....:laugh2:
 

PraXis

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You are so full of shit you're eyes are brown.

Really? We have the highest property taxes in the country. Most of an NJ resident's property taxes go to education (close to 60%, the rest goes to emergency services and infrastructure). It doesn't take a genius to figure out what is bankrupting my state.
 

Dino Velvet

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Meanwhile, not in Vancover but in the burbs of the USA, I'd have to say that looking back as a middle age geezer my friends that went to private school fared a whole lot better than those that did not.
 

bertzie

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Meanwhile, not in Vancover but in the burbs of the USA, I'd have to say that looking back as a middle age geezer my friends that went to private school fared a whole lot better than those that did not.

Now I'm not saying it has anything to do with parents that can afford private school but...

Actually, that's exactly what I'm saying. Having parents that can afford private school make life much easier for kids.
 

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