Busting the Myths About School Choice
Q. I have a
close relative who is a teacher, who I really admire. But she says school
choice would weaken public schools and would end up hurting education more than
helping it. What's the evidence?
Actually, school choice not only
improves educational progress of the students who attend the schools of their
choice because of the program, but research consistently shows that school
choice programs result in improved performance in the corresponding public
schools. Why? Because the public schools are forced to make their services more
competitive to respond to the loss of enrollment they sustain when students
elect to enroll in private schools.
Studies include a look at the impact
of Florida's "A-Plus" choice program, which showed that the public schools
which lost students to school-choice programs actually did significantly better
on the next year's standardized tests compared to Florida public schools that
did not lose students to school choice disenrollment.
The same finding was reported by
Harvard economist Caroline Hoxby, studying the Milwaukee voucher program. The
affected public schools, which lost students to school choice programs, did
significantly better than public schools in the area that did not have voucher
Similar studies of school-choice
programs and the impact on neighboring public schools in Maine and Vermont
confirmed these findings. Researchers have included Marcus Winters, Martin
West, Paul Peterson, and Rajashri Chakrabarti.
Apparently there is not a single
study that has shown that school-choice voucher programs has harmed the local
public schools. So that is powerful evidence to use with your relative.
Note that the federally-funded
Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER) housed
at the Urban Institute released an analysis of
the effect of competitive pressure from Florida's Opportunity
Scholarship voucher program on the performance of students who remain in
traditional public schools.
Some educators claim that students
who go to private schools on voucher programs don't do any better than if they
had stayed in the public school. Or, they claim, the evidence is inconclusive. But
that's not true, and the studies are plentiful that show that the benefits of
school choice are exciting and encouraging. For example, according to
researcher Joshua Cowen writing recently in Policy
Studies Journal, reviewing student test scores in Charlotte, N.C., academic
achievement gains are real, and significant, with school choice.
Still other false claims about
school choice are thoroughly debunked the book listed in "Homework," below:
not true that school choice programs "cream" the easiest-to-teach students away
from the public schools;
not true that private schools have more money to spend and that's why their
test scores are higher;
not true that private schools can expel low-performing students more easily
than public schools.;
not true that private schools refuse to serve disabled students and that's why
their test scores are higher than public schools;
not true that private schools inculcate students with selfishness and elitism
and don't teach tolerance of diversity and civic participation as well as
not true that school choice promotes racial segregation - actually, the private
schools into which many students go because of school-choice voucher programs
are much more racially integrated than the public schools they leave.
P. Greene successfully rebuts these myths in his book Education Myths: What Special-Interest Groups Want You to Believe About
Our Schools - And Why It Isn't So.