Tag Archives: School Choice Week

Grassroots school choice celebration sets records

By Saturday’s end, millions of people will have celebrated school choice at more than 16,000 events across the country for National School Choice Week. The celebrations all fall under the National School Choice Week brand, but they are independently planned and funded, making the grassroots celebration that much more striking.

“The reason that School Choice Week has grown so exponentially is because people realize that school choice means empowering parents to choose the best education environments for their kids,” Andrew Campanella, president of National School Choice Week, told theWashington Examiner. “It’s not about saying that one type of school is better than another for all kids, it’s about saying that each individual parent should be able to make that determination.” Campanella also credited the positive approach of the celebrations, focusing on presenting all the options and not getting stuck in wonky policy debates.

As it grows, National School Choice Week is becoming increasingly bipartisan. Among the 32 governors issuing proclamations recognizing School Choice Week are three Democrats: John Hickenlooper of Colorado, Jack Markell of Delaware and David Ige of Hawaii. The list of 240 mayors and county leaders recognizing School Choice Week includes many Democrats, including Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.

The celebration also features a diverse set of partner organizations, like Democrats for Education Reform, the Black Alliance for Educational Options and the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options.

The bipartisan support explains why the United States Senate voted unanimously to recognize National School Choice Week for the second year in a row, with cosponsors including Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

Read the rest of Jason Russell’s article at the Washington Examiner, here.

Why the science is in on school choice

That all changed around the turn of the century, when educational options like charter schools and voucher programs started to spring up. Today, 28 states and the District of Columbia offer some sort of school choice program, giving parents and children more options than a government assignment.

Of course, school choice is not without its critics. Public school interests like to question whether charter schools and voucher programs truly improve educational outcomes. What they ignore, however, is the best evidence.

Some studies certainly find negative effects from school choice. However, not all studies are created equal. The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice explains:

Read the rest of Casey’s article at Rare, here.

These Two Studies Prove That Charter Schools Work

It’s School Choice Week, which means that skeptics of charter schools have been out in full force. At AlterNet, Laurie Levy claims “[t]here are no data that support the idea that charter schools are superior to public schools.” A common talking point for choice skeptics, Levy walks readers through two studies with mixed results comparing charters to traditional public schools:

According to Data First, an initiative of the Center for Public Education, on math assessments 17% of kids in charter schools perform significantly better than their peers in public schools. But 37% perform significantly worse. For the rest (46%), scores were comparable. According to a national study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), “less than one hundredth of one percent (<0.01 percent) of the variation in test performance in reading is explainable by charter school enrollment.” Not exactly proof of a winning formula, no matter how you slice it.

While these results look pretty discouraging to charter schools at first glance, they’re ultimately deceptive because they’re only a snapshot in time. It’s absolutely true that at any given point, there are excellent charter schools (the 17%), there are mediocre charter schools (the 46%), and there are poor charter schools (the 37%). However, this wide landscape is not very interesting; after all, there are also excellent, mediocre, and poor public schools as well. In fact, just about every good or service in life ranges from excellent to mediocre to poor. The more important question for charter schools is whether they generally improve or stay the same quality over time.

Emerging evidence is already providing the answer, with two major studies released last year suggesting that, given time, poor charter schools exit the market and excellent ones continue to provide quality education. A Brookings Institution report tracking Arizona’s charter school performance between 2005 and 2012 found that charters that close are on average “significantly less effective in math, reading, and science than traditional and charter schools that remained open.” Similarly, a National Bureau of Economic Research report tracking Texas’ charter school performance between 2001 and 2011 found that “exits from the sector, improvement of existing charter schools, and positive selection of charter management organizations that open additional schools raised average charter school effectiveness over time relative to traditional public schools.”

It should come as little surprise that many charters underperform and ultimately fail considering the sheer enormity of the challenge of starting a school. Besides the seemingly endless bureaucratic hoops that teachers and administrators have to jump through to get approval for a school, they also have to recruit quality teachers willing to work for a modest income and maintain a space to suitably hold hundreds of children — all with a smaller budget of 28.4% or $3,814 less per student on average than the district school down the block.

Yet, the beauty of school choice reveals itself precisely when these charters fail. If a charter has to close its doors because of poor performance, the parents and their students have a litany of options — be them other charter schools to choose from or, if the state has a voucher program, perhaps a private school as well. Contrasting that with states and localities without school choice, the parents of a student in an underperforming district school often have no option but to watch their student’s education stagnate year after year.

Thus, state policy makers shouldn’t be so quick to judge the market in education because it is precisely that: a market. And like any market, there will be a wide variety in quality available within the education sector. But, given time, the invisible hand will nudge  schools subject to competition to improve.