Archive for the ‘private schools’ Category

Principals and Charter Competition

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

Many advocates for school choice argue that the competition created by giving parents multiple options of schools for their children will improve education in traditional public schools.  Does the research support this claim?  The latest research brief, How Do Principals Respond to Charter School Competition?, released by the Choice Center examines the factors that contribute to principals’ (including traditional public school, private school, and magnet school leaders) perceptions of competition from charter schools  and the effect this perception has on promoting changes in leadership behavior. 

Areas studied include proximity of charters and the relation to perception of competition, principals’ allocation of time and financial resources in response to perceived and actual competition, and their ability to recruit teachers and students.  The brief also includes a clear and concise description of the key study variables mentioned above as well as policy and research implications.  For more on the findings, check out the full brief!

This brief is based on a paper by Marisa Cannata which is included in our book, School Choice and School Improvement, released in March by Harvard Education Press.  For more information about the book, check out the table of contents and selected appendices or the Harvard Education Press webpage for the book!

School Choice Week – Parents and Choice

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

As National School Choice Week continues, today’s focus is on parents.  How do parents make school decisions?  Why do they choose a specific school or school type?  How do parents gather information about school choice options and how do they use this information?  These are just a few questions that need to be considered when exploring school choice.

The actions and decision-making of parents is an important aspect to consider in the context of various types of school choice.   In a study of mayoral charter schools in Indianapolis, Stein surveyed parents about their reasons for choosing a charter school and then compared the responses to their revealed preferences shown by actual behavior.  The results of this research provide an important insight into the decision-making process of these parents.  Campbell, West and Peterson examine a voucher program and what factors caused parents to move their children to private schools.  How do parents use school quality ratings?  Henderson’s paper seeks to answer this question and finds that these ratings alone do not seem to cause parents to transfer their children but other factors may contribute.  As policymakers and other education stakeholders contemplate school choice, this and other research can inform decisions and design of school choice programs and policies.

Click here to see all our research about parents and school choice.

School Choice Week – Student Achievement

Monday, January 24th, 2011

January 23rd – 28th is School Choice Week.  During this focus on school choice, take some time and consider what research shows about the impacts of school choice.  Each day this week, this blog will highlight a different aspect of school choice research.

One of the biggest questions to consider when analyzing school choice is: What is the impact on student achievement?  This question spans various types of school choice including magnet schools, charters, and vouchers.  In New York City Charter Schools: Who attends them and how well are they teaching their students?, Hoxby and Murarka report that charter schools have a positive impact on the academic growth of their students.  In a study of charter schools in North Carolina, Bifulco and Ladd report that, on average, charter schools have had a negative impact on student achievement overall.  Another study of charters, this time in Idaho, found mixed results of the effects of charter schools, varying dependent on the type of analysis.  Witte, Cowen, Fleming, and Wolf examined the impact of the Milwaukee Parental Choice (Voucher) Program and found that although the voucher student panel achievement tended to be higher, it was not statistically significant.  In reviewing the literature on magnet schools, Ballou found that the results from studies of the effects on student achievement are also mixed.  This is just a sampling of the research papers available on our website that address student achievement and school choice.

All of these studies and more can be found be visiting the research page of our website!  Take some time this week to become more informed about the research findings concerning school choice!

Black Box Project Featured at IES Conference

Thursday, July 1st, 2010


A team of NCSC scholars presented findings from the Opening the Black Box project Wednesday at the Institute of Education Sciences’ Annual Research Conference in Washington. The project is conducting ongoing investigations into which practices and conditions in schools are most associated with positive student achievement gains by linking responses to principal and teacher surveys about their schools to test scores of their students. The study includes thousands of surveys from hundreds of schools, allowing researchers to identify differences between schools of choice and traditional public schools in areas ranging from levels of innovation to teaching practices to characteristics of principals and teachers, and measure how these factors affect student achievement.

The NCSC team shared the 90-minute session with two research groups that recently released high-profile school choice studies: The final report on impacts of the Washington, D.C., voucher program, which was led by researchers from the University of Arkansas, and a multi-state randomized controlled trial of charter schools, led by analysts at Mathematica Policy Research. All papers had produced interesting findings and the presentations generated lively discussion. For the NCSC group, it also facilitated a discussion around how to deal with the methodological challenges surrounding school choice research.

The two other studies in the session included only schools or programs that used lotteries, enabling the researchers to create experimental conditions with students randomly assigned to the treatment or control group based on whether they won a voucher or charter school seat in the lottery. Such conditions are highly desirable because they remove any question of whether the groups differ in some way related to their academic performance – e.g. one group doesn’t perform better because it was chosen by more motivated students, for example. But random assignment is rare in education settings and difficult to do in school choice research unless schools are oversubscribed, forcing researchers to find other ways to remove bias from their analyses. The NCSC team dealt with the problem by matching schools of choice with traditional public schools on specific sets of criteria, including geographic proximity, demographics, and grade level configurations. The team concentrated on finding the best matches possible for each set of criteria to provide comparison groups for an array of research questions.

Feedback at the conference focused on whether defining a “well-matched” pair of schools can be restricted so much that we may miss out on part of what it means to be in a school of choice. For example, only matching charter schools to traditional public schools that are of the same size may be inappropriate given that part of what makes a charter school unique is that they tend to be smaller. This was highlighted by one finding of the DC voucher study that indicated that the effect of winning the voucher lottery on student’s likelihood of graduating from high school was mediated by the fact that the voucher gave students access to smaller schools. Further, the school characteristics that define a well-matched pair may depend on the specific research question or perspective being sought. Examining the choice set available to parents about where to send their child or to teachers when looking for a job may require matching on different criteria than an analysis designed to help policymakers revise school choice laws. A lesson for the project going forward is that while as researchers we will still pursue close matches, the criteria used to create those matches could differ for each study. Watch this blog for more postings about productivity from the Black Box study.

Read papers included in the NCSC presentation:



Learn more about the groundbreaking NCSC study Opening the Black Box in Choice and Regular Public Schools: A Study of What Makes Schools Work

D.C. Voucher Program Raises Graduation Odds

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

 Washington, D.C., students who won vouchers to attend private schools under a federally funded program were more likely overall to graduate from high school than students who applied for a voucher but did not win one in a lottery, according to a new report on research into the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP).

 The study also looked at student achievement, but the findings were less conclusive. Overall, standardized test scores in both reading and mathematics were not statistically significantly different for students who won vouchers and those who did not. The program did appear to boost achievement for some students, however. Voucher winners in certain subgroups – girls, students with higher academic performance before the program, and those who did not come from schools deemed in need of improvement under No Child Left Behind – had significantly higher reading scores. No statistically significant differences were found in math.

 The report is the sixth and final annual evaluation of the program conducted by a team of researchers led by scholars at the University of Arkansas. The OSP was created by Congress in 2004 to give low-income students a chance “to attend higher performing schools” by providing vouchers worth up to $7,500 to cover tuition, fees, and transportation costs. If too many students applied, voucher recipients were to be chosen by lottery, with higher priority given to students from “needs improvement” schools.

 The lotteries provided the research teams with randomly assigned treatment and control groups, allowing them to use rigorous experimental methods to measure the effects of vouchers. The evaluators looked at effects of the program over at least four years on both students who were offered vouchers and those who accepted the offer and actually attended a private school. The final report uses data from the 2008-09 school year. Congress voted last year to end the program but allowed students already enrolled with vouchers to continue until they graduate.

 Graduation rates were higher overall than control groups both for students who were offered vouchers and those who actually used the awards to attend private schools, with the impact being greater for the latter group. The rates were also higher for some subgroups – girls, students from schools in need of improvement, and those with higher achievement levels before the program. The report notes that graduation data came from parental reports, not school records.

 The evaluators also measured parents’ and students’ assessments of their school’s safety and their overall satisfaction with the school. Parents of children who were offered vouchers rated schools more positively than parents whose children lost the lotteries, while students in the two groups reported gave their schools generally comparable ratings.

 The research team also tracked which students who were offered vouchers used them to attend private schools and investigated why other students did not use them or attended private schools only sporadically.  Some families reported that they declined the vouchers because their chosen school did not have space or did not participate in the program. Others said they did not find special services they needed or that their student was accepted at a desired charter school. Some families left the program because they left Washington or gained enough income to exceed the program’s participation criteria.

Read the full report here and the executive summary here.


Learn about more voucher research associated with the NCSC.

Read materials on the 2009 evaluation, which was discussed at the NCSC conference in October 2009.

These NCSC projects study several aspects of voucher programs.

Competitive Effects of Vouchers (Florida)

Advanced Analyses of Randomized School Voucher Experiments

Impact of Choice and Competition in Milwaukee

SCOTUS to Hear School Choice Case

Monday, May 24th, 2010

The U.S. Supreme Court decided Monday to hear appeals from litigation seeking to end an Arizona program that provides state income tax breaks for donations to private school tuition vouchers.

The donations are made to organizations that then provide scholarships. The American Civil Liberties Union had challenged the program as unconstitutional because it said many organizations receiving the donations were religiously based and some required students often ended up in religious schools.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that the program violated the First Amendment establishment clause and distinguished between the Arizona program and  an Ohio voucher program that the justices held was constitutional in 2002 in the case Zelman v. Simmons-Harris.

The state of Arizona and two scholarship organizations appealed the 9th Circuit ruling in an effort to save the 13-year-old program, noting that the Arizona Supreme Court had ruled that the program complied with the federal Constitution.

Read more from Education Week here and the Associated Press here.


Read about research into voucher programs conducted by the NCSC project Competitive Effects of Vouchers.

More Parents are Sending Children to Schools of Choice

Thursday, April 29th, 2010
New Report Covers Public and Private Schools

School choice is growing in popularity. The percentage of parents in a national survey reporting that their children attend public schools of choice increased from 11 to 16 percent between 1993 and 2007, according to a new report by the U.S Department of Education. The popularity of private schools rose, too, although not as sharply. The percentage of parents sending their children to private schools, both religious and nonsectarian, during that period increased from 10 to 12 percent of the total.

The survey also measured parent satisfaction with schools. Between 2003 and 2007, the percentage of students attending their parents’ first-choice public school rose from 83 percent to 88 percent. Slightly more than a quarter of public school students had parents who reported moving to a neighborhood for the school, regardless of whether it was an assigned or chosen school. A majority of parents reported satisfaction with their child’s school, regardless of the type, though the satisfaction tended to be highest for public schools of choice and private schools.

The findings are based on responses in the National Household Education Survey, which asked thousands of parents about their children’s education in 1993, 1996, 1999, 2003 and 2007. For the first time in 2007 the report breaks out information on enrollment in charter schools and characteristics of homeschooled students. That year, 2 percent of students were enrolled in charter schools, a majority of them in cities. That increase is due in some part to rapid growth in the sector. Between 2002-03 and 2006-07, the number of charter schools increased from nearly 2,600 to more than 4,100 and the number of jurisdictions allowing them grew from 36 to 41. Homeschooled students, who made up nearly 3 percent of total enrollment, according to the 2007 survey, were more likely to live in rural areas or suburbs than in cities.

In 2007, black and Hispanic students were more likely than whites to enroll in public schools of choice (24, 17 and 13 percent, respectively), while low-income students were more likely than wealthier peers to choose those schools. Students at chosen public schools also were more likely to live in cities than suburbs or rural areas. For private schools, parents’ wealth and education made a difference. Higher percentages of parents with more income and education chose religious and nonsectarian private schools than did parents with lower levels of income and education. The report contains many more breakdowns of demographic characteristics for each year of the survey.

The telephone survey asked parents whether their children attended public or private schools. If the answer was public, they were asked if they chose the school or it was assigned. If they said private, the interviewer asked if it was religious or nonsectarian.

The report notes that school choice offerings have expanded greatly over the last several decades and that parents in some communities can now choose from an array of public school options beyond their assigned neighborhood school, including charter schools, intra-district and inter-district choice plans and magnet schools, as well as options for sending their children to private schools, aided in some areas by publicly financed vouchers. They also can choose to school their children at home.

Read the full report “Trends in the Use of School Choice: 1993 to 2007.”


You Might Find These NCSC Research Projects Particularly Interesting


The NCSC is funded by a 5 year, $13.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences. Its lead institution is Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. The center is housed on the campus of Peabody College, one of the nation's top graduate schools of education.