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Archive for January, 2011

School Choice Week – Student Composition and Peers

Friday, January 28th, 2011

As National School Choice Week draws to a close, the final topic of the week is student composition and peer effects.  One of the points often made by opponents of school choice is that the student body of schools of choice has a different make-up than traditional public schools in the area.  Peer effects, the impact of other students at a school on a student’s achievement, should also be considered when examining the effects of school choice on student composition. So, what does the research tell us about these topics?


One concern raised about charter schools has been that they will take the best students and cause traditional public schools to retain the lower-performing students making it harder for them to improve.  This perception is examined in Do Charter Schools “Cream Skim” Students and Increase Racial-Ethnic Segregation? by following students as they moved to charter schools in seven sites around the country.  Similar concerns about vouchers are explored in Do Vouchers Lead to Sorting Under Random Private School Selection? Evidence from the Milwaukee Voucher Program as well as how a voucher program could be designed to limit sorting by ability but students may still be sorted by parental self-selection.  Racial and ability sorting are not the only types of sorting to cause concern.  One that is often overlooked is sorting by gender.  The Gender Gap in  Charter School Attendance finds that charter schools enroll a significantly higher fraction of girls than boys.  The paper goes on to explore possible causes for this.  Sorting of any type may have consequences.  In Magnet Schools and Peers: Effects on Mathematics Achievement, Ballou uses the lottery outcomes for enrollment to measure the effects of peers and finds that peers race and parental income have a substantial impact on achievement.  Sorting  by race, socio-economic status or gender could have a real impact on the peer effects of a school and in turn student achievement.

Do not let the end of National School Choice Week be the end of your research.  Continue to use available research to inform your opinions, and potentially policies and advocacy, on school choice.  Check back often for updates on what is happening in the world of school choice and how it relates to the research done here by the National Center on School Choice.

For more information on racial/ethnic and ability sorting, check out these articles:

White Parents, Diversity and School Choice Policies: Where Good Intentions, Anxiety and Privilege Collide

Parental Choice in the Netherlands: Growing Concerns about Segregation

Charter Schools in North Carolina

School Choice Week – Teachers

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Teachers are one of the most important components of education.  Today, we focus on how school choice and teachers interact.  What impact does school choice have on teachers within schools of choice as well as traditional public schools?

Does school choice diminish the pool of teachers available to traditional public schools?  Are teachers in choice schools more or less qualified than their peers in traditional public schools?  In Charter Schools and the Teacher Job Search in Michigan, teachers are found to have a preference for the type of school (traditional or choice) in which they would like to work, in essence establishing to separate teacher labor markets.  The Qualifications and Classroom Performance of Teachers Moving to Charter Schools reports mixed results on teacher qualifications.  Charter school teachers tend to be more inexperienced and are less likely to be certified.  However, when compared to other movers, teachers moving to charters were more effective in instruction, but this trend does not hold when teachers moving to charter schools are compared with the teachers who stayed in their previous school.    Additional research by the Choice Center on teachers and school choice examines instructional conditions, teacher quality and job preferences.

To read more about teachers and school choice, check out these papers from our archives!

Teams Versus Bureaucracies: Personnel Policy, Wage-Setting, and Teacher Quality in Traditional Public, Charter, and Private Schools

School Choice, School Organization, and Teacher Turnover

Comparing Teacher Characteristics, Job Choices, and Job Preferences by School Type

Instructional Conditions for Schools of Choice

Even more research can be found by searching our publications page!

School Choice Week – State of the Union and Policy/Governance

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Last night, education was one of the main topics in President Obama’s State of the Union Address.  Race to the Top was highlighted as a successful way for the federal government to encourage states to create more rigorous standards of teaching and learning, reforming education at the local and state level.  School choice was expected by many to have a prominent place in the President’s education, but it did not.  As Congress and the President work toward reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or replacing No Child Left Behind as President Obama said in the State of the Union, now is a good time to examine what we know about the impacts of laws on education.

Much of our research on policy and governance deals with charter laws and governance.  However, one research project, School Accountability under No Child Left Behind, specifically examines the impacts of the latest reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  In Achievement Tradeoffs and No Child Left Behind, Ballou and Springer compare the achievement outcomes from high-stakes versus low-stakes years after passage of the bill to determine the impact of the legislation.  Springer also examines the effect of accountability on the distribution of student test scores and whether higher achieving students are harmed by the gains of their lower-performing peers.   As a new reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is considered, it is important to take into account the findings of researchers on the impacts of previous legislation.

For more information on what is known about school choice effects in general, check out our publication page!

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!

Policy context and charter laws

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Charter schools and mayoral control are both hot topics in education reform.  Indiana combined these reform strategies when enacting a new charter school law in 2001.  Under the law, the mayor of Indianapolis was granted authorizing authority to charter schools in the Indianapolis Public Schools district, as well as 10 surrounding districts within metro Indianapolis.  The question is often asked “Do charter schools work?”, maybe a better question would be in what context.

The newly published research brief, Taking Charge of Choice: How Charter School Policy Contexts Matter, explores the policy context surrounding the development of this law.  In order to do this, in-depth interviews were conducted with key stakeholders and documents were analyzed relating to the period of charter school law adoption in Indiana. The report describes how diverse elements can come together to create A unique policy environment, focusing on issues of public collective action, trust between institutions, and investment from entities outside the city government.  In Indianapolis, increased civic capacity led to the creation of the Mayor’s Office of Charter Schools to oversee authorization and accountability.

This research brief summarizes a longer report on the context of charter school reform in Indianapolis.  Policymakers and researchers interested in an in-depth account of how a unique charter school policy comes about may want to read the full report here.

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.