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Archive for June, 2011

School Choice Bills Prominent in State Legislatures

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

State legislatures across the country have been busy considering various school choice bills.  Just last week, both houses of the Maine state legislature passed a bill to establish a charter school program in that state.  All that remains is for Governor Paul LePage to sign the bill into law for Maine to become the 41st state to pass charter school legislation since 1991.  The Oregon legislature recently passed a package of education bills, including ones to expand virtual charter school enrollment and allow intra-district school choice, on a space available basis.  The most recent Choice Center book, School Choice and School Improvement, includes a chapter dedicated to the effects of intra-district school choice transfers.  You can see the appendix for the chapter here.

Southern states are also in on this trend.  North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue signed a charter school bill this month.  The new law removes the cap on the number of charter schools in the state, which previously stood at 100, and chartering authority continues to be controlled by the State Board of Education.  In Tennessee, Governor Bill Haslam recently signed a bill that removes the cap on the number of charter schools as well as restrictions on student eligibility to attend charter schools.  State legislators play a key role in the school choice debate.  In School Choice Agenda Setting: A National Analysis of Individual State Legislators, researchers Francis Shen and Kenneth Wong explore this role.  To find out what political and policy conditions have been found to facilitate charter reform and growth, see another paper by Wong and Shen, Charter Law and Charter Outcomes: Re-Examining the Charter School Marketplace.

With all of the interest in new charter legislation, research is as important as ever.  Be sure to visit our research publications page for more on what our studies have found.  Particularly relevant to these latest developments is the section on policy and governance.  Check out Differences that Make a Difference: An Examination of the Relationship between Charter Law “Strength” and Student Achievement.

New Book Featured in WP Blog

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Earlier this week, Jay Mathews, an education columnist for the Washington Post, wrote about our latest book, School Choice and School Improvement, in his blog, Class Struggle.  In School choice debate vs. reality, Mathews points out that education and reform in particular is often an emotional debate in which people argue their beliefs whether or not there is a research base to support them.  In the post, Mathews summarizes some of the findings presented in the book, such as the effectiveness of vouchers in D.C. and the effects of charter competition on nearby traditional public schools.  Mathews recognizes that while a person’s opinion may drive the discussion, research should also play an important role understanding what works in education.

Information and Parental Choice

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

As the school year draws to a close around the country, many parents with school choice options for next year made the decision about what school their child will attend months ago.  However, accountability ratings for this school year have yet to be released in many areas.  How do parents use information about school performance to influence decisions on where to send their children to school?  In a paper released in 2009, researcher Michael Henderson seeks to answer this question.  His paper, Information and Exit: Do Accountability Ratings Help Families Choose Schools, reports findings on a study of the relationship between student school transfer and school accountability grades.  One possible explanation Henderson reports is that parents have formed perceptions on school quality prior to the release of accountability ratings.  In Citizen Perceptions of Government Service Quality: Evidence from Public Schools, Harvard researchers found that people’s perceptions of public schools in their neighborhood are generally in line with publicly available accountability information.  The authors’ find conflicting evidence about whether the similarities are due to available accountability information or observations.

If parents do not use accountability ratings to choose a school for their child, then how do they decide?  In the study of parental decision-making, Do Parents Do as They Say?  Choosing Indianapolis Charter Schools, Choice Center researchers found that although parents stated that academics was the primary consideration for choosing a different school, this was not evidenced in the actual choice based on academic achievement and AYP ratings.  This small sample of research seems to indicate that people are aware of the quality of schools in their area but accountability ratings do not seem to influence school attendance choices.  To all the parents out there, what would you consider if you had the ability to choose which school to send your child to next school year?

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.