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Posts Tagged ‘school choice’

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.

Renewed Interest in Vouchers Nationwide

Friday, May 6th, 2011

On May 5th, an Indiana bill was signed into law creating a private school voucher program statewide.  The Indiana program is unique in that it includes both a voucher component and a tax deduction, which is different from a voucher but is seen to accomplish many of the same goals, of $1,000 for each child in private or home school.  School vouchers are payments, usually to parents, from private or public tax funds to pay for a child’s education expenses, usually in a private school.  Indiana is just the most recent example of states proposing and/or amending tuition voucher legislation.

Voucher legislation has experienced a resurgence recently.  If you follow this blog, you may have read the post in February about the proposed vouchers in an affluent Colorado district.  Voucher bills are currently being considered or have been passed over the past few months in multiple states including Pennsylvania, Florida, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.  Much of this renewed interest came on the heels of a Supreme Court decision.  Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Arizona’s tuition tax credit for parents paying tuition for their children to attend private school.  In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that a government tax credit, that may benefit religious schools, is different than government spending to support religious schools.

Voucher bills differ greatly by state.  Most are limited to low-income families or students with disabilities.  Some of the more well-known existing programs have received renewed funding or are undergoing various changes.   The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program will continue to be funded by the federal government as part of the budget compromise passed in April.  The Wisconsin legislature is considering a bill to expand the Milwaukee voucher program statewide.  More information on research into the impacts of school choice in Milwaukee conducted by the Choice Center is available from the project page, Impact of Choice and Competition in Milwaukee.

With all the current interest, what is known about the impacts of vouchers?   The Choice Center has three projects that looked at the impacts of vouchers (see additional links below).  Overall, the studies found that, like in most other types of school choice, context matters.  Check out the research project links below to learn more!

Advanced Analyses of Randomized School Voucher Experiments

Competitive Effects of Vouchers (Florida)

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!

Vouchers Proposed in Affluent CO District

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Vouchers are a way of expanding school choice, usually for low-income students and/or students in low performing schools.  However, a new voucher system is under consideration by the Douglas County School Board in Colorado, which seems like an unlikely place for a voucher plan.  Douglas County is an affluent suburb of Denver, with only 8% of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch, as well as high test scores and graduation rates.

The idea came from a task force convened to recommend improvements to the school board, one of which was vouchers.  The Los Angeles Times recently featured an article highlighting the issue, “Colorado school district has wealth, success – and an eye on vouchers”.  As the Douglas County School Board considers a new program that could potentially expand the population of eligible students and change the way voucher programs are designed, it is important to consider what the research says about previous voucher programs.

Check out some of the voucher research by the Choice Center:

Effects of Autonomy in Charter Schools

Friday, February 11th, 2011

Does autonomy lead to better schools?  Greater autonomy is often claimed to be linked to greater innovation, especially in the debate about charter schools.  In a newly released report, the Center on Reinventing Public Education explores the opportunities and challenges of charter schools because of their autonomy.

Inside Charter Schools:  Unlocking Doors to Student Success uses multiple data sources including surveys and case studies to address this issue.  Charter schools are granted more autonomy than traditional public schools in exchange for more accountability, to school authorizers as well as parents and students.  This greater autonomy allows charter school principals and boards to: create their own mission and the curriculum that is best suited to their chosen mission, have more control over hiring policies and staffing, and other focused programs.  However, the presence of autonomy does not insure a good school, it is just an opportunity.  There are also many challenges that arise from this independence.  High staff turnover, limited principal training in enlarged roles and limited support are just some of the challenges confronting these leaders.  Overall, the utilization of autonomy is more important than its simple presence.

For more information, check out the paper!  A brief is also available for this study.

Charter authorizers and student achievement?

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Does the charter school authorizer have an impact on student achievement?  This is a key question in charter policy and law.  Many theories and suggestions for improving education, including charter schools, are difficult to implement.  However, if the type of authorizer has an effect on student achievement within the charter school, lawmakers could use this information to adapt charter laws to improve charter schools in a fairly simple way.

The Center on Reinventing Public Education has released a new paper, Charter School Authorizers and Student Achievement: A Case Study of Ohio, co-authored by Ron Zimmer (along with Brian Gill and Kaitlin Obenauf) who has previously conducted research for the Choice Center.   This research examines whether student achievement levels in charter schools vary by authorizer type.  Ohio is a great site for this research because its charter law allows for multiple authorizers, including local districts, universities, and nonprofit organizations.   The authors found variation of student achievement among types of authorizers.  For more information about the specific findings, check out the paper!

A research brief is also available for this paper.  Find it here.

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!

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.