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National Center on School Choice
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November 6, 2009
The National Center on School Choice’s conference, “School Choice and School Improvement: Research into State, District and Community Contexts,” brought together 130 scholars, graduate students and practitioners to discuss school choice.

The conference, which was held at Vanderbilt on October 25-27, focused on the role of place in assessing the effects of choice. One recurrent theme of the NCSC’s research findings is that understanding context is essential for understanding the effects of school choice. Locations of particular focus in conference sessions were New York, Chicago, Indianapolis, Washington, D.C., Milwaukee, New Orleans and districts in Michigan and Florida. In addition, one session presented research into aspects of school choice in The Netherlands and Australia.

For more information click here.

September 22, 2009
Groundbreaking research by Professor Caroline Hoxby, a partner in the National Center on School Choice, has found that students attending New York City charter schools score higher on state tests than peers who applied to charter schools but did not win lotteries to attend.

The academic gains accumulate with each year in charter schools and are so striking that students who consistently attend charters in grades K-8 would narrow the difference in scores with more affluent suburban peers – called the “Scarsdale-Harlem achievement gap” – by 86 percent of in math and 66 percent in English. Students in charter high schools also fared well, scoring higher, on average, on New York’s Regents exams.

The study is particularly noteworthy because it uses true random assignment -- a rarity in education research – by taking advantage of New York’s lottery system which randomly selects applicants for limited charter school seats. Hoxby’s study compares the performance of students who won the lottery and ended up in charter schools with peers who applied but were “lotteried out.” The study found that the lottery winners and losers were similar demographically, though they were more likely to be black and poor than students in traditional New York City public schools. The report analyzes scores of 93 percent of the students in New York City charter schools who were enrolled in grades 3 – 12 – the grades for which state tests are given – between the 2000-01 and 2007-08 school years. (The remaining 7 percent of students were in schools that opened in 2006-07 or later or that declined to participate in the study.)

Dr. Hoxby is the Scott and Donya Bommer Professor in Economics at Stanford University and director of the Economics of Education Program at the National Bureau of Economic Research, has studied charter schools in New York City for several years and issued a previous report in 2007.

Although the study did not ascertain causes of the performance differences for charter school students, it did note that some school characteristics were associated with higher achievement:
  + a long school year;
  + a greater number of minutes devoted to English during each school day;
  + a small rewards/small penalties disciplinary policy;
  + teacher pay based somewhat on performance or duties, as opposed
    to a traditional pay scale based strictly on seniority and credentials;
  +a mission statement that emphasizes academic performance, as
    opposed to other goals.

To read the full report click here and click here to read Education Week's story, which quotes Ellen Goldring, the NCSC's Principal Investigator of Record.

September 2, 2009
Results of a national public opinion poll released by NCSC partners Paul Peterson of Harvard and William G. Howell of the University of Chicago report attitudes about charter schools, vouchers and other education issues. An interesting finding of the poll was that support for certain issues, including charter schools and vouchers, appeared to be influenced by President Obama’s stands on the issues. (Some respondents were told the president’s position on an issue before they gave their own, while others were just asked their opinion with no additional information.) When asked about charter schools, for example, 39 percent of respondents who did not know the president’s position expressed some level of support, while 50 percent expressed support after hearing that the president views them positively.  

Read the press release about the poll by Education Next and the Program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG) at Harvard here and read the Education Week story about it here.

June 17, 2009
The Peabody Journal of Education has just announced a special issue on “Informing the Future of School Choice Policy.” Articles examine the consequences of school choice in a post-desegregation era marked by growth in public charter, magnet, and other alternative schools, as well as effects of school choice policies for students at failing schools under No Child Left Behind. The articles were based on research presented at a November 2007 symposium at the Center for Education Policy Analysis at the University of Connecticut. Authors include Peabody’s Claire Smrekar, whose article explores the effect of desegregation policies on school choice by measuring the racial composition of magnet schools in Nashville, Tenn., before and after unitary status. Read more about the special edition.

June 15, 2009
NCSC Associate Director Marisa Cannata is quoted in a newspaper story about battle lines drawn around efforts to change Tennessee's restrictive charter school law. Read more.

April 13, 2009
Since the nation’s first charter school opened in the 1990s, the scope and availability of school-based options to parents have steadily expanded. So, too, have grown curiosity and debate about the difference choice makes. Is it fair? Is it effective? How does America’s version of choice compare with schooling options offered in other countries?  In response to such questions, the NCSC has compiled the most rigorous and policy-relevant research on K-12 school choice published to date. The Handbook of Research on School Choice was released on April 3. Read the press release.

January 9, 2009
Preparations are underway for the NCSC’s second national fall conference, which will look at school choice as it occurs in specific contexts and locations. The center has issued a call for papers, a subset of which will be reviewed for its third edited volume of research. Proposals are due February 25. Read more.


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Vanderbilt University
  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.
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