Impact of Choice and Competition in Milwaukee

    This project focuses on the system response of schools to the demand for choice, and school governance in relation to student performance.  To address the first area, researchers have collected data from Milwaukee (which has the largest, most mature system of school choice consisting of both vouchers and charter schools), examining how legal and political barriers, and financial incentives, affect school supply and competition. To address the second, researchers have examined the impact of for-profit and non-profit school management on Philadelphia schools.

    From the Milwaukee project, results indicate that whenever political, legal, and financial barriers are relaxed, the overall supply of choice schools increases and proves to be considerably more elastic than the supply of quality schools. In response to the competition, the Milwaukee public school system’s reforms appear to have translated into higher levels of student achievement, though more refined analyses over a longer period of time is necessary before reaching definite conclusions.

    From the Philadelphia project, results indicate that the math and reading performance of students at schools managed by non-profit organizations generally falls below what would be expected had the schools remained under district management. However, the differences are not statistically significant. In contrast, students at schools managed by for-profit firms outperform in math, after four years, the schools managed by the non-profits by a full year’s worth of learning. There are 30 schools under for-profit management in the study.

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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.