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Does School Choice Help Students Learn? All Signs Point To Yes

National School Choice Week, an annual event designed to promote educational options for K-12 students and parents, is underway.

National School Choice WeekNational School Choice WeekNational School Choice Week, an annual happening that organizes tens of thousands of events celebrating all varieties of educational choice for K-12 students and parents, kicked off yesterday. To find out more information about school-choice policies and events in your state, go here.

As a media sponsor of School Choice Week, Reason publishes articles, videos, and podcasts related to school choice during this week. For coverage from past years, go here.

If you're in the Washington, D.C. area, please attend our Wednesday, January 23 event featuring former Reason Director of Education Policy Lisa Snell talking with Johns Hopkins' Ashley Rogers Berner, author of Pluralism and American Public Education: No One Way to School. The event is free but RSVPs are required (more information here).

The organizers of School Choice Week promote all forms of educational reform that give students and parents more options. So that means they don't support, say, voucher plans over charter schools, homeschooling, tuition tax credits, or private scholarship funds. Bring it all on, they argue.

Which leads to a basic question: Does increasing choice yield better results from an educational perspective? Here's some evidence about choice programs that get students into private schools from A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Choice, by Greg Forster (Fourth Edition, 2016):

  • Eighteen empirical studies have examined academic outcomes for school choice participants using random assignment, the gold standard of social science. Of those, 14 find choice improves student outcomes: six find all students benefit and eight find some benefit and some are not visibly affected. Two studies find no visible effect, and two studies find Louisiana's voucher program—where most of the eligible private schools were scared away from the program by an expectation of hostile future action from regulators—had a negative effect.
  • Thirty-three empirical studies (including all methods) have examined school choice's effect on students' academic outcomes in public schools. Of those, 31 find choice improved public schools. One finds no visible effect. One finds a negative effect.
  • Twenty-eight empirical studies have examined school choice's fiscal impact on taxpayers and public schools. Of these, 25 find school choice programs save money. Three find the programs they study are revenue neutral. No empirical study has found a negative fiscal impact.
  • Ten empirical studies have examined school choice and racial segregation in schools. Of those, nine find school choice moves students from more segregated schools into less segregated schools, and one finds no net effect on segregation. No empirical study has found that choice increases racial segregation.
  • Eleven empirical studies have examined school choice's effect on civic values and practices, such as respect for the rights of others and civic knowledge. Of those, eight find school choice improves civic values and practices. Three find no visible effect from school choice. No empirical study has found that school choice has a negative effect on civic values and practices.

Over the past few years, charter schools have probably become the most popular and politically viable form of choice in K-12 education. Charters are publicly funded and regulated by state boards of education, receive less funding per pupil than traditional public schools, and have greater autonomy in creating their curricula. Between 2000 and 2015, reports the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of K-12 students attending charters rose from 1 percent to 6 percent, or from 400,000 kids to 2.8 million kids (seven states still don't allow charters). In virtually all cases, charters are run by nonprofits and it's typical for charters to enroll at-risk students from disadvantaged economic, racial, and ethnic groups.

A few years ago, comedian and talk-show host John Oliver devoted a highly watched segment of his HBO show Last Week Tonight to painting charters as particular hothouses of corruption and failure. There have indeed been some real funding- and education-related scandals involving charters, but that's also the case, on a much-bigger scale, in traditional public school systems (here's just one example). The biggest difference is that when charters are revealed as corrupt or ineffective, they actually shut down while traditional school districts merely replace bad actors with new ones. Public K-12 education is a $670 billion industry and the forces of the status quo—including teachers unions, educational bureaucrats, a wide variety of builders, technology companies, and curriculum companies—are always trying to blunt disruptors. But how do charters stack up when evaluated against comparable conventional public schools?

University of Arkansas education researcher Jay Greene summarizes the data on "randomized control trials" (RCTs), which compare students who enrolled in charters and other who wanted to but were not able to due to limited slots. Because most charters use lotteries to enroll students, it's possible to match the effect of attending a charter versus a traditional school. As Greene puts it:

More here.

Speaking as a parent, I can say that few things are more anxiety-inducing and emotionally fraught than sending your kid off to school. When my older son went off to kindergarten for just a few hours a day (the district we were in hadn't yet established "full-day kindergarten," actually meaning six hours), it felt much more consequential than having him attend daycare for 40 hours a week. Education is supposed to help shape so many aspects of students' lives and can, at its best, improve the options and outcomes for kids who are starting off in tough situations. And yet, even in an age of increasing mass personalization and focus on customer service and individual needs in most parts of our lives, we're supposed to believe that increasing options and choice in education is somehow suspect. Parents aren't equipped to make smart choices, either in picking a school in the first place or evaluating its effectiveness in the second, goes this line of thinking. Without questioning how hard it is create and sustain a good school, that sort of argument is deeply insulting to parents (and students) and fails to explain why total expenditures for K-12 education has increased by 2.5 times in real dollars since 1970 while educational outcomes for graduating seniors have remained flat. The establishment has been a lot of time and money to increase its performance but has failed to.

When parents have choice, they tend to use it. For instance, in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the nation's second-largest, fully half of all students are either in charter schools, magnet schools, or schools that have some form of competitive entrance; the biggest problem for parents is a lack of available slots at charters and other alternatives to traditional assignment based on where you live. Teachers at LAUSD are currently striking, in part because the district has lost a staggering 245,000 students over the past 15 years, leading to various political and financial pressures. That decline is partly due to demographics but according to recent research by Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this website, the powers that be at LAUSD "attribute...an unduly high percentage of its decline in enrollment to charter schools, which outperform the district at most every measure." The education establishment, in Los Angeles and elsewhere, view charters and school choice more broadly as an existential threat precisely because the new alternatives are good at what they do.

Bonus video: "What We Saw at the Save Our Schools Rally." This 2011 video was shot during an anti-school-choice rally where actor Matt Damon spoke and then went off on Reason's host, Michelle Fields, and videographer, Jim Epstein. Take a look:

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    What about the claim [as expressed by none other than Elizabeth Warren] that school choice diverts money and resources away from public schools [no matter their outcomes...] and deprives the poorest of students [stuck behind in those]?

    And then there's the teachers; threatening their pay and benefits and tidy retirement plans; how could you? They only went into this "for the children," after all.

  • Juice||

    What about the claim [as expressed by none other than Elizabeth Warren] that school choice diverts money and resources away from public [government] schools

    That's the whole point.

  • Brian||

    I guess. On the other hand, property taxes divert money and resources away from families and their choices about education, straight into the public school system.

    If she wants to bitch, she could at least be consistent.

  • Juice||

    A better framing is "it wouldn't divert tax money from government-run schools that perform well for their students since parents would choose to send their children to those schools."

  • JesseAz||

    In Arizona charters get rougly 1k less per student than Public Schools do, so the public schools actually increase their spending per student as they keep the 1k in the public school system.

    Ironically because charters choose not to go through the school superintendent bureaucracy they also give teachers on average 8% more in salary each year, which has been siphoning off the smart teachers from the public schools.

  • I'm Not Sure||

    Elizabeth Warren believes that schools should receive funding for students who are not attending (almost said "not being taught at") public schools? Nobody could be that stupid.

  • JesseAz||

    Yes they can. They are called Democrats.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Republicans can't stand schools that teach science, history, modernity, and the reality-based world -- the public schools that made America great. They prefer schools that teach nonsense. Then they wonder why they have lost the culture war.

  • Sevo||

    Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland|1.21.19 @ 9:19PM|#
    "Republicans can't stand schools that teach science, history, modernity, and the reality-based world -"

    Why do you make such idiotic claims, you shitbag?
    Tell us how D's 'aren't racists', except the blatant racism of racial preferences.
    It's possible you are actually this stupid, but more likely you're a scumbag partisan asshole, asshole.

  • Ryan (formally HFTO)||

    He jerks off to your angry responses

  • Sevo||

    "He jerks off to your angry responses"
    Nothing in my responses are "angry". Noting a half-educated scumbag asshole is such has nothing to do with anger; simply a statement of the obvious.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    There is no reason to be angry, Sevo.

    So long as you continue to comply with your betters' preferences, you can whine as much as you want about America's progress and can post disaffected comments in unlimited volume.

    That's a better deal than you could have expected.

  • bvandyke||

    pot meet kettle

  • Kevin Smith||

    States are still free to establish accreditation standards for all schools in the state, including private and religious schools. Yes, the states can REQUIRE a religious school to teach evolution, or the school won't be considered accredited

    But Democrats don't want to do this, because then they'd lose the knee-jerk criticism of private schools that you just regurgitated, and they would rather see ALL private education eliminated, regardless of what they do or don't teach

  • JesseAz||

    It's amazing watching someone day in and day out say such ignorant and stupid things. You realize Arthur that your side no longer believes on science, history, etc... right? They preach post modernism which denies basic facts.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    What about the claim [as expressed by none other than Elizabeth Warren] that school choice diverts money and resources away from public schools [no matter their outcomes...] and deprives the poorest of students [stuck behind in those]?

    And then there's the teachers; threatening their pay and benefits and tidy retirement plans; how could you? They only went into this "for the children," after all.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    The squirrels are complements of the NEA.

  • MiloMinderbinder||

    In "The Case Against Education" Bryan Caplan argues that private schools and school choice won't produce better educational outcomes than public schools. Rather it will produce the same results for a lower price. Which is fine by me.

  • vek||

    That is an argument I have used on people, because even if you ignore the majority of the studies that show improvements, there's basically nothing showing they're WORSE... So comparable for less money is still a big win.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    It is good to see that there is an empirical basis for school choice, along with a moral and libertarian one.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Yeah, though the moral one is high as well. I think that even if it was worse because parents were choosing to send their kids to worse schools (for some reason) it would still be preferable they make that choice.

  • lovestatism1789||

    I refuse to believe that school choice is the path to a better future for the country at large. If urban minorities want to make something of themselves they better pull themselves up by the bootstraps and develop some work ethic like the generations that came before them. If Cuck Gillespie took off his blinders and didn't spend so much time pandering to the progressive youth he would see that the real path forward is by tending to the best and brightest, not wasting public money on the hopeless. Punish those schools that can't keep up by depriving them of funds and let them sink so that good money is reserved for good schools.

  • Ryan (formally HFTO)||

    If you're going to troll effectively you'll need to understand the basic concepts. Come back when you learn how the voucher system works

  • lovestatism1789||

    Vouchers take good public money from the suburbs and throw them at urban failure factories. No need for that communist nonsense here. Municipalities should pay for their own schools and stop letting urban parasites leech money from state governments.

  • Ryan (formally HFTO)||

    Touche

  • vek||

    The truth is, it's not too far off from reality, despite the fact that you're trolling...

    "Bad" schools tend to get more money per student than "good" schools in the burbs or even rural areas... Yet those areas still do better.

    Nick of course threw in a few outliers studies about minorities magically doing awesome once in charter schools, and I have no doubt they do improve... But many other studies showed far less of the gap being closed. Also, white/Asian scores in those very same charters tend to go up, maintaining the gap, at least from my reading in the past.

    The truth is if you want to know what test scores will look like in a district, the surest fire way is to just ask for the demographics of the district. If it's high white/Asian/Jewish, the scores will probably be high. If it's not... They're not. This appears even after adjusting for household income, parental marital status, etc.

    It's the IQ gap. Whether it is genetic or some environmental factor nobody has been able to nail down yet is irrelevant... The IQ gap is real, substantial, and it explains basically every racial disparity in the US, and indeed the world.

  • Brian||

    Good article. Now, the hard part is convincing the public school system to care about students learning.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    If condemning scores of children to an inferior education saves just one teacher...

  • A Lady of Reason||

    Amen to that! We need more options than the Leftist biased public schools!

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Conservatives turn schools they control into third-rate, censorship-shackled, dogma-enforcing, nonsense-teaching, snowflake-coddling goober factories.

    Then they whine about the first-tier liberal-libertarian schools and offer pointers, such as suggesting that strong schools emulate the lousy schools by hiring more right-wing professors.

    Harvard vs. Hillsdale. Berkeley vs. Biola. Williams vs. Wheaton. Michigan vs. Ouachita Baptist. Yale vs. Liberty. Amherst vs. Ave Maria. Reed vs. Regent. The comparisons are endless -- and devastating to right-wingers who propose to lecture their betters on education.

  • Sevo||

    Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland|1.21.19 @ 9:25PM|#
    "Conservatives turn schools they control into third-rate, censorship-shackled, dogma-enforcing, nonsense-teaching, snowflake-coddling goober factories."

    The rev asshole seems confused, but that's not surprising.
    Half-educated scumbag assholes are not noted for cogent thoughts.

  • Brandybuck||

    The narrative is that school choice is for red state yokels and alt-right whities who want their kids to learn creationism. That's what the lefties will tell you, that's what the politicians will tell you, that's what the media will tell you. And so everyone believes it.

    But then comes the election and people are aghast that most voters who bother to get out and vote actually prefer Bozo the Orange Haired Clown over the Moar Money to Gub'ment Schools candidates. They'll get blind sided again in 2020.

    The schools are broken and the parents know it, and no amount of big government narrative is going to quell that unease out in the hinterland.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Do you believe state-funded schools should be permitted to teach creationism?

    Should they be permitted to teach that storks deliver babies, that the moon is made of green cheese, or that the Tooth Fairy puts coins under pillows?

  • Sevo||

    Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland|1.21.19 @ 6:44PM|#
    "...Should they be permitted to teach that storks deliver babies, that the moon is made of green cheese, or that the Tooth Fairy puts coins under pillows?"

    They teach that the government puts coins under pillows now, and obnoxious assholes like you seem fine with that.

  • Rich||

    Does increasing choice yield better results from an educational perspective?

    Absolutely not. Diversity is a positive only when it comes to *people*.

  • vek||

    Despite frequent evidence to the contrary...

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    Now that my preferred candidate Kamala Harris is officially running for President, I thought I'd share this insightful tweet I found.

    Kamala Harris is immediately the front runner for the Democratic nomination, and if Russia is predictable, they will create armies of bots attacking her from the *left*. If you're left of Kamala Harris, I'm sure you are honestly, but you'll be doing Putin's work, like it or not.

    All patriotic Americans must #Resist Russia's attempt to hack our elections. They succeeded in 2016 (and possibly in 2018 because I'm still not convinced Cruz beat Beto), and we cannot allow that to happen again.

    So don't. Criticize. Harris.

    #LibertariansForHarris
    #LibertariansForGettingToughWithRussia
    #TrumpRussia

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Ah, Kamala Harris.

    http://groups.google.com/d/msg.....b5UtdHBwAJ

    "Local law enforcement must be able to use their discretion to determine
    who can carry a concealed weapon," said Kamala Harris, who was then the
    California Attorney General.

    I have always wondered how #BlackLivesMatter would view this. After all,
    according to their narrative, cops are just Klansmen with badges who
    habitually gun down unarmed black men. How could we trust such people with
    discretion to determine who may carry a concealed weapon.

    And yet, she tweeted this:

    Today, we remember #MikeBrown and recommit to ensuring truth,
    transparency, and trust in our criminal justice system. #BlackLivesMatter

  • Michael Ejercito||

    So I wonder if any reporter from the network broadcast and print media would
    ask her any of the following questions:

    – If the reason that "[l]ocal law enforcement must be able to use their
    discretion to determine who can carry a concealed weapon" is because they
    are just Klansmen with badges, why shouldn't the Stormfront White
    Nationalist Community also get to decide who can carry a concealed weapon?

    – If the reason that "[l]ocal law enforcement must be able to use their
    discretion to determine who can carry a concealed weapon" is because they
    habitually gun down unarmed black men, why shouldn't the Crips also get to
    decide who can carry a concealed weapon?

    – Is more black men dead or in prison a worthy price to pay to make lawful
    gun ownership more difficult?

    – Is making lawful gun ownership more difficult a worthy price to pay to put
    more black men in prison?

    – Does some magical guardian fairy turn these Klansmen with badges into
    freedom riders whenever they exercise their "discretion to determine who can
    carry a concealed weapon"?

  • Sevo||

    I for one am mightily impressed!
    If you check the screen-grab image, you will note that Ms Ekins is showing quite a bit of skin. Whoever is speaking into her mic is looking her in the EYE!
    Wow!

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Did the study address the issue of schools that teach supernatural nonsense, suppress science, etc.?

  • JesseAz||

    They fund plenty of psuedoscience such as modern sociology, tree rings as thermometers, intersectionality, boys can be women and vice versa, denial of male female chromosomes, ignoring DNA uniqueness in embryonic cells, etc.

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    denial of male female chromosomes

    LOL

    The real science deniers are people who cling to bigoted anti-scientific nonsense like "males are XY and females are XX."

    Newsflash — Just because I'm XY and have external genitals and hair on my face doesn't make me a "male" or "man." I'm actually non-binary because gender is determined by how we identify.

    Seriously. Read a science book.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    I identify as the Commandant of the United States Marine Corps.

  • Echospinner||

    Thank you for your service.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    You are welcome.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    What is wrong with women choosing what schools their children attend?

    Unless a woman's right to choose ends at her lady lips...

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    The thing to keep in mind at all times is that the same dynamic that made the experimental 'open' schools (and nudist schools and all kinds of progressive nonsense) appear so successful also operates on School Choice. The parents of children placed in the experimental schools (and the teachers who worked there) were self-selecting samples. They would work hard to make sure their children got the most out of school. The parents who make use fo school choice are willing to go to some trouble to get those opportunities for their children; they are, once more, a self-selecting sample.

    School choice will make it possible for people who care, at last a little, to get better educational opportunities for their children. Expanded to its greatest degree it will also make it easier for flaming bigots who believe in White Supremacy (or Afrocentrism, which is the obverse of the White Supremacy idiocy) to put their children in schools guaranteed to fill their heads with dung. And the parents who are too involved with their beloved crack-pipe will send their children (if any) to whatever school is easiest to access, and those kids will graduate as ignorant as so many cinderblocks unless they are natural autodidacts.

  • Sevo||

    "Expanded to its greatest degree it will also make it easier for flaming bigots who believe in White Supremacy (or Afrocentrism, which is the obverse of the White Supremacy idiocy) to put their children in schools guaranteed to fill their heads with dung."
    The gov't schools turn out flaming bigots already (pace the reverend asshole above), plus, the kids are trained to believe that the gov't is the ultimate benevolent force; the source of all happiness and prosperity, while the evil businessmen are greedy clods hoping to harvest the organs from those they poison.
    I guess private schools could do worse, but it's hard to see how.

    "And the parents who are too involved with their beloved crack-pipe will send their children (if any) to whatever school is easiest to access, and those kids will graduate as ignorant as so many cinderblocks unless they are natural autodidacts."
    Utopia ain't an option; we cannot guarantee that kids *will* get educated (again, pace the reverend asshole above). We can only offer the best option we can afford.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Expanded to its greatest degree it will also make it easier for flaming bigots who believe in White Supremacy (or Afrocentrism, which is the obverse of the White Supremacy idiocy) to put their children in schools guaranteed to fill their heads with dung.

    Not necessarily. That is were accreditation comes in to play. Think of the higher education model. Yes the state is heavily involved there, but not directly in the curriculum, not nearly to the same degree as with K-12 schools. So these institutions still offer high-quality education in a curricularly deregulated environment because they are beholden to their accreditation agencies to hold them to certain curriculum standards. There is no reason why the same thing couldn't work for K-12 schools.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Accreditaton is a trap. Fall into it and the Progressive Left WILL do their level best to use it to tae over. Better to allow outright bigots to teach their bigotry to their spawn.

  • JesseAz||

    Ie the changing emphasis of AP exams and their tilt to progressive ideology away from standard curriculum from even 10 years ago.

  • Echospinner||

    Jeff you are responding to hyperbole.

    Accreditation is important in many fields. It is important in that it is much better than government regulations because it is internal and driven by people who actually know the job.

    The problem is government has taken over teaching to a greater extent. Accreditation from the state means nothing

  • Harvard||

    Any time you interrupt the flow of capital between the consumer and the provider with a government intermediary, whether it be in education or health care, the goods or services are naturally degraded. Vouchers are the only way to put power and discretion (liberty) in the consumer's hand.

  • Sevo||

    Harvard|1.21.19 @ 11:19PM|#
    "Any time you interrupt the flow of capital between the consumer and the provider with a government intermediary, whether it be in education or health care, the goods or services are naturally degraded."

    Agreed: Sevo's Law:
    Any time a third party sticks its nose in a free transaction between two parties, one or both, and humanity in general, will lose wealth.

  • TJJ2000||

    Well Said!!

  • woodrow||

    Duh everyone knos this. Guss its good you spread the word. I gave up

  • Echospinner||

    Ideally there would be no taxpayer funded public schools.

    I just don't know how that is possible in our current state of progress.

    Schools do try all sorts of things, charter schools, schools that emphasize in things like arts or science.

    School of Rock, wait that was a movie. It did take a lot of people who went to school to make it.

    That is all good even if some efforts are less than stellar.

    Perhaps the best we can hope for is not to stagnate. We should push school systems to remain open to new ideas.

    Always learn and always teach when you can.

  • vek||

    Yeah, not gonna happen. Everybody would have to NOT be taxed to pay for public schools, so they had the money to pay for private schools... But that transition can't just happen overnight, so it probably won't happen at all. Maybe with enough charters, vouchers, etc the system could be eroded to the point where public schools could just be killed, but it'd be a long process.

  • JasonT20||

    I don't understand why people think that having no public schools would be a good thing. (I'm assuming you'd still be for vouchers, though. It would be truly ridiculous to force the poor to pay for their children's education and then expect it to be an adequate education that could get them out of poverty.) Is there a developed nation on the planet that does things that way? I don't think so. No doubt we can learn a lot about how to better run our public schools, but this free market idealism just isn't going to work if the goal is for every child to have the opportunity to get a solid education.

  • vek||

    I dunno about that... The truth is that every tiny little town in America had schooling available before public schools. Those kids in 1880 probably could read and write better than most people can today at the same age.

    I'm OKAY with retaining vouchers, charters, etc... But to say there is no way for it to work without the government is BS. Lots of private schools offer reduced/free tuition etc right now. If everything was private, there would be a lot more money being donated to such schools, because people would have tons more money in their pockets.

    That's what people forget about ending government control over things... Without the government taking everybodies money, everybody has a ton more cash to FREELY donate to causes they believe in.

  • JasonT20||

    "I dunno about that... The truth is that every tiny little town in America had schooling available before public schools. Those kids in 1880 probably could read and write better than most people can today at the same age."

    While a few people back then were certainly very educated, you are very wrong about those times when you look at the overall population.

    https://nces.ed.gov/naal/lit_history.asp

    Rate of illiteracy among all whites in 1880 = 9.4%; among blacks and other = 70%

    Rates of enrollment in school were also quite a bit lower than you probably expected. Ages 5-19 enrolled in school in 1900 = 51% (overall). In 1940 = 75%. Ages 7-13 in school in 1940 = 99%

    Clearly, public education did an enormous amount of good toward educating more and more of the population over time. We have stumbled over the last few decades in continuing that improvement, but the problem is complex. Looking at it through an ideological filter is not a good idea.

  • vek||

    The reason people didn't go to school FOR AS MANY YEARS as people do now, is because it wasn't really needed back then to do the jobs needed or function in the world.

    What those numbers miss is that almost everybody went to school for some years, then many stopped before the magic age of 18 that we shoot for now. Maybe at 12, or 14, or 16 as needed. In short, most people learned how to read, write, and do basic math... Then stopped when it seemed good enough.

    That illiteracy rate is barely worse than REAL illiteracy rates are nowadays. Have you looked up the stats on the percentage of people that are functionally illiterate lately? The number of HS dropouts?

    The reality is many people who graduate are borderline illiterate, innumerate, and generally not well educated. The reality of this is that it is because a good chunk of the population is simply not very smart, and they pretty much cannot even learn to read/write properly even if they tried hard. So they don't try hard, and just do jobs where that stuff isn't very important.

    Most of what goes on today in public schooling is giving poorer educations to the worthy, and rubber stamping sub par students so they don't feel bad about being dumb.

  • 2ndprotectsall||

    This isn't an isolated incident, the MSM will continue to lie to further their agenda which is why the MSM is dying.

  • vek||

    I know Nick has to virtue signal with some cherry picked studies about super minority improvement in charters (while ignoring white scores go up in them too, and rewiden the gap considerably in Apple to Apple comparisons)... But as far as things go, white/Asian/Jewish student scores HAVE NOT gone down over the recent decades, as we've spent more than twice as much money. They're basically identical to how they were back in the day. The demographics of the country have simply shifted to groups that do more poorly academically. Look it up, it's true! The US is still close to the top of the best test scores in the world if you look at scores by ethnicity.

  • M.L.||

    School choice is such a hugely important issue. The entire education system needs to be rebuilt from the ground up, and a pure school choice/voucher system is the market-oriented way to do it. Please keep talking about this issue.

  • JasonT20||

    Whenever I see this kind of argument in favor of school choice ("studies show improvement with charters/vouchers/etc. ..."), I am always left with a question that goes unanswered. What is it that these supposedly better schools are doing differently that causes them to get better results?

    I want this question answered very badly, because I am a public school teacher (high school science), and I want to know what I can do to improve my students' outcomes. I want to know what my school's administration can do better to improve outcomes, I want to know what my district can do better to improve outcomes. If private schools or charters are doing things better, then by all means tell what that is.

  • vek||

    Go look into it. I'm not a teacher, and have read numerous extended articles about some of the things charters do differently. There are studies, white papers, etc on the subject as well.

    What a lot of it boils down to is: Government schools have more non teaching staff sucking money out of the system, but not performing any useful services. We have more than double the number of non teachers working in the school system versus the 1970s IIRC. It's all a waste of money.

    They also have more freedom to custom tailor things that work to students it works for. Government schools are one size fits all. I think private/charter schools tend to be more able to put smart kids in classes that challenge them, instead of holding them back by keeping them in slow moving classes with less intelligent kids... While also being able to put the more normal/sub normal tract kids into classes that work for them.

    As I said, google. There is a lot of info out there if you are seriously interested. They won't be 1,000 word articles, but long papers and the like, but they have details you may be interested in.

  • JasonT20||

    "As I said, google."

    My point is not that I can't do a lot of research about this, but why don't the school choice advocates, such as the author of this article do that research and summarize it in their advocacy? I submit that they are mainly interested in pushing an agenda, so simply pointing to studies (mostly or entirely based on test scores) showing what they want to see is all they need to do. Understanding why charter schools (on average) are showing these results seems to be superfluous to them.

    "Government schools have more non teaching staff..."

    The district and state bureaucracies have dead weight, no doubt. Here's the issue I see in the schools I have taught at, as far as dead weight goes:

    ESE departments are as large as the language arts departments. So many kids in public schools have been diagnosed with some kind of learning disability or special needs that it takes a lot of people to provide support to the classroom teachers and keep track of all the paperwork required by law. Schools have to do this or parents can sue and win if the school can't show that it is providing adequate accommodations and support for these students. Charters typically have lower populations of ESE students than regular public schools.

  • JasonT20||

    Testing eats up an enormous amount of time and resources. My school has had to have someone, paid about the same as a teacher, to do nothing but coordinate all of the testing students are required to do throughout the school year. There was a time when students spent no more than a few days the entire school year on standardized tests, but now there are tests for everything. They are computer based, so we have to rotate students through them instead of being able to test the whole school at once, and they frequently have glitches that waste time.

    When you talk about added bureaucracy, a lot of it is simply to keep track of all of the data used for "accountability" purposes that simply didn't exist prior to the late 90's and early 2000's. But the same reformers that want school choice, where the choice schools wouldn't have to deal with most of these requirements and accountability, have been putting the screws to regular public schools with ever higher demands. Accountability is fine, but after 15 years in the classroom seeing this get more and more ridiculous, I can only conclude that Republican education reformers really want to make the public schools look bad so that they can justify privatization.

  • vek||

    Just FYI, my grandpa was a public school teacher, as is one of my uncles. I also have multiple friends who are. So I'm not trying to hate too bad here...

    Yes, administrative bloat is responsible for MOST of the financial inefficiencies in PSs. It has ALSO, IMO, forced the schools to do less teaching and more pointless stuff, like excessive testing. Thanks Department of Education! These are all things that should be addressed in PSs and other types of schools.

    As far as the rest, I urge you to READ some of the very lengthy things that ARE written by people where this is their whole life. This is just a single dumb article at Reason. There are people dedicated to alternatives who DO go into the details you claim to want. This isn't a major issue I'm interested in, so I don't have oodles of bookmarks saved, but have read things you'd be interested in in the past. You just have to look for it.

    But a lot of it comes down to escaping the stupidity of government management. You seem to not accept this basic premise: The government fucks up EVERYTHING it touches with bureaucracy, therefore things must be non governmental to function better.

    This is something that proves true everywhere in the world in basically all areas. You can't "build" a better bureaucracy and fix the problem, because it is always screwed. I accept this premise. You probably do not. Find me government doing ANYTHING, and I will show you private businesses doing better for lower costs.

  • JasonT20||

    "It has ALSO, IMO, forced the schools to do less teaching and more pointless stuff, like excessive testing. Thanks Department of Education!"

    You do know that it was George W. Bush that started the national obsession with testing, right? And that his younger brother Jeb! had started it in Florida a few years before that? If you find fault with the excessive testing regime, look no further than the GOP for the source of that problem.

    "You seem to not accept this basic premise: The government fucks up EVERYTHING it touches with bureaucracy, therefore things must be non governmental to function better."

    Including the military, justice system, law enforcement, and other things that only government should be empowered to do? Yeah, bureaucracy always gets inherently wasteful. But there are certain services that only government can provide in a way that is consistent with the public good. Especially in the sense that everyone, rich or poor, is equally entitled to many government services.

  • vek||

    *Sigh*

    You think I'm some line towing GOP lover? I HATED Bush II. HATED. He was a moron, and not a conservative in any real way to boot.

    Here's the thing: If the government screws up everything it touches, doesn't that mean we should get government out of the picture in as many situations as possible?

    Schooling is very much a situation where they could be largely removed, and the situation improved. If you want to maintain socialized costs, use vouchers. That is probably about as good as it gets, and would give a good chunk of the "best of both worlds" in schooling that left leaners want, as well as what small government people want.

  • JasonT20||

    In a universal voucher situation, you would be very likely to see even greater disparity between those with low income and those with higher income in the quality of their education options. Why should that happen? Because the poor would rely on the vouchers completely, while those with more money available would be able to spend more to go to better schools. Besides, having greater income and wealth already allows a great deal of choice for those parents. Simply being able to move to where the schools are better is school choice for most of America.

    It isn't as if traditional public schools are all "failing". The problems with public schools are concentrated in poor, urban neighborhoods. Vouchers do not allow these parents to send their kids to the best private schools that those with higher income can afford. Vouchers are just going to be subsidies for middle income and above families to further "escape" schools with the children of the poor.

    Also consider the level of accountability that taxpayers would insist upon for those vouchers. Right now, private schools get minimal scrutiny. Look to the Orlando Sentinel series "Schools Without Rules" to see how some of Florida's voucher schools were horrible for the students. Are private schools accepting vouchers going to accept higher standards for security, like fingerprinting employees, curriculum standards and standardized tests so that taxpayers can know their money is being well spent?

  • vek||

    Ugh. So you're one of THOSE people huh?

    You desire some imaginary world where everybody has exactly equal outcomes somehow... Because anything else is "unfair."

    Look dude, the fact that some middle income parents might be able to send their kids to BETTER schools because of vouchers is a FEATURE not a BUG. It's the whole point actually.

    The reality is the world is not equal, people are not all equal either... And they never will be. Half the reason that kids of wealthy people do well is because their parents are higher IQ on average, and IQ is largely heritable in individuals. There ain't nothin' short of genetic engineering that's going to fix that.

    So instead of wishing for something that can never happen (perfect equality) by holding some people down, how about you simply try to improve the situation for ALL and not worry about the fact that some peoples situation may be MORE improved than somebody elses?

    The only sensible thing you said is that idiot politicians would probably try to fuck up private schools if vouchers were more widely used. That is indeed a worry, but if vouchers become the norm, it will be because people recognize how horrible the government is at dealing with things, so hopefully over regulation won't be too bad.

  • vek||

    You seem to be knee jerk AGAINST privatized schooling... Yet you claim I am knee jerk for it... Which maybe I am, but I have my reasons.

    My question to you is, why do you knee jerk think "traditional" public schools are inherently a better idea than charters, vouchers, etc? They're still socialized costs and available to all... So no "It hurts the poor!" arguments there. If they cost less, and get comparable or better results... Where is the loss there? So why do you knee jerk assume those are evil, mean, horrible options???

    I have logical reasons for my views, like that charters and private schools get better results for less money IN THE REAL WORLD. That school budgets have nearly tripled since the 70s, and have not improved AT ALL. What reasons do you have that make you think traditional public schools are inherently superior? I suspect you have none, other than government running them is somehow better... Just because?

    Entire countries have moved over the charter/voucher systems and seen things improve dramatically. I see no reason why we couldn't open the flood gates in the USA, while keeping traditional schools, and see which ones really do better, and just transition over time to whatever works best.

  • JasonT20||

    "You seem to be knee jerk AGAINST privatized schooling..."

    I am not "knee jerk" against privatization of public schools. It is something I give quite a bit of thought, given the obvious push by "school reform" advocates on the right to do just that. I don't look at the world through an ideological lens. You might think otherwise, given that I am a public school teacher and union member, but there are plenty of Republican teachers in my union.

    "They're still socialized costs and available to all..."

    No, they aren't available to all. Charters are available to the children of parents that are willing and able to make the effort to get their kids into the charter school, keep them there by doing whatever the charter requires of them (attend parent-teacher meetings regularly, getting their kids to behave correctly, etc.), and even provide them with transportation, in most cases. Vouchers are available for parents to send their kids to whatever private schools in the area accept them. Do you think that the elite private schools the wealthy send their kids to would accept a voucher for less than half of their annual tuition and then be subject to whatever minimal oversight comes along with the voucher? Private schools also don't often provide transportation either, btw.

  • JasonT20||

    Traditional public schools take all comers. Kids with behavior issues, learning disabilities, physical limitations, parents that aren't available or willing to help, you name the problem, and there will be kids with those problems in regular public schools. Charters and private schools don't have to take them all. Charters aren't supposed to restrict applicants, but they can find ways to make sure that the most difficult and costly students to educate won't be able to stay if they do manage to get in through a lottery or some such. Private schools don't even have to bother with the pretense of accepting every student.

    So, as some parents find a way for their children to 'escape' the 'failing' public schools and get into choice schools, the kids left behind will suffer all the more. That is because, the higher the concentration of students with serious problems, the more difficult it is for teachers to do their jobs effectively. Teaching becomes as much about managing behavior as it is about teaching content.

    I value traditional public education because every kid has the right to the best opportunity to become educated. Reality doesn't let that happen, as it is inevitable that parent involvement and wealth will always be an advantage. But only a true public school that has to accept any student that shows up can and will try and serve any student that shows up.

  • vek||

    You're thinking WAY too small...

    WHAT IF there were no "traditional public schools," but rather all schools in an area were independently operated private/charter schools? The only reason the number of charter schools is limited is because people like you KEEP the numbers limited! If parents were given a choice most public schools would disappear tomorrow, because of their track record of non performance.

    There could indeed be specialized schools for kids with disabilities, or other problems to boot.

    You think a mediocre one size fits all approach is the best way... But it clearly isn't. You seem to be worried that if ONLY charters and private schools were around that there wouldn't be a public school... But the question is: so what? If the charters and private schools are doing a better job, for less money, what is there to complain about?

    With a voucher system that is what you can get. It's been done to a large degree in some US cities, and indeed entire countries. IIRC it was Chile or Argentina or something that basically did away with their whole public school system and went to vouchers, and surprise surprise their educational achievements went up rapidly after that.

  • JasonT20||

    "WHAT IF there were no "traditional public schools," but rather all schools in an area were independently operated private/charter schools?"

    What you aren't seeing is that when it comes to private schools, at least, the "choice" works both ways. Private schools are free to set up a wide range of admission requirements. You know those elite private high schools that boast super high SAT scores, AP scores, acceptance rates to 4-year colleges and the like? They don't achieve that by accepting any student that walks in the door. They have tuition that is generally much higher than local per pupil spending. (A prep school local to me has yearly tuition and fees over $20k/year for high school compared with Florida's per pupil spending of under $10k a year. You think that school is going to accept many students on vouchers, if any at all?) These schools are also selective and admission is competitive. They have to maintain exclusivity to achieve the level of results they demonstrate and need to charge the high tuition they do in order to maintain the high levels of quality in teaching and facilities and equipment, etc.

  • JasonT20||

    You might counter that private schools don't have to be this elite and exclusive, but you know that in a real free market, you get the quality that you pay for. Private schools that will accept a voucher for what the local district is currently spending per pupil (or less, as is more common) won't be able to match that quality simply because they won't be able to afford to be as exclusive.

    And what if they could? In your world, parents might not get the highest quality school they would choose because of:

    limited number of seats available
    lack of services for that student's special needs
    incompatibility of religious identity
    competition from other students for the limited seats
    lack of transportation options

    This is why we need true public schools. We need a school that will take any child living in the area, no questions asked.

  • vek||

    You're STILL missing the point.

    It IS NOT A PROBLEM that some people will still be able to send their kids to BETTER schools than others. That is a problem only in your mind.

    The question is whether EVERYBODY can be made better off.

    Think about it like this: In 1900 nobody but the rich could afford a car. By 1930 the fanciest cars were MORE expensive than in 1900, BUT Henry Ford had made cars available to the masses as well. The fact that the rich could have a nicer-er car than a poor person is irrelevant... The poor now had better transportation available to them.

    You're arguing that EVERYBODY should be forced to use horses, because it's not "fair" that the rich will still be better off... But if the poor are also better off it doesn't matter. And I have little doubt that middle class and working class private schools would do better than public schools. Such schools would indeed pop up with wide spread or universal voucher use. They wouldn't be as good as Elite private schools, but who cares? They'd be better than we have now, which is the point!

    So you want to shoot yourself in the dick just to be spiteful.

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