More Than 560,000 Students Now Have Choice

NCPA/CFA Book Claims School Choice Improves Academic Performance

WASHINGTON (February 7, 2001) -- While school choice may be controversial inside our nation's capitol, school choice programs are blossoming in communities across the country even without Congressional action. In just 10 years the number of students involved in either privately or publicly funded choice programs have climbed from zero to more than 60,000. Last school year, nearly 50,000 students participated in 68 privately funded programs, and at least another 12,000 in three publicly funded ones. Furthermore, there are now over 500,000 children in charter schools.

These programs are exploding nationwide because of their overwhelming success. Evidence of this appears in a new book - An Education Agenda: Let Parents Choose Their Children's School - published jointly by the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) and Children First America (CFA).

"Choice works," said Gov. Pete du Pont, NCPA Policy Chair and the chairman of the joint project, which includes the contributions of over 20 of the nation's leading experts on school choice. "Everywhere it's been tried, it's been popular with students and their parents." The book also says school choice has led to improved student performance and improved public schools.

  • An independent study of the Wisconsin choice program showed that students in the choice program had math scores, on average, that were 5 to 12 percentile points higher than their non-choice counterparts. Reading scores were 3 to 5 percentile points higher.
  • In response to the loss of students, the public school system in Milwaukee has guaranteed each parent that his or her child will be able to read by the end of third grade. If they can't, the school will provide one-on-one tutoring after school until the child can.
  • Similarly, faced with a quarter of the students taking advantage of a school choice program and choosing to leave Giffen Memorial Elementary School, long considered Albany, NY's worst performing elementary school, the school district replaced the principal and the assistant principal, rotated out 25 percent of the faculty and launched a literacy initiative.

"Improving our nation's schools is too important not to require real accountability," said du Pont. "If schools consistently fail to teach, they should be held accountable for their inaction by giving the parents the choice to send their child somewhere that will."