NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

School Choice For Low-Performing Students

March 13, 2000

Parents in areas with some of the worst performing schools are pleading for school choice, says Sean R. Tuffnell of the National Center for Policy Analysis. Currently, school choice is a right only granted to those with means -- means to fund private tuition or to purchase a home in a district with good schools.

A common argument against school choice is that private schools would take the best kids, leaving the government-run school with the children that no one else wants. This, however, ignores what is already happening in communities all across the country.

The private market is already moving in to serve low performing students.

  • For example, a Nashville-based corporation called "Community Education Partners" is currently contracting with school districts to educate students at-risk of dropping out.
  • Their program works with some of the most difficult students, offering structure and self-paced learning with the aid of computers, videos, student collaboration and learning managers.
  • They also have contracts with several juvenile justice departments to run alternative education programs for students who have been expelled.

Other companies are receiving contracts from districts to run entire schools.

  • The most prominent of these companies is the Edison Schools, which now operates approximately 80 public schools, including many charter schools, for a total of more than 38,000 students nationwide.
  • Using the same funds the schools would have used, Edison succeeds by using innovative methods to improve lagging test scores and to stimulate students, including using longer school hours and the latest classroom technologies.

Meanwhile, parents of kids in failing schools are getting impatient, says Tuffnell, because they know there is no future for their children if they aren't given the tools needed for success in today's world.

Source: Sean R. Tuffnell (communications manager, NCPA), "Private Market Finds a Niche With Low Performing Students," Baltimore Sun, March 9, 2000.


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