Research Shows Benefits of School Choice

March 31, 2014

A recent analysis of existing school choice research conducted by researcher Greg Forster found that school choice helps all students -- even those who remain in public schools, says Lindsey Burke, an education fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

  • Of 12 random assignment studies, 11 of them demonstrated that school choice improved student outcomes, and none of the studies showed a negative effect on student outcomes.
  • Moreover, of the 23 studies that have been conducted analyzing the impact of school choice on the students who remain in traditional public schools, 22 of them found that school choice improves those students' outcomes as well.

Research has found improvements across a number of variables:

  • Graduation rates: A study of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (DCOSP) -- which grants scholarships to students in low-income families to attend private schools -- found that the graduation rate for DCOSP students increased by 21 percentage points. Likewise, students in the similar Milwaukee Parental Choice Program increased their likelihood of graduating and then enrolling in college by 4 to 7 percentage points.
  • Public school improvements: When states implement choice programs allowing students to attend private schools, what happens to the test scores of students in public schools that are at risk of losing students? A study of Florida's Tax Credit Scholarship Program found that student test scores in those schools improved relative to test scores in the public schools less affected by the scholarship program. Milwaukee's voucher program demonstrated similar results due to the increased competition.
  • Special needs: Choice programs provide better access to services for students who have special needs. A study of a Florida scholarship program that provides private school vouchers to students with disabilities determined that students who remained in the public system saw statistically significant increases in their test scores, again suggesting that competition pushed the public schools to better serve those students.
  • Parental satisfaction: Studies repeatedly confirm that parents are very satisfied with school choice programs. For example, more than 70 percent of respondents in Arizona's education savings account program were "very satisfied" with their children's education.

Policymakers should look at this empirical evidence and make more efforts to give students and parents control over their education funding.

Source: Lindsey Burke, "The Value of Parental Choice in Education: A Look at the Research," Heritage Foundation, March 18, 2014.

 

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