School Choice Benefits: More than test scores

February 9th, 2016 by 1 Comment
Hundreds of schoolchildren braved chilly temperatures Wednesday to attend the National School Choice Week rally at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta
Hundreds of school children braved chilly temperatures to attend the National School Choice Week rally at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta

In a new article for Education Next, Martin R. West of Harvard University explains that research focused solely on standardized test scores will understate the benefits of school choice programs, since effects on high school graduation and college enrollment are stronger—especially among urban minority students.

The study builds on early research on school choice by James S. Coleman:

The chief beneficiaries of policies that expand parental choice appear to be urban minority students—precisely the group that Coleman argued has the least choice in a public school system in which school assignment depends on where a family lives. And the benefits of school choice 
for these students extend beyond what tests can measure.

A key paragraph at the conclusion of the article raises questions about overreliance on test scores to evaluate school choice programs:

Policymakers continue to wrestle with the question of how best to regulate systems of school choice. In recent years, charter school authorizers in some cities have taken on a more active role in managing the options available to families—closing some charter schools and allowing others to expand, using student test results as the primary yardstick of success. Meanwhile, some states have required private schools accepting voucher students to participate in state testing systems, blurring what had been a distinction between the two approaches. These efforts aim to produce more consistent quality among both charter and private schools and to equip parents with information to make sound decisions regarding their child’s schooling. Yet such measures, when used to limit the options available to families, assume that overall test score results at a particular school can accurately indicate the long-term benefits for an individual child of attending that school. Increasingly, researchers are casting doubt on that assumption.

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Thank you for the great work that the Public Policy Foundation is doing across our state setting a wonderful example. I first ran for the Senate in 1994, and the Foundation was that resource I called upon to be a great help to me as we were articulating positions and formulating public policy initiatives. We appreciate very much your leadership and all that you stand for.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle more quotes