School Choice Improves Scores


Although this is mainly a healthcare blog, I sometimes write about other important issues. One of those is school choice. I have a passion for school choice, because it opens doors for poor and disadvantaged children to escape their situations and lead productive lives.

The biggest obstacle to school choice is teachers unions. Teachers unions have been in the news a lot lately, since they have demanded vaccinations for all their teachers before returning to the classrooms, despite scientific evidence that clearly shows this is unnecessary. Teachers unions also promote the false narrative that school choice is bad for public schools. Recent evidence is proving school choice is beneficial, not only for the students who choose charter or private schools, but also for those still in public schools.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board says the latest study shows a positive correlation between the education options states offer and test results on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) exam. Researchers at the University of Arkansas’s School Choice Demonstration Project developed an Education Freedom Index to measure school choice environments in the states and Washington, D. C. The index considers offerings for private school choice like vouchers and tax-credit scholarships, home-schooling, public school choice (the ability to switch schools or districts) and charter schools.

Based on the index, Arizona, which has education savings accounts, tax-credit scholarships and expansive charter school programs, takes first place. Indiana is second, and Hawaii ranks last. The study finds the rankings strongly correlate with state NAEP scores for 8th grade math and reading. “Higher levels of education freedom,” the authors write, “are significantly associated with higher NAEP achievement levels and higher NAEP achievement gains” between 2003 and 2019 in all of their models.

Each model controls for per-pupil spending, student-teacher ratio, household income, and percentage of white students. Some models also control for teacher quality policies including education, evaluation policies, and compensation requirements.

How could this impact the lives of students?

The author of the study, Jay Greene, says to consider a student about to enter kindergarten in New York, which ranks 35th in the Education Freedom Index. If his family chose to move to Florida, which ranks 7th, for the child’s K-8 education, the child would climb 10 points on the NAEP (from the 50th to the 60th percentile) by the time he reached 8th grade compared to if he had stayed in New York. If the family moved to Arizona, the child would see an 18-point improvement. He says this is using the most conservative model.

It is also worth noting that the study finds a negative correlation between per-pupil spending and NAEP scores. In other words, spending more money per pupil does not translate into better scores. This challenges the union claims that insufficient funding is to blame for failing public schools. The authors believe that school choice increases competitive pressure on public schools – well documented in other studies – which could help improve NAEP scores across the board.

WSJ says, “Unions and the left argue that expanding school choice does nothing to help the large majority of students who attend traditional public schools. This study shows that’s not true. Expanding school choice creates incentives that help all children.”

This past year has exposed the true agenda of the teachers unions and their disdain for the students they teach. This study only adds more strength to the arguments of school choice advocates who only want students to have the best possible education and the best chances of success in the future.

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