Snippets from Jeff Lindsay:

Even more Evidence is in:
Competition is Good for Education

The National Education Association and the educational unions in many states have long opposed voucher programs, charter schools, and other forms of school choice. They claim that any competition with their form of education would be unfair and harmful, allowing the wealthy to get good education while the rest of our kids are left behind. Students leaving the public system would take funds away from public education and make our schools worse. Those who understand the role that freedom has played in making America great understand that competition in free markets tends to elevate quality across the board. But does this principle apply to education? Finally, the question can be answered not by rhetoric, but by an examination of hard data in regions that have had significant experience with competition (primarily Milwaukee, Michigan, and Arizona). Dr. Caroline Minter Hoxby, a Harvard professor of economics and visiting fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, presents the research results in her article, "Rising Tide" in the journal Education Next Winter 2001, pp. 69- 74.

Dr. Hoxby notes that we have long had data showing that students in private schools, whether using a voucher or paying their own tuition, do better academically than students of similar background in public schools. But what has remained unknown until recently was whether or not the student left in public schools are helped by the competition. Now Dr. Hoxby's results help answer this question with data:

My research shows that metropolitan areas with maximum interdistrict choice elicit consistently higher test scores than do areas with zero interdistrict choice. The 8th grade reading scores of students in highly competitive areas are 3.8 national percentile points higher than those of students in areas with no competition; their 10th grade math scores are 3.1 national percentile points higher; and their 12th grade reading scores are 5.8 national percentile points higher. Moreover, highly competitive districts spend 7.6 percent less than do districts with no competition. In other words, interdistrict competition appears to raise performance while lowering costs -- the result predicted by market enthusiasts. . . .

With strategies similar to those used to analyze the effects of interdistrict choice on public schools, I compared public school performance in areas where public schools face strong competition from private schools with public school performance in areas where little competition between public and private schools exists.

My comparison showed that all schools perform better in areas where there is vigorous competition among public and private schools. Areas with many low-cost private school choices score 2.7 national percentile points higher in 8th grade reading; 2.5 national percentile points higher in 8th grade math; 3.4 national percentile points higher in 12th grade reading; and 3,7 national percentile points higher in 12th grade math. In short, both traditional forms of choice -- choice among school districts and between public and private schools -- influence public schools in a positive manner. To place the influence of competition on school performance in perspective, if every school in the nation were to face a high level of competition both from other districts and from private schools, the productivity of America's schools, in terms of students' level of learning at a given level of spending, would be 28 percent higher than it is now. (p.71)

Dr. Hoxby also examined the effect of charter schools on the remaining public schools. Arizona and Michigan both provided situations where reasonable controls could be compared to areas with high competition with charter schools. Again, the effect of competition was strongly positive on the non-charter public schools. The study focussed on 4th grade test scores since 4th grade is the one that had been tested for the longest time in Arizona and the only elementary grade in Michigan with a statewide test. According to Dr. Hoxby,
The results in Arizona were similar to those in Michigan and Milwaukee. . . . [Regular] public schools that faced charter school competition improved both their 4th grade reading scores and their fourth-grade math scores by 1.4 national percentile points a year. These improvements are above and beyond their achievement trends before charter competition. They are also larger than the improvements made over the same period by public schools that did not face charter competition.
The results are in: competition is good for education. It helps those who leave public schools or enter charter schools, and it helps those who remain in regular public schools. If "every kid deserves a great education," as the National Education Association and many state unions say, then surely they will reverse their staunch position of the past and come out in favor of charter schools, vouchers, and other forms of choice in education. . . . Why are you smirking? Do you doubt their sincerity? I sure do. Based on the NEA's assault on choice and on home schooling (another form of choice with proven benefits), they clearly don't mean that "every kid deserves a great education." I suspect they mean that THEY deserve to control the education of every kid, like it or not. How else can we reconcile their deeds and their words?

Jeff Lindsay, May 12, 2002

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Related Web sites:
Concerned About Public Education - my page.

Education Next - the journal with Dr. Hoxby's article

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Copyright © 2002. This snippet was written by Jeff Lindsay for JeffLindsay.com.

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