Taste the ABC Rainbow!

January 23, 2014


(Guest post by Greg Forster)

The new edition of the ABCs of School Choice is out – now available in a rainbow of colors, showing that Friedman provides the full spectrum of data on school choice programs.

No red, though? I’m disappointed.

“You shall not deny the Blogger.”

November 8, 2013

Strongbad using technology

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

T.S. Eliot and I would like to welcome a new blog, launched by my colleagues at the Friedman Foundation. They’ve decided to start out with something relatively simple and uncontroversial: the foundation’s stance on Common Core. Robert “The Barbarian” Enlow lays it out:

School choice is a far more effective way to improve educational outcomes than centralized standards imposed from above. A main concern with Common Core is that it could restrict entrepreneurship in education, so that parents will have fewer and less diverse choices. By contrast, universal school choice can provide a more vibrant system of schooling so that parents will have numerous and more varied high-quality options.

Check the blog next Wednesday for Friedman’s new report on how private schools use standardized tests in response to parental demand: “More Than Scores: An Analysis of Why and How Parents Choose Private Schools.” As Robert comments:

Do we need to ensure our children are competitive in a global economy? Definitely. Do we need to test our children to help parents understand their proficiency and growth? Most parents think so, and that’s why virtually all private schools use privately developed, voluntary standardized tests.

And keep your eyes on the blog for regular updates on the latest data, developments and derring-do. Embarrassing childhood photos are a free bonus.

Momma Ain’t Happy

May 9, 2013

If Momma Aint Happy(Guest post by Greg Forster)

My colleagues at the Friedman Foundation have released a big new survey of mothers of school-age kids. And let me tell you, momma ain’t happy:

  • 61% of school moms say education’s on the wrong track; just 32% say it’s on the right track.
  • Watch out, Common Core test consortia: 79% of school moms rate the federal government’s handling of education as fair or poor; only 17% said good or excellent.
  • 82% of school moms gave an A or B to their local private schools, compared to 43% for public schools. (Momma ain’t unhappy enough!)

The study also surveyed non-moms, so you can compare and contrast. Unsurprisingly, the differences aren’t large – because if momma ain’t happy…


Baumol by Design

October 25, 2012

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Part four of the Baumol Disease series is up over at the EdFly Blog, including spectacular new Baumol charts from the Heritage Foundation and an excerpt from Terry Moe’s book Special Interest regarding the history of the Florida Education Association hijacking the Florida Democratic Party during the 2002 election.

Also be sure to check out the Friedman Foundation’s incredibly cool K-12 Baumol Map by State. How bad is the disease where you live?


Hot Off the Press — New Report on ESAs

September 27, 2012

Our very own Matt Ladner has a new report out with the Friedman Foundation on Education Savings Accounts (ESAs).  Here’s the summary:

Education savings accounts are the way of the future. Under such accounts—managed by parents with state supervision to ensure accountability—parents can use their children’s education funding to choose among public and private schools, online education programs, certified private tutors, community colleges, and even universities. Education savings accounts bring Milton Friedman’s original school voucher idea into the 21st century.

Arizona lawmakers were the first to create such a program, called Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs). Through that program, the state of Arizona deposits 90 percent of the funds for a participating child into an account, which can cover multiple educational services through use-restricted debit cards. Parents can choose to use all of their funds on a single method—like private school tuition—or they can employ a customized strategy using multiple methods (e.g., online programs and community college classes). Critically, parents can save some of the money for future higher education expenses through a 529 college savings program. That feature creates an incentive for parents to judge all K-12 service providers not only on quality but also on cost.

A fully realized system of ESAs would create powerful incentives for innovation in schooling practices seeking better outcomes for lower costs. Also, the broader use of funds may help to immunize choice programs against court challenges in some states. Policymakers must fashion their system of accounts to provide reasonable state oversight, fraud prevention, academic transparency, and equity.

If Milton Friedman were alive today, he likely would agree that education savings accounts represent a critical refinement of his school voucher concept. Existing voucher programs create healthy competition between public and private schools, but ESAs can create a much deeper level of systemic improvement. ESAs would allow parents to build a customized education to match the individual needs of every child, thus transforming education for the better.

School Choice and the Greenfield School Revolution

June 5, 2012

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Today, the Friedman Foundation is releasing a study I did with James Woodworth: The Greenfield School Revolution and School Choice. We know from previous research that vouchers (and equivalent programs like tax credits and ESAs) consistently deliver better academic performance, but the size of the impact is not revolutionary. Meanwhile, the whole world is watching as charter school operators (Carpe Diem, Rocketship, Yes Prep, etc.) reinvent the school from the ground up.

It’s ironic that these schools are charters, not voucher schools. A properly designed (i.e. universal) choice program would do a better job than charters of supporting these highly ambitious “greenfield” school models. But existing choice programs are not properly designed, so our impression was that they’re excluding these educational entrepreneurs, instead simply transferring students from one existing set of schools (public) to another (private).

We wanted to test our theory and make sure it was true, not just an accident of publicity or media bias, that the reinvention of the school wasn’t being supported by existing choice programs. We combed through twenty years’ worth of federal data (CCD and PSS) to see if we could find any evidence of disruption in the structure of the private school sector in places that had school choice programs.

We found that while existing school choice programs may be delivering moderately better academic outcomes, they aren’t disrupting the private school sector the way they need to be. In one or two places we found visible impacts, but nothing like a reinvention of schooling. The only impact of any considerable size is the dramatic change in racial composition in the private school population of Milwaukee.

In addition to the empirical findings, the study outlines 1) why radical “greenfield” school models are essential to drive the kind of education reform we need, and 2) why universal school choice would do a better job than charter schools of sustaining it.

Special thanks to Rick Hess, from whom we borrow the term “greenfield,” and Jay Greene for giving us their comments and insights as we developed this study!

Enlow the Barbarian Teams with Reason to Talk Milton Friedman

March 7, 2012

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The Kung Fu Panda of the School Choice Movement talks Friedman, 2011 and more in this Reason TV video:

Enlow: Go for the Whole Package

September 14, 2009

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Robert Enlow brings it in today’s Indianapolis Star. Money quote:

Bush argued for a comprehensive package of reforms, all of which were critical to Florida’s success. In his remarks to the Education Roundtable, clear accountability (grading schools), good incentives (merit pay) and real consequences (school choice) were inextricably linked. Without each component working together, success would not have been possible, a fact evidenced by a recent study showing that improvement among failing public schools went from double digits to zero after the Florida Supreme Court removed the school voucher option.

Moreover, it was critical to assign each school a letter grade. Without that clear and easy-to-understand letter grade, there simply would not have been the same level of academic improvement among schools.

As someone who fought alongside Gov. Bush in 1999 as he passed his reform package, I can state with confidence that both letter grades and parental school choice were essential to eventual success of the Florida accountability plan. The Star should consider supporting the whole package of common-sense reforms, not just some of the pieces.

New Study on Florida Tax Credit Scholarships

August 6, 2009

FL survey table

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Today the Friedman Foundation releases a new study I co-authored with Christian D’Andrea on the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. You may recall that program as the subject of last month’s rush to judgment.

At the top of this post you can see what the parents participating in the program report about the services they previously received in public schools, and the services they are now receiving in the school choice program. The study conducted a survey of over 800 families randomly selected from the entire population participating in the program, excluding only those who had no prior public school experience (because their children entered the program in kindergarten).

The numbers tell the story. Public schools didn’t deliver for these kids, and school choice does – in spades.

Obviously this doesn’t answer all questions about the program. Indeed, as the first empirical study ever completed on a tax-credit scholarship program (that is, the first to empirically measure the outcomes of such a program measured against a relevant standard of comparison), it hardly could. We all look forward to the completion of the official evaluation when it’s ready. Until then, however, we have to take the information we have. And, if I do say so, I think this is some pretty important information.

Here’s the executive summary:

This study examines the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program, one of the nation’s largest school choice programs. It is the first ever completed empirical evaluation of a tax-credit scholarship program, a type of program that creates school choice through the tax code. Earlier reports, including a recent one on the Florida program, have not drawn comparisons between the educational results of public schools and tax-credit scholarships; this study is therefore the first step in evaluating the performance of this type of school choice.

The Florida program provides a tax credit on corporate income taxes for donations to scholarship-funding organizations, which use the funding to provide K-12 private school scholarships to low-income students. Over 23,000 Florida students are attending private schools this year using these scholarships. Similar programs exist in Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

Studying a tax-credit scholarship program using traditional empirical techniques presents a number of methodological challenges. To overcome these difficulties, the study used a telephone survey conducted by Marketing Informatics to interview 808 participating parents whose children attended public schools before entering the program. It asked them to compare the educational services they received in public and private schools.

The results provide the first ever direct comparison between the education participants received when they were in Florida public schools and the education they receive in the school choice program.

Key findings include:

• Participating parents report that they receive dramatically better educational services from their current private schools than they previously received in public schools.

• 80 percent are “very satisfied” with the academic progress their children are making in their current private schools, compared to 4 percent in their previous public schools.

• 80 percent are “very satisfied” with the individual attention their children now receive, compared to 4 percent in public schools.

• 76 percent are “very satisfied” with the teacher quality in their current schools, compared to 7 percent in public schools.

• 76 percent are “very satisfied” with their schools’ responsiveness to their needs, compared to 4 percent in public schools.

• 62 percent are “very satisfied” with the student behavior in their current schools, compared to 3 percent in public schools.

• Most participating parents were dissatisfied with their public school experiences on most measurements, and are overwhelmingly satisfied with their current private schools.

• 58 percent had been “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with the academic progress their children were making in public school, compared to 4 percent in their current private schools.

• 64 percent had been “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with the individual attention their children received in public schools, compared to 3 percent in their current schools.

• 44 percent had been “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with teacher quality in public schools, compared to 3 percent in their current schools.

• 59 percent had been “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with school responsiveness in public schools, compared to 3 percent in their current schools.

• 62 percent had been “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with student behavior in public schools, compared with 5 percent in their current schools.

• Asked to rate their schools on a scale from one to „„ ten, 94 percent of participants gave their current private schools at least a seven, and 54 percent gave them a ten. Only 18 percent of parents rated their public schools seven or higher, and just 2 percent rated them at the highest level.

• Of the 128 parents whose children are not likely to be in the program again next year, 81 percent said that dissatisfaction with the program played no role at all in their decision, and 100 percent – all 128 of them – said the program should continue to be available for others even though they were not likely to use it again next year themselves.

Evidence Shows Vouchers Are a Win-Win Solution

February 23, 2009


(Guest post by Greg Forster)

On Friday, the Friedman Foundation released my new report, “A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on How Vouchers Affect Public Schools.” It goes over all the available empirical evidence on . . . well, on how vouchers affect public schools.

Here’s the supercool graphic:


Worth a thousand words, isn’t it? I mean, at what point are we allowed to say that people are either lying, or have been hoodwinked by other people’s lies, when they say that the research doesn’t support a positive impact from vouchers on public schools?

There’s always room for more research. What would we all do with our time if there weren’t? But on the question of what the research we now have says, the verdict is not in dispute.

Here’s the executive summary of the report:

This report collects the results of all available empirical studies on how vouchers affect academic achievement in public schools. Contrary to the widespread claim that vouchers hurt public schools, it finds that the empirical evidence consistently supports the conclusion that vouchers improve public schools. No empirical study has ever found that vouchers had a negative impact on public schools.

There are a variety of explanations for why vouchers might improve public schools, the most important being that competition from vouchers introduces healthy incentives for public schools to improve.

The report also considers several alternative explanations, besides the vouchers themselves, that might explain why public schools improve where vouchers are offered to their students. It concludes that none of these alternatives is consistent with the available evidence. Where these claims have been directly tested, the evidence has not borne them out. The only consistent explanation that accounts for all the data is that vouchers improve public schools.

Key findings include:

  • A total of 17 empirical studies have examined how vouchers affect academic achievement in public schools. Of these studies, 16 find that vouchers improved public schools and one finds no visible impact. No empirical studies find that vouchers harm public schools.
  • Vouchers can have a significant positive impact on public schools without necessarily producing visible changes in the overall performance of a large city’s schools. The overall performance of a large school system is subject to countless different influences, and only careful study using sound scientific methods can isolate the impact of vouchers from all other factors so it can be accurately measured. Thus, the absence of dramatic “miracle” results in cities with voucher programs has no bearing on the question of whether vouchers have improved public schools; only scientific analysis can answer that question.
  • Every empirical study ever conducted in Milwaukee, Florida, Ohio, Texas, Maine and Vermont finds that voucher programs in those places improved public schools.
  • The single study conducted in Washington D.C. is the only study that found no visible impact from vouchers. This is not surprising, since the D.C. voucher program is the only one designed to shield public schools from the impact of competition. Thus, the D.C. study does not detract from the research consensus in favor of a positive effect from voucher competition.
  • Alternative explanations such as “stigma effect” and “regression to the mean” do not account for the positive effects identified in these studies. When these alternative explanations have been evaluated empirically, the evidence has not supported them.


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