Shuls Slays Dracula Again

[Guest Post by Jason Bedrick]

A few months ago, JPG regular James Shuls and Marty Lueken of the Friedman Foundation put a stake in the heart of the school choice myth that just won’t die. However, the vampire is back roaming the countryside, this time in the form of a report from the Center for Public Education.

Fortunately, James “Van Helsing” Shuls does not rest:

Recently, the Center for Public Education, an arm of the National School Boards Association, released a report on the merits of school choice. The paper claims to summarize “what the research says.” Interestingly, the report fails to include almost every analysis that has found benefits to private school choice programs.

When Anna Egalite, an assistant professor of educational leadership, policy, and human development at North Carolina State University, conducted a systematic review of the competitive effects of private school choice programs, she found 21 studies. She concluded that the results “unanimously find positive impacts on student achievement. Such overwhelming evidence supports the development of market-based schooling policies as a means to increase student achievement in traditional public schools.” Interestingly, the Center for Public Education did not cite any of these studies.

Similarly, there have been 12 random-assignment studies of voucher programs. These are considered the “gold-standard” in social science research because they are the best at determining causality. Eleven of the 12 studies have found positive effects from voucher programs. The Center for Public Education review only cites one of these studies.

The report cites plenty of useful statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics and other sources, but does not even attempt to cite the plethora of useful research on school choice programs.

Nevertheless, the report does get at least one thing right—private school choice tends to boost graduation rates.  This was highlighted in the evaluation of the Washington D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program, which showed a 21 percentage point increase in the graduation rate for voucher users.

Not surprisingly, given that they neglect to cite any of the ample evidence showing that school choice succeeds, the Center’s conclusion is that “In general, we find that school choices work for some students sometimes, are worse for some students sometimes, and are usually no better or worse than traditional public schools.”

2 Responses to Shuls Slays Dracula Again

  1. Thank you, Jason Bedrick, for publicizing our new report. One clarification — the report covers the range of school choice programs of which vouchers are just one (out of eight we identified). We stand by our conclusion that schools of choice can be better, worse, or for the most part, not much different from traditional neighborhood schools as measured by impact on student learning. Even Anna Egalite found an abundance of studies showing neutral results.

    • matthewladner says:

      Madame Director-

      Egalite characterized her literature review in her own words that Jason cited in his post. Your final sentence would seem to be mincing words such that every study would have to find a statistically significant and positive finding on each and every measure or else they would show “neutral results.”

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