Setting the Record Straight on Choice

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(Guest post by Greg Forster)

OCPA carries my article fisking an especially sloppy smear job attacking school choice:

I call it a strange document because it’s trying to present itself as some sort of scholarly press release. It’s published by something calling itself Scholars Strategy Network, and the byline is from two academics, with their academic affiliations and emails listed at the top. But it’s not a work of scholarship, nor is it informed by scholarship. It’s two pages of emotive bullet points, unsubstantiated bumper-sticker assertions, shoddy reasoning, and deceptive characterizations of the empirical research. An impressively long list of “sources,” formatted to look like scholarly citations, is supplied at the end in the desperate hope of simulating gravitas.

Come for the blatant dishonesty about easily checkable facts:

Assaulting private school choice, the authors appear to be afraid to make their own assertions, but quote someone else’s claim that no “independent studies” have ever found that students using private school choice in Milwaukee, Cleveland, or Washington, D.C. performed better than children who remained in public schools. But the official study in Washington, D.C. looked at exactly this question, using random-assignment methods (the gold standard), and found huge increases in high school graduation and college attendance rates. No doubt the report being cited here doesn’t count this study as “independent,” because it was a federal program and the study was federally funded as part of the program. That’s blatantly dishonest cherry-picking. And what is their excuse for leaving out the two—two!—gold-standard studies of this question finding academic improvements in Milwaukee?

Not to mention that it’s cherry-picking to include only selected cities. Across all private-choice programs, there have been a total of 18 gold-standard studies (no cherry-picking). Of these, 14 found academic improvements, two found no visible effect, and two (both examining a poorly designed program in Louisiana) found negative results.

Stay for the outrageous ideological claptrap!

The authors complain that schools in choice programs are not “transparent.” But parents have the power to demand whatever information they think important, or not attend the school. This is why private schools are already more transparent, by orders of magnitude, than organizations are typically required to be when participating in other kinds of government programs. Look at the reams of hard data on named, particular private schools on GreatSchools.org or in the U.S. Department of Education’s Common Core of Data. Then try getting comparable data on apartment buildings that take Section 8 housing vouchers, or grocery stores that take food stamps.

Send me a scholarly press release letting me know what you think!

3 Responses to Setting the Record Straight on Choice

  1. Michael F. Shaughnessy says:

    Greg, Greg, Greg, surely you have learned by now that when people are upset about certain things, that they do not think logically, rationally, reasonably about things like vouchers and school choice. Rather than list the facts and data and evidence they are going to rant and rave and use a lot of claptrap to boster their point of view. Rather than sit down and have a cup of coffee they are going to engage in a lot of emotional stuff ( okay, they feel strongly about something- I can understand that) rather than look at other points of view and options and alternatives that may not be palatable. Respectfully, Mike

    • Greg Forster says:

      True story: a British colonial governor was confronted over the British policy of forbidding Hindus from committing ritual murder of widows. Informed that it was the locals’ “cultural practice” to kill a married woman when her husband died, he replied, “and when someone does that, our cultural practice is to hang him by the neck until he is dead.”

  2. […] Source: Setting the Record Straight on Choice | Jay P. Greene’s Blog […]

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