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International Independent Studies Conclude that Choice Exacerbates the Economic Divide

November 12, 2017

One of Diane Ravitch’s posts yesterday provided a link to a Global Education Monitoring blog post reporting on a recent study they conducted that concluded that “…school choice often doesn’t work as it’s meant to, and can in fact increase inequalities and undermine quality education.”  The study concluded that this is the case for the following reasons:

  • Studies have repeatedly shown that school choice benefits wealthier families, while further marginalizing disadvantaged parents and schools… In the United States, while all parents used networks extensively, parents with more privileged networks used fewer information sources, relied more on educated peers and had access to more accurate information…
  • An underlying reason why school choice is flawed concerns information. The idea of school choice is based on the assumption that parents have access to and can use information to compare their child’s school to other schools to see if there’s a better option for their child. However, this information, even if accessible, may not be usable…
  • School choice is meant to strengthen accountability but often concentrates disadvantaged students in disadvantaged schools… In the United States, the most disadvantaged families have a limited choice over charter schools, which are public, independent schools that families can choose. This has led to increased segregation. What’s more, a long-term study of charter schools in Michigan showed a negative impact on student achievement and efficiency in public schools.

So wealthy families have better networks which provide them with better information than their less affluent peers which enables them to cluster in “high performing” schools while information starved parents languish in “public” schools. To readers of this blog and other progressive publications this isn’t news… and to some parents who are choice advocates this is not a bug but a feature.

The Global Education Monitoring blog also examined vouchers and found them wanting except in some limited cases where they help students attend college. For K-12 schooling, though, vouchers fall short of the mark:

…making vouchers available may lead to greater inequality in access without necessarily improving student performance, especially if schools are allowed to charge more. Most reviews on voucher programmes in the United States indicated that vouchers did not significantly improve student achievement, and recent studies from Indiana, Louisiana and Ohio showed negative effects

At the end of their study, the Global Education Monitoring blog concluded vouchers are not beneficial:

All these concerns indicate that governments should be extremely cautious in pushing forward reforms that promote an education ‘market’, as school choice may actually have negative effects on the quality and equity of education.

The bottom line: if the US hopes to address the increasing disparity in educational opportunity and results vouchers are NOT the solution!

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