At TNSC we try to make it as easy as possible to become informed on the many school choice issues.  We know how busy everyone is and few have the time or broad enough interest to invest money and time reading school choice books.  However, there are some books so valuable they are worth our money and time.  Such a book is Why America Needs School Choice by Jay P. Greene.  However, think of this book more along the lines of Spark notes for debating school choice.  It is a pocket sized book only 51 pages long.  You can easily read this book in one sitting.  As Dr. Greene explains:

The purpose of this Broadside [Broadsides are more like pamphlets of an era past than actual book size & length] is to consider and rebut the major objections that are raised to expanding choice and competition in education.

This book is only $5.99 and available Here at Amazon.  In it Dr. Greene reviews eight major canards in the school choice debate.  We will share a few snippets below to whet your interest, but encourage you to purchase this tool and use it to arm yourself as an advocate for improving the educational choices for Tennessee’s children.

But let me emphasize from the outset the burden of proof should not be on the supporters of expanded choice.  On the contrary, the burden should be on the opponents of expanded choice and competition.  Why is it that education should fail to benefit from the tonic of expanded choice and market freedom?  In virtually every other human activity, competition and freedom of choice act as stimulants to achievement.  Having choice and competition is the normal arrangement, while the current design of k-12 education is highly abnormal.

Canard 1:  Choice Is Not A Panacea

The point is that choice has not yet had a more profound effect, because choice so far has been very limited.

Canard 2:  There Is No Evidence That Students In Choice Programs Have A Higher Achievement

Happily, there are nine random-assignment studies of participant effects that present 10 analyses of voucher experiments.  All of them have been peer-reviewed and published – and all but one show significant results.

And yet despite this impressive collection of random-assignment research that overwhelmingly finds positive effects, the American Federation of Teachers still declares that “research shows that vouchers don’t improve outcomes for kids who receive them.”

Even charter schools, which are week tea as far as choice is concerned, benefit students who attend them.  Again, focusing only on random assignment, there are four studies, all of which find significant benefits for at least some types of students.

Canard 3:  Choice Hurst Students Who Remain In Traditional Public Schools

Greg Forster of the Foundation for Educational Choicer reviewed the evidence on competitive effects of private school choice on traditional public schools.  He identified 19 studies that directly addressed the question.  All but one of those studies observed a significant improvement in academic achievement by students at traditional public schools in response to expanded choice and competition.

In virtually no other aspect of their life would these people believe that the best way to ensure quality is to guarantee organizations ever-increasing resources regardless of performance and with no prospect of having to compete.

Canard 4:  Choice Segregates

A sensible definition of segregation would feature the involuntary separation of groups of people.  Choice, by definition, is voluntary.  If families chose the school that their children attended, whatever its racial composition, it would seem impossible to describe that school as segregated.

Even assuming that “stratification” is problematic, the empirical evidence suggests that expanding choice tends to reduce stratification, not increase it.

In general, the empirical evidence confirms that choice reduces stratification by allowing students to attend schools outside their racially homogenous neighborhoods.

Canard 5:  Choice Undermines Civic Values

All but three of these 59 analyses showed that choice schools did as well or better than traditional public schools at producing desired civic values.  Thirty-three analyses showed that choice schools significantly outperformed traditional public schools.

In general, it appears that attending private or charter schools helps (or at least does not hurt) students in being more tolerant of the political activities of people from groups they strongly dislike.

Canard 6:  Choice Is A Distraction From More-Productive Reforms

Those arguing that choice is a “distraction” presume that they know the right way to design schools for all students.  But do they?

In short, the “distraction” folks are believers in central planning.  It’s nearly impossible for even the most benevolent central planner to know what works best for everybody and to keep updating what works best as new information is learned.

Canard 7:  Choice Is A Political Dead End

The growth and effectiveness of both kinds of choice is depended on the continued expansion of private school choices.

Canard 8:  We Already Have Enough School Choice

We need more because existing choices are highly constrained, inequitably distributed, costly to exercise, and (most important) virtually never place serious pressure on the traditional public schools to improve by hardly affecting their finances or jobs.

But most important, choice will only have broader effects when it can create significant competitive pressure on school systems.

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