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REL Midwest Ask A REL Response

Charter Schools

February 2017

Questions:

What does recent research say about the effectiveness of school choice or voucher programs, particularly for economically disadvantaged students and their families?



Response:

Following an established Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest protocol, we conducted a search for research reports as well as descriptive and policy-oriented briefs on the effectiveness of school choice and voucher programs. In particular, we focused on identifying recently published resources related to effectiveness of these programs for disadvantaged students and their families. For details on the databases and sources, key words and selection criteria used to create this response, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.

Below, we share a sampling of the publicly accessible resources on this topic. The search conducted is not comprehensive; other relevant references and resources may exist. We have not evaluated the quality of references and resources provided in this response, but offer this list to you for your information only.

Research References

Angrist, J. D., Cohodes, S. R., Dynarski, S. M., Pathak, P. A., & Walters, C. R. (2014). Stand and deliver: Effects of Boston's charter high schools on college preparation, entry, and choice. Paper presented at the Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness conference, Washington, DC. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED562936

From the abstract: "One of the most important questions in education research is whether the gains from interventions for which perceived short-term success can be sustained. The possibility of short-lived impacts is especially relevant for research on charter schools, where charter operators who face high-stakes assessments have an incentive to 'teach to the test.' The fact that charters are subject to intense scrutiny and evaluation may even create incentives for cheating (Jacob and Levitt, 2003), strategic instruction (Jacob, 2007), and a focus on small groups of students that are pivotal for official accountability measures (Neal and Schanzenbach, 2010). The purpose of this paper is to assess the impact of attendance at Boston's charter high schools on outcomes where the link with human capital and future earnings seems likely to be sustained and strong. Specifically, the authors focus on outcomes that are either essential to or facilitate post-secondary schooling: high school graduation, the attainment of state competency thresholds, scholarship qualification, Advanced Placement (AP) and SAT scores, college enrollment, and college persistence. Importantly, most of these outcomes are less subject to strategic manipulation than are the state's test-based assessments. As in earlier work, the research design implemented here exploits randomized enrollment lotteries at oversubscribed charter schools. The resulting estimates are likely to provide reliable measures of average causal effects for charter applicants."

Betts, J. R., & Tang, Y. E. (2016). A meta-analysis of the literature on the effect of charter schools on student achievement. Paper presented at the Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness conference, Washington, DC. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED566972

From the abstract: "Charter schools represent an increasingly important form of school choice in the United States. Charter schools are public schools, with a difference. Compared to traditional public schools, they are exempted from some of the state laws and regulations that govern traditional public schools. In this way, parents come to have a greater number of choices among schools, and, due to deregulation, it is expected that the charter schools are distinct from traditional public schools. The intent is that charter schools can provide students with alternative curricula, teaching methods, and teachers who may differ in educational background and training from teachers in traditional public schools. This study, after reviewing research from across the United States, asks whether charter schools are producing higher achievement for students compared to traditional public schools. A meta-analysis was performed of the literature on charter schools and achievement, with a focus on lottery-based studies and rigorous value-added studies. Overall, for the limited set of charter schools, locations, and years that have been studied to date, charter schools are producing higher achievement gains in math relative to traditional public schools in most grade groupings. No significant differences emerged for reading achievement. However, for both math and reading the bulk of estimates are positive. Estimated charter school effects are highly variable, which likely reflects variations in the quality of education provided both at charter schools and at comparison schools, namely, local traditional public schools."

Bloom, H. S., & Unterman, R. (2013). Sustained progress: New findings about the effectiveness and operation of small public high schools of choice in New York City. New York: MDRC. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED545475

From the abstract: "In 2002, New York City embarked on an ambitious and wide-ranging series of education reforms. At the heart of its high school reforms were three interrelated changes: the institution of a district wide high school choice process for all rising ninth-graders, the closure of 31 large, failing high schools with an average graduation rate of 40 percent, and the opening of more than 200 new small high schools. Over half of the new small schools created between the fall of 2002 and the fall of 2008 were intended to serve students in some of the district's most disadvantaged communities and are located mainly in neighborhoods where large, failing high schools had been closed. MDRC has previously released two reports on these 'small schools of choice,' or SSCs (so called because they are small, are academically nonselective, and were created to provide a realistic choice for students with widely varying academic backgrounds). Those reports found marked increases in progress toward graduation and in graduation rates for the cohorts of students who entered SSCs in the falls of 2005 and 2006. The second report also found that the increase in graduation rates applied to every student subgroup examined, and that SSC graduation effects were sustained even after five years from the time sample members entered high school. This report updates those previous findings with results from a third cohort of students, those who entered ninth grade in the fall of 2007. In addition, for the first time it includes a look inside these schools through the eyes of principals and teachers, as reported in interviews and focus groups held at the 25 SSCs with the strongest evidence of effectiveness. In brief, the report's findings are: (1) SSCs in New York City continue to markedly increase high school graduation rates for large numbers of disadvantaged students of color, even as graduation rates are rising at the schools with which SSCs are compared; (2) The best evidence that exists indicates that SSCs may increase graduation rates for two new subgroups for which findings were not previously available: special education students and English language learners. However, given the still-limited sample sizes for these subgroups, the evidence will not be definitive until more student cohorts can be added to the analysis; and (3) Principals and teachers at the 25 SSCs with the strongest evidence of effectiveness strongly believe that academic rigor and personal relationships with students contribute to the effectiveness of their schools. They also believe that these attributes derive from their schools' small organizational structures and from their committed, knowledgeable, hardworking, and adaptable teachers."

Carlson, D. E., & Cowen, J. M. (2015). School vouchers and student neighborhoods: Evidence from the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 23(60). Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1070358

From the abstract: "In this paper we explore the relationship between students' residential location and participation in Milwaukee's large, widely available private school voucher program. We are interested in one overarching question: do voucher schools disproportionately draw students from better public schools and city neighborhoods, or do they draw students most in need of alternative options? We consider whether the public schools attended by students in neighborhoods contributing large numbers of students to the voucher program are more or less effective than those attended by students in neighborhoods with fewer voucher students. We also consider whether voucher students are located in city neighborhoods that directly contribute more or less to student outcomes. We find consistent evidence that neighborhoods whose students attend less effective public schools and neighborhoods with lower academic outcomes contribute disproportionately to the voucher program. This evidence is quite consistent with patterns apparent on Census-based observational measures of neighborhood socioeconomic characteristics: higher rates of voucher use are found in the least advantaged neighborhoods. We also find, however, that disadvantaged students in general are those most likely to leave the voucher program after enrolling."

Chingos, M. M., & Peterson, P. E. (2015). Experimentally estimated impacts of school vouchers on college enrollment and degree attainment. (Program on Education Policy and Governance Working Papers Series, PEPG 15-01). Cambridge, MA: Program on Education Policy and Governance, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED562622

From the abstract: "We provide the first experimental estimates of the long-term impacts of a voucher to attend private school by linking data from a privately sponsored voucher initiative in New York City, which awarded the scholarships by lottery to low-income families, to administrative records on college enrollment and degree attainment. We find no significant effects on college enrollment or four-year degree attainment of the offer of a voucher. However, we find substantial, marginally significant impacts for minority students and large, significant impacts for the children of women born in the United States. Negative point estimates for the children of non-minority and foreign-born mothers are not statistically significant at conventional levels. The information needed to match students to administrative data on postsecondary outcomes was available for 99 percent of the sample. We find evidence of substantial bias due to attrition in the original evaluation, which relied on data collected at follow-up sessions."

Cierniak, K., Stewart, M., & Ruddy, A.-M. (2015). Mapping the growth of statewide voucher programs in the United States (Policy brief). Bloomington, IN: Center for Evaluation and Education Policy. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED558581

From the abstract: "This brief focuses solely on currently operating statewide, general education voucher programs which have income eligibility requirements. In this brief, students in a general education program refer to students whose education is not guided by an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The term general education (classroom, curriculum, setting) is borrowed from the literature on special education (e.g., Huefner, 2006). Voucher programs meeting these criteria currently exist in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, and Louisiana. The first statewide voucher program for students in general education programs was established in 1999 in Florida, and Ohio began implementing its statewide program in 2006, but it was not until the last five years that unprecedented growth in statewide voucher programs occurred. Since 2011, two statewide voucher programs have been launched (Indiana and Louisiana), another initially local program in Wisconsin was expanded by changing its eligibility requirements to accommodate the whole state, one program was launched and promptly deemed unconstitutional (North Carolina), and the Ohio statewide program has expanded funding and eligibility. The recent growth in statewide voucher programs in the U.S. warrants a closer examination comparing these programs and their potential policy implications. Areas of focus in this brief include: (1) state policy context, program establishment, and history; (2) voucher amounts; (3) student eligibility and selection; (4) eligibility and accountability criteria for participating private schools; and (5) legal challenges. This brief explores the implications of the establishment of new statewide voucher programs and the expansion of existing programs."

Davis, J. (2013). School choice in the states: A policy landscape. Washington, DC: Council of Chief State School Officers. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED542701

From the abstract: "The question of whether and how to offer students the option of attending a school other than the one assigned by their residence is a hotly debated issue with substantial implications for policymaking. Whether pursued as an effort to increase the availability of high-quality options in communities without equal access; to drive improvement through marketplace competition; or to promote individual liberty, school choice options are undoubtedly increasing across America. Yet in the midst of expansion, the body of research literature suggests that the impact of school choice programs on outcomes-such as student success, school and community composition, and system improvement-is poorly understood and can vary greatly across programs. Some research shows positive effects, while other research shows negative effects or unintended consequences. Numerous studies show no generalizable effects, suggesting that outcomes heavily depend on context and policy design. Therefore, in order to support its member chief state school officers in making critical decisions about school choice policies, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) has undertaken an effort to encourage the discussion of school choice policies across its membership. As an initial follow-up to its recent policy statement on school choice..., CCSSO has attempted to address the often-asked question 'What are other states doing?' by creating an ideologically-agnostic landscape analysis of school choice policies across the states. By highlighting policy coverage and characteristics from best available data across the states and for the full spectrum of existing school choice options, the paper intends to help chiefs contextualize their policy sets within national trends. The paper does not attempt to comment on which policy sets are 'right,' nor does it answer questions about outcomes or consequences. Nevertheless, the policy landscape provides a knowledge base upon which subsequent inquiry can occur."

DeArmond, M., Jochim, A., & Lake, R. (2014). Making school choice work. Seattle, WA: Center on Reinventing Public Education.Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED546755

From the abstract: "School choice is increasingly the new normal in urban education. But in cities with multiple public school options, how can civic leaders create a choice system that works for all families, whether they choose a charter or district public school? To answer this question, the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) researchers surveyed 4,000 parents in eight cities (Baltimore, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.) with high degrees of school choice. The researchers also conducted interviews with government officials, choice advocates, and community leaders in four cities, and looked at how many different agencies oversee schools in 35 cities. The study found that: (1) In the eight cities surveyed, the majority of parents are actively choosing a school for their children; (2) Parents face significant barriers to choosing schools, including inadequate information, transportation, and lack of quality options; (3) Challenges facing families are not confined to the charter or district sector; and (4) Responsibility for schools often falls to multiple parties, including school districts, charter school authorizers, and state agencies, weakening accountability and making it difficult for leaders to address the challenges facing parents. The report finds that a more transparent, accountable, and fair system will require action from all parties, including school districts, charter authorizers, charter operators, and states. State and city leaders may need to change laws to ensure that districts and charter authorizers oversee schools responsibly and that families do not face large barriers to choice. In some cases, formal governance changes may be necessary to address the challenges to making school choice work for all families. In the fall of 2014, CRPE will publish city-specific survey results that examine how investments in parent information, enrollment, transportation, and quality impact how parents experience school choice in American cities today."

DeLuca, S., Rhodes, A., & Garboden, P. M. E. (2016). The power of place: How housing policy can boost educational opportunity. Baltimore, MD: Abell Foundation. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED570914

From the abstract: "For decades, Baltimore's poorest African American children have been channeled into racially and economically segregated neighborhoods with low-performing schools. Financial constraints and scarce affordable housing in more affluent communities have made it very difficult for poor families to access higher quality educational opportunities for their children. With such durable neighborhood and school inequality, interrupting the cycle of intergenerational disadvantage is a difficult challenge. But housing policy may help families overcome barriers to residential mobility and move to lower poverty, more racially integrated neighborhoods with higher performing schools. In this report, the authors describe early findings from a housing voucher program in Baltimore-the Baltimore Housing Mobility Program (BHMP)-that has helped over 3,000 low-income African American families escape disadvantaged neighborhoods and move into opportunity rich communities and school districts throughout the metropolitan region. The authors find that after moving with the program, children attended significantly higher performing schools and made gains in their academic achievement."

Forster, G. (2013). A win-win solution: The empirical evidence on school choice (3rd ed.). Indianapolis, IN: Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED543112

From the abstract: "This report surveys the empirical research on school choice. It provides a thorough overview of what the research has found on five key topics: (1) Academic outcomes of choice participants; (2) Academic outcomes of public schools; (3) Fiscal impact on taxpayers; (4) Racial segregation in schools; and (5) Civic values and practices. The evidence points clearly in one direction. Opponents frequently claim school choice does not benefit participants, hurts public schools, costs taxpayers, facilitates segregation, and even undermines democracy. However, the empirical evidence consistently shows that choice improves academic outcomes for participants and public schools, saves taxpayer money, moves students into more integrated classrooms, and strengthens the shared civic values and practices essential to American democracy. These results are not difficult to explain. School choice improves academic outcomes by allowing students to find the schools that best match their needs, and by introducing healthy competition that keeps schools mission-focused. It saves money by eliminating administrative bloat and rewarding good stewardship of resources. It breaks down the barriers of residential segregation, drawing students together from diverse communities. And it strengthens democracy by accommodating diversity, de-politicizing the curriculum, and allowing schools the freedom to sustain the strong institutional cultures that are necessary to cultivate democratic virtues such as honesty, diligence, achievement, responsibility, service to others, civic participation, and respect for the rights of others. The size of the benefit provided by existing school choice programs is sometimes large, but is usually more modest. This is not surprising because the programs themselves are modest-curtailed by strict limits on the students they can serve, the resources they provide, and the freedom to innovate. Only a universal school choice program, accessible to all students, can deliver the kind of dramatic improvement American schools desperately need in all five of these important areas."

Herrera, C., Grossman, J. B., & Linden, L. L. (2013). Staying on track: Testing higher achievement's long-term impact on academic outcomes and high school choice. New York: MDRC. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED545471

From the abstract: "One crucial decision that middle schoolers (and their families) make is where they will attend high school. Many districts employ school choice systems designed to allow students to pick a high school that will meet their needs and interests. Yet most students prefer high schools that are close to home, and for youth in low-income neighborhoods, this often means attending a more disadvantaged, lower performing school (Nathanson et al. 2013). Youth who defy these odds and choose a competitive high school instead have much to gain. Cullen et al. (2005), for instance, found that Chicago public middle school students who chose to attend a higher-achieving high school were substantially more likely to graduate. However, even as eighth graders, these students already differed in many ways from their peers who chose a neighborhood school-they had better self-reported grades and higher expectations for the future, felt more prepared for high school, and were more likely to have spoken with their parents about what school to attend. These findings raise the question of how we can prepare more disadvantaged students to take the many steps necessary-throughout the middle school years-to successfully transition to a competitive, high-quality high school that can ultimately launch them toward college and careers. The Washington, DC-based Higher Achievement program is taking on this challenge. Higher Achievement targets rising fifth and sixth graders from 'at-risk communities' and serves them throughout the middle school years. Its goal is to strengthen participants' academic skills, attitudes and behaviors, reinforce high aspirations and help students and their families navigate the process of applying to and selecting a high-quality high school. In 2006, the authors began a comprehensive multi-year evaluation of Higher Achievement to test its impact on participants' academic performance, attitudes and behaviors and on their high school enrollment. The evaluation used random assignment-the most rigorous design available to researchers-to assess program impacts. This brief summarizes the study's findings. Findings suggest that the program does appear to expand the options available to its students by making them more likely to apply to and attend private schools and less likely to apply to and attend weaker public magnet and charter schools. This, in turn, may position youth for better outcomes in high school and beyond."

Nathanson, L., Corcoran, S., & Baker-Smith, C. (2013). High school choice in New York City: A report on the school choices and placements of low-achieving students. New York: Institute for Education and Social Policy.Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED541824

From the abstract: "School choice policies, a fixture of efforts to improve public education in many cities, aim to enable families to choose a school that they believe will best meet their child's needs. In New York City (NYC), choice and the development of a diverse portfolio of options have played central roles in the Department of Education's high school reform efforts. This report examines the choices and placements of New York City's lowest-achieving students: those scoring among the bottom 20 percent on standardized state tests in middle school. Focusing on data from 2007 to 2011, the report looks at who these low-achieving students are, including how their demographics compare to other students in NYC, the educational challenges they face, and where they live. The bulk of the report reviews low-achieving students' most preferred schools and the ones to which they were ultimately assigned, assessing how these schools compare to those of their higher-achieving peers. The findings show that low-achieving students attended schools that were lower performing, on average, than those of all other students. This was driven by differences in students' initial choices: low-achieving students' first-choice schools were less selective, lower-performing, and more disadvantaged. Overall, lower-achieving and higher-achieving students were matched to their top choices at the same rate. Importantly, both low-and higher-achieving students appear to prefer schools that are close to home, suggesting that differences in students' choices likely reflect, at least in part, the fact that lower-achieving students are highly concentrated in poor neighborhoods, where options may be more limited."

Scafidi, B. (2015). The integration anomaly: Comparing the effects of K-12 education delivery models on segregation in schools. Indianapolis, IN: Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED570432

From the abstract: "To shed light on the actual impact of school choice on segregation, one has to understand the counter factual-the state of segregation under the current public education system. In the late 1960s and 70s, the trend in public school racial segregation followed the trend in neighborhood segregation. That is to say both improved as American neighborhoods and public schools became more racially integrated. However, beginning in the early 1980s, American public schools have continued to become more racially segregated, even as American neighborhoods have become more racially integrated among African Americans and others. Given the strong link between neighborhoods and public school attendance zones, this divergence is a puzzle and there is another pronounced trend that may have an impact on the quality of schools available to families-income segregation. The trends toward more income segregation across American neighborhoods have only accelerated since 2001. Like it or not, studies show a significant relationship between families' access to peer resources and their children's academic achievement. The increases in racial and income segregation in American public schools are likely problematic in terms of student outcomes given the substantial evidence regarding peer effects. In this report the author seeks to address the impact of school choice in this decades-long context of intensification of racial segregation among public schools and significantly increased income segregation across neighborhoods. The author analyzes new trends in school segregation, and reviews relevant studies on the effects of choice on integration. Based on the historical evidence on housing and school segregation and the myriad studies reviewed in this report, school choice design feature additions are recommended to maximize academic benefits to students, and to communicate concern for those who are worried about the increases in race and class segregation that has lasted in the American Public education system for more than three decades. Appended are: (1) Changes in Neighborhood and School Segregation in 215 Metropolitan Areas; and (2) Summary of Research Used to Make Recommendations about the Design of School Choice Programs."

Shakeel, M. D., Anderson, K. P., & Wolf, P. J. (2016). The participant effects of private school vouchers across the globe: A meta-analytic and systematic review. Paper presented at the Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness conference, Washington, DC. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED567044

From the abstract: "The objective of this meta-analysis is to rigorously assess the participant effects of private school vouchers, or in other words, to estimate the average academic impacts that the offer (or use) of a voucher has on a student. This review adds to the literature by being the first to systematically review all Randomized Control Trials (RCTs) in an international context. This paper presents three meta-analytic estimates of the impacts of school vouchers: (1) just in the U.S.; (2) just outside the U.S.; and (3) globally including the U.S. and all other countries. The initial research was guided by the following question: What is the impact of private school vouchers globally on the student achievement of those students offered the vouchers? The RCTs included in this analysis were located in four countries: the United States of America, Kenya, Colombia, and India. The U.S. studies covered programs in Charlotte, North Carolina; Dayton, Ohio; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; New York City; Toledo, Ohio; and Washington, D.C. The participants in the RCTs were children who attended private schools through a school voucher. The grades analyzed ranged from K-12, although most individual RCTs included a shorter grade range in their analysis. The programs evaluated were publicly or privately funded school voucher or K-12 'scholarship' programs. The research design of the studies that inform the meta-analysis was random assignment of children to treatment and control groups. Most studies had a one-stage randomization through administration of a lottery while one study in Andhra Pradesh, India was based on a two-stage randomization (randomly assign students within randomly assigned villages). For this meta-analysis, researchers identified publications from computer and networked searches through a variety of sources."

Wang, J., Schweig, J. D., & Herman, J. L. (2014). Is there a magnet school effect? Using meta-analysis to explore variation in magnet school success. (Research Report 843). Los Angeles, CA: National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED565781

From the abstract: "Magnet schools are one of the largest sectors of choice schools in the United States. In this study, we explored whether there is heterogeneity in magnet school effects on student achievement by examining the effectiveness of 24 recently funded magnet schools in 5 school districts across 4 states. We used a two-step analysis: First, separate magnet school effects were estimated using a propensity score matched regression approach to address selection bias. Second, the magnet effects were synthesized across schools using a multi-level random-effects meta-analytic framework. Results indicated that there is significant variation in magnet school effects on student outcomes, with some magnet schools showing positive effects, and others showing negative effects. This variation can be explained by program implementation and magnet support."

Witte, J. F. (2016). Evaluating voucher programs: The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. Paper presented at the Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness, Washington, DC. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED566983

From the abstract: "This paper is the first summary of two studies and 10 years of evaluating the Milwaukee Parental Choice (voucher) Program (MPCP). This paper discusses school voucher evaluations in general terms and how these studies are carried out. The paper outlines the types of studies completed in 'Study I' and 'Study II' and the results of those studies. The focus of these studies was on student achievement comparisons between voucher and non-voucher public school students using value-added approaches over five-year periods. 'Study II' was able-for the first time-to study high school graduation and college enrollment (attainment). Control groups for 'Study I' were: a matched random sample of low-income Milwaukee Public School (MPS) students; and, as a secondary comparison, the entire MPS low-income student population. A more complex matching process was used to pick a control group matched to grade-level random samples of voucher students in 'Study II'. Low-income students were offered educational vouchers in lieu of tuition to attend private schools in Milwaukee. In 'Study I', only secular private schools (23 at most) were in the program; in 'Study II', both secular and religious private schools were allowed (approximately 115) to enroll voucher students. Both studies were observational with suitable comparison groups. In both studies a wide range of data were collected over five-year periods including standardized test scores, parent and student surveys, teacher and administrator interviews, and school-level case studies. Both studies conclude that there were no major achievement (test score) differences between voucher and non-voucher samples, but that 'Study II' voucher students graduated from high school and attended and persisted in four-year colleges at higher rates than their non-voucher MPS counterparts."

Wolf, P. J., & Egalite, A. J. (2016). Pursuing innovation: How can educational choice transform K-12 education in the U.S.? Indianapolis, IN: Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED570184

From the abstract: "This report summarizes the state of competition in American K-12 education. It pays particular attention to the prevalence and market penetration of charter schools, private school vouchers, and tax-credit scholarships as market reforms. The effect of added institutional competition from charters, vouchers, and tax-credit scholarships on the performance of district schools and education funding is examined using a survey of the high-quality research on that topic. These summaries and analyses suggest that growing educational competition from charter schools, vouchers, and tax-credit scholarship programs holds the promise of improving the productivity of district schools, subject to the effective design of school choice policies. Seven research questions are addressed: (1) What is the general state of K-12 education in the U.S. as of 2012-13?; (2) How much organizational competition exists in K-12 education, and what distinctive forms does it take?; (3) Is overall competition in K-12 education increasing and, if so, at what rate?; (4) Which forms of organizational competition are most likely to generate pressures for K-12 educational improvement and why?; (5) What are the intermediate effects of organizational competition on educational outcomes?; (6) What are the effects of organizational competition on education productivity?; and (7) What policy design elements appear to maximize the efficacy and productivity of competition-based education reforms? Educational competition is having a positive effect on public schooling in the U.S. Given improvements in the design and scope of that competition, the future benefits to be realized could be quite impressive."

Additional Organizations to Consult

Center on Education Policy – http://www.cep-dc.org/pages/Home.cfm

From the website: "The Center on Education Policy is a national, independent source for research and information about public education. The Center helps Americans better understand the role of public education in a democracy and the need to improve the academic quality of public schools. We do not represent any special interests. Instead, we try to help citizens make sense of the conflicting opinions and perceptions about public education and create the conditions that will lead to better public schools."

EdChoice – https://www.edchoice.org/

From the website: "EdChoice is a national leader in school choice research. We publish dozens of studies, surveys, legislative analyses and blog posts each year to help the public, the media and key stakeholders understand how school choice is affecting families and students across the United States and internationally."

School Choice Demonstration Project – http://www.uaedreform.org/school-choice-demonstration-project/

From the website: "The School Choice Demonstration Project (SCDP) is an educational research project based within the University of Arkansas' Department of Education Reform. The national team of researchers, institutional research partners, and staff of the SCDP are devoted to the rigorous and unbiased evaluation of school choice programs and other school improvement efforts across the country. The SCDP is committed to raising and advancing the public's understanding of the strengths and limitations of school choice policies and programs."

Methods

Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • Voucher

  • "School choice"

  • Voucher effect

  • "School choice" effect

  • "Magnet school" effect

  • "School choice" socioeconomic

  • "School choice" disadvantaged

  • Voucher socioeconomic

  • Voucher disadvantaged

Databases and Search Engines

We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched Google Scholar.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published over the last 15 years, from 2002 to present, were include in the search and review.

  • Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations.

  • Methodology: We used the following methodological priorities/considerations in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types—randomized control trials, quasi-experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, and so forth, generally in this order, (b) target population, samples (e.g., representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected), study duration, and so forth, and (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, and so forth.
This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Midwest Region (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL Region) at American Institutes for Research. This memorandum was prepared by REL Midwest under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0007, administered by American Institutes for Research. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.