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October 23, 2007


Brad Jolly

The claim that "there is not clear evidence that choice does anything to elevate student achievement" is an interesting one.

Please see http://www.friedmanfoundation.org/friedman/research/ShowResearchItem.do?id=10082 for data to the contrary.

Brad Jolly

Well, I found the key issue - as usual, it's a matter of language.

Here's what Hill says:

"Some people think of choice only as vouchers. But in fact we took a broad definition that choice is any arrangement that lets parents pick among publicly funded schools."

This definition of school choice -- any arrangement that lets parents pick among publicly funded schools -- would include the current St. Vrain Valley School District policy of open enrollment.

When proponents of real school choice talk about "choice," they don't mean a system whereby one can choose within St. Vrain, they mean real choice - where one can take one's tax dollars to any school - public, private, parochial, charter - whatever.

Suppose I said, John, I'm going to give you true choice in grocery shopping - you can shop at the King Soopers on N. Main, the one on S. Hover, or the one on N. Pace. If you want to go to Albertson's or Safeway or whatever, you'll have to pay twice - once for King's and once for the store you prefer.

Would you consider that to be choice in any real sense, just because you could pick from different King Soopers locations?

Finally, I know that you are a big fan of public schools as an instrument of public unity and civility.

Quoth Hill:

"Finally, people are concerned about whether Nazi groups or divisive groups would get hold of schools and violate the principles of public education, of equality and tolerance. The problem with this expectation that choice would have these outcomes inevitably is the example of the Catholic schools which are schools of choice and have much better outcomes in these respects than most public schools do. Now that doesn't mean that all schools of choice would have better outcomes with respect to civic unity, but it means that schools of choice can have good outcomes and it depends on how it's done."

So, you're right - goofy "choice" of different flavors of public schools does not necessarily relate to better outcomes. Real choice does.

Brad Jolly

Here's what Hill's study really concluded about "choice" in the sense of vouchers with large amounts of money attached to them.

"If substantial amounts of money follow the children to schools of choice, some good things can happen. It's more likely that a supply of good schools will arise; it's more likely that schools will be able to have flexible programs and deal with the needs of students. So it increases the likelihood that students who choose will learn. It also increases the likelihood that public schools will feel the loss of money, if substantial amounts of money transfer from existing public schools to schools of choice, they are more likely to make competitive responses that do good for their students."

Imagine that! Real choice (a voucher system with lots of money associated with the vouchers) benefits those who leave public schools and those who stay.

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