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New studies highlight school choice successes

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Robby Soave
Reporter

School choice supporters have new research to cite in support of their position. A paper released by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that children enrolled in charter schools enjoy lower truancy rates and higher test scores than their peers.

“This is good evidence to add to some we’ve seen before that the mere availability of choice improves students’ lives even if they do not take advantage of available opportunities, and even more if they do,” wrote Joy Pullmann, managing editor of School Reform News, in an e-mail to The Daily Caller News Foundation.

The NBER working paper was written by Yale University economists Justine Hastings, Christopher Nelson, and Seth Zimmerman. It identified several desirable outcomes of school choice. For one thing, kids who won the school choice lottery were more likely to show up for school, even before they enrolled in a charter school.

According to the paper’s abstract: “The effects are largest for male students entering high school, whose truancy rates decline by 21% in the months after winning the lottery.”

The authors also cited higher test scores as a desirable consequence of school choice: “We find substantial test score gains from attending a charter school and some evidence that choosing and attending a high value-added magnet school improves test scores as well.”

Jonathan Butcher, education director at the Goldwater Institute in Arizona, said this paper confirms what education experts already know about school choice: It works.

“I don’t think there is a study that shows negative effect on these students from using a choice program,” he said in an interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation. “There are studies, I can think of one, that shows there’s no effect. But good grief, this is certainly better than the alternative.”

The paper caps off a good month for advocates of school choice reform. A study published last week by the Brookings Institution found that African American students were 24 percent more likely to attend college if they had used a voucher to attend a private school.

“It’s the first longitudinal study of kids in a choice program that looks at what happens when they finish high school,” said Butcher. “And what they find is that among African American students in the study, they were more likely to attend college, to enroll in college, than kids who were not in the choice program.”

Pullmann expects to see even more evidence of school choice’s success in the future.

“Charter schools were conceived 20 years ago as a way to incubate innovation within public schools, and since then we’ve seen that they are fulfilling this essential mission,” wrote Pullmann.

Several states–including Wisconsin, Georgia, and Ohio–and the District of Columbia permit students to enroll in voucher-based school choice programs. The DC News Foundation reported on August 14th that teachers unions are attempting to block the implementation of similar reforms in Louisiana.

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