For years now it seemed the litmus test for the school choice debate has been whether choice students outperform their counterparts on standardized tests. The sad truth was in some cases, choice students weren’t outperforming students in traditional public schools. Despite these realities, parents who chose to send their children to schools where academic improvement has been minimal or nonexistent have continued to show high levels of satisfaction. The sentiment has helped to propel the choice movement. And the disconnect has frustrated and intrigued educators.
Last week in a provocative blog post, Rick Hess, weighed in and asked: Are test scores the right measure to judge how kids benefit from school choice? Hess raised the question in response to a new National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) paper which examined results of the nearly decade-old open enrollment initiative of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System. The report found substantial long-term gains for the participating students and yielded higher graduation rates.
They were able to track the results for nearly 20,000 students after high school graduation, and reported that students who won the lottery to attend a school outside their own neighborhood were more likely “ to graduate from high school, attend a four-year college, and earn a bachelors degree from an elite university.” The researchers found no evidence of “cream skimming” and noted that lottery winners closed nearly a quarter of the black-white difference in college completion.
Interesting. However impressive the results are, we need to remember they aren’t captured in the annual standardized test scores.
Several years ago I blogged about a study that found participants in the Milwaukee school choice program were 18 percent more likely to graduate than students in the traditional public schools.
Yet more evidence why NC law makers should offer school choice for parents and students in North Carolina.