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JUNE 20, 2024

Despite a Sound Analysis of School Choice, Report Offers Misleading Conclusions

An NEPC Review funded by the Great Lakes Center

Key Takeaway: Report's analysis contributes to the charter school debate but fails to support its bold claim that the debate is over.

GRAND RAPIDS, MI (JUNE 20, 2024) - Legislatures across the United States continue to pass policies to add or expand school choice. Within this context, the Fordham Institute, an advocate of school choice expansion, has published a report asserting that charter schools have not negatively affected students in traditional public schools. However, a review of this report finds that though it could contribute to the conversation, its conclusions are highly misleading.

In his review of Did the Emergence of Ohio Charter Schools Help or Harm Students Who Remained in District Schools?, University of Kansas professor Bryan Mann determines the report to have little value to policymakers. This is in large part because the report's conclusions extend well beyond the scope of its statistical analysis.

The Fordham report concludes that the presence of charter schools leads to modest improvements in traditional schools' attendance and graduation rates and, therefore, that charters and similar approaches should be expanded in Ohio. That is, the report argues that lawmakers should increase the charter-school footprint, based solely on a limited analysis of these two performance indicators. This argument aligns with other advocates' "competitive effects" arguments-the idea that district-run schools will adjust to marketplace pressure and improve. However, the study's statistical analysis actually reveals null findings in performance indicators, allowing for counterfactuals that undermine its core arguments. The study's own findings do not justify the report's bold conclusions.

Even though there is significant scholarly debate on the extent and nature of competitive effects, Professor Mann details how the report misuses its limited findings to declare that debate "over." The competitive-effects issue remains unresolved.

Thus, because of its unsupported leap from findings to conclusions, policymakers should avoid using the report to make high-stakes-and costly-decisions that expand charter schools in Ohio.

Find the review, by Bryan Mann, at:

Find Did the Emergence of Ohio Charter Schools Help or Harm Students Who Remained in District Schools?, written by St├ęphane Lavertu and published by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, at:

NEPC Reviews ( provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice:

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high-quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

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Michelle Renee Valladares
(720) 505-1958

Bryan Mann:
(785) 864-2097