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Brookings School Choice Report Fails To Enlighten Policy Debate, Review Finds

Education Choice and Competition Index also receives an ‘F' grade

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Jan. 29, 2013) – A recent report out of Brookings and its self-developed choice index fail to advance education policy decisions and only rehash old arguments for unregulated school choice, according to a new academic review.

David Garcia, associate professor at Arizona State University, reviewed the December report, published by the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution, "The Education Choice and Competition Index: Background and Results 2012," and found it makes no substantiated connection between parental satisfaction and the purported collective benefits arising from market-based education policies.

The review was produced by the National Education Policy Center with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Garcia also criticized the Education Choice and Competition Index, noting the only large school district to receive an "A" rating, the New Orleans Recovery School District, was graded a "D" by the Louisiana Department of Education and 83 percent of its schools were labeled "D" of "F".

The index uses 13 categories, including the percentage of students enrolled in alternative schools other than traditional public schools and whether the district closed more than 3 percent of its schools in the past five years. Garcia noted some elements of the index hold districts accountable for factors beyond their control, such as the presence of affordable private schools.

"Most recently, under the No Child Left Behind Act, parents in low-performing schools were given the option to transfer schools at district expense. Yet, less than 1 percent of eligible parents availed themselves of the opportunity," Garcia wrote. "The foundational logic of this report is based on how one would expect consumers to behave in the private sector. Parental responses under previous coerced choice plans, however, do not match consumer behaviors."

The Brookings' report does not address existing research on what compels parents to choose a school, Garcia added.

"The recommendations place ultimate faith on parents choosing schools based on test scores. Yet, it is well established that parents choose schools based on many other factors, such as safety, academic missions and student demographics," Garcia wrote. "Formal sources of information, such as standardized test scores and state-derived labels like those promoted by the authors, are one of the last sources that parents consider when making decisions."

Garcia concluded the weakness of the index's subjective scoring system, as well as the lack of research behind the report's recommendations, make the Brookings' product fall short of being an effective policy tool.

Find The Education Choice and Competition Index: Background and Results 2012 by Grover J. "Russ" Whitehurst and Sarah Whitfield on the web:

Find the Think Twice Review on the Great Lakes Center website:

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The review is also available on the National Education Policy Center website:


The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and 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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